Boston College football enters new era in 2013

Chase Rettig

(Note: This is the first of a three-part weekly summer sneak peak into the 2013 season for New England NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams.)

CHESTNUT HILL — With a new athletic director and new coach, Boston College has high hopes that meaningful games at The Heights, conference championships and notable bowl game appearances become a thing of the future, not just quickly fading memories.

It was not all that long ago that the Eagles boasted the longest bowl winning streak in the country and played in back-to-back ACC Championship games.

However, the disappointing finish of the 2009 and 2010 seasons — bowl losses to USC and Nevada in the Emerald/Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl — and dismal play of the Eagles over the past two seasons under former head coach Frank Spaziani made those four years feel like decades since the glory days of Matt Ryan, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace.

Now the healing process has commenced, or at least that is what Eagles fans are hoping.

It started when Gene DeFilippo announced his retirement, which became official in September of last year. While DeFilippo was pivotal — and controversial — in getting Boston College into the ACC, he was often criticized for his lack of vision regarding the football program, specifically with his handling of coaches. He allowed Tom O’Brien, who effectively saved the program, to leave for another team in the conference that was offering $100,000 more a year, then fired his successful replacement for taking an interview with the New York Jets. Spaziani coached the Eagles to a victory in the Meineke Car Care Bowl and then was quickly hired as the head coach, but never again saw poststeason success.

New Athletic Director Brad Bates made waves with his first hiring, bringing in brash former Temple head coach Steve Addazio, who is well-regarded for his ability to do two things that Spaziani never appeared able to do — motivate his team and recruit in the Northeast.

While his recruiting success will be something measured in time, Adazio’s first order of business must be to improve upon the 2-10 record the Eagles compiled in 2012. Worse than the record, however, is how the numbers in the win-loss column came about.

Offensive play-calling was unimaginative and a defense that was strikingly ordinary compared to the recent past, was left exposed by the offense’s inability to move the chains consistently.

Among the most embarrassing defeats was a 34-31 loss to Army in which the Eagles held a lead and the ball with just over two minutes left, but let it slip away when they failed to get a first down, punted, then allowed the Black Knights to score in three plays.

The Eagles’ lone FBS win was a tight affair with fellow ACC bottom feeder Maryland, when quarterback Chase Rettig threw a touchdown pass with 52 seconds remaining in the game. They also beat Maine in the season’s second week.

Rettig, now a senior, will again be the starting quarterback for Addazio’s first campaign with Boston College. Rettig has been dealt a rough hand in his time at Alumni Stadium, playing under multiple offensive coordinators and behind sometimes suspect offensive lines. With all that said, he led the Eagles to an average of 259.3 passing yards per game in 2012, the team’s most since 2007.

This year, he will again have to make some adjustments.

According to reports, the Eagles intend to utilize more spread and read option offensive packages, something Rettig was never asked to do under the previous regime. It could be a difficult assignment for Rettig, who lacks pure athleticism and has a propensity for taking sacks or making poor decisions with the football due to an inability to adequately and quickly read defenses, resulting in him holding the ball too long.

The read option element is an interesting one, however, as it may help open up some room for Eagles running backs who averaged 3.16 yards per carry and found the end zone just seven times.

One thing that can never be questioned is Rettig’s arm strength and his throwing mechanics are sound by all accounts. The question is whether or not he can evolve into a player who can dissect what the 11 opposing players are doing quickly.

Alex Amidon returns as Rettig’s favorite target and has been highly regarded as one of the top senior receivers in the country. One of the few bright spots for the team offensively, coming in second in the ACC in receiving yards, Amidon is often likened to former New England favorite Wes Welker as well as Welker’s replacement Danny Amendola. Possessing a similar build, Amidon may be a touch faster in terms of breakout speed. He possesses the same fearlessness when running routes and one would be hard pressed to remember the last time he dropped a well-thrown ball.

Outside of Amidon, Spiffy Evans and Bobby Swigert are the lone wide outs who played a significant role in the offense last year to return, thanks to the exit of Johnathan Coleman. At that, both failed to top 25 catches and 250 yards and will have a lot more asked of them in 2013. One area in which Evans is particularlu dangerous is in the return game. Fielding 11 punts last year, averaged 25.3 yards, which would have placed him first in the nation, had he qualified for the leaderboard by returning a punt at least once per game. He also took one back for a touchdown. Swigert has had a difficult time staying on the field, so where he is as a player is difficult to pinpoint.

