On the third drive of the 2023 Boston College Football season, 6”5’ redshirt sophomore Emmett Morehead was no longer the Eagles’ starting quarterback. After an offseason in which Jeff Hafley, the rest of his staff and the whole team spent preparing for Morehead to seize the job, it took a mere 10 passing attempts for Hafley to change his starting quarterback. Enter sophomore UCF transfer Thomas Castellanos.
Despite Castellanos’ late-game heroics, BC lost that opener to NIU. And despite Hafley’s assurances that Morehead would definitely see the field again in his postgame presser, Morehead did not see a single meaningful snap for the rest of the season – or his Boston College career. He is, unsurprisingly, in the transfer portal, leaving TC and unproven backups in Peter Delaportas, Jacobe Robinson, and Matt Reuve as the only QBs on the roster. Casto is clearly the QB of the future, and Hafley wants to build his roster around him.
The eye test screams that TC is, indeed, the man for the job. Hafley said how the staff made the decision to stick with him because he seemed to ignite the offense, especially with his athleticism in the QB run game and his ability to extend the play outside of the pocket. His absurd 4th-down conversion against NIU, where he ran maybe 15 yards into his own backfield before completing a pass to Bond, perhaps best encapsulates this. He led BC to a near-upset of FSU in Week 3, totalling 400 yards of offense and two touchdowns in the Red Bandanna game. During the Eagles’ five-game win streak, he accounted for 11 TDs – including seven on the ground – and scored daggers against Army, Syracuse, and Georgia Tech. He plays with swagger (sometimes too much – see the Holy Cross game) and he seemingly grew into his leadership role with the team as the season wore on.
But I am not sold on him being good enough to carry this program out of mediocrity and the ACC’s cellar. Yes, he’s a ridiculous athlete. Yes, he’s had a number of clutch performances. Yes, he is a leader on the field. He has the job, given the lack of other options on the roster. He’s young, with time to improve, but Hafley is essentially betting his job on TC’s considerable improvement in Year 2 as a starter. I am not sure if he will.
Castellanos threw for 2,146 yards, 15 TDs, and 13 picks, along with 957 rushing yards and 11 TDs. Let’s start with his passing game, because it is clearly the weakness here. His two best games were, by far, against FSU – 305 yards, 60.6% completion rate with a TD and a pick – and against Louisville – 265 yards, 51.5% completion rate with 3 TDs. The FSU game featured some of his best throws, such as his on-the-move dot to Ryan O’Keefe on 4th-and-15 or his deep toss to the same guy off his back foot with a defender in his face. FSU had no answer; I applaud Castellanos for his efforts here. Against Louisville, however, he put up significant numbers only when the game was out of hand. Not a real test, in my view, especially since he could not come close to either of these performances over the rest of the season. TC had no other games with 3 TD passes; he only had 3 games with 2 TD throws and all of them came in the first 5 games of the season, against bad competition in Virginia, Holy Cross, and NIU. Most concerningly, he seemingly got worse throwing the ball as the season went on; he threw 2 interceptions in all three of BC’s losses to close the season. Against Virginia Tech, with Hafley urging fans to come out, and legitimate ACCCG consequences on the line, TC threw two backbreaking picks in the first quarter in the eventual blowout. Time and again, against VT, Miami, or even Pitt, it just seemed like TC was both struggling to make the correct reads and simply forcing throws, hoping for a big play. His overall 57.1% completion for the season backs this up; he needs to learn that not every play needs to be a big one. How many times did we see Castellanos chuck a deep shot to Joe Griffin, only for the throw to be uncatchable or for the receiver to be draped in coverage? Hafley seems to be leaning on the ground and pound – which fits Castellanos. We dont’t need Castellanos to throw for chunk plays, we need him to consistently move the chains and protect the football. My point is, Castellanos is far from a complete quarterback. The position requires a consistent arm threat, and Castellanos has shown flashes but no consistency in his ability to beat teams through the air.
In the running game, there is no doubt that Castellanos is simply a playmaker. My gripe here is simple: protect the football. He fumbled 5 times this year, though he only lost 2 of them. Many are simply bizarre; I can recall numerous times where his grip on the ball just slipped as he looked to make a throw. I’m confident he can clean this up. The bigger issue is that when Castellanos isn’t running, whether because of injury or play call, BC’s offense quickly falls apart. Against UConn, TC mysteriously left the game for a drive and returned with a leg sleeve, prompting concerns over a potential injury that were never confirmed – Hafley merely said he “wasn’t feeling well.” Regardless of what happened, over the next few weeks Castellanos was just not running with his customary explosiveness. Though Shimko and Hafley kept running him – 22 attempts against Syracuse – it was only when it became apparent that BC’s passing game could not finish the job that they really leaned on what worked in the rushing game.
What happens if Castellanos gets seriously injured? To the point where running him is just not an option? I do not trust him throwing the ball, and with Kyle Hergel and Christian Mahogany leaving the program I doubt next year’s O-line will match this team’s current unit. Not to mention, BC has to play all of Missouri, UNC, FSU, and Louisville – a significant increase in difficulty compared to this season’s cakewalk schedule. He showed flashes this year, but ultimately when the competition increased and teams had more film on him, he simply did not reach the “heights” of the first half of the semester against the second. With so much at stake in 2024, TC needs to grow a lot for this BC team to have a chance to be competitive. Look, when Castellanos is on his game he is incredibly fun to watch. He can be a gamechanger. I want him to be a gamechanger; I want him to turn the program around. But I am not sure if he can. Only time will tell.