Guess we’ll have to wait until next year to find out who Darius Wade is.
It’s a shame that Wade will have to end his season with a broken ankle. The sophomore, who looked like Steve Addazio’s quarterback of the future, has more enthusiasm than anyone when it comes to playing football. His play during the first three games didn’t always exude confidence for the future of the program, but once in awhile, you’d see that flash of brilliance that made Wade so highly praised by Boston College’s coaching staff.
The best example comes from Friday night’s game against Florida State. Down 7-0 at their own 3-yard line, the Eagles desperately needed to move the chains. On a night when the offensive line still hasn’t figured it out, it looked like Addazio would need to change his gameplan and go to the air. But Wade kept the team’s hopes alive, finding a rare hole and speeding his way to a first down.
Yet he couldn’t evade Nile Lawrence-Stemple’s punishing tackle. It’s no longer worth debating whether he had enough reps to make him ready for this game. The best thing for BC’s psyche is to hope Wade’s surgery went well and that the NCAA will grant him a hardship waiver to allow him to return for another year of eligibility in 2018.
There are still nine games left in this season. Although the offense looked atrocious against the Seminoles, it doesn’t mean the Eagles deserve to be completely written off by media and fans across the country. After all, it’s Week Three, and this team is still primarily comprised of underclassmen or first-time starters. Addazio himself expected immense growing pains, especially from his offensive line.
At the same time, BC has no time to rest. The Eagles will make trips to Duke, Clemson, and Louisville next month, the latter two having beat BC in Chestnut Hill last season. They can’t even find a breath for this week against non-conference opponent Northern Illinois, which took defending champion Ohio State to the brink in a 20-13 loss on Saturday.
The question we really should ask is: Where does BC go from here at the quarterback position? Well, Addazio has two options on the roster, both of whom have seen some playing time this season. Neither are what you would call an ideal fit.
In one corner stands a familiar name.
Troy Flutie has BC coursing through his veins. He is related to BC’s 1984 Heisman Trophy winner. (Note: he’s Doug’s nephew, not his son.) The redshirt freshman from Natick, Mass. is 6-foot, 182 pounds—on the smaller side for the position, though not quite as diminutive as his 5-foot-9 uncle.
As a high schooler, Flutie excelled as a traditional quarterback. He earned ESPNBoston.com’s Massachusetts Mr. Football honors as a senior when he passed for 3,027 yards and a state-record 47 touchdowns. Yet, like his uncle, Flutie also scrambled his way to success: he gained 824 yards and six touchdowns on 93 attempts.
In the other corner stands a familiar type of player.
Jeff Smith, a true freshman from St. Petersburg, Fla. is fast. Really fast. He rushed for about 1,250 yards in both his junior and senior years, and his style of play reminds many of Tyler Murphy. Unlike Murphy, Smith reportedly can throw the ball with some degree of effectiveness. He also threw for about 2,200 yards in each of his upperclassman high school years.
Addazio’s big problem now is selecting which QB he should insert into the starting slot.
It wouldn’t be a good idea to go with some makeshift system where Addazio shifts back and forth between Smith and Flutie. The two quarterbacks aren’t experienced enough to handle extended time on the bench or sporadically switching by series. Even Ohio State’s Urban Meyer is struggling to choose Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett—probably two of the five best signal callers in the country. The Buckeyes are 3-0, but it’s in spite of the QBs, who have been plagued by Meyer’s indecision and the lack of consistency.
If those two can’t handle it, there’s no chance Smith and Flutie can.
What the Eagles could do is employ a modified version of a two-QB system, with Flutie as the primary starter. Flutie has been efficient in his limited snaps this season, passing 8-10 for 97 yards and a touchdown. Just because he’s the better passer of the two doesn’t mean he can’t run a little bit, too. Flutie isn’t the type that can take the snap and go right ahead at an ACC-caliber defensive line, but he’ll scramble around to pick up yardage as a last option.
Smith doesn’t have to go to the bench permanently. Addazio can use him Sherman Alston-style, with the occasional design run, end around, or other trick plays.
It wouldn’t work the other way around, with Flutie as the “other QB.” The Eagles will still employ a run-first offense—as they should, given all of the running back talent they have. After getting killed on runs up the middle against the Seminoles, this offense can’t rely on runs alone. Smith brings a lot to the table in terms of electric play-making ability, but he doesn’t have the aerial acumen to keep defenses guessing what’s coming next. Employing Flutie, a quarterback that needs to throw first, can add that extra dynamic that BC missed last year.
This all requires Addazio to change his playbook. And, given Friday’s game, that doesn’t look likely.
Smith will probably end up as the quarterback, given his immense similarities to Murphy. With Smith, Addazio can run the exact same offense as last season, albeit with a kid who played high school ball this time last year. And that’s fine, if Addazio is content riding with a one-dimensional team mired in a rebuilding year that would dream to make the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville.
Yet, if he really wants the Eagles to get to the next level, he should pull out all of the passing plays he used at Florida when people still thought Tim Tebow could throw. Flutie can help this young wide receiving corps grow, so that when Wade—the best quarterback on this roster—returns next season, he’ll have some people to target.
That way, the offense will be ready to match a defense that is begging for BC to become an elite team in the ACC.