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Steve Addazio on Spring Ball

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Quick Lane Bowl - Boston College v Maryland Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

COACH ADDAZIO: I appreciate you guys being here. Hopefully we're beating that storm. I know that storm is coming in here tomorrow morning. I think this whole city of Boston is shutting down a little bit.

We're excited to start spring practice. Excited to get going again. The emotional momentum coming off of the end of the season for our players was just really fantastic. You could feel it all winter long. We had as good a winter as we've ever had here. Really the best.

The players' vibe, their energy, their attention to detail. I think it was very uplifting for them to, within themselves, really understand the concept. They experienced firsthand how to find ways to win, which is something I've talked about before, which is a critical ingredient, obviously along with the fact of getting older and developing and maturing and all those good things.

We head into the off-season with a lot of positive momentum, the bowl game, bowl win, the first win in nine years, and the feeling of a real positive moving forward future, the realization of guys knowing we have talent and we have a lot of good things to talk about moving forward.

We had a great winter. That's really pushed itself into the spring. If you're around our guys, you can feel, they're not coming to practice saying, Okay, we got to practice, whatever, 9 to 11, then it's going to be over. For these guys, they want to maximize every day. That's a really cool deal.

It's been a lot of fun. They got off for spring break, because they had a long, grueling winter of training. They're energized and ready to go. They're a little bummed out with the weather, the advent of the bubble possibly closing. We had to delay our pro day from next Tuesday to tomorrow.

As we push forward, we're excited. We got a lot of things going on.

On defense we have a bunch of really talented young players. Obviously when you start up front, you talk about our pass-rush. I think you got to be real excited about our pass-rush right now. You have Harold Landry came back, unbelievable first-round potential, All-American. I just really think a guy that really set the tone by saying, Hey, we're going to have a great team, I want to be part of it, I want to develop, grow, get my degree, all the things you should be saying.

Then you add in the fact that you have guys like Zach Allen who I think is a phenomenal potential guy. He's a pass-rusher. Just a great pass-rusher. Wyatt Ray, Ray Smith. I think the development of our front. But those three pass-rushers specifically, you're talking about the guy who led the country in sacks in the best conference in college football. Then you're talking about two other guys who I think are getting ready to make the same jump that Harold made last year, right?

A year ago we thought Harold had potential, but we didn't know where he would be. Now we're looking back saying he led the country in sacks. What helps it, when you have three of those guys, you can't start scheming with one of those guys. We're excited about that.

Our linebackers, Connor Strachan is going to be one of the dominant guys in the conference. Then Ty Schwab. We have to replace Matt Milano. We have some real talent there with Kevin Bletzer and Sharrief Grice, a young guy named Max Richardson, true freshman last year, going to be the next great one to come out of here.

In the back end we lose John Johnson. John Johnson was a super bright guy, really made a lot of adjustments in the back end. But we have the emergence with Will, Will Harris, is going to be a great football player. We had Justin, John Johnson, but Will Harris is one of those great next ones.

We have a bunch of corners. Kam Moore is ready to have a breakout year, played well last year. Isaac, a whole host of guys back there.

Obviously the spots, Kevin Kavalec, Truman interiorly, John Johnson and Matt Milano. Those are the guys.

We feel we have talented young guys. As good as those players are, you wish you had them back, they never redshirted, but that was the state of affairs when we got here.

We have good young players that we feel can really step up in those positions right now. We're excited about them.

On offense, we feel right now we're ready to really make a giant step on offense, which we need to make, and we're going to make. I think you saw very tangible evidence of that in the bowl game where we ran 64 plays in the first half of that game alone, which is traditionally what we would run in a whole game.

I think with where we're headed offensively, let's talk about the position groups. The offensive line is going to be an older, more veteran, more mature group now. We're finally getting down that path.

Our tight ends, I think they're the best group of tight ends in the conference. There's very little doubt in my mind about it. Collectively with Tom Sweeney, Garrison, Korab, Ray Marten, these guys are very talented guys that are multifaceted. They can catch, split out. Ray Marten can play fullback, tight end. Korab can play wide receiver and attach as a Y.

Our receiving corps. I think Jeff Smith and Mike Walker are getting ready to have electric years. Jeff had a year where he had to become a wide receiver. That's not an easy proposition. Each game you could see the positive future that he has. Mike Walker, you could see it in the bowl game. Those are guys that have great speed, great hands. They're getting ready to come into their own now. Neither guy redshirted, but they're getting ready to be juniors now.

I think you're going to see Charlie Callinan is a guy that made a lot of plays for us. He's the veteran guy in that receiving group. Thaddeus Smith. Those guys have been around a while. Kobay White we think maybe has as much talent than anybody.

Think about Jeff Smith, this unbelievably talented guy. Mike Walker, Kobay, then the experience of Thaddeus and Charlie. Of course, Benny Glines, I think he's a guy that's really ready to pop.

There's a host of guys here, okay? The running backs, Jon Hilliman I thought played his best game in the last game against Maryland. I thought we saw the old Jon Hilliman again. That was really exciting to see. Davon Jones provided some power in there. Rich Wilson. We all know we have what we consider to be a hugely talented difference-maker coming in here in A.J.

We get to the position that you probably want to talk about, that quarterback position. It's the first time that we're going to come into a season with two guys that played a fair amount. I shouldn't say played a fair amount. Darius has played some ball. This is like his fourth year. Unfortunately, he got hurt. When you see Darius, he's different looking now. He has really filled out and matured. He had a great off-season. He looks fantastic, okay? I haven't been around him with a football in his hand. I'm talking about the off-season program.

Anthony Brown has such a high ceiling, such a wealth of talent. He's completely changed his body as well. Both those guys can flat throw the football, okay? They're very impressive looking physically right now. They don't look like young freshmen any more. Even Anthony Brown, a redshirt freshman, he doesn't look like that right now. We're really excited about that.

John Fadule has been working hard, played a fair amount of football here. E.J. Perry is here as a freshman, right? He's a talented guy.

We've got some weapons on offense. We're balanced on offense now. We're excited about that.

Our special teams, Ricky Brown will be coaching the outside linebackers, the Sam linebackers, and will be coordinating the special teams. Make that formal announcement here right now. Ricky has a bunch of passion and energy, worked hand-in-hand with myself and Al last year, in an off-the-field capacity.

I can't wait. We're going to keep developing special teams. Our coverage units. Mike has developed. Colton is finally healthy. We have a lot of positivity going on. Excited about it. Can't wait to get into spring ball. Looking forward to you guys covering it. Looking forward to continue to see the development in our football program as we move forward.

Any questions?

Q. Obviously the defense is important. How confident are you when that core group of returners, anchors on that defense, with the transition you're going to have with younger guys?

COACH ADDAZIO: I feel very confident. I think the biggest thing that we have to develop is the depth interiorly on the defensive line in first and second down against the run because Truman was such a big run-stopper. I would say that will be the biggest challenge there.

We have a lot of guys that played a lot of football in the back end, but we're losing a third-round, fourth-round guy. But we have talented guys. We've played a lot of them. They're going to keep developing and growing.

I would say it's always hard to find the interior run stoppers. So that depth, it's the depth there that would be the biggest concern I would have. So I want to see some of these younger guys, see how they develop in spring to add to the depth of the interior defense. We have depth at linebacker. We have depth a little bit at pass-rush. We've had best pass-rush here that we've in a long, long time.

Make sure we get the safety in the back end, depth up front. Those are the two concerns on defense.

Q. How far advanced are you when you have an offensive line coming in at camp?

COACH ADDAZIO: You can do a lot more. We're going to hold Jon Baker out of spring ball, with some off-season surgery. Nothing serious, but we're going to hold him out of spring ball.

It gives you an opportunity to develop some younger guys. It might take away from your consistency level in spring ball. I'm not that concerned about that. Jon has played a lot of football. That will plug back in in pre-season camp just fine. I think the most important thing is to make sure he's healthy. Again, let Shane Leonard take two thousand snaps at center because we think he's got a future ahead of him.

But the offensive line experience allows you to hit the thing running and not have to hold your installation. We're very far advanced right now.

Q. You have top two quarterbacks. As you know, I'm guessing Brown and Wade. Neither of them have thrown a lot of passes. When do you expect to name a starter for the season? How do you get them used to the speed of a game, everything they haven't faced yet?

COACH ADDAZIO: Well, I think Darius has faced it a little bit more. Obviously Anthony hasn't faced it at all. But I think we purposely, in spring ball, every day we compete ones versus ones because we've been pretty good on defense around here.

We feel like while that's not the complete answer, it's not the pressure of a real game, at least you're operating and competing against talented guys.

In terms of naming a starter, I love open competition. I think competition brings out the best in everybody at every position. The more competition you have, all over, we've had more competition now than we ever have because our roster is more complete. That makes you a better football team just in itself. I never want to shy away from that.

So I think we have to wait and see how the spring goes. Could you name somebody at the end of spring? Possibly. Could you name somebody in training camp? Possibly.

My hope is that it's so super competitive that that's the hardest thing in the world to do. I think that would be the best thing for us. Now, whether that's the way that plays out or not, I just don't know. I think I'd just like to see how that goes.

But, I mean, going into spring ball, Darius has taken those starting snaps because Darius has earned that. Darius has been here, put his time in here, has gone through being a starter, then losing a season, then not being a starter.

I mean, Darius has that right to open up spring ball taking those starting reps. But they will compete nose up during spring ball, and I think that will make our team better.

Q. Baker is still ankle?

COACH ADDAZIO: No. He had some shoulder work done in the off-season.

Q. How is Garrison?

COACH ADDAZIO: You know, Christian probably won't participate in spring football. Not definitely not, or maybe on a reduced level.

How is he? He's doing fantastic. It's just time intensive. But he will be terrific. We just have to be careful. The doctors are going to handle that. At what point they clear him, at what level, we proceed from there.

I think, you know, we're going to hold back Connor Strachan in spring ball. We're going to hold back Kam Moore in spring ball. Again, they'll have some involvement, but I'm not sure to what level, because of some off-season injuries that we had to clean up.

Jake Burt is still rehabbing his knee. You won't see him in spring football.

Geeze, am I missing anybody? I think I hit them all. I'm not 100% I hit them all, but I think I have. What, I rattled off, four, five, six guys, that were our starters that you won't see in real tackling or much of any kind of real heavy situations, which you'd love to have them, but we'll be fine with them.

A lot of those guys, not all of them, have played a lot of football. It will give some of the depth behind them to take quality starting reps which I think will pay you back tenfold.

Q. Somebody with the outside speed at running back you have, the thing that can replace Tyler and Myles?

COACH ADDAZIO: That's a good question. Jon Hilliman has outstanding speed. When he's healthy, I mean, he can flat run. He was a track guy. He can go. He's a big back. He's gotten bigger than when he got here, right? He's substantially bigger and stronger. He can move.

But, you know, you're going to see us utilize a lot this year, with the likes of Jeff Smith and Mike Walker. I mean, they have elite speed now. Those guys, even in our conference, which is a really fast conference, those guys have elite speed.

The utilization of those two guys for that edge speed, but Jon Hilliman has speed. A.J. Dillon has bona fide speed now. I mean, fast. As fast as Tyler and Myles. Just in a bigger body. But Jon Hilliman can run pretty fast.

Like I said, our goal, where we're working towards, is the ability to utilize all of our personnel. The more utilization of guys like Mike Walker and Jeff Smith, who can really fly, and they can flat carry the ball. The problem was, Jeff is a first-year receiver. Mike was like a year-and-a-half receiver. Those guys were young guys that now, they have a lot of experience now, a fair amount of experience.

So we'll be able to extract their special talents, whereas a year ago, you got nervous a little bit because every time you try to do something more with them, you took away from their fundamental growth at that position. It was always a balancing act.

Last year we utilized Jeff a lot in those situations. It became pretty targetable. But the more diversity we have with different guys having that ability, you're not as targetable. That just gives you a better opportunity to attack the defense.

It's kind of like that group of tight ends we have. We can do an awful lot with those guys now. Those guys can split out, we can be in empty, all over the place with them. They have really good hands. They're big. Some of them run extremely well, others run solid. We can create a lot.

Then Charlie, Charlie is that big receiver who can do a lot of stuff. So we got to utilize all of our talent. I think we're going to have the opportunity to do that. These quarterbacks, Scot has done a phenomenal job with them. They are really on it mentally, really are.

Q. Scot, with a year under his belt, some time with the offense, comfort with the offense, how much more do you imagine he's going to be more creative?

COACH ADDAZIO: I think you saw a little bit of that in the bowl game. I think you saw us in the first half, maybe in the second half we weren't quite as open as we were in the first half. I think you're going to see a lot more of what you saw in the first half in the further development of that, the proficiency.

As I said earlier, we ran 64, 65 plays in that first half. One of the problems we had in the second half, believe it or not, fatigue. The experience of knowing what we were doing, we got that done during bowl prep. There's a learning curve in there for everybody, and a conditioning curve, which is uniquely different.

But I thought you saw glimpses of where we can go. I can only tell you this, without saying too much, that you're going to see a lot more.

A lot of things hinge upon the ability for that quarterback to be comfortable in running that show. I think our throw game, even though I'm sure our numbers didn't bear that out yet, I think the development of our throw game, if you asked guys on our team, they would tell you it was phenomenal.

Now it's time to start to bear fruit from the work that went into that. I think you're going to start to see that with the understanding of the system by everybody involved, and then just the sheer quarterback development alone and receiver development alone.

I would anticipate our passing game to really start to bear fruit and blossom. Then I think you're going to start to see the diversity in our offense that we're dying to have show. I think we're going to start to see that stronger throughout as spring goes. It's going to get more and more throughout spring. We'll carry that with us.

Q. Anything in the program change with the uncertainty around the AD situation? Do you go on business as usual?

COACH ADDAZIO: No, I mean, I'm happy obviously and thrilled for Brad, that he's doing something he's really excited about. I love Brad Bates. Brad Bates has been fantastic. I worked around and with a lot of athletic directors. He's a football guy, and has been fantastic.

He's still here, still operating day-to-day. So our life right now, we're moving. We're doing what we do. Obviously there will be some new leadership that will come in.

At the end of the day my job is to develop this football team, develop our players. I kind of just don't really think about it, to be honest with you. I just think about what we need to do. Kind of what I've always done. Really zero-point-zero change right now. It's all about developing your team, keeping your eye on what is in front of us each day. I'm excited about that.

Q. I was looking at the schedule. You'll have a lot of teams, Louisville returning their quarterbacks, starting on the road. When do you want to start getting the offense sort of ready? When do you want to start getting them used to pressure situations so the quarterbacks are used to playing in hostile environments, ready to play against teams that can pull away in a moment's notice?

COACH ADDAZIO: Well, we play in the toughest conference in the country. That's not debatable any more. This year this is the toughest conference, and we play on the toughest side of it. We all know that. It's what it is. It's not what it was. It's a new era right now. It's very competitive.

We have to be ready out of the blocks. When we get on the road against Northern Illinois, we have to go out there and be hitting on all cylinders. It's not going to be like, let’s work on this. We don't have that luxury, if you want to call it. To go on the road and play Northern Illinois has been traditionally one of the stronger teams in the Mid-American Conference. At their place on a Friday night, we're going to have our hands full.

My mindset is we got to go out there at the highest capacity we can be at. It's not like, you know, sometimes you open up with some smaller schools. You're sitting there saying, let’s work on this. No, no, we're going. We are going to go a hundred miles an hour.

Our team is an older team that can handle those pressure situations. The quarterbacks, one of them, Anthony Brown, of course, has not been in the limelight at all, in the bright light. Darius has been. Not enough, but he started that first half in game whatever that was, three, against Florida State. He's got a little bit more.

How do you get them ready for that? All we can do is create the most competitive environments in practice we possibly can. We can't do any more than that. But our mindset is that we are going to be hitting at all cylinders, fully operational when we hit that road to go to Northern Illinois. That's the focus.

It's got to be that way, we'll need everything. No matter what you say, opening day has had, in the history of football, the biggest mixed bag of results because it's opening day. You just can't account for the things that sometimes can happen. You just hope that you've practiced the right way, you've prepared the right way.

I feel good about our team, because a lot of those positions, like last year, for example, the Virginia Tech game, everywhere there was a lot of wide eyes, okay? It's not going to be the case.

Now, the most important position is that quarterback position. So we've got to do the best we can to prepare them.

But to think that would be 100% smooth is probably pie in the sky. But when you have a good supporting cast around them, I think you pull yourself through that pretty well, and you're careful on keeping a good, positive energy around them, just working through whatever problems happen.

But we've got a good supporting cast around us. That's the good news. A veteran supporting cast around us.

