If Boston College is to overcome a brutal schedule and surprise some folks around the ACC, there's no question the Eagles' offense has to improve.
BC ranked 127th out of 128 teams last season in the FBS for total offense (292.8 YPG), and 118th in scoring O (20.4 PPG). Sure, it’s fair to point out that the Eagles overcame those numbers to go 7-6, with a bowl win against a Big Ten team, and win their last three games overall (averaging 27.7 PPG during that stretch). But, given the expected strength of the ACC, and addition of Notre Dame to the non-conference schedule, it seems pretty obvious that this year’s offense will need to make a leap, even if BC only hopes to reach six wins again.
Luckily, coach Steve Addazio believes his team had made that leap. With a combination of players now feeling comfortable in previously unfamiliar roles, and just some plain old growing up, Addazio likes where his offense is with just over a week until opening night.
One thing that jumps out to the coach is that BC has some lethal weapons this season. Jeff Smith, a former quarterback now with a full year of receiving experience under his belt, has turned heads in camp.
"He's an every down receiver now," Addazio said of Smith. "He's fast in a fast conference. He runs away from people in our conference, which is probably the fastest conference in the country."
Along with Michael Walker, Charlie Callinan, and potential breakout redshirt freshman Kobay White, whom Addazio referred to as a "bonafide receiver," BC now has a great combination of size and speed on the outside.
But the guy who may tie the passing game together is junior tight end Tommy Sweeney. Throughout camp, Sweeney has emerged as maybe the most reliable target for either quarterback (more on that later), and has the blocking ability to be one of the better all-around tight ends in the conference.
As far as the running game goes, this is the year BC has been building toward along the offensive line. After throwing Jon Baker, Chris Lindstrom and Aaron Monteiro all into the fire during their respective freshmen campaigns, that Bay State trio enters 2017 as upperclassmen, all poised for big years. Baker, a senior, is on the preseason Rimington Award watch list for the nation's best center, while Monteiro, a junior, is locked in at left tackle, and classmate Lindstrom could start at either right guard or right tackle.
Lindstrom's versatility will serve the Eagles well, as Addazio says he hopes to play seven or eight linemen this season, in hopes of keeping the big guys fresh in a new up-tempo scheme. Whether or not BC has the depth to do that remains to be seen, but Marcel Lazard, a grad transfer from West Virginia, seems to have earned extensive action at right tackle, and the left guard position could end up being a mix of both senior Sam Schmal and sophomore John Phillips.
If BC's line can live up to it's potential, they will be clearing away for the deepest stable of backs the Eagles have had in quite some time. Addazio noted that senior Jon Hilliman, now fully healthy, has never looked better, and that freshman phenom A.J. Dillon has been brutally effective throughout camp. He also praised the physicality of Davon Jones, and noted that the Eagles even have a few more backs who could contribute.
"All phases are better. Every phase is better," Addazio said of his offense. "Now it's about hammering out the consistency of it all."
A big part of that consistency will obviously come down to quarterback play, but Addazio is still content to let grad student Darius Wade and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown battle it out for the starting job. On its face, it seems unlikely Addazio will go into game week without naming a starter, but there's really no reason to let Northern Illinois know who they will be facing and, thus far, Addazio says, the competition has elevated each of their games.
We'll know a lot more next Friday, but just given the experience at receiver, tight end and along the offensive line, plus the talent at running back, it's hard not to see the Eagle offense making a jump. But, whether or not that jump is big enough to get back to a bowl, or play with the top teams in the ACC, will likely come down to offensive line depth, and whichever quarterback earns the starting gig.