In First Scrimmage, BC Not Quite Up to Speed but Playmakers and Special Teams Flash Potential

Boston College head football coach Steve Addazio came into Saturday planning on simulating game pace by having his first-team offense run upwards of 70-80 plays in the first scrimmage of training camp. That didn’t happen, and it wasn’t because of the heat.

“These guys were gassed out there, and we’re looking to get 90 [reps for the first team],” Addazio told BCEagles.com. “But it should be [like that]. We have a long way to go until we’re game ready.”

On a day that Addazio rated as a “10”—cool temperatures, a slight breeze, and little humidity—BC’s starters only managed 60 snaps, just as many as the second-teamers. Like any preseason scrimmage, there were penalties and turnovers that Addazio and the coaching staff know they have to clean up in the coming weeks. 

But the exhibition provided the team, especially the newcomers, with valuable game-like experience—minus the whole winning and losing thing. The coaching staff decided not to use a point system like they did in the Jay Memorial Spring Game or even keep score in the first place. That’s not to say that there weren’t highlights and talking points, per BCEagles.com.

Quarterbacks Dennis Grosel and Matt Valecce are making the most of their opportunity

During the offseason, BC lost both its second and third-string quarterbacks, E.J. Perry and Matt McDonald, leaving Addazio and new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian with Anthony Brown and a handful of inexperienced signal callers. Suddenly, underclassmen Dennis Grosel and Matt Valecce were thrust into a competition for the backup role, alongside four-star recruit Sam Johnson. On Saturday, both had their moments of excellence.

Early on, Grosel orchestrated a 65-yard scoring drive that included a couple of read-option runs. The redshirt sophomore got some from help from Peter Stehr and Pat Garwo in the backfield but made his fair share of throws, including a pass to Danny Dalton on a crossing pattern. Valecce held his own, too, even showing off the deep ball. Brown, who sat behind Patrick Towles while redshirting the 2016 season, knows how important these kinds of reps can be. 

“Any advice that I can give them, I do,” he said. “I want to tell them what I’ve gone through so when it’s their time, they can be better, even, than what I’ve done. I want them to get ready. When you’re not on the field, you’re not getting that experience.”

Glines and Bailey make an effective one-two punch

While A.J. Dillon was out with his left ankle injury last year, BC still ran the ball down the throat of a weak Louisville team, thanks to David Bailey and Ben Glines. In fact, both running backs carried the ball 17 or more times and eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground. That was just a glimpse of what the two backs could do together.

On Saturday, Addazio shuffled between Bailey and Glines, having them substitute for one another after individual plays. The two make for an interesting tandem—Glines has the traits of a shifty wide receiver (the position he originally played at BC), and Bailey plays with the ground-and-pound mentality. It’s a combination that complements Dillon and is capable of keeping defenses on edge. 

Brown and Co. still haven’t quite perfected the deep ball, C.J. Lewis is turning heads

Brown has a big arm, there’s no doubt about that. However, ever since he arrived on campus, he’s been working on throwing downfield, something that—before the Cliffwood, N.J., native came along—the Eagles didn’t do very often. 

At one point during Saturday’s scrimmage, he aired out a pass for Kobay White down the sideline. The redshirt junior wide receiver had a step on his man in one-on-one coverage and hauled in the reception in the back corner of the end zone. Unfortunately for White, he was out of bounds.

“Those balls are exciting because when they’re in the air, you can hear the crowd go silent,” White said. “Then when you make the catch, the sound comes back in. I’ve worked on that with Anthony, and you usually need to be clear [of the defensive back]. But when you’re in one-on-one coverage, you have to take that shot.”

The Eagles lost Jeff Smith and Michael Walker—their second and third-leading wideouts from last season—to graduation, so who will be starting opposite of White has been a question for much of the offseason. C.J. Lewis is one candidate. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound receiver has reportedly been on his A game in camp. The same could be said for the exhibition, where the junior made a handful of catches, including one where he retained possession after sustaining a big hit from Brandon Sebastian. Lewis struggled with drops as an underclassmen. Whether or not he can stick with the first team is dependent on his consistency.

Led by Boumerhi, BC’s special teams unit appears to be primed for improvement

Aaron Boumerhi missed the first few days of camp because he was finishing up course work at Temple, so Saturday was the first time reporters got an extended look at the transfer placekicker. The former walk-on, who missed practically the entire 2018 season with a hip injury, left a good first impression, even successfully completing BC’s 25-second drill—an exercise where the offense runs a play and then sprints to the sideline while the kicking team quickly gets set for a field goal attempt.

Boumerhi drilled 31 of his 43 kicks (72.1 percent) with the Owls, two of which were from 48 and 52 yards out. He won’t have to do much to impress BC fans who have watched their team convert a meager 43-of-64 field goal attempts over the course of the past five years.

As far as punting is concerned, Grant Carlson pinned the offense inside the 20-yard line multiple times. Coupled with Boumerhi, Carlson has the potential to lead a much-improved special teams unit—perhaps the most inconsistent of BC’s three phases last season.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Height Staff

Andy Backstrom
About Andy Backstrom 432 Articles
Andy is the managing editor of The Heights. He is from the suburbs of Philly, but has been an Arizona Cardinals enthusiast since the first grade. Every so often, he'll replay Super Bowl XLIII on Madden to exact revenge on his father's beloved Steelers. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyHeights.