Even if you haven't gotten the chance to read the transcript of Boston College football coach Steve Addazio's spring football press conference, you probably have an idea what he said.
Daz is pumped about the defense, excited about his skill players, and bummed about the weather (aren't we all?)
Now, Daz has gained the reputation among the BC faithful of being overly optimistic, even after blowout losses to teams at the top of the ACC, but let's be real: He's not totally wrong here.
So, let's break down Daz' press conference, and see how it jives with the reality of the program heading into a very important spring.
"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."
Right off the bat we've got a case of Daz telling a truth that may ring hollow to Eagle fans, but BC does have some palpable momentum. BC players I've spoken with feel it, and high school prospects I've spoken with feel it. Perhaps the best evidence of this very real momentum was stud running back A.J. Dillon, a Lawrence Academy kid, flipping from Michigan to BC late in the process.
Now, is he over-selling it a bit? Maybe. There are teams with more momentum out there, and BC's three-game winning streak didn't exactly come against a murderers’ row of competition. But, it was undoubtably a step in the right direction, and served to make BC a suitable destination for mid to upper-midlevel recruits.
Plus, and I don’t think Daz gets enough (or any) credit for this, but he did get his team to rally and win three straight games, including a road game against an “equal” conference opponent, and a bowl game against a Big Ten team, after they had basically been crapped on by media and fans for months. That’s something.
"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?"
This is mostly true. If you're looking for one area where BC can be elite next year, it's rushing the passer. Not sure I need to elaborate on this further: Harold Landry is awesome, and he's not the only dude BC has on the edge. Can both of those other guys make a Landry-like leap? That’s probably asking a lot, but even if they don’t, this is still likely going to be BC’s strength.
"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.”
It's hard to imagine the BC linebacker group not dropping off a bit without Milano, who did so much for them last year. But, Daz is right that Connor Strachan is one of the best returning LBs in the conference and, if he can avoid injuries this year, could be an All-American level player. Schwab is solid, and we'll just have to take Daz' word for it on Bletzer, Grice and Richardson (who Daz just anointed "the next great one" so, no pressure, kid).
"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."
This is where Daz is beginning to lose me a little bit because, while the front seven is loaded with talent, experience and depth (minus, maybe, the DT spot), the secondary struggled last year, and loses its best player in John Johnson.
There are reasons to believe the secondary can take a step though, as Daz is right that Will Harris played better down the stretch, and I was actually really impressed with Isaac Yiadom the last three games, especially in Detroit against Maryland.
Perhaps if Harris, Yiadom and Kam Moore all make big jumps, the secondary can resolve some of its issues, but that remains to be seen.
"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."
I know fans love to gripe about Daz' "we're young" schtick, but this is one spot where he hasn't been wrong the past few years. At center, Jon Baker has started since he was a youngin', and Chris Lindstrom was thrown into the fire as a true freshman two years ago. Both of those guys actually acquitted themselves well and are now standouts, but other linemen, like tackle Aaron Monteiro, just weren't ready for it at that point in their careers. Now, with Baker a senior (though he's out for spring with a shoulder injury), Lindstrom and Monteiro juniors, and a number of other guys coming of age, it's conceivable that this line can go from inconsistent, to a strength.
"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."
No argument from me. Both of these guys were great as sophomores, though they would disappear for stretches. Still, I think that had more to do with struggles elsewhere in the offense. Add in veteran receiver Charlie Callinan and tight end Tommy Sweeney, and you've actually got some weapons for whoever the quarterback ends up being.
"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."
But here's the issue: Quarterback.
BC stuck with grad transfer Patrick Towles last year, despite some rough stretches, and to Towles' credit, he was definitely a leader, and the guys responded to him. But he was largely inefficient, leading fans to believe BC should just throw in then-sophomore Darius Wade, who had some starting experience from his freshman season.
The problem was that Wade wasn't very good when he came in for mop up duty, completing only 9 of his 19 attempts for 100 yards, 0 touchdowns and an interception.
Now, apparently Wade is in the best shape of his life, and it's undeniable that he'll be in a better position to succeed if he's practicing as the starter and getting a ton of reps. Still, we'll call the jury still out on Wade, and we know even less about Anthony Brown, except that coaches, and Towles as well, have drooled about his potential. Sounds like he's tremendously talented, and a hard worker, but as only a redshirt freshman, it's hard to get too excited about him being a solid starter right now.
"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."
Daz is right that Hilliman seemed to be his old self after a good amount of rest leading to the bowl game, but can BC count on him playing like that week in and week out? Hopefully a full offseason will get Hilliman right, and if it does, this is a deep running back group, because Davon Jones showed flashes that he could be an absolute hammer last year.
This is all, of course, predicated on the thought that A.J. Dillon, the four-star freshman back, will be an immediate contributor. He certainly has the physical ability, and apparently the desire to play right away, but you never want to rely on true freshman if you don't have to. Luckily, it looks like Dillon is a luxury this season, rather than a necessity, which should give him time to develop into a star.
"Our tight ends, I think they're the best group of tight ends in the conference."
Uh… I like the potential of this group as much as anybody, but to call them the best in the ACC right now, that's some high praise. We shall see.
Look, on the whole, Daz is right that BC has some momentum, but there is much work to be done. With shifting tectonics in the athletic department, an opening at quarterback, and a fan base starving for more than just "beat the teams you should and get blown out by all the good teams on your schedule," this spring couldn't be more important for Addazio and the program.
If the Eagles come out of spring feeling good about their quarterback situation and secondary, and with some answers along the interior of the defensive line, this team could make some real noise in the ACC. If not, it could end up being the same story as last season, where BC is physically good enough to run over mid-major competition, and snag a couple wins against ACC also-rans.