Q. Did December practices give you a little bit of a blueprint of where you're going to be now?

COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah, there's no doubt. I think it showed in the game. Those were vital for us. Those practices were vital. I mean, you think about it, right? We have 15 practices in spring ball. I think we had 16 practices for the bowl game. We had a second spring practice, however you want to say that. That's how big that is.

We attacked it that way. I mean, we kind of had some big changes, some big additions. So we're going to take another leap like we did in the bowl game in spring ball. We're attacking our installation that way. We're not passively going at this right now. We're aggressively going after our installation because we feel like we made a lot of progress.

When I look back, when you get a more experienced roster, what you can get accomplished, you know. When I talk about Chris Lindstrom ad nauseam, he played as a true freshman at 265 pounds against Florida State two years ago. He's now 307 pounds. We can talk and talk. At the end of the day, it's going to take that time-intensive process for that young man.

The sad part is I wish he could have red-shirted, you'd still be looking at three years' worth of play eligibility. When we're completely right, we're going to have that. Truman Gutapfel would be coming back, Matt Milano would be coming back, Chris Lindstrom has three years. We're getting there, getting closer and closer and closer.

What that just speaks to is, why, when your roster's right, which is time intensive, especially at a place like Boston College, now you can start growing. What's taken so long? I mean, you know, we've covered this before. When BC's been at its best, they're playing with a lot of fourth- and fifth-year players. Some of the best players in history were Matt Ryan. Seniors and fifth-year, not juniors, not sophomores, not red-shirt sophomores.

We're moving that way now, it's fun because our acceleration is much faster.

Q. You mentioned the supporting cast is really good on the offensive end. Tight ends being the best in the country.

COACH ADDAZIO: As a unit.

Q. Does that make it easier for whatever quarterback is going to step in, to have such a reliable tight end corps?

COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah. It's always twofold. The quarterbacks need a good supporting cast, and the supporting cast needs a good quarterback. The quarterback is the most vital position. Let's be honest. You talk about who wins the Super Bowl, who wins conference championships, national titles? Always teams that have unbelievable quarterbacks, right? Veteran, veteran.

It all goes hand-in-hand. I feel like our supporting cast is more rounded. We've had some good players, right? But now we're more rounded, with a little bit of depth.

The most inexperienced piece of it is that quarterback position right now. Although we feel that they're very talented, as you pointed out, they still haven't been under the bright lights, if you will, the firing line there, right?

But I think the supporting cast will help that. The ability for a quarterback to get the ball out fast to some experienced guys helps you move the chains and keep you on the field.

Our biggest problem has been staying on the field and the lack of consistency, whether it be in the run game or throw game. A myriad of fundamental breakdowns or mistakes. We feel with the experience level we're developing, those are going to start to minimize, which should give us the ability to stay on the field longer.

All those things go hand-in-hand when you're playing good teams, keeping yourself in those games, giving yourself a chance to win, where they don't get away from you. When you're playing super talented teams, they can get away from you easily. The margin is not as grand as everybody thinks it is.

I think we're going to have a much more rounded team probably than we've ever had. Also understanding that even since my short tenure here, I'm going into my fifth year, the league has dramatically improved since the day I got here, I can tell you that, which is a great thing for our conference. It has dramatically improved. It's getting stronger every year right now. That's why it's the best conference in college football right now.

The SEC had that title for so long. But it's just not accurate right now. Our conference is going to remain strong. When you look at the weight of a conference, look at the quarterbacks in that conference. That will speak to that a lot. It's usually two things that you can look at: the quarterbacks and the quality of defense. How good are the defenses in the league? In the SEC, when they were hitting at all cylinders, I was there, they had really good quarterbacks and really good defense. That was the barometer for the strength of those conferences. In the ACC, essential this past season, fit right in line with that, with the Heisman Trophy winner, the runner-up to the Heisman Trophy winner, the national champion, several first-round draft picks.

Anyway, kind of an interesting study. That's where that is.

Q. If it does snow, what are you going to do?

COACH ADDAZIO: If though they close the bubble, closed on Wednesday, we will practice Thursday, Friday, Saturday. We have two non-padded practices, then a padded practice. We'll go three days in a row because we don't want to get out of whack with our schedule too far.

Guys, thank you.