Football, Featured Column, Column

Addazio Should Give the Younger Guys a Shot

At Boston College, life becomes routine, especially when ResLife, our evil overlord, forces us off campus. Every day I follow the same path. Classes are at the same time on the particular cycle day, save for my 4:30 to 6:50 mass communication theory class on Mondays. I plan everything around those classes. Well, that and the times when I know I’ll get on the shortest lines at Eagle’s Nest (shout out to Maria, Jon, and Fred—the realest there ever were at the Tuscan chicken station).

Part of that weekly routine is getting to watch the Eagles practice at Alumni Stadium every Tuesday morning. In our little section along the south end zone of Alumni Stadium, far, far away from Steve Addazio, it’s sometimes hard to see what’s going on. We usually see more defense than offense, just given the sides on which they like to work. Yet we can make out the players’ routines every so often. We can see what coaches are specifically working on with the guys, which players seem to be friends, and so on.

One of the biggest benefits is getting to see the younger players work out. Partially from necessity, partially for their own training, the coaching staff pits the freshmen on defense against the first stringers on offense, and vice versa. The coaches wouldn’t field players in the practices that they didn’t think helped the No. 1 units get ready for the next opponent. It’s always a joy when a freshman player, one who has been on the scout team all season, makes a big play. All of the seniors crowd around him and cheer his name loudly. Regardless of whatever happens on the field, you can’t say young and old players don’t love and support one another.

At 4-5 with three games to go, the Eagles still have a shot at making a bowl. It’s worth noting that it’s possible BC does it with just a fifth win, presumably against a reeling Connecticut team. That’s because BC has one of the highest academic progress rates in the country. A high APR means you can get rewarded with a berth at five wins.

But to outright clinch a bowl berth, BC must reach six wins. That means the Eagles will have to beat either Florida State or Wake Forest. Winning even one of those is no easy task: both of those teams are in the ACC, on the road, and have winning records. Since BC currently has the worst offense and the third-worst defense in the ACC—seriously, check out the numbers for points scored and allowed per game in-conference—that task looks even more daunting.

Which brings me back to those younger guys. In practice, there seems to be such a level of trust and confidence in these freshman and sophomore players from team elders and coaches alike. In a way that happens so rarely nowadays, the older players seem genuinely excited for their younger counterparts’ success. And, despite BC’s consistently poor recruiting record in the last four years in comparison to its ACC brethren, the players appear to have potential.

So why not go to them instead?

As I wrote in my column last week, merely reaching a bowl game is not some honorable goal for a college football program that has fans bred to expect competitiveness. While I stand by my statement that, if Addazio meets the rumored administrative requirement of six wins, the Eagles should not be satisfied, nor should they make that their mission. From the moment he started, Addazio has repeatedly said it would take five years  for BC to be a contender.

I’m ready to see more of these young players in action. Addazio needs to know what he has at each position. Testing out his younger players will allow him to decide which areas he needs to put more time into during recruiting, who can be a starter one day, or who might be in line for a position change.

He’s already done this at the running back position, where redshirt sophomore Davon Jones has received almost as many handoffs as Jonathan Hilliman, who was expected to receive the bulk of the carries this year. Jones’s opportunities at running back have greatly outpaced those of proven seniors Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse. The two have taken over a recurring role in the offense, while spending much of their time on special teams. For the future of this team, Addazio is doing the Eagles a service by allowing younger talent to get in. After all, running back was a position with a lot of question marks entering the year. The Eagles will still need to add a couple for depth purposes, but Jones provides an unanticipated safety net with the departure of Willis and Rouse after this year.

This process should continue down to the quarterback position. As many fans have clamored for on Addazio’s detested social media outlets (RIP Vine), Darius Wade should get more looks at quarterback. With the Louisville game firmly out of hand—it was 38-0 at half—Addazio should have sat graduate transfer Patrick Towles for Wade. Freshman Anthony Brown is waiting patiently in the wings to get a shot at the starting job. Under no circumstances should Addazio burn his redshirt, but Brown may be ready to be the starter as early as 2017—based on what I’ve seen in practice, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

Thus, throughout the remainder of this season, Addazio should figure out if Wade should get a shot at the job. Since breaking his ankle against Florida State last season, Wade hasn’t gotten much of a chance to show what he can do. If Wade can show some progress from the little gameplay he has gotten over the last two years, he can compete with Brown for the starting job next year. If not, it may serve Addazio well to move Wade to another position. The coaching staff scored huge successes by moving Jeff Smith and Michael Walker to wide receiver, from quarterback and defensive back, respectively. Walk-on John Fadule is still on the roster, and BC currently has three quarterback recruits: E.J. Perry, Drew McQuarrie, and Tate Haynes. Either give Wade a quarterback tryout, or put him in a place where he’ll thrive.

One of the biggest benefits to last season’s 3-9 debacle was that a lot of young offensive linemen got a chance to play. Chris Lindstrom and Aaron Monteiro, in particular, got a lot of starts under their belts, which has been beneficial for them this season. This season, the coaching staff has already given that opportunity to true freshman Elijah Johnson, who has taken over at left guard for senior Jim Cashman. They should consider giving the same opportunity to Anthony Palazzolo at right tackle. Eastern Illinois graduate transfer Jimmy Lowery hasn’t played well enough to deserve his starting spot on lock. Addazio must think about his future and give Palazzolo a shot to prove himself full-time.

Wide receiver will be the trickiest place to pull this off, but I believe it’s the position at which BC has the most potential. It’s going to be difficult because of the youth BC has at the position. Walker, Smith, and Charlie Callinan have all done well in their roles, though they have been plagued by drops. Callinan, in fact, is the oldest wideout on the team who sees considerable time, and he’s only a junior.

But BC has two electric receivers in Ben Glines and Nolan Borgersen warming the bench. Borgersen graduated from Westwood Regional High School as the New Jersey career record-holder in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Glines, an alumnus of St. Xavier in Cincinnati, has excited practice with his sharp cuts and great hands. We got a taste of what Glines could do down the stretch against Louisville, as he recorded his first two catches. There is no reason to keep them waiting any longer.

Over the last two years, Addazio has preached ad nauseum to the media that he’s working with a young team. While his main focus has been trying to get that bowl game this season, it’s not in BC’s best interest. In a season in which the Eagles will not compete for the ACC Atlantic or even a Tier One ACC bowl, they are better served getting a look at the future. If the talent Addazio has recruited and trained truly is there, BC may make a bowl anyway.

So let’s see what his young team has got. At this point, BC truly has nothing to lose.

Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Staff

November 6, 2016