Eagles hope experience, new faces can spur ACC turnaround
BOSTON (AP) Steve Addazio knew it would take a different kind of approach to build a winning program at Boston College.
The changes he has made as he prepares to enter his fourth season are testament to his willingness to keep trying new things.
The Eagles posted identical 7-6 records during Addazio's first two seasons in 2013 and 2014. That was good enough for third- and fourth-place finishes in the Atlantic Division, and back-to-back bowl berths.
That progress ended last season as BC stumbled to 3-9 and 0-8 in conference play. It was part of a collectively down year for its two main revenue sports as the Eagles became the first ACC program to go winless in league play in both football and men's basketball during the same school year.
Addazio is aiming to prove that 2015 was an anomaly with a huge group of returners and eager newcomers.
''This team has got a great attitude, a great desire to be good,'' he said. ''It's a mix, we've got some returning starters, but they were young. .It'll get better every day.''
Injuries certainly had a role in the Eagles' struggles. Quarterback Darius Wade was lost in the third game of the season to a broken left ankle, and running back Jon Hilliman's season ended a week later because of a broken foot.
It left Addazio's spread-option offense in flux, and it showed in a unit that ranked at or near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference in virtually every major offensive category. Things would have been a lot worse if not for a defense that topped the FBS in total defense, allowing just 254.3 yards per game.
There won't be a complete reinvention, but this Eagles team should have a different feel.
It starts on the coaching staff, where Addazio brought in five new assistants, including two new coordinators. Scot Loeffler replaces Todd Fitch as offensive coordinator, and on defense Jim Reid takes over for Don Brown, who left for Michigan.
Here are some other things to watch for from Boston College this season:
ALL HEALED UP
The silver lining on the early injuries to Wade and Hilliman was that they had plenty of time to recuperate. Traditionally more comfortable running, Wade says he's embracing an opportunity to air it out as he competes with graduate transfer Patrick Towles for the starting job.
''Every quarterback always says he wants to throw it as much as possible,'' Wade said. ''But I'm here to do whatever Coach Loeffler wants me to do. If he wants me sling it around, I will gladly do that.''
After having a total of 35 players see their first collegiate action in 2015, continuity should bode well for this group - particularly on the defensive side of the ball. BC returns 17 of its top 21 tacklers from a year ago. The secondary could be the strongest group of them all, led by senior safety John Johnson, as well as junior cornerbacks Kamrin Moore and Issac Yiadom.
For the second time in program history, Boston College will be play a game in Ireland when it serves as the home team in its Sept. 3 season opener in Dublin against Georgia Tech. The Eagles then host UMass the following week at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. In 1988, BC beat Army, 38-24, in the Emerald Isle Classic, which was also played in Dublin. That game was the first American football game played in Europe.
The Eagles' first road test of the season comes Sept. 17 against Virginia Tech. They also host what should be a highly ranked Clemson squad on Oct. 7. BC will also look to avenge a triplet of three-point conference losses from last season when it hosts Syracuse (Oct. 22), Louisville (Nov. 5) and at Wake Forest in its regular season finale Nov. 26.
BC should also be a lot more disciplined with a more veteran group. The Eagles' defense help them stay competitive in more conference games, they will likely still go through growing pains as they transition to a more pro-style offense. A 6-6 finish likely is the best to hope for.
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower