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ACC Kickoff Quotables: Hear From Boston College’s Tanner Karafa, Steve Addazio, and AJ Dillon

The big question: How does BC take the next step?

NCAA Football: ACC Media Days Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Note: in the past the ACC or BC has uploaded full interview videos to go along with the transcripts. If any are posted in the next several days the article will be updated to include those.

AJ DIllon

We have some offenses in this league with catchy names. Four or five different variations of the spread offense: Gulf Coast offense. Mack Brown is going to install the air raid offense. How would you describe the Boston College offense and how does it complement the skills of AJ Dillon?

AJ DILLON: I would say we’re definitely a power run offensive team. We have a lot of weapons outside of the power run game. I feel like we’re the classic traditional power run game with a lot of added tricks.

Speak of some of the running backs growing up that inspired you, your style, your game?

AJ DILLON: I try to take a lot of pieces from different running backs’ games throughout time. Obviously my favorite player when I was younger was LT. The more I started to learn the game, I learned about Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson. During high school I tried to emulate myself after Leonard Fournette.

My third year, I kind of try to be a sponge, take little bits and pieces from all the great backs, Le’Veon Bell’s patience, Saquon Barkley’s ability to cut and accelerate. That all kind of works its way to trying to be an all-purpose back.

How much time do you have during the course of the season, when you are in season, to actually be observing other running backs?

AJ DILLON: I mean, we watch film. Obviously we watch defensive film. I’m an offensive player. When I do have a chance, I try to catch an NFL game or maybe another college game.

I oftentimes, me and my roommate, fellow quarterback, we watch old games all the time. I just try to study as much as I can.

In looking at the stats last year, you averaged 22 carries a game; I was a little surprised by that. Seemed like it was more. Did it seem like more than that to you? Are you unlike a pitch count for how many carries you can get a game?

AJ DILLON: No, I mean, the way I view a carry is an opportunity for me to help my team. Every time I get a carry, that’s the respect from my teammates, obviously the offensive coordinator, head coach, Coach Addazio. That’s showing me they have faith to put the ball in my hands, that I’m going to get the job done.

Carries, carry counts, if I get 10, 40, whatever the case may be, as long as I can help my team out, to a benefit, that’s what I’m all about.

Coming out of Connecticut, what can you say about the recruiting there? Have you felt there’s a lot of respect for that, eyes on it? Is it a chip-on-your-shoulder type of state?

AJ DILLON: I definitely say Connecticut doesn’t have the recruiting prowess of a Texas or Florida or California, one of those bigger states kind of known for their football players.

I mean, Connecticut has plenty of talent. I think that’s showing in recent years. Obviously I only have my recruitment process, these last couple years, I’ve seen really great guys come out of there.

I definitely say it’s a chip-on-your-shoulder type of state, you have something to prove being a smaller state. I carry it proudly.

What was your off-season like? What did you do in terms of working on your overall game?

AJ DILLON: So obviously last season I missed a portion of time, was kind of not really 100% myself from a high ankle sprain. The first part of that was just getting back to 100% health. Also now being more mature, kind of seeing how I needed to take care of my body, making sure that my weaknesses, perceived weaknesses, are now a positive.

I’ve worked on a lot of things. I’ve worked on the pass game a lot. A lot of strength and conditioning. I want to be somebody who first down to fourth down, first quarter all the way to overtime, is somebody reliable in any situation. So that has been a big point of key emphasis for me.

DT Tanner Karafa

What can you say about the defensive line, returning as a leader, but having changes there. What have you seen in the spring, some guys that are stepping up? Your leadership role, how you’re handling that?

TANNER KARAFA: Yeah, obviously last year we had a really talented group of guys, a lot of guys leaving. We have a lot of talented young guys coming up. Some guys who played in the past, Marcus Valdez, a guy that gained a lot of confidence last year, played on third down. Brandon Barlow has another step he can make this year, which would be good for us. We got a lot of other young guys coming up, too, who need big camps, so...


TANNER KARAFA: Leadership-wise, during the off-season I’ve been trying to get everybody together as much as I can, build as much chemistry as possible. I’ve been doing everything I can to get the guys extra work, film work, everything we can do to bring those guys along.

I think it’s going well.

You averaged a very respectable fifth in the league in scoring defense. As you alluded to, eight players graduated. The losses seem to be kind of evenly distributed among the defensive line and the secondary. What has to happen with talented but less experienced players for you guys to achieve the same kind of success you had last year?

TANNER KARAFA: I would say that we just need a big camp in order to find our own personality. We need to make a conscious effort to find that personality during camp. We need young guys who have no experience to be able to provide depth, come along in a way that they can provide value.

You got your first career start last year on September 1st. By the end of the season your stats were pretty impressive, which translated you becoming a more experienced ballplayer. What did you learn about yourself during the course of those two or three months?

TANNER KARAFA: I played a lot the year before, but I didn’t really have the confidence that I gained from last year. Having that experience will put me in a position where I understand my weaknesses better and I can improve upon those during this season.

Comment on your quarterback Anthony Brown, how tough is it to practice against him, what do you see of him from the sidelines?

TANNER KARAFA: Anthony challenges us day in, day out. Every practice is a challenge for us. The tempo makes us better, prepares us for all the conference games. Yeah, we just need to be aware of that. I would say the tempo is a big deal for us.

There were a whopping 18 punts returned for touchdown last year. Three of those came from Boston College. What kind of an upper is it for a defense to get a stop, force a punt, watch your guy take it to the house?

TANNER KARAFA: That’s huge. Special teams is important to us. That’s on a plaque on the wall at home base. To have that, it’s basically a huge swing of confidence for us, puts you in a position to come out the next series and have even more confidence.

You guys are in a division with Clemson. Overwhelming favorites. How do you approach that, deal with that, knowing there is such a powerhouse in the conference?

TANNER KARAFA: Yeah, I would say our focus right now is just on the starter. We have a tough starter in Virginia Tech. Keeping that in the back of our mind, we played them tough last year, Clemson. I think we’ll have that same mindset going in this year.

But it’s just a game-by-game basis for us. We have a lot of tough games for us this year.

We asked about how it is to practice against Anthony. What is it like being on the other side of the football from AJ Dillon?

TANNER KARAFA: AJ is an energizer. He gives our defense a lot of energy when we’re on the sideline. We see him running down the field, making big plays. Gives us confidence. Lets us know we can do our thing, not have to worry too much about that.

Head Coach Steve Addazio

There’s been changes offensively and defensively at the coordinator positions. What can you say about going through the spring, the leadership that’s there, maybe the vision that you saw from both of these gentlemen that can lead you to a better record moving forward.

STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, our vision is a program vision. Bill Sheridan on defense was on the defensive staff a year ago. He’s a veteran guy, been a coordinator in the NFL, two different stops. I think Bill brought great confidence and stability to the defense. I wouldn’t say necessarily there’s any specific changes coming. I mean, we have a system of defense. His personality will attach to that.

On offense, Mike Bajakian came in. We’re running the offense that we run at Boston College. Mike has assimilated into that outstandingly. He is a very, very bright guy with a wealth of experience. Great quarterback developer. Really has a great background in the throw game. I think he’ll be able to bring some of his experiences and ideas into our throw game.

We’re remaining who we are, which is the greatest thing of having program continuity, I believe. So there’s no terminology changes for anybody. We had a great spring on both sides of the ball, including special teams. Had great development.

With all the offenses with catchy names in the league, how would you describe your Boston College offense? How does it complement the skills of AJ Dillon?

STEVE ADDAZIO: We’re a pro style offense but playing in tempo. That’s what we are. That was my vision when I came out of Florida, I became head coach at Temple, I wanted to evolve to that style of offense using multiple tight ends, playing in 12 groupings, two tight ends every snap, so we don’t have grouping changes on downs, we’re going at rocket speed, yet coming at you with a multiple-run game, power game, inside zone, outside zone game, great play-action, and a pro passing attack.

I think that suits AJ’s talents perfectly because we -- the run game, the ability to run the football, is in our plan to win and real important to us. I think we have a sophisticated run game which allows a big powerful back in a pro style run game to be obviously highly effective.

I think it’s a perfect match, our offense, for AJ’s talents. Obviously we have recruited to that. So I’m excited about where we are.

Just wanted your thoughts on opening it up with an ACC opponent. Some coaches have mixed feelings about that. What is your take on that, opening up with Virginia Tech?

STEVE ADDAZIO: I think it’s a great opener. Obviously a permanent crossover for us, a conference game against one of the elite teams in the conference. I think our winter, our spring and our pre-season camp, we have the full attention of our team. There’s a sense of urgency. There’s no mystery. We have to be playing our A game.

Sometimes I think when you have an opener that maybe is a little less, you have a tendency to sleepwalk through camp a little bit. That’s not the case for us. I kind of like to deal with what is. What is, we’re playing Virginia Tech. Those are the positives of playing Virginia Tech on opening day. That’s all I’m really concerned about right now.

We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’re really excited about that opportunity.

Obviously recruiting the northeast is an integral part of what you do, central New York is important. John Phillips, being on the offensive line, what can you say about how he’s elevated his game? Just the talent you’ve been able to find from central New York?

STEVE ADDAZIO: John Phillips has had a great year last year and is going to have an elite senior year. Our offensive line is going to be outstanding, maybe better than it was a year ago. I thought we had one of the best offensive lines in the country. That’s how strong I feel about our offensive line, which is spearheaded by John Phillips.

I just marvel at the way he’s developed. He’s classic example, Chris Lindstrom was a year ago, John is another classic example of recruiting those guys that are high-character guys that fit the BC mode, developing and staying in development, getting into their junior and senior year, then having great breakout seasons those last two years. That’s classic where John is right now. Expect him to have a big, big year this year.

Central New York is a big part for us. We’re the Northeast Power 5 school here, Boston College. We’re New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, obviously inside-out Massachusetts, Connecticut, those are all big areas for us, all the Catholic leagues spreading into Ohio, Indianapolis, even out to California.

That five-hour radius for us is critically important. As I started out my coaching career at Syracuse, I was responsible for recruiting in the Northeast, developed a real affinity to the Northeast, understood it. I’m from the Northeast. That’s the integral part. If you’re in the Northeast, you’re coaching college football, you have to be able to recruit in this area, have great relationships with the high school coaches.

That part of the country, I spent four years there, as I said, coaching there, developed great relationships there. Through the years I’ve always recruited there. It’s been very good to us, and will continue to be.

I don’t believe in my heart you can really make it without being successful in these areas at these college jobs in the northeast.

Clemson is 34-2 against ACC opponents last several years. They come in as overwhelming favorites. What do you have to do to beat them? Can anybody beat them? How do you go about doing it?

STEVE ADDAZIO: Listen, they’re an elite program. Two national titles themselves. We’ve had three national titles from the ACC in the last five years, which goes to show you that this is, in my opinion, and I think I’m qualified to make the statement because I’ve coached in most of these conferences, this is the elite conference in college football.

You have three national titles in five years coming from this side of the division, one from Florida State and attitude from Clemson. Clemson is an elite program. I watched the playoff game, the national title game, all the games in between leading up to that.

We can all agree that team was elite, head and shoulders above everybody else. Wasn’t even close. So we play them every year. We played them last year. We’ve played them, I don’t like to talk, it’s not like darts, but we’ve played well against Clemson.

I respect Dabo, everything he’s done, not just in his program, but what he’s done for college football and our conference. It will be an extremely challenging game.

What do you have to do to beat Clemson? Play your A game, take care of the football, be able to run the football, find a way to disrupt them on offense. Those are easier things said than done. Very hard to do against them.

They are recruiting at a very high level. But every team in college football is beatable now, every time on any given day. What we have to focus on is what we have to do to be the very best football team we can be. I think we’re a physical team. I think that’s a good way to start with physical toughness. We have play-makers. We just have to make sure when you play a team like a Clemson, you have to be playing your A game. I would say that’s not exactly earth-shattering commentary.

I’ve been in this too long, seen a lot of great teams. That’s why you play the game every Saturday, man. You hat it up, play it. You play it hard for four quarters. In any level of football, college football, we got good players, they got good players. Let it all hang out and see where you end up in the end.

But that’s an elite football team and I’m glad they’re in our conference.

You’ve taken teams to the post-season five out of six years, a run to the post-season pretty rare in Boston College school history. You come across as the type of coach that’s not satisfied with that type of milestone. What is the next horizon for Boston College?

STEVE ADDAZIO: At BC, I think we’ve been to 17 bowls in the last 20 years, something like that. So we’ve had a pretty good bowl record here. We’re continuing that. We’re proud of that.

What do we have to do to take the next step? The next step for us is to compete for a conference championship. That’s what we need to do. I think when I talk about goals of the team, you start out with winning the opener. The next thing is you have to become bowl eligible. You have to then compete for a conference championship.

In order to do that, we have to be able to stay consistent in our level of play through the course of the season. We have to develop our depth so that injuries don’t unseat us. That’s where I think our challenge lies, is staying healthy and staying consistent. We had an opportunity a year ago, we were 7-2, I want to say, we were ranked whatever we were, 17th in the country on game day at Boston College and we were playing Clemson.

Whatever we were at that point, we’re going into arguably our ninth game of the season, and we’re playing the defending national champions for essentially a shot at the conference championship.

In week nine, that was happening last year. So the next step is winning that game. That’s not an easy task, as we just well-documented. But that’s what makes this conference so competitive and exciting.

We’ve got to stay consistent, stay healthy, and we’ve got to be able to beat a team like Clemson in order to have a shot to compete for that conference championship and win it.

Louisville came to you guys last year. You beat them I believe by 18. They weren’t very competitive last year. What did you see was wrong with them, they weren’t doing right? I don’t know if you’ve met Coach Satterfield at all. What are your impressions of him?

STEVE ADDAZIO: Coach has a great track record. He’s a heck of a football coach. He’s won in major college football. Quite confident he’ll do fantastic things at Louisville. Such a great place, such a great commitment to football there.

They certainly have very talented players there. I have enough issues that I have to worry about, I try not to really worry too much about what other program’s issues are. Rest assured that that program is in great hands.

Again, will be back and competing in the elite conference of the ACC, certainly at the top of it, which they’ve done for a number of years. So certainly glad to welcome coach into the conference. I know that great things are going to happen.

You talk about taking the next step. Coaches always talk about being on schedule. You’re on schedule for the first couple of years of your tenure at a school. This will be your seventh season. Is there still a schedule?

STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, yeah, you know, win. Win is the schedule. As someone mentioned, we’ve been to five bowl games in the last six years. We’re proud of that because of the competitiveness of the side of the division that we play in. That’s a pretty formidable task.

The next step? I’m a simple person. I mean, is to win 8, 9, then 10. Those are the next steps. How do you do that? I think the margin for error is small. The difference between a six-win season and a nine-win season really isn’t that great. But I think you need some good fortune. You need to have recruited well so you have enough depth to sustain the physicality of our conference play.

I think for us, I’ll even be more specific for us, I think for us we need to improve on third down, on offense and on defense that was an important thing for us. We feel like if we can improve on third down, that’s going to be able to bring us a couple more wins into our program, for sure.

For us to improve nationally on third down on both sides of the ball, it’s not a huge deal. It’s a handful of plays through the season that we’ve got to make. So we’ve really super focused on all spring, put a lot of emphasis on, third-and-medium really is what I’m talking about on both sides of the ball. We do something we call Irene, where remember the Blackhawk Down movie, the guy says, “Irene, I repeat Irene.” Remember that movie? We had choppers in the middle of practice, chopper noise come, the sirens start going off. Our offense meets our defense at midfield. I give them a situation they don’t know that’s going to come. It might be a third-and-medium. It might be a third-and-six, win or lose, it’s all on the line.

What we do before that horn blows is we put them in a calisthenics mode, so we exhaust them completely, and they have to battle through fatigue, so that they can come out of that fatigue and be at their peak performance in these critical downs.

At the end of it the losers got up-downs and the winner is off to the next period, and we’re trying to simulate putting a point of emphasis on third down. I think that’s a huge deal for us right now this year, along the lines of taking the next step.

I just want to just give you general statements about taking the next step. Those are two specifics that we need to do so we can take the next step.