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Boston College Football Preview: The Offense

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 Wake Forest at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is the first part of our football roster preview, though I’m still not convinced that we’re going to see a football season. If students aren’t bleary eyed and shuffling out of their dorms at noon, led by their noses towards a panoply of grills wafting the sweet smell of barbecue across campus, is it still college football? If every stadium is as empty as the stands at the Bahamas Bowl, is it still college football? Given the spit valves dumped and breath billowing out of horns in a marching band, surely the proud refrains and echoes ringing will be limited to the PA system—is that still college football?

The answer is no, of course. Well, at least not the version of college football that blends excitement, pride, escape, hope and nostalgia every fall. Still, I hope they can find a way to safely play. Before COVID-19 descended upon the earth, I was already getting excited for Boston College football in February, which is definitely on the early side for me. The Eagles were gearing up for a new era under the direction of first-time head coach Jeff Hafley, and he-who-must-not-be-named was finally someone else’s problem.

Now the new era will have to emerge from a cloud of unprecedented uncertainty, and hopefully an abundance of caution. Let’s take a look at the 2020 Boston College offense:

Quarterbacks

All eyes are on Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec. After a lengthy delay, the NCAA granted Jurkovec a waiver to play this season as a redshirt sophomore. He brings a strong arm, size (6’5” 226 lbs) and athleticism (22 carries for 130 yards as ND’s backup QB last season) to a position that has been inconsistent for the Eagles in recent years. Should the season make it to Notre Dame’s visit on November 14th, let’s hope for some Adam Banks’ adopted Mighty Ducks versus the villainous Hawks energy.

Dennis Grosel is the most experienced quarterback on the roster, having stepped in for the injured Anthony Brown in 2019. Grosel played well against Florida State and Syracuse, but struggled mightily against tougher competition. Matt Valecce, formerly the #1 ranked high school QB in New York, returns for his redshirt sophomore season. He attempted just seven passes in limited action last season. Redshirt freshman Sam Johnson III will attempt to work his way up the depth chart.

Running Backs

AJ Dillon was obviously a special player, and though the Eagles will miss him in the backfield, you could do a lot worse than junior David Bailey as a successor. Bailey rushed 148 times for 844 yards last season—a 5.7 yards per carry clip. He also ran for 7 touchdowns and caught another. Bailey is hardly a well kept secret, he earned All-ACC honorable mention last season, and he made the Maxwell Award watch list for 2020 (though I have no idea how national awards work in this mess).

Senior Travis Levy may slot in as the number two back, but keep an eye on Pat Garwo III as a potential breakout player in 2020. The redshirt freshman was considered a top 30 running back in his high school class.

Wide Receivers

After removing his name from the transfer portal, Kobay White returns to the Heights for one more season. White has long appeared poised to break out, but inconsistent quarterback play and a run heavy offense have limited his production. White has put together a solid career, but it feels like he should have amassed a lot more than 1,409 receiving yards over three seasons.

Zay Flowers was explosive at times during his freshman campaign, then all but disappeared in the second half of the season. Opposing defenses caught on to the jet sweeps and he never seemed to establish a connection with Grosel in the passing game. Hopefully new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and Jurkovec can find a way to utilize Zay, because his ceiling is very high.

After those two, there’s really no proven third option at receiver. Freshman Taji Johnson has turned some heads this summer, and at 6’3”, he would bring some size on the perimeter. CJ Lewis and Ethon Williams could also step up.

EDIT: As pointed out in the comments section, I completely forgot Jaelen Gill was granted immediate eligibility! Gill arrived at Ohio State as a four star recruit, and followed Coach Hafley to BC after a redshirt freshman season in which he appeared in six games and caught one touchdown for the Buckeyes. Gill was a big get, and brings athleticism and depth to the receiving corps.

Tight Ends

Hunter Long is coming off of a stellar sophomore season in which he led the team in receiving yards with 509 and made the All-ACC Third Team. With Jake Burt and Korab Idrizi lost to graduation, Joey Luchetti moved across the ball from defensive end. Freshman Charlie Gordinier was the 33rd ranked TE in his class, and could make an early impact.

Offensive Line

Redshirt junior center Alec Lindstrom anchors an experienced and decorated Boston College line. Lindstrom made third team All-ACC in 2019, while senior left guard Zion Johnson and senior right tackle Ben Petrula earned All-ACC Second Team nods, and redshirt sophomore Tyler Vrabel was an All-ACC honorable mention at left tackle.

John Phillips is the only departure from last season’s starting unit. Candidates for the open right guard spot include redshirt sophomore Finn Dirstine, and redshirt freshmen Blerim Rustemi and Christian Mahogany.

It will quite literally be difficult to overlook freshmen Kevin Pyne and Ozzy Trapilo. Both were four star recruits out of Massachusetts and stand in the mountainous territory of 6’8” 300 lbs.

Stay tuned for a look at the defense and special teams!