- Who will be the most important player on offense this season?
While it’s no secret that AJ Dillon is BC’s best player on offense, junior quarterback Anthony Brown will be the most important player this season. If Brown can keep opposing defenses honest with an effective passing game, Dillon will have a lot more room to mount a dark horse Heisman campaign.
Overall, Brown was solid in his first two seasons as an Eagle. At times, such as last year’s 305 yard, 5 TD, 0 INT performance at Wake Forest, he looked like a top tier quarterback, capable of taking command of the game. At other times, like the very next game at Purdue (96 yard, 1 TD, 4 INT), he looked lost.
Brown’s considerable experience should correlate with more consistent play. New offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian has been focusing on ball placement--specifically, throwing to a spot that puts the receiver in a position to do damage after the catch. An uptick in precision could yield big years for returning receivers Kobay White and Ben Glines, and if the Eagles can finally manage to incorporate Dillon into the passing game, lookout, this offense can become much more dynamic.
2. Who will be the most important player on defense this season?
Isaiah McDuffie. With the departure of standout defensive ends Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray, leading tackler Connor Strachan, and pretty much the entire secondary, BC enters the 2019 season with a lot of question marks on defense. The Eagles will look to junior linebacker Isaiah McDuffie for both production and leadership.
After seeing limited time as a freshman, McDuffie had an excellent sophomore campaign, finishing second on the team with 85 tackles, and recording 3.5 sacks. The Eagles will also need big seasons from defensive lineman Tanner Karafa, who recorded 4 sacks and 8.5 TFLs in 2018, and Brandon Sebastian, the lone returning starter in the secondary.
3. What are the main areas that BC needs to improve from last year to this year?
As mentioned above, the defense lost a ton of key starters from last year’s unit. The Eagles were 7-1 in games in which they scored over 21 points last season, and they’ll probably have to lean on the offense even more this year. A major key will be diversifying play calling.
In 2018, BC attempted 46.4 rushes per game, ninth most in the nation, but ranked just 85th in yards per carry, at 4.1. That’s pretty inefficient for a team that features one of the best running backs in the country. The Eagles ranked 96th in pass attempts per game, with 28.1. That lack of balance meant a predictable offense that allowed opponents to stack the box against Dillon on early and short yardage downs, and by the end of the season, the workload had clearly taken a physical toll on the star running back.
Any semblance of a kicking game would also go a long way. BC kickers went a combined 6 of 9 for the entire season. Aaron Boumerhi transferred in from Temple, and with a career long of 52 yards, he might help the Eagles tack on some points in situations that previously led to pooch punts and failed fourth down conversions.
4. What is the most important game on the schedule?
I should probably say week one against Virginia Tech, but what fun is that? For me, it’s Notre Dame. BC has been mired in mediocrity for the past ten years, but even average teams have signature moments. What was the last signature moment for Boston College football? Under Steve Addazio, the Eagles are 1-14 against ranked opponents, and that one win was five years ago.
For the first part of this century, BC owned Notre Dame, winning six consecutive meetings from 2001-2008. They brushed BC off as a lesser rival, but the Eagles were clearly a thorn in their side. Then the Irish reeled off six consecutive wins of their own, and the Holy War began to lose its luster.
Barring a letdown season, Notre Dame will enter this late season game ranked, and perhaps in the hunt for a playoff spot. BC, coming off a gauntlet of games at Clemson, at Syracuse, and vs. Florida State, may be clawing for a bowl invitation. Either way, nothing would galvanize this beleaguered fan base more than an upset at Notre Dame.
5. What’s your prediction for the season?
Steve Addazio has yet to top seven wins in his tenure at BC. In fact, he’s been wildly consistent, winning exactly seven games in five of his six seasons. At this point, how can you predict anything but another seven win season?
The schedule is a tale of two halves. BC’s first six opponents (Virginia Tech, Richmond, Kansas, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Louisville) went a combined 23-50 in 2018, while their next six (NC State, Clemson, Syracuse, FSU, Notre Dame, Pitt) went 58-22. If the Eagles can’t take advantage of the soft opening to their slate, bowl eligibility may be hard to come by.
I suspect BC goes 5-1 over the first six, and 2-4 in the second half, garnering a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, where Addazio vies for that elusive 8th win.