First Look: Boston College

Steve Addazio faces another rebuild in his third year at Boston College. But the former Irish assistant has completed this kind of project before, including last season.

Steve Addazio spins the same coaching clichés that pop up in every football facility during the summer. The Boston College head coach just sells them better than most, part of the reason why the Eagles represent a curious dot on Notre Dame’s schedule for reasons beyond the Shamrock Series hitting Fenway Park.

At ACC Media Days last week Addazio talked about his “N/T” sign, which stands for “No Talent” and is an attempt to proselytize the importance of smart football, meaning no turnovers, no penalties, no mental mistakes. It’s the same kind of stuff Brian Kelly and the rest of college football wants too. Addazio just makes it catchy.

Less revolutionary was Addazio’s off-season video montage that hit on Boston College’s inability to finish games. The Eagles lost at Florida State by a field goal and dropped home games to Clemson and Colorado State by seven combined points. They lost the Pinstripe Bowl to Penn State because of a missed extra point.

“We didn't make those three or four extra plays, which was the difference between seven wins, 10 wins or 11 wins,” Addazio said. “That's something we're going to get done and pay close, close attention to.”

It’s something every team at every level of football is paying attention to too. But Addazio has made a career of getting his message across, even if it’s not entirely novel. The former Notre Dame assistant drilled under Urban Meyer at Florida, solidified Temple’s foundation and has now brought Boston College back from oblivion.

Boston College is next in Irish Illustrated’s off-season rundown of Notre Dame’s schedule.

New Line, No Problem?

Boston College lost all five starters off last year’s line and quarterback Tyler Murphy, a transfer from Florida. That group was historically good, Murphy setting the career rushing record for quarterbacks at Boston College in just one season, leading the team with 1,184 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Eagles savaged USC in a September upset with 452 yards on the ground.

Now Addazio must start over with a new line and his third starting quarterback in three seasons. It’s a trick he pulled off at Temple when in his final year he returned one starting offensive lineman, lost his starting running back, moved conferences and still produced an offense that averaged 200 yards rushing per game.

Boston College does return right guard Harris Williams, who’s started 14 games and was supposed to be a first-team talent last year before getting hit with the season-ending ankle injury in the opener. But that’s it for legitimate starting experience. Quarterback Darius Wade takes over for Murphy. The sophomore attempted just eight passes as a freshman last fall.

“Darius Wade can run the option but not as well as Murphy, said Joe Jacobs, who covers Boston College for Scout.com. “I think they have to reinvent themselves again and get back to a regular passing attack. It’s going to be less option, more trying to run the ball down people’s throats.”

Boston College will rely on sophomore running back Jonathan Hilliman, a St. Peter’s Prep product that put up 860 yards and 13 touchdowns as a true freshman. If Addazio can reshape the line successfully, Hilliman should go over 1,000 this fall.

Kicking Issues

Addazio revamped his special teams this off-season with a coaching change, picking up Coleman Hutzler from Florida to smooth out one of the Eagles’ roughest edges.

Boston College had three different kickers miss extra points and lost the Pinstripe Bowl to Penn State because of one of them. Lead kicker Alex Howell returns, but he was 5-of-11 on field goals and 3-of-9 on attempts beyond 40 yards.

Boston College actually ranked third nationally in kickoff returns with a 26-yard average. The Eagles were middling in punt returns and net punting. Like Notre Dame, Boston College could go with a freshman kicker this year in Colton Lichtenberg.

“Last year they were terrible and lost the bowl game because they missed an extra point,” Jacobs said. “This is really something to watch. Their field goal and extra point teams were a real struggle last year.”

For a team that played seven games decided by a touchdown or less – Boston College went 3-4 in those games – getting the kicking game right will be a priority.

No Rush Zone

Boston College finished second nationally in rushing defense last season by allowing 94.5 yards per game, which made sense considering the Eagles also faced the second fewest rushing attempts of any program (Michigan State ranked first in both categories).

But Boston College also ranked sixth nationally in yards per carry allowed at 3.08, a more telling statistic because it sands down instances where teams put up great rushing defense stats based on limited carries faced.

Overall, the Eagles allowed 5.13 yards per play, which ranked 30th. Notre Dame ranked 70th in that department at 5.6 yards per play.

The Eagles return four starters on the defensive line, although one is a converted linebacker. Safety Justin Simmons and linebacker Steven Daniels ranked first and second in tackles last season, with both returning. However, those are the only two starters returning in the back seven.

“They lost a few key guys and there’s no ‘the guy’ on this defense right now, so that’s going to be something to watch,” Jacobs said. “The run defense was really good last year and should be good again. The second gave up too much in the passing game, so that’s something they need to work on.”

How much Boston College improves its pass defense could show early when Florida State visits on Sept. 18. That means the first conference game of Everett Golson’s college career could come at a place where he’s already won. Notre Dame won at Boston College in 2012.

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