In last year’s Jay McGillis Memorial Spring Game, Boston College football’s offenses—Maroon and Gold—combined for a total of six points (two field goals). And judging by the first play of Saturday’s game, there was no indication that things would be any prettier this time around. On the opening kickoff, Taj-Amir Torres dropped back deep into the end zone, eyeing the ball as it spiraled through the air. But, instead of fielding it, the ball fell right through his hands.
To make matters worse, both Eagles units traded scoreless possessions throughout the first quarter. But eventually, head coach Steve Addazio’s group got things going—specifically, quarterback Darius Wade. The to-be redshirt junior led all four of the game’s touchdown drives.
Just like any spring game, the pace of play hardly rivaled that of the regular season. For starters, the final two quarters of play were cut down to 10 minutes apiece. Not to mention that the authenticity of the game was tainted by the constant variability of the teams’ rosters. Nevertheless, the progression of the quarterback competition, Addazio’s offensive philosophy, and the depth of the defense was on full display.
1) Darius Wade
Darius Wade is used to battling it out for the starting gig. After winning the job as a freshman, a broken ankle sidelined his opportunity to establish himself as the program’s go-to guy. Then, one year later, Wade had to compete with graduate transfer Patrick Towles for the position. Despite meager numbers, Towles got the nod. Now, with redshirt freshman Anthony Brown on his heels, Wade has to prove that he should be the signal caller for the third-straight offseason. On Saturday, he certainly did so.
While at BC, Wade has struggled with his accuracy. Over the course of his collegiate career, he has completed just 47.8 percent of his pass attempts (33-of-69). You would have never known, based on his play in this scrimmage. Time and time again, Wade showed poise and awareness in the pocket. He connected on 16 of his 27 pass attempts, recording 194 yards through the air. Whether it was finding Tommy Sweeney in the middle of the field, hitting Ben Glines on a crossing route, or checking it down to a running back in the flat, Wade almost always knew where to go with the ball.
Wade’s experience and knowledge of the game was evident. If the defensive line penetrated, he never panicked. Instead, he rolled outside of the pocket and either delivered a throw or scrambled for a positive gain.
Because Addazio had Wade and Anthony Brown taking reps with both the Maroon and Gold teams, the score of the game doesn’t tell the real story. On the surface, it looks close: 17-17. But in reality, Wade stole the show. All but three of the 34 total points scored were byproducts of Wade-orchestrated drives.
2) Offensive Arsenal
BC lost two multi-purpose backs, Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis, to graduation. Yet it appears as if their shoes will be filled with relative ease. Without incoming four-star recruit A.J. Dillon, the Eagles’ backfield already looked explosive. According to Addazio, Jonathan Hilliman has been having his best spring yet. And it seems like it’s paying off. Hilliman—who averaged a mere 2.9 yards per carry last season—looked revitalized on Saturday. For someone who primarily stuck to running in between the tackles last season, he seemed particularly willing to bounce the ball back outside on designed inside rushing plays.
Meanwhile, Davon Jones picked up right where he left off last season. Not only can the freshman catch the ball out of the backfield, but he can also breakaway from the defense for chunks of yardage. Early in the second quarter, Jones bursted into the open field for a 30-yard rush.
Soon after, he piled in for a seven-yard score.
Equally as impressive was the play of Richard Wilson and Travis Levy. Wilson reached the end zone twice, and Levy showcased his agility and swift moves in open space. In sum, the running backs were responsible for all four of the touchdowns that were scored.
As far as Addazio is concerned, splitting up the carries among the backfield is more of an afterthought. In his eyes, no matter how much they are or aren’t used, each one of them is valuable.
“You need ’em all,” Addazio said. “What you learn in this conference is, you need all of those backs.”
You also need productive wide receivers and tight ends. BC is in luck, as it is returning all of its top receivers from last season.
In the spring game, Wade and Brown heavily targeted Sweeney. The sophomore tight end made a huge jump in production last season, and Addazio says that he’s made another this spring. Additionally, Glines and Kobay White were effective in the slot. Teamed with Jeff Smith, Charlie Callinan, and Michael Walker, those two should round out a much-improved receiving corps.
3) Up-Tempo Offense
Similar to this year’s Quick Lane Bowl, BC featured an up-tempo offense on Saturday. Instead of calling plays in a huddle and drawing from a wristband, all plays are signaled. As Wade said in the post game press conference, everything you need to know is in your head. Despite requiring an increased workload, such an offensive philosophy keeps opponents on edge. It also increases fatigue—something Addazio’s players can use to their advantage.
“[The fatigue is] tough,” Sweeney said. “It’s something to work on. [But] you see that other guy, and he’s just as tired, if not more tired, and that kinda makes you go a little more.”
Addazio estimates that both the Maroon and Gold teams each ran close to 50 plays. For a team that has struggled with moving the chains and scoring during Addazio’s tenure, perhaps a change of pace is what’s needed.
1) Anthony Brown
This game was a chance for Brown to make a statement—to show that he poses a legitimate threat to Wade’s starting role. But after throwing two interceptions and only completing only 10-of-27 pass attempts, it’s safe to say that he may very well need more time to develop as a passer.
Brown was hit-or-miss on many of his throws—most notably in the first half. One play removed from wowing those in attendance with a 40-yard bomb to the end zone that barely escaped the fingertips of Elijah Robinson, Brown was intercepted. His throw was tipped by Troy Flutie and picked off by Atem Ntanteng. It was a tough break for Brown, who fit a catchable ball into a tight window. If Flutie doesn’t tip this ball, this isn’t an interception.
A few drives later, Brown, once again targeting Flutie, misfired. Torres was there to make the play, turning the ball over back to the Maroon team. Unlike the first interception, this one was Brown’s fault. Like some of his other throws on Saturday, this one had too much juice on it.
Every so often, Brown looked sharp. His velocity on the ball was impressive, and his deep ball was enticing. He has all of the tangibles. It appears that he just needs time.
2) Second-String Offensive Line
Whenever Brown was playing with the second-string offensive line, he was frequently pressured. On multiple occasions, he dropped back and immediately saw defensive lineman storming toward his way. If it wasn’t a spring game, Brown would have paid the price.
Wade faced the same pressure, but called on his seasoned awareness to move out of the pocket. It’s important to note that the second line consisted of the depth chart’s No.s 8-13, with graduate transfer left tackle Marcell Lazard coming in over the summer, Jon Baker’s offseason surgery, and Elijah Johnson’s torn ACL all keeping them out of the game. Still, all said in done, the lack of depth in the trenches was exposed.
1) Jersey Swapping
Spring games are already hard enough to follow. But when Addazio started flip-flopping players between the two rosters mid-game, the task reached a new level of difficulty. The confusion peaked when a player wearing a gold No. 4 jersey took the field. There was no such player listed on the gameday roster, and as a result, he was unidentifiable.
What was even worse was the color combinations that resulted from the swaps. By the end of the game, some guys were wearing gold helmets, gold jerseys, and gold pants. Defining that look as “too much” would be an understatement.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor