After its fourth 7-6 finish in five years, Boston College football hopes this is the year it finally gets over the hump. The Jay McGillis Memorial Spring game this Saturday afternoon will be the Eagles’ first opportunity to prove that they have grown into an entirely new group. BC will be without 15 seniors that are set to graduate next month—including nine on the defensive side of the ball, meaning there are lots of spots to fill on the depth chart. While players like A.J. Dillon and Zach Allen solidified themselves as stars midway through last season, there are still lots of other position battles to keep an eye on.
What to Watch For:
1) Running Back Depth
Dillon is set to be the bellcow running back for BC next year—that much is certain, but beyond that, it’s gets a little shaky. Jonathan Hilliman began last season as lead back, but Dillon’s emgence changed everything, prompting the graduate student to take his talents to Rutgers. Now, the No. 2 slot is wide open for sophomore Travis Levy, who has just 21 career rushing attempts for a 2.6 yards per carry average.
Levy has put on 10 pounds of muscle since the start of the offseason, and Saturday will be his first chance to display a more powerful run game. He will be challenged by junior Ben Glines, who has exceeded expectations in spring practices thus far, scoring on a long touchdown run back in March.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Dillon isn’t invincible, and will need to rest at certain points next season. It could be Levy, Glines, or even former quarterback John Fadule in the backfield for BC next season, and all will have a chance to prove their worth come Saturday.
2) Aerial Attack
While the running game broke out for BC for the first time since Andre Williams’ Heisman-nomination worthy season in 2013, the Eagles’ passing game has improved significantly as well—with yardage totals increasing in each of the past three years. Although Anthony Brown will be absent from the spring game—he’s still recovering from a knee injury suffered last year—backups E.J. Perry and Matt McDonald will suffice as valuable replacements on Saturday.
More interesting, though, will be the competition at the wide receiver spot. As a freshman, Kobay White led his group in receiving yards, but the Eagles’ spring roster now boasts eight upperclassmen wideouts. Charlie Callanan and Thadd Smith were the only senior receivers to play their final game last December, and the two only combined for 176 years last season.
It is assumed that Michael Walker will start opposite White next season, but senior Elijah Robinson, who last caught a pass in the 2015 season, has shown a great rapport with McDonald in practice and could revitalize his career this season, starting on Saturday.
The team’s leading receiver in yards and touchdowns, tight end Tommy Sweeney, will be playing his final season on the Heights, and it is likely the passing offense will revolve around him once again. Still, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has increased his use of BC’s speedy receivers in his three years in Chestnut Hill, and Saturday will be the first indication of whether or not he will utilize Perry’s arm as a deep passing threat.
3) Special Teams
Ever since Nate Freese left BC in 2014, the Eagles have struggled mightily in the kicking game—look no further than a botched field goal attempt in a key moment against North Carolina State just last year. To make matters worse for the Eagles, they will be without their ever-reliable punter, Mike Knoll, in 2018.
Head coach Steve Addazio will have to put his trust into redshirt sophomore Grant Carlson, who is likely to man the fourth-down action for BC, but the punter has yet to play a single career snap.
Colton Lichtenberg will continue to work the field goal unit for BC, but the senior made just 12 of 20 attempts last season. Incoming freshman John Tessitore could very well take the starting spot as soon as next season. The young kicker was ranked as Connecticut’s ninth-best player overall, and could cure what has been one of the most inconsistent part of the Eagles’ game in recent years.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor