Today was day two of the ACC Kickoff down in Charlotte. This year the Boston College Eagles have defensive end Zach Allen, and tight end Tommy Sweeney joining head coach Steve Addazio for the event. Today they talked with the media and below is the transcript:
Boston College senior TE Tommy Sweeney
Q. Tommy, AJ Dillon, what you can say about having a weapon like that on offense has been, and being a part of this offense with him, just how he opens everything up and just how dynamic of a player he is.
TOMMY SWEENEY: Yeah, he’s a phenomenal player. I think his play speaks for itself. He’s a rare combination of speed and quickness and vision. Obviously we’re a run heavy team, and like you said, it opens up a lot of different things play action wise and drop back. He’s a tremendous talent, a very hard worker, and it’s obviously evident in the tape and stuff, and for a tight end like myself who’s blocking for him a lot of the time, it’s pretty encouraging if you know if you can hold on for a couple seconds, something big is going to happen.
Q. Tommy, all five offensive linemen are going to line up again next to you. How much farther does this put this offense ahead of, say, this time last year, to have that much continuity, all five Linemen and the tight end to block up front?
TOMMY SWEENEY: Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s huge. We’ve been playing together -- a lot of these guys not even just last year, have played together in the past before that, too. We have even depth at that position, and like you said, five linemen and tight ends coming. With that, we’ve been running this scheme, Coach Addazio, for a couple years now, and like you said, it’s built upon where we started last year. We have a whole ‘nother season, whole ‘nother spring ball. The quality of the unit, the cohesiveness of the unit is evident. It makes it when you have a tailback like him and when you all come together, it’s a tough thing to stop.
Q. It’s fun in this forum to get to know the student athletes a little bit more. Yesterday one of our students actually said I want to, as a goal, to be first team All-ACC. Last year you were recognized as third team. Not putting you on the spot, but do you aspire to be on a second team or first team reach year?
TOMMY SWEENEY: Yeah, obviously first goal as you go into any season is to win as many games as possible, but the individual notoriety is great, and to be identified as the best in the conference would be my goal personally.
Q. You had talked just a couple minutes ago about guys coming back. Could this be the best Boston College team that you’ve played on in your opinion as you head into this season, and why, if you believe that’s so?
TOMMY SWEENEY: Yeah, we’ve had some good teams at BC over the past four years, but I think this year we have a unit of -- we have 16 seniors back. We have a lot of guys who have played before, and we’ve come a long way, and we’ve been through a lot, and I think that adds up a lot as far as how this year is going to go. I think we have -- not only do we have a lot of talent that we haven’t had in the past, but we have a lot of hard work and grit that’s been on the field for a long time, and I think that really helps as far as experience. I mean, experience is something that’s not easy to come by unless you do it, right? So that’s one of the things I think this team has, and we’re just a cohesive unit. Everybody has been together and we’re really excited about that, and I think that’s really going to help us this year.
Q. Last year you guys really opened some eyes when you put up 45 against Louisville. You put up 41 against Virginia. You had 39 in a game, 35 against Florida State. As good as the offenses are in the Atlantic Division, how important is it to be able to score more? In the past you haven’t really associated those kind of numbers with Boston College, but how important is it to score more in this division?
TOMMY SWEENEY: It’s huge. I mean, we play against a lot of high-octane offensive teams, like you mentioned, and we pride ourselves and we have a pretty good defense, too, but we play good offenses. With the depth we have offensively and the versatility we have offensively, we were able to score those points, and it’s big. Scoring points is -- it’s how you win a game, right? And with the talent we have offensively and defensively, we can complement each other pretty well and put a pretty unique team on the field.
Q. In your time, how have you seen your role evolve? Last year was kind of a breakout for you, but how have you seen your role change and grow?
TOMMY SWEENEY: Yeah, I’ve been playing for a while now, but as you get older, your role increases in the locker room and on the field, and I think on the field, it’s slowly -- as we’ve -- our offense is very complementary, so being a tight end, if I can play great in the run game and be a good run blocker, it’ll open up for me down the seams, on the outside, in play action and stuff like that. So just kind of the evolution of the whole offense has really contributed to my personal evolution, I think, in a big way. Each year we progress and we’ve gotten better, and it kind of correlates to my personal play, as well, if that makes sense.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your teammate Zach Allen.
TOMMY SWEENEY: He’s a tremendous hard worker. He’s huge. He’s hard to block. I block him every day -- well, line up against him every day. Sometimes I block him, sometimes he gets me, and tremendous competitor. He’s got some crazy style. He was one of two defensive linemen with 100 tackles last year. That speaks for itself. He’s pretty uncommon and he’s pretty unique and a great kid. He works his tail off, and he’s a tremendous football player.
Q. Can you describe your head coach using just one word?
TOMMY SWEENEY: I think grit. I think grit is a good word for Coach Addazio.
Boston College senior DE Zach Allen
Q. Zach, why don’t you describe your teammate here.
ZACH ALLEN: Yeah, Tom Sweeney, I think of him as Mr. Reliable. Whether it’s going against him in the run game or going against him in the pass, he’s going to make plays, and he’s going to help others make plays. You know what you’re getting every single day. It’s not like one day you get the best tight end in the ACC, the next day it’s the worst of that. I think he’s the best tight end every day, and definitely in practice it’s helped me become a better football player, and very fortunate to have him on our side of the ball.
Q. You moved forward this season without Harold Landry. What did you take away from him and what are some of the things he imparted on you that you’re going to carry this season?
ZACH ALLEN: Yeah, Harold was a great role model how to conduct yourself. He was a true professional in all facets on the field and off the field, and I think just kind of following his example, leading into last year, kind of helped me learn how to be a true professional football player. And I think kind of helped me with that breakout year, just seeing how this all facets of his life, nutrition, working out extra, whatever it is, he really was a great example.
Q. Obviously there were a lot of eyes on Harold last year, and he was limited by injuries, and you kind of stepped into that spotlight. How did that prepare you for this year where you kind of know you’re going to be more of a focal point? And how important has nutrition been to you this offseason?
ZACH ALLEN: Yeah, the first part with Harold, obviously having him on the other side of the line definitely helped out a lot. But even when he went down, having Wyatt Ray come in was really a seamless transition. He’s an elite end, too, so I don’t think too much is really going to change this year. And then nutrition, you can’t outwork a bad diet, so I know personally, I worked really hard with our nutritionist, Joan. She’s been fantastic, and she has -- she’s probably the most qualified nutritionist you can get, so she definitely has helped me out, and I’m looking forward to see how it pays off this year.
Q. We’re kind of in the middle of talking season. Everybody is putting out their predictions and projections type deal. Coming from you, what’s going to make Boston College a special team this year?
ZACH ALLEN: I think the thing that makes us so special is just our depth. I think you’ve seen how many different guys have started or played in games, and also our attitude about it. I don’t think -- all those projections, they’re nice, and nice to have good press, but I think the thing that’s helped us out a lot is how hard we’ve worked this off-season and how it really hasn’t like -- nobody has really kind of bought into it, all the fame and publicity, and they haven’t slacked off. I think we’ve worked harder than we ever have, and I’m excited to see what will happen this year.
Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit about John Lamot. Seems like a guy that could really make a leap for the BC defense this year.
ZACH ALLEN: Yeah, John is an absolute stud. Coming in on such short notice and just seeing what he was able to do for us was ginormous. Really excited to see what he has to do because another year of getting bigger, faster, stronger, and he’s such a smart kid, too, just in the defense and everything. Really excited to see what John has.
Q. You guys pride yourself on defense at Boston College. Two years ago, three years ago had among the best defenses in the country. But the offenses keep getting better, especially in the Atlantic Division. How much more difficult is it to play against the teams in your league than it was maybe three years ago? How do you as a defensive player keep pace?
ZACH ALLEN: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely tough, especially with these quarterbacks getting faster. It’s like defending against two running backs. It’s a challenge, but I think last year when we went on that little winning stretch, we figured out how to play against those offenses. But they’re only going to get faster and they’re only going to get more complex. I think we have the right attitude about it coming in every week and preparing, so really excited to face some new challenges this year.
Q. Last year you had the unique opportunity to play at Fenway Park. 20 years, 30 years from now you’ll be telling the stories about how you had 11 tackles on a historic baseball field. How was that experience for you?
ZACH ALLEN: Yeah, I’m a New England guy, I’m from Connecticut, so Fenway is like the mecca is New England sports. I grew up a Yankee fan, so didn’t try to let it get to me too much. But yeah, having a good game there obviously is going to be really exciting to tell in the future, and most importantly we came away with a win because my freshman year we played there and weren’t able to beat Notre Dame, so to have won there is a pretty cool thing to have on my resume.
Boston College head coach Steve Addazio
Q. Coach, how do you describe yourself in one word?
STEVE ADDAZIO: I’d like to say tough.
