Fall and the beginning of the 2019 college football season are still four months away, but on Saturday, Boston College fans were given their first preview of the 2019 Eagles at the Jay McGillis spring game. The contest featured a modified scoring system and an “offense vs. defense” format, so when the game clock hit zero the offense claimed victory, 71-55. Though the game wasn’t played by normal rules, there was still plenty to take away. Here are some observations from Saturday’s action.
Running Back Depth
Last season, BC had three running backs—A.J. Dillon, Ben Glines, and David Bailey—hit the 100-yard rushing mark. A fourth, Travis Levy, didn’t rush for 100 yards in a game, but did play a starring role in the Eagles’ November win over Virginia Tech and showcased some skills as a receiving threat. In 2019, all four will be back, and if Saturday was any indication, BC should once again have one of the deepest running back rooms in the country.
Bailey and Levy got the bulk of the carries, and both showed good explosiveness, making it to the second level on runs in the first half. Bailey, in particular, was impressive, ripping off long gains on runs to both sides of the offensive line. The sophomore finished with 12 carries for 91 yards. Glines didn’t see any carries out of the backfield, but got the ball on an end-around and got the Eagles’ offense a first down. Dillon dressed, but didn’t touch the field, instead spending much of the game on the sidelines interacting with fans. After a tough sophomore campaign that featured a lingering ankle injury, as well as his bruising style that leaves him vulnerable to repeated hits, it’s only logical that BC limits the amount of contact Dillon takes during the offseason.
Offensive line doesn’t miss a beat
The Eagles are losing Jon Baker, Chris Lindstrom, Aaron Monteiro, and Sam Schmal—all key pieces of the offensive line to graduation, but their replacements impressed on Saturday. Ben Petrula, the lone remaining starter from last season, played solid at left tackle, while 2018 reserves like Anthony Palazzolo, Alec Lindstrom, John Phillips and Finn Dirstine played a lot of snaps and opened up some impressive holes in the running game. Pass protection was also excellent—albeit with modified pass rush rules—as the BC quarterbacks were often afforded five or more seconds to throw the ball and plenty of time to scramble if need be. The real test for the Eagles will of course be in the fall when the season begins. But on Saturday, at least, BC looked like it will once again have a stalwart offensive line in 2019.
The offseason also brought about major changes to the Eagles’ offensive coaching staff, as Scot Loeffler departed for Bowling Green and head coach Steve Addazio tabbed Mike Bajakian as his replacement. What appears to have stayed the same, though, is BC’s up-tempo approach. The game was played at a rapid pace, with huddling a rarity. There may be some changes to the Eagles’ offense under Bajakian’s leadership, but it appears the pace won’t be one of them.
Pass Rush? Still Unclear
A Spring Game isn’t really a fair place to judge the state of the Eagles’ defensive line—after all, anything more than light contact on the quarterback wasn’t allowed—but what was more concerning was the amount of time BC’s gunslingers had to throw the ball and the amount of space they had to scramble if they couldn’t find an option down the field. Jaleel Berry and Izaiah Henderson both had good moments for the Eagles at the defensive tackle spots, but with Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray gone, BC needs an edge rusher to step up and fill the void. Unfortunately for the Eagles, none of their defensive ends really flashed on Saturday. Put simply, BC still has question marks along the defensive line heading into the fall.
Turnovers / Ball Security
On the first series of the game, Kobay White caught a short pass from Anthony Brown and turned upfield, before being stripped of the ball by Tate Haynes, a redshirt sophomore defensive back that has excelled this spring. That very play was repeated on the final series of the game, with Nolan Borgersen taking the ball away from Noah Jordan-Williams and returning it for a score. Mike Palmer also intercepted Matt McDonald off a tipped pass in the second half. The Eagles’ ability to generate turnovers Saturday was a plus, but the two forced fumbles also raised some questions about BC’s ball security on offense. That said, the Eagles still have plenty of time to clean that up before the season begins.
Hurt players are never a welcome sight during any game, and even more so during a bona fide scrimmage. So, it was unfortunate to see Tito Pasqualoni carted off after absorbing a big hit late in the fourth quarter. His status was unclear immediately following the game. C.J. Lewis was also briefly injured in the first half, but was able to walk off on his own power and appeared to be okay.
Scoring System Leads to Some Confusion
Because of the offense-defense format, and the fact that BC was unable to field enough players to form two full teams, the game’s scoring system was hardly traditional. Instead, a touchdown was worth only five points for the offense, and first downs and big plays also resulted in points. On the other side, stops and tackles for loss, as well as turnovers, earned the defense points. The abnormal scoring system led to a very “high-scoring” game, and at times it was difficult to keep track of how the respective sides were being awarded points. The system also seemed to favor the offense, which racked up a 35-14 lead at the end of the first quarter and never trailed after that.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff