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ACC Kickoff: Returnees, New Faces Setting Tone For Offensive Renewal

Infusion of new life will be key to the 2016 season.

USC v Boston College Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Before the 2015 season even ended, Steve Addazio knew the hand he had been dealt. For the first two years of his tenure, he’d been able to piece together a team on the fly, building around whatever he had in front of him. For the third season, he rolled the dice on his young players’ development, despite an apparent lack of depth.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out that well.

“At quarterback, when I came to Boston College, we had a senior quarterback in Chase Rettig,” said Addazio during yesterday’s ACC Kickoff session. “Chase had an outstanding senior year. Then we were left with no experience at the quarterback position.

“(So) we brought Tyler Murphy in,” he continued. “We were a power running, pro style attack one year. With Tyler, we utilized his speed and feed, we were a spread option attack. Last year, we decided to go with Darius Wade, who was a very talented player...He was hurt in Game 3 and we lost him for the year.”

Losing Wade had no apparent Plan B. Wade entered the season with nine passing attempts, but that was more experience than the other quarterbacks on the roster combined. The injury during the Florida State game derailed the most important position on the field, resulting in BC falling off the map.

“It played out we were playing a walk-on true freshman quarterback, which is not going to go against some of the elite defenses in the ACC,” said Addazio.

In an effort to bolster the position, Addazio reconstructed everything about the offense. While that means the 2016 offensive mindset is a result of the 2015 results, it also means there is no continuity with the scheme from a year ago.

Everything about that side of the ball will be different. BC acquired fifth-year transfer quarterback Patrick Towles, a player known as a pro-style quarterback but with the ability to move. “Patrick is an elite athlete,” said Addazio. “He’s a 6’4 1/2”, 255-pound kid who can run sub-4.6 and has a dynamic arm...We feel we have the talent and more experience at the quarterback position.”

While Towles is the biggest on-field acquisition, much will be made about the switch in offensive coordinator. Todd Fitch is out, having left Boston College to return to his former boss Skip Holtz (now at Louisiana Tech), and Scot Loeffler, most recently of the Virginia Tech Hokies, is in.

Loeffler, the former offensive coordinator under Addazio at Temple, isn’t necessarily the best mind in the book, but it’s an obvious shift in mindset for the Eagles, who desperately needed to infuse a new scheme and new philosophy into their moribound results from a year ago.

“Scot is arguably one of the finest quarterback coaches I’ve ever been around,” said Addazio. “(He) fundamentally developed the quarterback position. I thought that was critically important for us. He’s also an expert in the throw game, which is something we’ve spent a lot of time expanding.”

Football is occasionally about changing from within, and while it’s great for critics to see Addazio bring in outsiders to improve the two most critical areas of the offense, it’s from within that he hopes will be complement the new methodology.

Reconstruction at the receiver position should help Towles develop quick rapport. Positional coach Brian White moved to the running backs position as part of a staff shakeup, making room for the addition of former Eagles star Rich Gunnell. Gunnell, a young coach at only 27 years old, brings his experience of having played with three QBs over his time at BC but still having set the career receiving yards mark for the program.

“He was a great player at BC,” said Addazio, “a great receiver, he has great rapport with our players.”

Gunnell’s working with a receiving corps that should feature nearly entirely new names. Some key contributors sat out the year or, like so many others, were fundamentally under-developed. With a change in scheme, a change in offensive coordinator, a change in receiving coach, it becomes about bolstering the players already in the pipeline.

“Our wide receivers can run,” he said. “We have speed on offense. We run well. Offensive line, tight end and receivers. We moved Jeff Smith to receiver. He has elite speed in our conference. He was a quarterback last year. He’s a dynamic player.”

Smith, who reportedly developed rapport with Towles in the offseason as a receiver, is joined by a number of guys Addazio is “excited about” seeing in 2016. In addition, Tommy Sweeney, a tight end, may play a role in the offense. Not usually known for developing pass catching tight ends, it would add a role to the Boston College team unseen since Pete Mitchell in the 1990s.

“I think (Sweeney) is a talented guy who has a bunch of playing experience,” said Addazio. “He’s going to be a 260- to 265-pound tight end with excellend hands. We play with bigger receiver hybrid-type guys that can come close to the box or they can be mismatches out in the perimeter. Charlie Callinan is an example of that. I think an outstanding player that has great experience.”

Ultimately it boils back to the bread and butter of the Eagle offense. The passing game stays under the microscope because of the new faces, potentially overshadowing what always makes this team who they are.

“We feel we have one of the most talented (groups of) running backs. We have a cross-section of talent. Big backs and extremely explosive, fast backs like Myles (Willis).

“Myles has been electric on kickoff return and has had some of our most explosive runs,” said Addazio. “He’s a proven player along with Tyler Rouse (and) Jon Hilliman, who we lost year. We lost him in the fourth game, which was a critical blow. We lost Myles for three or four weeks during that stretch as well.

“This will be a hard-fighting, tough, physical football team with a little bit more experience, a little bit more talent, a ton of character, a ton of work ethic. I love this team,” he said. “I’m excited about the team. I can’t wait to start training camp.”