Midway through the third quarter of Boston College’s 40-10 snowballing demolition of Maine, a faint smell of burning wafted through the press row. Fear not—as of now, the press box still looms over Alumni. Given the lack of an actual inferno, there is only one plausible explanation for the smell. A few hundred feet below, on the sideline, BC head coach Steve Addazio’s head was beginning to melt as he grappled with the best problem a football coach can have: How do you distribute carries among an influx of young, talented, and eager ball carriers?
“You can only bring so many guys along so quick, that’s why everybody’s impatient,” Addazio said. “We got Jonathan [Hilliman] going, now we’re getting Marcus [Outlow] going, we’re just trying to expand it, and the freshmen, they wanna go, they wanna go, but you’ve gotta pick your spots.
“It’s hard to get them all going now, you got [Tyler] Rouse, you got Myles [Willis], and the next problem is keeping everybody going,” he said. “But it’s a good problem.”
Through four games, BC’s running back strategy has pulled a 180 and barreled in the opposite direction of Addazio’s primarily single-back strategy of 2013—carries are coming by committee and the ball is going in every direction. On Saturday, six BC players rushed for a gain, and the Eagles ended up piling on 413 rushing yards after a slow start to the afternoon.
Hilliman, a grown man-sized freshman, broke out with two touchdowns in BC’s upset of the University of Southern California, and his momentum shows no sign of wavering. Hilliman carried the ball 21 times against the Black Bears for 98 yards and two touchdowns. While Myles Willis remains BC’s nominal starter, Hilliman runs like a veteran and has clearly gained the coaching staff’s trust just four games into his rookie career.
His USC-breakout partner, Sherman Alston, electrified Alumni again and made the most of his five carries, averaging 11.4 yards and two-ankles-broken per feint. Addazio spoke a great deal about needing to find explosive players—and 5-foot-6 Alston continues to prove he’s a box of nitroglycerin.
Game by game, the freshman talent continues to emerge. Maybe it was BC’s woeful performance against Pittsburgh, or maybe it was the plan all along, but Addazio’s rookies have excelled when given opportunities. Addazio’s first commitment at BC, Outlow, finally got a shot against Maine. The Black Bears’ defense was already worn down by the time Outlow got in the game, but he ran with confidence and power, taking 14 carries for 107 yards and an average of 7.6, showing off a pair of soft hands in the third quarter, leaping to make a 28-yard catch.
“I’ve been hooping all my life, so that definitely comes into play, sort of like getting a rebound or a jump ball,” Outlow said. “It was good, I liked it.”
Outlow fell into a rhythm with freshman backup quarterback Darius Wade in the fourth quarter with outside and power running, and was unlucky not to convert on a series of goal-line carries.
“Aching me as we speak,” Outlow said with a grimace. “This is something I’m not going to forget until I get that next opportunity next week, so it’s definitely going to eat at me, but it’s going to be good eating, you know, at me. It’s going to stay in the back of my head, and the next time I get that opportunity I better get it in.”
The craziest part of BC’s versatility on the ground is that the Eagles’ rushing leader isn’t even a running back—quarterback Tyler Murphy’s run for 500 yards and five touchdowns in four games. He’s continuously shown a tremendous capacity for deception, bamboozling cameramen, fans, and defenders en route to long distance gallops—he’s broken off a run of more than 50 yards in three of four games. If Murphy can get it going, it seems the rest of the backs are quick to follow—against Maine he catalyzed BC with a 71-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
BC is 3-1, and that’s largely due to the run game, and of course, the defense. Six BC players have over 100 rushing yards each, already, and Addazio’s biggest problem is finding a way to maximize the talent at his disposal. It’s a tricky problem, but a hell of a good one to have, and a way better one than he could have been facing if he had gambled wrong on his rookies. So far, Addazio’s bets are paying off.
Featured Image by Emily Sadeghian / Heights Editor