Steve Addazio didn’t hesitate for one second. As soon as he took to the podium on Boston College football’s media day Thursday afternoon, Addazio reiterated the claim he has preached much of this offseason.
“This is one of my favorite teams to be around right now,” Addazio said.
His Eagles are coming off a 2015 campaign in which they boasted the nation’s best defense, but finished with a 3-9 record. That was largely the result of poor play by the offense. BC was in the bottom five in many offensive categories, and was hampered by a young offensive line and injuries. The most significant of those injuries was a broken ankle by quarterback Darius Wade, which left Addazio shuffling three freshman—Jeff Smith, Troy Flutie, and John Fadule—behind center.
But Addazio asserted that there will be no quarterback rotation this season. Either Wade, now a redshirt sophomore, or Kentucky graduate transfer Patrick Towles will remain in the quarterback position for a long as he can perform. Both have impressed Addazio early. Towles has shown his new coaches flashes of speed with a sub-4.6, a blazingly quick 40-meter time for a guy who measures in a 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. Wade has dazzled with a tight spiral and knowledge of the offense that he didn’t get to show last season.
Addazio hasn’t named a starter yet, but expects to do so before the opener against Georgia Tech on Sept. 3 in Dublin. He expects that the decision will not be easy.
“I hope it’s going to be really, really difficult,” Addazio said of the quarterback competition. “That’s the greatest thing that could possibly happen, honestly. Because that means you’ve got two dudes in here, and you’ve got a comfort level that if someone goes down, you’re not like ‘Uh oh, here we go.’”
On the topic of the offensive line, Addazio is happy with his current personnel and what their potential is. Still, he recognizes that, given the youth on the roster, they aren’t at the level he expects from an offensive line. The longtime offensive line coach contended that talent can only improve with experience and maturity.
“The offensive line will be much better than it was a year ago, but not where it should be yet,” Addazio said. “Am I happy with who we have? Absolutely. Are we going to be better? Absolutely. Are we where we’re going to be in another year or so? No. No we’re not, because it takes a while to mature a veteran offensive line.”
Though the offensive line starters are still up in the air, Addazio stated in spring practices that likely starters include fifth-year senior Jim Cashman at left guard, junior Jon Baker at center, and sophomore Chris Lindstrom at right guard. The tackles are two positions that will remain competitive. Contenders include Eastern Illinois graduate transfer Jimmy Lowery, sophomores Aaron Monteiro and Sam Schmal, and redshirt freshman Wyatt Knopfke.
The Eagles will also be led by two new coordinators. Virginia Tech’s Scot Loeffler replaces Todd Fitch, who departed to become Louisiana Tech’s offensive coordinator after his demotion to wide receivers coach. Defensively, BC will be led by former Iowa linebackers coach Jim Reid. He takes over for the fiery Don Brown, who departed to join Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
Still, Addazio doesn’t expect the core of BC’s strategy to change. He believes the offensive gameplan must be to “extenuate our defense.” This can be done, Addazio said, by rejecting the now-popular no-huddle, up-tempo offense and recognizing that staying true to the running game is what’s best to avoid sacrificing the defense.
As for that defense? Well, don’t expect the Eagles to slow down any time soon. Addazio and Reid will continue to employ a swarming defense that aggressively rushes the quarterback, despite Brown’s departure.
“It is the Boston College defense,” Addazio said. “We formulated that all together here. That’s not changing.”
Though he has concerns about the team’s depth, Addazio believes this year’s defensive starters are as talented as last year’s. Addazio specifically highlighted the speed of this unit. The head coach also lauded the potential of defensive backs John Johnson and Will Harris, as well as several new defensive line candidates, such as Ray Smith, Wyatt Ray, and Zach Allen.
He had the most praise for the linebacking corps. Addazio referred to outside linebacker Matt Milano as “the best player on the team.” He is also excited for the quickness and toughness of Connor Strachan, who moves from outside linebacker to the middle to replace Steven Daniels, a 2016 NFL draftee.
Most of all, Addazio is committed to returning to winning. It all starts by winning that opener against Georgia Tech, a team famous for its triple-option rushing attack. If the Eagles can get a win in the opener, Addazio believes the next step is getting bowl-eligible.
“Win the opener, get bowl-eligible, then compete for a conference championship,” Addazio said. “That’s what you do. … Those first two things I just said are well within the reach of this football team.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Senior Staff