Q. Coach, it’s atypical to keep coordinators around from year to year. You have your offensive and defensive coordinator coming back into their third year. What you can say about keeping that nucleus together and how atypical it is in college football and what can you say about them?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, it is difficult, and continuity is really important. Scot Loeffler, our offensive coordinator, we’ve worked together for a long time. At Florida he came with me when I took the job at Temple and now here at Boston College. I think we’re aligned. He knows how I feel and how I think about things, and we have a great working relationship. I love him, and I’ve watched him evolve and really blossom. He’s an elite -- first of all, the guy is an elite quarterback coach. He’s one of the best quarterback coaches in the country, and he’s a brilliant guy, and he’s really -- as a coordinator, I think what we’re doing right now, he’s spearheaded here is sensational. Jim Reid has been around on defense a long time. He’s a Massachusetts guy. He’s had a stint at Boston College. I’ve known Coach Reid forever. I have a great deal of respect for him. High-energy guy, great people person, great relationship guy, and I think he has a great rapport with the players as Scott does. So we have two guys that have been here, they have great rapport, the players know them, trust them, believe in them. I believe in them, and I think it leads to the chemistry that we have right now. We have a great chemistry coach to coach, coach to player, player to player, player to coach. We love our guys, and you can’t always say that. That’s where it is right now, and I think that’s at a high 10 level right now.
Q. Having spent time in Florida as you have and now being up in Boston College and as your players reported, Connecticut, as an upstate New Yorker, I was wondering, how do you prepare these players to play these southern teams in the sweltering heat?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, I mean, we -- I think like anything else, we have to have a great strength coach. We have a great strength coach, Frank Piraino is our strength coach, and I think it’s in their preparation and how you train them. We train at a high level. I think we do the best we can to put our guys in the heat of the day so that they can get used to that a little bit. But I think at the end of the day, it comes down to mental and physical toughness when you’re dealing in that heat, and I think our guys are trained on that front very well. And so we manage it. It has not been an issue for us at all, and I’m pretty well-versed in it. I can remember my days at Florida. I had a great appreciation. I was the line coach down there, and my guys -- I’ll never forget it, they’d get in their stance and there was just water running off their bodies, and I’d say to myself, wow, it takes a special guy to do this. But I think it’s all in how you train and all in how you prepare, whether it be extreme heat or extreme cold. The southern teams have to come up north and play us in October and November, and that’s a nice thing. We like that.
Q. I want to ask you about John Lamot and his potential to have a breakout this year.
STEVE ADDAZIO: Yeah, we brought John to Boston College because he was a high school quarterback, as you know. He was a great athlete, great kid, and he’s transitioned over playing linebacker, and he’s just -- he’s amazing. He’s a natural athlete. He’s got great acceleration to the ball and really came out and played at a high level, and then of course got hurt towards the end. I think it was against UConn right towards the end of the season. But he’s going to have a great future ahead of him and really going to be a fantastic player for us. He’s a part of that linebacker crew that -- last year we had like five of them go down and all these new guys like John came in and played at a high level, now we’ve got the whole pool of them. So really deep, talented group of guys.
Q. What did Anthony Brown bring to this offense last year, and then of course you lost him to an injury late in the season. How is he recovering, and what do you look for this season?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, he’s doing fantastic. He’s been just cut free to full activity, and Anthony is a very, very competitive guy. He’s been training really, really hard. It was a shame, unfortunate deal last year. He was really starting to really peak, as was our team, which speaks to the importance level of the quarterback position, right? Because we all know whether we’re talking about professional, college, or high school football, that position drives a lot of things. If you think you’re going to have a successful year and you want to compete for any kind of championship, you need to have a quarterback that can put the team on his back a little bit and obviously needs to be supported by other players. But Anthony is a high-level player that I think -- we’ve got three more years of Anthony Brown in the ACC, and I think you’re going to see him rise. God willing he stays healthy, you’re going to see him become an elite player in the conference.
Q. I know he’s not on the staff anymore, but Paul Pasqualoni, what you got to do with him back in the mid ‘90s at Syracuse, seeing him have multiple opportunities inside the NFL, then come back and work for you and move forward to the Detroit Lions, what you can say about who he is as a coach and what mark he’s left on your life.
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, first of all, he’s the best football coach I’ve ever been around in my life, period, and I think he’s the most complete and versatile in pro or college football, and I would say there’s a lot of people that back what I just said up, too. He started me in this profession. I felt like I had the great advantage of being started the right way. I learned how to coach as a teacher on a fundamental level, held me accountable for it, and he means everything to me. He came two years ago, was able to come up and join us at Boston College, and I thought really -- was the really, really critical time for us to come in. And I thought what he brought to our defense was a great deal of security and confidence and belief system in him. We wanted to become more fundamental. We wanted to be able to play some zone coverage, not be all man. He brought all that into our defense, and then of course coaching Zach -- will tell you first hand, coaching the defensive front, he’s an expert defensive line coach. And what he did with guys like Zach and Harold and Wyatt Ray, their development under Paul Pasqualoni went boom. The impact that he had was clearly measurable. I’m so grateful that he was able to come to BC for a couple years, but I knew that -- he had an opportunity to go be the defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions. It would be hard for him to say no to that. I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss having him come in the office and he and I just -- me bouncing things off of him. As a head coach, he was a guy who’s done it all, seen it all, and that’s a real big thing. I’m going to miss that. I trusted him. Critical decisions on the sideline, you can pull him and say, Coach, what do you think here, and you just knew that he had been in that situation before. Yeah, grateful we had him.
Q. Can you drill down just a little bit more on chemistry and doing it inside the context of wins and losses? 7-6, that’s a number that’s been with you for four of your first five years. How is it that the chemistry is going to get you to a point this year to where maybe nine or ten wins is possible?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, I just think that I’m a big believer in chemistry. I just feel that that’s what college football is all about, and the ability to be together -- there has to be a passion and has to be a love for each other. These guys have got to believe that they’re the most important thing to us, me, as the head coach and to our staff, that we’re going to do everything we can to make it great for them. That their world is important to us, not just on the field but off the field. And that’s part of being a part of a family. Sometimes I’ve got to be hard, I’ve got to be tough, I’ve got to be demanding, but I’ve got to love them. And it’s easy to love these guys. You met these two guys. How do you not love these guys? I mean, they come from beautiful families. They’re great kids, and we have a team of this. And so that in our locker room -- and it’s probably -- our biggest ability to recruit comes from that. Guys come into our locker room and they get around our guys, and they feel like these are guys that can bring the best out of me. Like our culture, they come in, they go to class, they work hard, football is important to them, they live their life the right way. So there’s a chemistry in our locker room that we’re not going to let each other down and we’re going to fight for each other, and when things are at their toughest at BC, these guys along with other guys, we all had each other’s back. And we fought through the tough times and have gotten ourselves up to this point where we know that our strength is in bringing the best out of each other. That’s the beauty of chemistry. That’s what this is all about. For us to take the next step, we need to do all those intangible things, and we need to be together at a high level.
Q. Two years ago you guys were 110th nationally in plays per game. Last year you were 15th. Are you trying to increase the tempo again this year?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Yes. We made a conscious decision two years ago going into the bowl season, something I’d been looking at for a long time. I wanted to take what amounts to 12 personnel, okay, where you can be in a spread set, you can be in a closed set and you can keep the defense on the field and go as fast as we can go and not allow them to substitute and make them deal with the combinations of a spread game and a power game together. And we wanted to get more plays, more opportunities for explosives, and we finally broke out of that. Now we’ve been fine-tuning that. This year we want to take it to another level. So last year we got ourselves up -- you mentioned it. We went from whatever to whatever in terms of total plays run, and I’d like to be in the top, without question, Top 5 in the country in the amount of plays that we can run. So that’s absolutely a goal and done by design.
Q. Because of the fine play of Anthony and the five linemen, Tommy, Dillon, running back, you guys scored 35 or more in half your games. We haven’t associated high scores with Boston College in the past. How important is it to be able to score in the Atlantic Division at this point in time given the high-powered offenses that you see?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Yeah, well, I think this. Philosophically I’m still a believer in our plan to win. You’ve got to start with playing great defense. After playing great defense, you’ve got to be able to run the football. You’ve got to be great on special teams. You can’t turn the ball over. Those are things that we hold dear. But I think the byproduct of playing a faster tempo, getting more plays run, gives us more opportunity to get explosives, and good players. You’re talking about an elite tight end here. We have a lot of really good players that we have an opportunity to score more points. I can’t look you in the eye and say we’re going to break the team down and say, score points. If you said, Steve, what do you want to be noted for, I want our team to be noted for the toughest football team in this conference. That’s what I want them to be noted for. But I do and am enjoying the opportunity to score at a higher level because against the teams, as you said, that we play against -- like if you think you’re going to play Louisville and hold that quarterback down and that offense down, I mean, if you played great they’re still going to score four touchdowns. I mean, if you play phenomenally -- you take Clemson, you can play an unbelievable game, but they’re going to put some points on the board, so you still have got to be able to put some on, as well. I’m excited about the fact that we’re a much more explosive football team in every phase than we’ve ever been.
Q. One of your colleagues earlier today said even after all of these years just before the game, he still gets butterflies. What goes through your body right before kickoff?
STEVE ADDAZIO: I mean, I’m a mess. I’m so wound up that it’s crazy. I’m really working on that. I really feel like -- I don’t want to -- you can’t play anymore, so if you could play, you could just get rid of all that anxiety. But you can’t. I think it’s important to work on taming that down a little bit, maybe even on the sideline, taming that down a little bit, too. We’ve got a good team and we’ve got great players, and they’re well prepared, and just let them go do their thing. I guess if I’m really wound up, does that really matter? I can’t take a snap. I’m not going to change the outcome one bit. So I have this conversation with myself. Take a deep breath; everything is going to be fine.