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BC Football Preseason Roundtable 2019

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NCAA Football: Clemson at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

BC’s football season is upon us. In preparation for tomorrow’s home opener, a few of our writers share their thoughts on the upcoming season.

Does AJ Dillon lead the conference (or country) in rushing?

Rich: No, I think he finishes 2nd in the conference behind Travis Etienne.

Patrick: Not a chance. Etienne (barring injury) will get the lion’s share at Clemson, and his big play ability means that he will get rested in between series. Nationally, Jonathan Taylor has to carry a team without a proven QB and will probably break the single season record for yards and carries. I am confident in Dillon finishing 2nd in conference, where his main competition is Cam Akers and a mediocre-at-best FSU offensive line.

Grant: I could see him leading the ACC, but I think it’s unlikely. BC actually has a pretty interesting offensive attack this season that I think will be more balanced than people are expecting. Yes, Levy and Glines are on the depth chart as receivers now, so it’s clear we’re planning on putting Dillon in every situation, but I think the fact that you have these guys lining up at X and Z rather than putting these talented guys in a position to spell Dillon is a sign that we’re going to be putting the ball in the air a bit.

Will: With Dillon’s talent it’s certainly possible. He has to compete with Travis Etienne and Cam Akers in the ACC. Furthermore, part of me hopes BC is a little more balanced on offense and doesn’t run Dillon into the ground this year maybe spreading carries around a bit more. Nationwide it will be a challenge to make it into the top 5. Forgetting Etienne there’s also Jonathan Taylor, Kansas’s Pooka Williams Jr., D’Andre Swift at Georgia, J.K. Dobbins at Ohio State, and even Eno Benjamin out at Arizona State are all back poised to have big years.

Niraj: I definitely didn’t wait until after Travis Etienne’s 200 yard performance in Clemson’s first game last night to answer this question. Unless the Eagles can be a true threat in the ‘throw game,’ I can’t see AJ taking this one with teams selling out to stop him. I’ll say he beats Cam Akers and the rest of the lot though.

Who takes the biggest leap this season /will anyone have a breakout campaign?

Rich: At 6’6”, redshirt freshman DE Joey Luchetti will emerge as a disruptor on the line.

Patrick: Tanner Karafa. I think Karafa puts up a lot of stats in the middle of the D-line and turns into a bona fide star. He’s always been solid but outshone by other players on the defense. On offense, I think Tyler Vrabel will start fast and still manage to improve each week, especially in pass protection.

Grant: Kobay White. I absolutely love watching him play, he’s my favorite receiver we’ve had in years. He had a great season last year, yes, but I think he’s going to be a star this season. He just has so much big play ability, he reels in every ball that comes his way… I love his game, and with him as the clear top WR, I think he puts up a monster year. Yes, I know we are Boston College and we run the ball a lot. But White’s going to win us some games.

Will: Anthony Brown. Call me optimistic but I think that with two years of experience (excluding injuries) Anthony Brown is poised to make a big step forward. Everyone is going to stack the box against BC and Brown will have plenty of windows to throw the ball into. If Addazio and Bajakian give him the chance to throw the ball more, I think he will make the most of it.

Niraj: I’ll go Hunter Long. There are a decent number of targets up for grabs with Sweeney, Walker, and Smith gone. Long is a big guy and a solid athlete that could be a key red zone threat. Despite a crowded tight ends room, he could be the guy that emerges and demands consistent playing time. He had only four catches last year, but over 100 yards receiving, and clearly someone took notice with him being named to the tight end watch list.

Who has a better first year in charge, OC Mike Bajakian or DC Bill Sheridan?

Rich: Bajakian takes over a more experienced group, and it will be interesting to see if he can open up the play calling.

Patrick: My gut says Sheridan, but my brain says Bajakian. Bajakian has more returning experience and talent. I like the O-line, I don’t think there’s been much drop off at WR, and AJ Dillon seems motivated to prove that last year was an aberration. But it’s still an Addazio offense, and even if he gives up more control it comes down to how much Bajakian can help Brown develop (as has been pointed out by basically everyone). As for Sheridan, I just think that the talent in the LB corps will mask a lot of deficiencies along the D-line. I also think back to his defenses at Tampa Bay that helped DT Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David on their path to NFL All-Pros. But I just have so many questions about the secondary and the loss of Anthony Campanile.

Grant: Tough to not give it to Bajakian here, just because of how many weapons he has at his disposal. Sheridan may well have a nice year if a lot of the young guys step up and one or two really stand out, but this BC offense has too much talent on it for the Eagles not to put up points.

