Friday, July 26, 2013

season preview: Boston College Eagles


8/31: Villanova
9/6: Wake Forest (Fri.)
9/14: @ USC
9/21: BYE
9/28: Florida State
10/5: Army
10/12: @ Clemson
10/19: BYE
10/26: @ North Carolina
11/2: Virginia Tech
11/9: @ New Mexico State
11/16: NC State
11/23: @ Maryland
11/30: @ Syracuse

Skip: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, Pittsburgh, Virginia

2012 results:

Miami: L, 41-32
Maine: W, 34-3
Northwestern: L, 22-13
Clemson: L, 45-31
Army: L, 34-31
Florida State, L, 51-7
Georgia Tech: L, 37-17
Maryland: W, 20-17
Wake Forest: L, 28-14
Notre Dame: L, 21-6
Virginia Tech: L, 30-23
NC State: L, 27-10

Record: 2-10; 6th of 6, Atlantic Division

Projected starters:

QB: Chase Rettig (Sr.)
WR: Alex Amidon (Sr.)
WR: Spiffy Evans (Jr.)
TE: C.J. Parsons (rJr.)
RB: Andre Williams (Sr.)
FB: Jake Sinkovec (5Sr.)
LT: Dan Lembke (rSo.)
LG: Bobby Vardaro (rJr.)
C: Andy Gallik (rJr.)
RG: Harris Williams (rJr.)
RT: Ian White (5Sr.)

DE: Kaleb Ramsey (6Sr.)
DT: Mehdi Abdesmad (Jr.)
DT: Connor Wujciak (rSo.)
DE: Kasim Edebali (5Sr.)
SLB: Kevin Pierre-Louis (Sr.)
MLB: Steele Divitto (Sr.)
WLB: Steven Daniels (So.)
CB: Manny Asprilla (Jr.)
CB: Bryce Jones (So.)
FS: Sean Sylvia (rJr.)
SS: Spenser Rositano (Jr.)

K: Nate Freese (5Sr.)
P: Alex Howell (rSo.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Steve Addazio, 1st season

Media prediction: 7th of 7, Atlantic Division


2012 1st team: WR Alex Amidon, LB Nick Clancy
2012 2nd team: OT Emmett Cleary
2012 HM: P Gerald Levano, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
2013 preseason: LB Kevin Pierre-Louis

(Italics indicate departed player.)

BC's expectations weren't that high last year, but they still failed to reach them in spectacular fashion.  A 2-10 season - in which most of the losses weren't even competitive - meant the end of Frank Spaziani's tenure and the hiring of Steve Addazio, whose head coaching credentials consist of riding Al Golden's coattails at Temple for one season before taking the Owls back to Losing Seasonville.  Addazio has depth issues to deal with at several positions and faces a tough ACC schedule; the consensus two best teams are in his division, and his crossover games are UNC and VT.

-- Offense

Lack of continuity will be something that the Eagles' offense has to deal with; senior quarterback Chase Rettig is on his fourth offensive coordinator in four years.  Rettig has helmed the BC offense for the past season-and-a-half, improving his efficiency slightly each season.  He's never been a feared playmaker, though, which is something BC lacks throughout their entire offense.  The Eagles production ranked at the bottom of the conference last year no matter how you look at it, and their 26 touchdowns on the season was the fewest of any team in the ACC.

Boston College does think that RB Andre Williams can be a dynamic playmaker if he stays healthy.  A 99-yard rush against Army last year is some evidence of this.  That said, he otherwise averaged about 3.75 yards a carry, and health has been a problem; Williams has missed games in each of the last three seasons with various ailments.  Behind Williams, there's very little experience; Tahj Kimble and David Dudeck will fight the battle for carries, neither of whom has played more than a minimal role in past seasons.  Dudeck and Kimble do have receiving skills that Williams does not, ensuring them at least a place in the offense.

At receiver, Alex Amidon is a very dependable option who had six 100-yard games and seven touchdowns last year; he represents BC's best proven playmaking capability.  Spiffy Evans and Bobby Swigert also return; Swigert isn't listed on the depth chart but he had 44 catches two years ago and it was a pair of knee injuries that limited his stats in 2012, so you'd expect to see a role for him as well.  Though quality pass-catching tight end Chris Pantale departs and a battle looms between Mike Naples and C.J. Parsons to fill his shoes, there should be adequate receiving capability in the offense as long as there's also health.  If there isn't, it might start to get ugly.

Probably the biggest offseason loss for BC was left tackle Emmett Cleary; getting first crack at replacing him will be redshirt sophomore Dan Lembke, who has been grooming for the job for a while.  On the other end, the very experienced Ian White slides over to right tackle after playing the first three years of his career at right guard, where he's made 23 starts.  White could be a safety valve option at LT if Lembke isn't ready.  On the interior, Bobby Vardaro at LG and Andy Gallik at center provide solid continuity, each having started all 12 games last season and at least a few in 2011 as well.  The question will be Harris Williams at RG, a player the coaches like but who missed most of last season with a broken foot and has played only nine games the past two years.

With a senior quarterback, a decent receiving corps, and reasonable continuity on the O-line, the pieces are in place for BC to make some modest improvements on offense this season.  But no defenses save the dreadful NMSU Aggies and (maybe) Villanova will be intimidated by this bunch, and putting yet another system into place (the new OC is last year's WR coach, so it's not that new, but still) might hold them back at times.  Potential for improvement exists (very little place to go but up) but there's still potential as well for this to be the conference's worst offense.

-- Defense

As has been the case for a while, BC's strongest unit on either side of the ball is their linebackers.  Two very productive linebackers return, and though the Eagles will have to replace Nick Clancy's 145 tackles and 10 pass breakups, the talent is more than available to do so.  Steele Divitto moves to the middle from the strong side, and Kevin Pierre-Louis moves from weak to strong.  Pierre-Louis is BC's entry on the preseason all-ACC team and made Phil Steele's preseason first team as well; he had 85 tackles, 4 TFL, and 2 sacks in an injury-shortened 2012 (and happened to be BC's sack leader as well.)  Divitto recorded 92 tackles as well, and led the team in snaps played last year with 1,052; he's proven exceedingly durable (particularly by BC's injury-riddled standards) by starting each of the last 24 games.  Filling in on the weak side is Steven Daniels, a well-regarded recruit in 2011 whose role increased heavily during his redshirt freshman season in 2012. Daniels is a product of the same Cincinnati high school that produced BC superstar Luke Kuechly; he is expected to step right in and be a top contributor as well.

The defensive line is another story.  Last year I wrote that "the Eagles badly lack a true pass rushing threat from the ends."  The team as a whole had had only 11 sacks in 2011.  That somehow got even worse; the Eagles managed just six sacks all season, the absolute worst number in the whole country.  Kasim Edebali is the top pass-rush threat, if you can call it that; he had 1.5 sacks in 2012, a 300% improvement from his half-a-sack in 2011.  There may be a boost coming from Kaleb Ramsey, who played only four games total in 2011 and 2012 due to injury and was granted a sixth year by the NCAA.  He played reasonably well for the Eagles in 2010 and ought to provide a boost for what was a pathetic pass rush.  Brian Mihalik provides the primary depth, though he's not a terrifying presence either.

In the middle, a four-man rotation looks likely, with Mehdi Abdesmad moving inside to make room for Ramsey.  Connor Wujciak was a top-250 recruit in his class and looks ready for a larger role after earning five starts last season.  Jaryd Rudolph and Dominic Appiah are listed as the backups for now but both also have some starting experience under their belts.

Pass defense was a strength of sorts last year, partly because the linebackers are very good in pass coverage but also because the back line is solid.  CB Manny Asprilla had a pair of picks last year, and Bryce Jones had some success as the nickel back, which in turn gave the Eagles confidence enough to move Sean Sylvia over to free safety.  Sylvia pairs up with Spenser Rositano (three INTs) to give the Eagles a good pairing in the defensive backfield.  If they had any pass-rush help this group might get some conference-wide recognition.

That said, until that pass-rush help shows up, BC can't fire on all cylinders on defense.  Their pass rush has me scrambling to the thesaurus for syllables for "pathetic" - I like "piteous," "deplorable," and "grotty" myself.  A grotty pass rush.  It really can't be worse than six total sacks this year.  The linebackers do a great job of cleaning up the mess from the D-line and the secondary really has potential, so if the Eagles can solidify themselves up front, the defense should be at least non-disastrous, perhaps even decent.

-- Special teams

PK Nate Freese had consistency issues in 2011 but got them mostly fixed in 2012, and should be dependable in this, his senior season.  The Eagles will be looking for a punter; the only one on the roster is sophomore Alex Howell (younger brother of former UVA punter Jimmy Howell), though Freese might also be called upon for that job.
-- Outlook

BC was really, really bad last year.  2-10 was a very apt record, and their Maryland win was by a mere three points.  It's not like they had a bunch of close losses that just happened to swing the wrong way.  This year's schedule offers only a modicum of relief; basically by not having Notre Dame on the OOC list, replacing them with 1-11 New Mexico State.  There should be improvements on both sides of the ball, if a healthy Andre Williams can give Chase Rettig some run-game help and if the D-line improves even a little.  Finding two ACC wins among Maryland, Wake, and Syracuse ought to be the goal; the rest of the ACC schedule is daunting.  If they can do that and hold serve in the OOC by beating Army, Villanova, and NMSU, that's five wins.  Where the sixth would come from would be a mystery; five seems like the cap and four seems just as likely.

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