When the season began in August, the name John Fadule was barely a blip on the radar to everyone except the coaching staff. Prior to the game against Maine, Steve Addazio addressed the media about the quarterback situation and mentioned Fadule as a talented player, but nobody probably gave it a second thought. All of the thought was on Darius Wade and how he would gel behind an inexperienced offensive line.
That was before chaos reigned over the Eagles' 2015 season. Now as BC gets ready to take on Notre Dame, Fadule is the assumed starter and the player most likely taking the field at Fenway Park when the Fighting Irish come to town for their Shamrock Series home game.
Fadule was an off the board type of player, the kind of gritty athlete who needed a couple of lucky breaks in addition to earning time. A walk-on freshman who could have played as a dual-threat FCS quarterback, he matriculated to Boston College out of Choate Rosemary Hall after a year of postgraduate study. The Wellesley High School alum from Massachusetts accounted for over 3,000 yards in high school before throwing for 2,000 at Choate.
The freshman is not a very highly-touted recruit. The reports determined he maxed out his body as a quarterback and would not develop further, a guy best suited for a trick Wildcat formation as an H-back or tight end. Consider him the next coming of Josh Bordner or Brendan Nosovitch - the type of guy who are good enough athletes to play Division I but who reached their ceilings as quarterbacks.
Those are the factors against Fadule. It's been in that kind of adversity where he's flourished. With Jeff Smith sidelined, he stepped in and stabilized the void. He won the starting job from his old high school adversary, Troy Flutie.
It's hard to call it "flourishing," but it's all relative to the rest of the team's performance. In limited time, Fadule hasn't been trusted in a passing offense with Boston College in close games, and he's only attempted 13 passes while BC's trailed by 14 points or less. When the offense was forced to open up, trailing by 15 or more points, he's been pretty good, going 23-44 for over 300 yards this season.
Fadule's been the type of quarterback that statistics simply don't explain. Against Virginia Tech, he rushed 15 times for 53 yards, by far the team's best runner. But he went 8-20 passing, no better than Jeff Smith or, at times, Troy Flutie. Against NC State, he finished with -19 yards in total but threw for 257 - the most of the Steve Addazio era. He threw a touchdown but also threw three picks and fumbled.
Nobody's thrown more on first down, and nobody's produced more in those situations, with Fadule going 14-23 for 200 yards. He's been good in moving the football, going 10-17 for 117 yards in between the 40 yard lines. But he hasn't scored points, and most of his passing action came with the Eagles getting blown out by NC State.
The point to make about Fadule is this - he's made some of those plays, even in blowouts. That's a step above what else we can say about the position. Even with the offensive line struggles this year, they obviously had to play well enough to let him get into a rhythm, and that's exactly what happened, especially in the fourth quarter against the Wolfpack. It all has to be taken with a grain of salt, but it's happened, which is more than what we can say about other games.
The only thing holding back Fadule are the scouting reports, which, to a degree, he can prove wrong with a solid performance. In the next couple of games, look for him to make several different progressions. He's going to get his chances, and he'll need to make them count. He can make plays on the run, so look for what happens when the play breaks down. Look for the offensive line to gel with him a little bit, maybe give him a block here or there, when it all breaks down. And most importantly, look for his eyes on a swivel. Make sure he doesn't lock onto a receiver.
In terms of running ability, we've seen Fadule has a second gear to combine with toughness. It's what makes him stand out among his other freshmen quarterbacks. In Jeff Smith, BC had a runner with special speed. In Troy Flutie, BC had a quarterback with a quick first step but lacking that burner speed. Fadule is the type of guy who doesn't have a great first step but uses his smarts to get into space. Unlike Smith, who was undersized as a true freshman, Fadule's thick frame allowed him to continue driving, taking on hits. In addition, he has deceptive quickness aided by decent vision. Watching him run has been a pleasant surprise because, through the struggles of the offense this season, BC seemingly's found an old-school type of player who is willing to sacrifice his body at a moment's notice.
After committing as many turnovers as he did against NC State, look for him to learn and progress to not making those decisions. He needs to make the decision to either make a play by himself or eat a loss before he throws into double or triple coverage. When the blocking breaks down, he needs to get better decision making. When he runs, he needs to identify holes and attack them before taking on defenders. Both Notre Dame and Syracuse present opportunities with defenses unlike what BC's seen all season in that regard.
Over the final two games, Fadule has a chance to really make a splash. If he can do well against Notre Dame or even score a victory somewhere along the line, he'll help his chances immensely heading into next season. With a crowded backfield including Darius Wade and highly-touted Anthony Brown (who will graduate midyear and enroll early at BC), Fadule needs to stand out in order to earn time in the conversation next season, and while he's certainly earned a mention or two, he stands to gain the most ground in the final two weeks.
For a guy who started the year in no man's land on the radar, it's equal parts impressive and circumstantial that he even landed as the starting quarterback. There was no way, even in talent evaluations, to know he would develop into a pleasant surprise. That old school mentality endears him to fans and analysts, and it's nice to see a guy take on hits and be willing to do whatever it takes to get the next yard.
Again, it's all relative. Despite all of those positives in two games, the Eagles still struggle to find a way into the end zone. It's all relative to the massive struggle of the offense, which has been multi-fold this season. I can't help but think of how the offense moved in the fourth quarter against NC State, a top 10 defense, but it came at the end of a blowout. Still, there's no questioning Fadule is the quarterback with the most to gain and the one with the most unknown ceiling of development before the offseason comes along, which makes him one of the most intriguing storylines as Notre Dame and Syracuse dawn on the horizon.