By: Steven Principi
It may still be hockey time at Boston College, but football season isn’t far off. With the bubble over Alumni Stadium finally gone, the Eagles turn their attention to the 20th annual Jay McGillis Spring Game, which will be played this Saturday at 1 p.m.
Following such a disappointing fall, there are a handful of storylines surrounding the upcoming season, many of which will be on display this weekend. Head coach Frank Spaziani said that he sees the game as more of a chance to evaluate individuals than the team as a whole.
“It’s a practice, even though it’s a game,” Spaziani said. “And what it does is shows how guys react in game situations. Because there’s a lot of guys who practice real well and then don’t play so well, and there’s a lot of guys who don’t practice well efficiency-wise but then when the game starts they play better. And that’s what the game shows you.”
Spaziani also spent some time discussing the ongoing position battles that are taking place in camp. With the loss of key players such as Luke Kuechly, Donnie Fletcher, and Max Holloway on defense, and Ifeanyi Momah and Emmett Cleary on offense, there are several competitions worth keeping an eye on.
“On the offensive line, there’s been some good battles there,” Spaziani said. “That’s where we’ve got some more depth, so we’re looking for three guards, three centers, and we’d like four tackles. We certainly had some competition at the running back position because we’ve got some depth there. And once again, there’s been some competition in the middle linebacker position for Luke’s spot. And on the defensive line, too. Wherever we’ve had depth, that’s where the battles are.”
One possible competition that Spaziani went into more detail about was at the quarterback position. After Chase Rettig failed to impress for most of last season and Josh Bordner showed flashes of talent, there has been some speculation as to who will be under center when the season begins. And while Spaziani stood behind Rettig as the starter as of now, he refused to say that the decision was final.
“You don’t want your quarterback looking over his shoulder, but everyone is told that the starting jersey isn’t tattooed on anyone,” Spaziani said. “You have to perform, and Josh has made some tremendous strides. He needs to make some more strides, and so does Chase. I think it’s a good rivalry-it’s helped both of them. It’s a competition, but you have to have one quarterback going in, and right now Chase is the leader in the hunt.”
One major concern with the Eagles this year is the lack of experience and leadership on the defensive side of the ball. The defense lost three of its best players in Kuechly, Fletcher, and Holloway, and will have a hard time filling the void left by all three. Spaziani recognizes the struggle his team may face with so few experienced players on defense, but remains hopeful that his players can step up and make an impact.
“That’s been a concern, and a concern in that you need to get guys who are proficient and who can then exert themselves leadership-wise,” Spaziani said. “It’s tough to be a leader when you’re trying to figure out your own position. So that’s been a concern, but we’ve made some progress on defense, and there have certainly been some guys who are trying to assert themselves, Kasim Edebali for one.”
Spaziani then went into more detail on the loss of Kuechly. A huge gap at middle linebacker needs to be filled, and there is no one clear choice as to who will take over as of now. Spaziani talked about where the team stands now on this issue, and mentioned the possibility for some changes in the coming weeks.
“Sean Duggan and Nick Lifka have been at that position, and they’ve made tremendous progress,” Spaziani said. “I don’t know if they’re quite where we want them to be yet, but they’re making progress, and we’ll evaluate whether or not we want to keep them there, but it looks like that’s what’s going to happen.”
The main point Spaziani stressed was making sure his players improve, and he will have a chance to evaluate that on Saturday. While the regular season is still a few months away, Spaziani is focused on seeing improvement every single day.
“We evaluate them 24/7, so it can go a long way,” Spaziani said. “[The spring game] is part of the puzzle. We’d like to see guys improve, but we might see something out there that we need to build on and hadn’t seen before.”