College football is upon us! The 2023 Boston College football season kicks off in less than two weeks. We have spent the last two months previewing each position group and all of their opponents (which you can find here), finishing up this week with the receivers and QBs. So now it’s time to gather our writers to talk about their hopes and fears for the upcoming season, including their final record predictions.
The 2023 Boston College football season is here. First off, what gets you most excited looking ahead to this season?
Curtis: Seven home games against a lot of beatable opponents. The folks in attendance at Alumni Stadium should get some great games to watch this year, and I can’t wait to be tailgating again.
Niraj: Excited, eh? I’d describe every feeling as anxious. At least this time general expectations are lower. I’m just looking forward to get things kicked off in earnest. The fall on the Heights (and beyond) is so pure.
Curran: Christian Mahogany’s return. I have forgotten what a run play greater than 5 yards looks like.
What do you think this BC team’s greatest strength will be?
Curtis: The defensive line. With Donovan Ezeiruaku leading the charge and multiple other great players surrounding him, this is a line that should be able to get after the quarterback and stuff the run.
Niraj: Adaptability to different styles of play. This is a stretch, but basically if something ain’t working, there is a backup option. It’s clear Hafley is feeling some pressure and bringing in Thomas Castellanos to compete with Morehead gives BC a different element. We saw how the offensive line struggle last season, but there are more options now as well since players now have experience. Even if things aren’t going poorly, it could be a way of keeping opposing defenses on their heels.
Curran: Depth. BC, being BC, has flown under the radar during preseason — especially after last year’s debacle. We don’t have the top-end, elite talent guys that gain national attention (outside of Mahogany and Donovan Ezeiruaku.) Yet if you look at nearly every position group, from the WRs to O-Line to the secondary, there are multiple guys battling for starting jobs. That is huge in raising the level of play and also ensuring guys are ready to play regardless of their spot on the depth chart.
The offensive line is coming off possibly its worst season in program history. Do you believe the return of Christian Mahogany and the two new transfers will be enough to make them serviceable in 2023?
Curtis: Barring injuries, I think they will be good enough to establish a running game like the one they had two years ago. If true, that will open up the entire offense and the team will be so much better on both sides of the ball. Mahogany is a fantastic player, Hergel looks very promising, and Taylor is an ACC starting-level lineman, which is more than could be said for the majority of BC’s line last season.
Niraj: Definitely. For one, I don’t think it can get worse. Bringing back Applebaum, even though there was something to be desired given the talent in his two seasons in charge, will also make them more than serviceable. This is legitimate talent on the line again instead of on the fly shuffling from injuries we had last season. Not to place too much blame, but I think some of Phil Jurkovec’s indecisiveness (in part due to getting beat up) didn’t help either. That being said, the line also failed to aid the run game. More experience will improve that and make the whole unit hum better.
Curran: I simply cannot see how the line could be any worse than last year between the injuries, inexperience, and poor coaching. I do believe the line should be better. Drew Kendall and Ozzy Trapilo, our two best starters last year, were highly ranked recruits and now should improve with experience. If Mahogany is truly 100%, he’s a stud. No questions asked. Kyle Hergel, by all accounts, could be a stud too. He’s an athletic freak, ridiculously strong, and a veteran. I haven’t heard as much about UVA transfer Logan Taylor, but he’ll be in the mix to start as well. Like I said before, the depth piece here is huge. The best player will play, and BC has a lot of guys who now have experience.
Who is your player to watch this season?
Curtis: I expect Donovan Ezeiruaku to blossom into an All-ACC talent this year. He has developed very nicely each of his years on the Heights already and I expect that upwards trajectory to continue. It’s been a while since BC had a player on the defensive line that was truly exciting to watch (Zach Allen maybe?), and EZ could be that next guy.
Niraj: Donovan Ezeiruaku is the guy. I’m looking forward to him taking another step forward. After 8.5 sacks last season he’s only getting bigger and better. He seems to be a leader on the defensive line as well. Simply put, if he’s successful the defense will be as well. With questions in the linebacker corps and secondary, his pressure along with the rest of the defensive line’s will be paramount. I think he headlines a defensive line unit that can rack up sacks.
Curran: Shitta Sillah. The dude is an insane athlete, with great length and explosiveness, and now he’s finally healthy. In an off-season where Donovan Ezeiruaku has (rightfully) been the focus of BC’s defense, Sillah could look to take advantage and really break out. If he can stay healthy, BC’s edge duo could be scary. One other guy to watch out for: Grad transfer John Pupel, who was on the roster last season and is right in the mix for the starting SS role. He’s a hard-nosed, veteran guy who isn’t afraid to lay a hit. That physical presence could be invaluable to this BC secondary.
What’s your hottest take for this team?
Curtis: My eyebrows went way up when BC brought in transfer QB Thomas Castellanos this offseason after he lost the QB battle at UCF. Castellanos is a dynamic playmaker and a dual-threat QB in a group of mostly pocket passers. If Morehead struggles through the first half of the season with fumbles and pressure like he did last season, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see a change at the position. A mobile QB makes it a lot easier to cope with a shaky offensive line, too.
Niraj: Emmett Morehead will throw for 3,000 yards. Perhaps a bit above lukewarm, but I expect Morehead to gain some attention. He has that cannon, and I expect he’s going to be much more comfortable this season behind a stronger offensive line (meaning hopefully a stronger rushing attack). Let’s see BC take an unexpected leap a la Duke last season. He’ll take care of the ball and those passing yard numbers will rise. Feasting on a few of the weaker defenses will help prop up this number, too.
Curran: 10-2 is truly the ceiling of this team. Do I think it will happen? Probably not. But this schedule is just so easy, and I think there is a scenario where the moves Hafley made to correct last year’s failures — from the transfer portal to coaching changes and everything in between — actually pan out. FSU is truly the only top-10 team we play. I see Louisville, Pitt, and Miami as the major swing games, while Syracuse and GT shouldn’t be overlooked either. But all of those teams either faced massive struggle of their own last year (Miami, GT, Cuse in the second half of the season) or are dealing with massive roster overhauls (Louisville and Pitt) and therefore, we really don’t know how good any of those teams are. Maybe this is all just wishful thinking, but I think BC at its best could win 10 games.
Finally, what is your prediction for Boston College’s record at the end of the regular season?
Curtis: 5-7. It’s a very favorable schedule for the Eagles and I really like what BC brings to the table defensively this season. But there are just so many questions around the offense, especially the offensive line, that I struggle to be optimistic. One or two injuries to that OL could send everything tumbling down again. I predicted 7-5 last year and they burned me, so I won’t overlook their flaws this time around, especially without Zay Flowers here to cover them up.
Niraj: 6-6 — the universe in balance once again. I will not be picking whether the team wins or loses a bowl game because of the past few years of historical evidence
Curran: 8-4. Losses to FSU, Louisville, Syracuse and Pitt.