With Rolandan “Deuce” Finch leaving the program and standout Montel Harris a distant memory after being dismissed from the team last year, senior Andre Williams and junior Tahj Kimble figure to be the top options to tote the rock, though reports out of Chestnut Hill suggest that Williams has the edge after a spring effort that Addazio took note of. Williams averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2012.

The loss of offensive tackles Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel should also be noted.

In the kicking game, Nate Freese is about as reliable as they come in the college ranks. He doesn’t have a tremendous leg, but he’s accurate. He made 18 of 20 field goal attempts — his lone misses were a 52-yard try against Georgia Tech and a 43-yard attempt at Wake Forest. He made all of his final six kicks on the season and never missed and extra point.

Defensively, while the Eagles return eight of their top 10 tacklers from last season, the question as to whether Addazio is getting a unit that will be better is a fair one.

Boston College was ranked 102nd in total defense and 75th in scoring defense and really struggled on the defensive line. That appears to be an area of concern again for the Eagles, who lost defensive tackle Max Ricci this week, leaving them incredibly thin on the inside. Dominic Appaiah and Keiran Borich are expected to start at the tackle spots in the 4-3 scheme, but behind them is a serious lack of depth. Kaleb Ramsey will return after getting a medical hardship waiver, allowing him a sixth year, but his level of impact remains to be seen, as does that of freshmen Tevin Montgomery and Truman Guptafel.

Kasim Edebali leads the defensive ends who had a hard time getting at the quarterback, which was another problem for the team as a whole last season. For the year, the Eagles took down the quarterback just six times. Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Lewis led the team with two sacks, followed by Edebali with 1.5. Brian Mihalik can be versatile, swinging from tackle to end, giving the Eagles some flexibility, but most likely Mehdi Abdesmad will

Leading tackler Nick Clancy is gone, leaving the linebacking corps in the hands of Steele Divitto and Pierre-Lewis. Divitto not all that quick or athletic, but has very good instincts and is a sure tackler (remind you of anyone from Boston College’s recent past?) who was second on the team in tackles in 2012. Kevin Pierre-Louis, a former four star recruit who has yet to really shine and might do so under the new scheme being brought in by defense coordinator Don Brown. Sean Duggan figures to factor in as well.

Sean Sylvia, Spencer Rositano, Brockton’s Al Louis-Jean and Everett’s Manny Asprilla are the top options returning in a secondary that did not fare all too well thanks to some questionable coaching that required virtually no press coverage, the complete lack of a pass rush, and a rash of injuries.

Rositano and Louis-Jean may be the most physically gifted of the bunch. Rositano was the team’s best turnover creator from his safety spot and figures to again be a key contributor while Louis-Jean was a four-star recruit and projected to start sustaining a broken foot in preseason last year. Sylvia split time between corner and his natural safety position and was third on the team in tackles. Asprilla struggled at times, but also looked good at others and will need to even his play. The Eagles will have the benefit of experienced depth players like Bryce Jones and Justin Simmons who were pressed into service last season.

2013 schedule/prediction
Date Oppenent (W/L)
Aug. 31 Villanova (W)
Sept. 6 Wake Forest (W)
Sept. 14 at USC (L)
Sept. 28 Florida State (L)
Oct. 5 Army (W)
Oct. 12 at Clemson (L)
Oct. 26 at North Carolina (L)
Nov. 2 Virginia Tech (L)
Nov. 9 at New Mexico State (W)
Nov. 16 N.C. State (L)
Nov. 23 at Maryland (L)
Nov. 30 at Syracuse (L)

While there are certainly manageable games on the slate, the schedule shakes out pretty tough in the first half of the season for the Eagles. Villanova and Wake Forest are both winnable games, but after traveling to USC and hosting Florida State to wrap up September, fans would be wise to consider itself lucky to have a 2-2 record at that juncture.

Army is another game the Eagles can win, but with road games at Clemson and North Carolina also in October and a home matchup with Virginia Tech, a 3-5 record would be expected and .500 mark would have to be looked at as an accomplishment.

From there, the schedule gets easier with New Mexico State as a cupcake, followed by solid opponents in N.C. State and Maryland. A trip to the Carrier Dome to face Syracuse rounds out the schedule.

While this prediction is conservative, Maryland and Syracuse stand out as games that could push the Eagles to .500, which would be a major coup for Addazio in his first season. More likely, however, is Boston College winning four games and just one in the conference, returning them to the basement as the rebuilding continues.

Photo from Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

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