Sports, Football, Fall

Nine Burning BC Football Questions

When ESPN asked Boston College football head coach Steve Addazio to describe his team in one word, he chose “young”—and that makes sense. Even after one game, this Eagles squad is pretty much a mystery. We’re here to help you out with answers to nine burning questions you didn’t even know you had about the Eagles.

What’s an acceptable number of wins in 2014?

Anything between one and three wins is going to cause grumblings among the fan base, because that would mean BC is not able to take care of Colorado State, Maine, and Wake Forest. The Eagles looked solid in the second half against UMass. Not being able to pull out those three games to get to four wins would be a major step backward for the program.

If the Eagles handle the four teams they are supposed to beat and they grab another win, there should be mild acceptance, given the youth and potential of the team. Another bowl appearance and potentially a bowl win would be enough to give plenty of excitement heading into 2015.

If Steve Addazio can take this team to eight wins or more, it’s probably time for Brad Bates to renegotiate his contract so he doesn’t take off for Gainesville (no, that’s not a joke). The margin for error to hit that number is incredibly slim, but BC can get there if the freshmen come along quickly enough.

How many players will start at quarterback?

Well, Tyler Murphy was one horrible throw away from a fairly perfect debut, and he owned that interception like a pro after the game. Still, expect to see Darius Wade start a game at some point this season. The freshman quarterback isn’t going to steal the spot from Murphy, but it’ll be a near-miracle if BC can start the quasi-veteran in all 12 or 13 games. He rushed all over the field against UMass—mainly out of necessity. If his legs are BC’s best weapon, he’s going to be a serious injury risk, especially considering he had to miss time at Florida last season. Don’t expect Troy Flutie to make it three starts, though. Flutie flashed some great play during preseason camp, but Wade is planted firmly ahead of him on the two-deep. BC would love to redshirt Flutie and separate the two QBs’ graduation dates, which could open up the potential for Josh Bordner to play if needed.

Will they pick up a win in November?

The last month is the toughest stretch of the season for the Eagles, with the only break coming in the form of a bye week before a trip down to Tallahassee for a matchup with the Seminoles. Heading into the season, even one win during these last four games seemed questionable. Syracuse needed double overtime to beat Villanova in Week One, though. The Orange were missing quarterback Terrel Hunt for most of the game, but it stills bodes well for BC. As long as the Eagles have injury luck, they should be able to close the regular season out with a win.

Louisville looked great against Miami. It’s the perfect offense to take advantage of Don Brown’s defense with big plays, and Florida State won’t be surprised like it was last year. With the Hokies also looking for revenge, anything more than one November win would be incredibly impressive.

Will Myles Willis take up more than 50 percent of the running backs’ carries?

Andre Williams had more than 75 percent of the carries among running backs last season. It would be a stretch to think Willis will also dominate the touches. He and Tyler Rouse were essentially interchangeable in the opener, with Rouse taking 19 carries to Willis’ 16. Once you factor in freshman backs Jon Hilliman, Marcus Outlow, and Richard Wilson slowly eating up more touches, as well as Sherman Alston’s touches on sweeps and reverses, there’s pretty much no way that any of the backs—including Willis—will consume a majority of the carries.

This is the one place BC can afford an injury, because there’s a ton of depth in the backfield. Willis is the best overall back right now, but no matter how well he plays, he’s unlikely to star in the backfield the same way that Williams did.

Will there be a 500-yard receiver?

In each of the last 10 seasons, BC has always had a 500-yard receiver. Colin Larmond Jr. put up 528 yards in 2011, and Bobby Swigert snuck above the cut with 504 yards in 2010. So it’s been close a few times, and the Eagles have the potential to finally break this made-up streak in 2014.

Dan Crimmins had 52 yards in the opener and Josh Bordner had 81, so they’re both on pace for 500, but pump the breaks a bit. The BC passing game should attack differently from week-to-week, with the speedsters like Shakim Phillips, Sherman Alston, and Thadd Smith contributing some weeks, and the tree-sized giants Bordner, Crimmins, and Callinan matching up better against other teams. Combine that with the run-centric offense, Murphy’s quick feet, and some solid passing defenses, and it doesn’t look like any one receiver is going to break through with 500 yards this year.

Do they allow more or fewer than the 22 sacks from last year?

Zero sacks is a pretty good start for this offensive line, even after losing Harris Williams for the rest of the game with an ankle injury. He’ll be out for a while, according to Addazio, but Aaron Kramer is a solid substitute. This offensive line could be better than last year’s, and it helps that Murphy is at the quarterback position instead of Chase Rettig.

Murphy appears to be better than Rettig at getting rid of the ball when there’s pressure, and he’s much better with his feet. As long as he uses them right and does not get himself into trouble, there isn’t much holding this group back from allowing fewer than 22 sacks this year. The young backs will need to improve their pass protection, though. That’s their only real weakness.

Can the defense hit a two-sacks-per-game average?

Don Brown has never coached a defense that put up fewer than two sacks a game since he’s been in Division I. The Eagles had 36 sacks in 12 games last year in Brown’s debut, and they got a head start with three sacks against UMass.

But 65 percent of the sacks created last year are gone, with Steele Divitto, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Kasim Edebali, Kaleb Ramsey, and Jaryd Rudolph all moving on. Josh Keyes, Steven Daniels, and Mehdi Abdesmad are going to have to lead the charge this year if the Eagles are going to get to 26 or 24 sacks to keep the two-per-game average. Manny Asprilla and Bryce Jones will need to sneak into the backfield on occasion, and some help from the likes of Malachi Moore, Kevin Kavalec, Truman Gutapfel, and Harold Landry wouldn’t hurt either.

Anything fewer than 25 sacks could spell serious trouble for this defense. If they’re not getting to the quarterback, that likely means the quarterback is getting the ball to the end zone.

Will BC have a positive turnover margin?

The Eagles finished with a plus-three turnover margin in 2013, largely assisted by Williams’ ability to hold onto the football and Rettig’s decently low interception rate. Another year under Brown should help this defense create more chaos leading to fumbles and interceptions, so the real pressure falls on the offense.

BC balanced out Murphy’s pick on Saturday with an interception by Justin Simmons, so they head into the rest of the year even on the plus/minus. Murphy hasn’t proven that he can safely deliver tough throws. Even worse for the offense, some freshmen are going to have to handle the ball. The ball mostly remained in the hands of Rettig, Williams, and Alex Amidon last season, but now any number of players can cough it up. Given that, the Eagles should slide into the negative.

How many freshmen log a start?

There are 18 true freshmen listed on the two-deep. We’ve already projected that Wade will get at least one start, and a freshman is almost guaranteed to take over the return duties by the end of the year once they gain the coaches’ trust. So, who else has a chance?

Harold Landry, one of the top recruits in the class, definitely has an opportunity to work his way ahead of Kevin Kavalec by year’s end. But besides that, most of the other starters are firmly cemented in their places. Injuries could put a freshman back atop the depth chart, and different matchups could swap a rookie into one of the three wide receiver slots, although that might be more information than Day and Addazio would be willing to give away to an opponent prior to kickoff.

September 3, 2014