After two consecutive 7-6 seasons marking the start of the Steve Addazio era, the Boston College Eagles enter the 2015 season with plenty of question marks. A team that thrived on the ground a year ago and finished 15th in the nation in rushing yards finds itself in somewhat of an identity crisis. The all-grad student offensive line of 2014 is gone, along with speedy transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy.
It now is up to a roster comprised mostly of underclassmen to make up for the loss of these experienced pieces from a year ago. While many are skeptical of BC’s chances to compete in the ACC this season because of the team’s lack of experience, Addazio sees the raw talent and potential of his team as a reason for excitement.
“We are a work in progress,” Addazio said of his team. “But when you have that, it’s exciting because you see the progress. You get frustrated sometimes because you see the process. Sometimes you may have a tendency to take a step forward, then a couple back, and all of a sudden three more back. But it’s a journey, it’s exciting, and it’s fun.”
The new-look Eagles have their first test of the 2015 campaign on Saturday afternoon against a familiar Football Championship Subdivision opponent: the University of Maine. Last season, the Eagles took down the Black Bears 40-10 thanks to a strong offensive performance, with BC racking up 410 yards on the ground.
Though the offensive line is gone, BC returns its stable of explosive runners that gave Maine, and just about everyone else, fits in 2014. Sophomore running backs Jonathan Hilliman and Marcus Outlow, along with junior Myles Willis, led the Eagles’ ground attack last season. They plan on picking up right where they left off against Maine. Judging by their collective success last season, and factoring in the consistent success Addazio’s teams have had in the running game, BC fans should be very excited about the running back group.
It is impossible to run an effective offense, however, without stable play from the quarterback position. Tasked with replacing the solid performance of Murphy behind center this season is Darius Wade. The sophomore, who had just eight pass attempts last season in relief of Murphy a year ago, brings a different style of play to the field for the Eagles. Wade is more of a passing threat than Murphy, meaning the Eagles might unleash a new style of offense this season predicated upon the ability of Wade’s arm.
In the past, Addazio has shown that he is willing to adapt scheme to personnel, employing two very different offensive styles in 2013 and 2014. Murphy excelled in the read-option spread last year, while in 2013 the Eagles ran an offense far more devoted to a power running and blocking scheme for Andre Williams, with traditional passing elements for Chase Rettig. Whether Wade’s skill set justifies a new offensive strategy has yet to be seen, but it will be on full display Saturday as Wade makes his first start for the Eagles.
Saturday will be the young Eagles’ first opportunity to gain invaluable game experience. Maine, which finished 5-6 last season in the FCS, should stand little chance against the Eagles on paper. Addazio, however, insists that the team has prepared for Maine with the same intensity as they would for a top-25 team like Florida State or USC.
Not one to write off an FCS opponent, Addazio had only good words about Maine in Monday’s press conference. Whether or not those words were genuine, one message is clear: Addazio wants to see his young team perform with a level of consistency in week one that will set the tone going forward.
“What would be perfect would be go out firing on all cylinders, you get a little confidence and you can get it around a little better,” Addazio said. “But sometimes in these first games, it doesn’t go that way. I really want to see us go out there, play hard, play clean, and what I mean by clean is not a lot of mistakes and take care of the football.”
Although the game on Saturday doesn’t hold direct ACC implications, it is clear that it will be a huge step in determining whether the “work in progress” can play BC’s idea of “clean” football.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Senior Staff