The 2015 season was a hard pill to swallow for a large number of Boston College football fans. As the ceiling fell in the on the season, the floor gave out. Each week, the team kept fighting, kept pounding. It wasn’t enough, however, and often overmatched on offense, they failed to secure a win after the fourth game of the season. It was humbling and frustrating to watch, but perhaps the biggest reason is because BC simply lost its swagger.
Swagger is one of those essential parts to the game of football, and it comes in different forms. There’s loud, boisterous swagger, something brought by the Miami Hurricanes of the 1980s and exhibited by Southern California when they came out of the tunnel against BC two years ago. Standing up against the BC tunnel, jawing with players, there was something to a team walking into any stadium not only feeling like it could win but also feeling like it was going to win.
At BC, it’s a different kind of swagger. It’s the fiery coach getting his guys’ juice going, but it’s a tough, physical, workman-like approach to the game. In Steve Addazio’s two years, BC showed its swagger by simply outworking teams, grinding them down by punching a clock, putting on the hard-hat, and doing their jobs.
Last year, as the season got away from BC, they lost a little bit of that swagger on the field. The team never quit, kept fighting on every play, but the atmosphere, the proverbial air in the balloon? It was gone. As soon as an opponent scored, there was the feeling that BC would lose, and as far as statistics go, that’s what happened.
If the 2015-2016 offseason became typified by anything, it’s about a reclamation of that swagger. And to help stoke those flames, they rebuilt from the foundation up, starting with the quarterback position.
Patrick Towles is a very different player than what Boston College is used to. He has height at 6’5”, making him the tallest Eagle QB since Quinton Porter, but he has thickness at 250-plus pounds. He has massive size, something that makes him willing to stand in the pocket when faced with pressure.
Because he’s so big, he has a big arm. Before last season, he was a rising name on draft boards because of his ability to make all throws. He could throw downhill with some zip, and he could take something off to put some touch on a sideline route.
But what makes Towles so much different than any other QB in recent Eagle history is his “gunslinger” mentality. It’s gotten him into trouble at times, and he threw more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (six) in 2015.
It’s tough to overly fault Towles for some of the statistical struggles, though. Only two of his interceptions last year came in third down situations, and he went 29-52 (56%) on yardages of eight or longer. On situations where it was third and long but in between the sticks (8-10 yards), he went 19-31 (61%).
His tendencies also ran worse when he was asked to do more and more. He threw his most pass attempts on first down, which is also where he threw his most interceptions (seven). Of those seven picks, six came on yardage situations of 8-10 yards during the down.
It goes beyond passing, though. For a big guy, Towles has an ability to scramble, meaning he is more than capable of pulling down the ball and taking off with it. This is a 250-pound guy who is capable of picking up 10 yards on the ground, and he’s regarded as incredible athletic. He enters the year as the 19th best QB prospect in college football, per NFL Draft Scout. Against Missouri, even though he went 22-27 for 250 yards, he averaged three yards per carry with 21 yards on nine carries.
At BC, he won’t be asked to do that much. While he’s the centerpiece of the offense, the Eagles have a much more seasoned running game, meaning he’ll likely be tasked with doing substantially less. He’ll be asked to pass more on second and third down than he would be on first, though he does give the team the option to do it.
Even if BC runs a traditional, pro-style attack, it’ll encompass more rushing than the Wildcats. Shannon Dawson employed a pass-oriented offense that utilized more downfield looks. It was successful early in the year, namely when Kentucky beat Missouri and opened up 4-1, but after five straight losses, the Wildcats made a change to prospect Drew Barker going into a game against Charlotte. Still, they came within one game, in which they still scored 24 points in a loss to Louisville in which Towles re-entered the lineup, of bowl eligibility.
In 2016, one of the underlying storylines will be how Towles gives this team its swagger back. His ability to make plays is something they lacked last year, and it’s something that could open up the rest of the offense. At the end of the day, he’ll probably only need to “make” two or three tough plays per game, substantially less than what Kentucky asked of him, but if he can do that, it could be a return to prominence for the Eagles this season.