Over the past two seasons, we've spent a lot of time defending Steve Addazio's offensive play calls. We've looked at the offense through the offensive coordinatorship of Ryan Day, watched it transition this year to Todd Fitch. We did so by putting 100%, implicit trust in a process even if we didn't really understand it.
In Year One, we shelved our hopes of a spread, passing type offense in favor of the ground-and-pound nature of Andre Williams. We shelved it by appreciating Andre's tenacity and strength, and Addazio & Day transformed him from an also-ran into one of the all-time greats ever to lace up cleats for Boston College.
In Year Two, we watched as Addazio and Day reinvented the wheel. We watched them install a read option offense built on speed and flash. We watched the offensive line dominate, and we watched a one-year wonder in Tyler Murphy astound us with his ability to hit that B button turbo and explode into the open field.
As Year Three dawned, we watched as Todd Fitch took over for Ryan Day under the direction of Steve Addazio. Through spring practice, into the preseason, and through the first two games of the season, we understood the concept that BC would be a "work in progress" this year, that they would take steps backward before they really displayed how forward they could go. Even through wins over Maine and Howard, we knew to take everything with a grain of salt.
As the 14-0 defeat to Florida State fades into our rearview mirrors, it's worth taking a note to reevaluate what will happen to Boston College moving forward.
Well before he was injured, Darius Wade proved to be ineffective at quarterback, taking giant steps back in a battle against Florida State. He didn't have the appropriate foot speed to match what was Murphy's read option from a year ago, but at the same time, his rollouts and passing attempts showed, at times, indecision. He was staring down his receivers, and a guy touted as a passing dual-threat QB only completed a third of his attempts. Then he was injured and all of a sudden this became secondary to the hopeful wish that he can recover from what looked to be a scary medical moment.
Without Wade, Boston College will possibly need to install a new quarterback who has not practiced with the first team offense this season. In moving forward, however, the Eagles are going to have to turn to one of two quarterbacks, both of which have ridiculously different skill sets.
If the Eagles are to turn to Jeff Smith, they're going to find themselves using a true freshman who was playing high school football at this time last year. They're going to have a guy who is speed first, a guy who can run the option but lacks the knowledge and adaptation to the college game to be able to pass.
If they go to Troy Flutie, they're looking at a quarterback who lacks the natural foot speed to run an option. He has scrambling ability, but Flutie is a pass-first type of player. He delivers short passes to receivers off of dropbacks. Against FSU, his first play was to execute a three-step drop and deliver a strike to someone facing him.
Unfortunately for BC, there's no clear-cut answer. The Florida State game exposed or exacerbated the long road ahead for the Eagles. The offensive line isn't good enough to clear the road for the running game. The Eagles averaged 3.2 yards per carry against the Seminoles two weeks after they only rushed for four yards per carry against Maine.
If you go back to that game against the Black Bears and take away the 45 yard run of Tyler Rouse, BC only rushed for 159 yards. Their yards per carry drops from 4.2 to 3.3. Rouse himself goes to seven carries for 36 yards, halving his average run length. Those are alarming numbers against an FCS opponent, and it's something exacerbated by the game against the Seminoles.
But at the same time, Boston College lacks the receiving depth and skill necessary to transition to a pass-first offense. Against Florida State, the Eagle offense only ran two specific routes - a screen gadget route or a sideline vertical route reminiscent of the Air Coryell offenses of football lore.
Against the Seminoles, the Eagles lined up Thadd Smith, Dave Dudeck, and Sherm Alston against some of the best defensive backs in the collegiate game. None of those three receivers are six feet tall. While there's obvious positives to their game, BC can't go vertical with those guys because they lack the downfield vertical speed and size to take the top off the defense. Those three receivers are all good for going over the middle and doing little dump off type passes - except the Eagles didn't run a slant pattern once.
At that point, you have to ask if it's something that needs to be coached or if the players just simply aren't capable of doing it. A receiver like Thadd Smith or Sherm Alston has obvious positives in misdirection and gadget plays - the jet sweeps of the world. But they lack a body who can haul down a pass. The most effective pass in the first two games (excluding Howard) was a roll out and dump off to the full back. While reliable, you can't have that as your primary target option.
Steve Addazio lauded the receiving skill and said they had to get guys involved before the season. In interviews, we heard about the skill of these receivers and that there was plenty to get excited about. While not having guys like Ben Glimes hurts, there needs to be better utilization of the skill that supposedly exists. With a weak offensive line, those are quick slants and the four or five yard passing plays that work the same as runs.
So where does BC go from here? Well I doubt they're going to become pass first because that would require a total overhaul in thinking by the coaching staff. I think the Florida State game is the first time we can really sit back afterwards and criticize Addazio. He stuck to his guns on the running offense, and it went nowhere. Three BC drives even saw the Florida State side of the field. Even though FSU is a top ten team, they looked extremely beatable, but BC kept forcing the square peg into a circle hole. Even a marginally effective offense would've been able to beat the Seminoles; you shouldn't be watching a game when the score is 7-0 for that long and realize BC probably wasn't going to win without a busted coverage or a defensive score.
For the past two years, he's been able to make it work. On Friday night, we watched a listless team in need, as Joe put it, of "soul searching." Even though it's only one game, it was enough for us to really question where they go from here. Come Saturday against Northern Illinois, they'll need to make a statement about what kind of team they're going to be, regardless of who's under center.