Will: I think Bajakian has the advantage of more returning talent and thus fewer holes to fill. However, I just how much leeway Addazio will give Bajakian and how much his old instincts as offensive coach will keep him from letting Bajakian have free rein. Still Sheridan will be building a defense as opposed to truly inheriting one, given that he will need to develop his young talent. Bajakian will have the better 2019 season but Sheridan could have greater success long term if he can develop this young core how he wants to.

Niraj: Although I’m quite skeptical, Bajakian has the edge for me. Like everyone said, he’s returning much more talent than Sheridan on defense. Addazio mentioned that Bajakian is all in on running the offense the BC way, but you just have to hope that he can get the most out of AB at the same time. Sheridan has had much more time with his guys, but it won’t be an easy task to replace most of the production.

Which game are you circling on the calendar and why?

Rich: Notre Dame, simply because I’m starved for a meaningful BC win. Wins over middling ACC opponents are more important if the goal is a bowl birth, but I would kill for an upset that disrupts the playoff race and rekindles the Holy War.

Patrick: Kansas. I had a high-school golf coach who went to Kansas and he was kind of an ass. I hope we obliterate them.

Grant: Game 1 makes or breaks the season. It has to be Virginia Tech. It’s a tough but winnable game at home that would set us up to get a few wins off the bat, get us into the rankings after a few weeks, and our record some cushion for that brutal second half of the season. With a loss to Virginia Tech, I don’t see any way the Eagles can climb out of the hole to end up above 6-6. But beat Tech and the team could really get on a roll.

Will: GD Notre Dame. I have hated Notre Dame since the game against BC in Fenway, because anyone with eyes saw that BC deserved to win that game. They are the Dallas Cowboys of college football. A team that says its relevant because they were good a few decades ago. I would love nothing more than for BC to upset those fair-weather catholics in their home and make that stupid leprechaun sit down and shut up, while that Jesus mosaics watches over the stadium.

Niraj: ^^ Amazing. Syracuse for me. I don’t like that people think they’re “good” now. It’s Syracuse, come on. Like it or not, we tout them as our rival and have actually played them more than anyone (minus Holy Cross), and they’ve gotten the better of us of late. I don’t like it.

Who’s your team MVP at season’s end?

Rich: AJ “The Sauce” Dillon

Patrick: It’s going to be Dillon.

Grant: He will need to stay healthy, but even though I am optimistic for the Throw Game™, it’ll be Dillon’s talent that opens things up for the whole offense. I’m excited for a couple 50+ yard scampers as much as the next guy, but it’ll be just as important if not more so that opponents will be keying in on him to open up some opportunities through the air with a QB who’s now got a couple years under him.

Will: AJ Dillon if he can stay healthy, this offense won’t become pass dependent anytime soon and Dillon is still one of the best backs in the country

Niraj: Algiers Jameal William Dillon. What a freakin’ name. As long as it’s at least an average season, he should be the reason.

The over/under is set at 6.5 wins for the regular season. BC will win _____ games because _______? Will this result make you happy?

Rich: Seven wins, and no. I will be left in a state of ennui.

Patrick: BC will win 7 games because real life is stranger than fiction. I will shrug, because on the one hand 7 games with this much roster turnover on defense is good. On the other hand, I want to see Addazio either take BC to the next level or get fired. I’m tired of stagnating.

Grant: Unfortunately I’ve gotten myself to the point where I’m excited about what we can do this year, despite my brain telling me the defense is going to probably have some real growing pains that will cut into the realistic win total. For a while I was telling myself I’d be happy just getting to 6-6 again, given how the schedule looked tougher and the defense was going to have issues, but now I’ve pushed myself to thinking we’re looking at 7-5. I’d be happy with that, at least as long as we actually get to play the bowl game this year… It’s not all that fun being happy with 7-5, but if we do get there, I think next season could see a lot of things come together for a big year.

Will: 8 games. I believe BC can either beat Virginia Tech or Florida State (maybe both). I think the only games where BC is entirely unmatched (on paper) are Clemson and Notre Dame. Florida State always gets good athletes from their home state but hosting the Seminoles could be a huge boost but they’ll still be tough. Syracuse is going to be good this year and I think going into the Carrier Dome and winning is a tall task. Virginia Tech is tough but winnable. Finishing near the top half of the Atlantic Division isn’t too unrealistic but BC will have to play up to its potential and the Eagles’ seem to have at least one loss that should’ve been a win every year.

Niraj: 7 games because tradition. I am never satisfied. It’s a curse. But seriously, I think we got lucky with more of those coin toss conference games scheduled at home (Va Tech, Wake, NC State, Florida State). Yes, home-field isn’t the same as it once was, but it should help. If we can win two or three of these, we should be ... fine.