Football, Sports

2021 Spring Football Game Preview: New And Familiar Faces

A 71-55 final score seems more like the score of a basketball game than a football game, but two years ago, the annual Jay McGillis Memorial Spring Game racked up that exact tally. The staggering final score was the result of a number of unusual scoring rules, including points for first downs, rushes of 10-plus yards, passes of 15-plus yards, touchdowns, defensive stops, three-and-outs, sacks, TFLs, and turnovers.

This year’s spring game will be much closer to a traditional football game than the 2019 game was, head coach Jeff Hafley announced to reporters during Saturday’s media availability. The 2021 game will feature a traditional scoring system, and Hafley said that he and his staff will divide up the roster to create the most realistic first half possible. 

The coaching staff will reevaluate the lineups prior to the second half, and the game will not feature full tackles to the ground. 

“I’d like to make it as game-like as we can and let the guys have a little fun in the stadium,” Hafley said. “They deserve it. They’ve done an awesome job.”

This year’s spring game will be a glimpse into the progress that the Eagles’ veteran roster has made from its 6-5 season last fall. The Eagles retained 75 percent of their 2020 production, with 16 offensive and defensive starters returning to the Heights for at least another year. Three starting specialists—Aaron Boumerhi, Grant Carlson, and John Tessitore—will also return. 

With this year’s spring game fast approaching—kick off is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday—here are some storylines to watch:

Kobay White and Zay Flowers

After missing all of the 2020 season with a knee injury, veteran wide receiver Kobay White’s playing status is still up in the air. Still, Phil Jurkovec said in BC’s March 9 press conference that White is progressing and has been participating in practices. Once he returns to the lineup—whether it’s during the spring game or for the fall season—BC will have a dynamic powerhouse duo of receivers for quarterback Jurkovec to target.

“He’s coming back, we’re trying to get some throwing in here and there,” Jurkovec said of White. “He’s getting healthy—he’s still working on that.”

White was the team’s second-leading receiver in 2019 with 460 yards through the air. Without him in 2020, Zay Flowers filled the void in the long game. Flowers made explosive plays his hallmark, recording nine trips to the end zone—including season-long touchdown receptions of 61 and 77 yards—this season and putting up 892 receiving yards in just 11 games. 

The Offensive Line

The offensive line is the most experienced position group returning this season, as Zion Johnson, Christian Mahogany, Alec Lindstrom, Ben Petrula, and Tyler Vrabel all return to the lineup. Prior to the 2020 season, The Heights projected that the offensive line would be a major factor in the Eagles’ success, and though it didn’t quite live up to expectations, the line showed flashes of greatness thanks to a host of experience. 

Now, with a solid season of playing with new scheme under their belt, the offensive linemen provide even more reasons for fans to be hopeful. Jurkovec also showed flashes of greatness last year, but as he’s still settling into the pocket, if the offensive line provides him a bit more time to make decisions, there could be plenty more explosive plays like this one:

The Developing Secondary

During the 2020 season, BC ranked 79th in Division I FBS in opponent passing yards per game with an average of 245.3 yards per game. That number is about 30 yards per game fewer than the combined average of the three years prior (288.0), but there’s still work to do. 

BC’s struggles through the air were largely a result of a young secondary that faced a host of injuries throughout the season. Take, for example, BC’s game against Virginia. Five DBs were ruled unavailable for the game, including starter Mike Palmer. Starter Deon Jones got hurt midway through the game, and Kam Arnold, who subbed in for Jones, was called for targeting not long after. 

The Eagles’ depleted secondary gave up 287 passing yards on the game, which is respectable, but the majority of those yards came on explosive plays that went for scores. Quarterback Dennis Grosel, filling in for Jurkovec, tossed 520 yards—tied with the legendary Doug Flutie for the program record—but it wasn’t enough. 

The spring game this year, however, will be a chance for BC to flex its secondary muscle, which is, in all likelihood, much stronger than it was this time last year. The look of the DB room is largely unchanged—save for the addition of Jaiden Lars-Woodbey—but it’s got plenty more experience under its belt, especially considering Hafley’s defensive background. It’ll be make or break this season for the Eagles to take a step forward in the secondary, and the spring game will reveal just how much progress they’ve made. 

Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics

April 20, 2021