National Signing Day is upon us, bringing much excitement to athletic departments around the country. At last, schools can officially announce which high school and graduate transfers will be joining their respective football programs for the 2016 season. And, as head coach Steve Addazio would likely say, Boston College is excited to bring a new pack of dudes to Chestnut Hill.
The Eagles have announced that 21 players will join the program. This list includes 18 freshmen (two early enrollees) and three graduate transfers (one early enrollee). These recruits have many of the typical backgrounds one would find in the types of prospects Addazio likes to recruit: 11 come from a Catholic or private high schools and 14 were team captains at some point in their career. In addition, 10 attended BC camp this summer, and 15 of the freshmen were First Team All-State.
The head coach confirmed that 83 of the scholarships have been filled and he aims to fill the full class by the beginning of spring practice—he did not confirm if those scholarships will be given to incoming freshmen, graduate transfers, or current walk-ons.
The 2016 incomers come from 13 states, with only eight within a five-hour radius of the University, only two of which come from Massachusetts: offensive linemen Shane Leonard (Marshfield HS) and Sean Ragan (St. John’s, Shrewsbury). This is a vastly different strategy from last year’s class, which featured 15 of its 26 players within the “fence” that Addazio wants to build in the New England area. Yet the head coach said in his Wednesday afternoon press conference that his recruiting strategy has not changed that much in the region. Rather, Addazio expressed his staff’s effort to expand his reach throughout the whole the country.
“We are expanded nationally in the Catholic leagues, into Texas, New Orleans, and California,” Addazio said. “We’ve always been in the Catholic leagues in Ohio and Indianapolis, that’s always been strong for us, we want to continue to grow that.”
Addazio also emphasized his focus on one area in particular: New Jersey. He implied that this strength comes from the way his staff is currently constructed, specifically defensive back coach and recruiter Anthony Campanile. A Rutgers alum and former assistant, Campanile has many connections in the northern New Jersey area—his brother coaches at Bergen Catholic, one of the region’s powerhouse football schools.
Also unlike last year’s class, which was evenly balanced across both sides of the ball, this year’s recruits have more of an offensive flavor to them. Of the 21 players, 12 are offensive players, with seven on defense and two special teams specialists. By position, the Eagles will bring in two quarterbacks, two wide receivers, two tight ends, five offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, three linebackers, two defensive backs (Addazio confirmed that Mike Palmer, listed as an athlete, will likely be a DB), and two punters.
Despite the mass exodus of running backs—Marcus Outlow, Jordan Gowins, and Sherman Alston all transferred following the 2015 season—Addazio did not offer any back a scholarship this season. He asserted in his press conference that it was a mix of feeling content with his current core and not finding the perfect man for his system.
“What we didn’t want to do was stack up a bunch of numbers at that position,” Addazio said. “I’d like to bring a big back.”
Because he believes he already has the necessary skill players in the running game in Jonathan Hilliman, Tyler Rouse, and Myles Willis, Addazio and his crew turned their attention to rebuilding a passing game that finished 125th out of 128 in yards per game through the air in 2015 (111.2). A key component of that is utilizing the tight end position with freshman Korab Idrizi. At 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, Idrizi comes out of Bergen Catholic. He set a school record for tight ends with 30 catches for 432 yards despite missing a month with a back injury.
Idrizi recently flipped from Rutgers, likely because of Campanile and his connection to Idrizi’s alma mater. Along with incoming freshman Ray Marten, rising junior Tommy Sweeney, rising sophomore Jake Burt, and larger wide receivers in Chris Garrison and Charlie Callinan (whom Addazio describes as “hybrids”), the program now is much deeper at the position than it has been in recent years. And although the Eagles have previously used blocking tight ends, Addazio and tight ends coach Frank Leonard stated a desire to get the position more involved in the offense.
“That’s a direction that we’re heavily looking into right now,” Addazio said. “That’s reflective in our recruiting. And it’s a direction I want to take advantage of.”
Addazio also adds two three-star wide receivers to the roster: Kobay White and Christian McStravick. White is an all-around athlete who played both sides of the ball in high school, as well as basketball, and threatened several Pennsylvania state records, including receiving yards. McStravick, a Strake Jesuit (Houston, Texas) graduate, is a key recruit as Addazio continues his national focus.
The Eagles will add two quarterbacks to the roster as well: graduate transfer Patrick Towles and freshman Anthony Brown, both of whom are already on campus as grayshirts. Brown, a three star recruit from St. John Vianney in Tinton Falls, N.J., has been verbally committed since May of last year and is the 11th-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2016. This now gives BC six quarterbacks on the roster, joining the rehabbing Darius Wade as well as last year’s primary starters: Jeff Smith, Troy Flutie, and John Fadule.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Addazio said on the prospect of the impending quarterback competition.
But what Addazio is most proud of is the prospects he has recruited on the offensive and defensive line. Some of the players to focus on from this group are freshman Bryce Morais and graduate transfer Jimmy Lowery. Morais comes from the same Georgia high school (Grayson) as Ole Miss star Robert Nkemdiche and may be a candidate for a redshirt. Lowery, a transfer from Eastern Illinois, is viewed by offensive line coach Justin Frye as a player who could have a big impact on the younger players this season.
Addazio insisted that these are the areas that BC must put the most effort into when recruiting to emphasize their niche as a “tough, physical football team” that runs an old school, power run attack as opposed to a spread offense. Addazio would rather concentrate on a game focused on the lines rather than a skill-skill game. And based on the players he has brought in, Addazio thinks his line has the potential to be more than just great.
“There’ll come a day in the next two or three years when we will have the most dominant [offensive] line in the ACC,” Addazio said. “In a couple of years, everyone will be talking about the great line at Boston College.”
Most recruiting sites aren’t impressed with the haul Addazio has brought in. Rivals ranks this year’s class 72nd in the nation, 24/7 Sports at 77th, and Sports Illustrated at 70th, to name a few. But Addazio dismissed the star ranking system as a legitimate way to measure recruits for this program, given other factors, such as facilities and academics. Rather, Addazio has placed the onus on himself and his staff to develop the players that he already has and build this young roster from the ground up on the return tour to legitimacy. And, in terms of his whole recruiting process, the Eagles are right where Addazio believes they need to be.
“Now our roster is full,” Addazio said. “We’re young, but it’s exciting young, because it’s talented young. And now what we just need to do is work like heck to develop it.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor