AJ Dillon's Workload A Dilemma For Boston College
AJ Dillon touched the ball 40 times in Boston College’s 38-31 loss to Florida State on Saturday. Head coach Steve Addazio has now put the ball in the hands of his star running back 272 times this season, the most in college football and it's not even close. Oklahoma State’s Chubba Hubbard, the nation’s current rushing leader, comes in at second with just 236, over a game's-worth of carries behind Dillon.
Dillon has been the workhorse for a team and coach fighting for their lives this season, a campaign that has fallen shy of Heisman candidacy, while also netting disheartening results for the now .500 Eagles with just two games left.
Dillon’s exceptional junior season hasn’t been enough to lift this year’s team to a signature win, with a clash against No. 16 Notre Dame possibly being the Eagles’ and Addazio’s last chance for a win over a ranked opponent. Addazio’s job may very well depend on whether or not his star rusher can lift the under-performing units on his team to wins in these last two games.
But is it responsible for him to continue this current workload?
The 21-year-old Dillon is draft eligible this off-season and could be this year’s top running back prospect if he chooses to declare. For Boston College, Dillon could be the program’s highest drafted player since Luke Keuchly in 2012.
Last season, an ankle injury sidelined Dillon for three weeks, but other than that he doesn’t boast any concerning injury history, which would be a major asset for him as an NFL prospect. Addazio on the other hand, does sport a history of overworking young running backs.
Jonathan Hilliman was one example, who saw 261 carries in his first 17 games as an Eagle, a load that culminated in a season-ending injury during his sophomore season in 2015. Hilliman never quite came back from that injury to replicate the success he had in his ACC Freshman of The Year campaign in 2014.
Now, injuries have already started to mount in the Boston College backfield, which makes the task of managing Dillon’s work load that much trickier. Sophomore David Bailey exited the Florida State game in the third quarter with an unspecified injury and captain Ben Glines was also sidelined with a lower leg injury.
The risk of making Dillon Addazio’s next victim of an excessive workload might have to be offset by giving opportunities to junior Travis Levy who has only seen 17 carries this season. The Eagles also have a cast of freshmen running backs on their roster that may see playing time if the season continues to sputter. These young backs include Pat Garwo III, Javien Dayne and Quin Stott.
So far, Dillon has handled the workload and excelled into the pantheon of program history this year, and if he is able to continue the load and heroics, it may be enough to get the Eagles to another bowl win and save Addazio’s job. The seventh-year head coach will have some tough calls to make in these final two games as he weighs the risk of injury versus victory with the most important player on his roster.
But, if feeding Dillon doesn’t pay off in the final stretch of this turbulent season, and the workload backfires, then it might not only put an end to Addazio’s tenure in Chestnut Hill, but it may also haunt him by affecting his opportunities in the future.
All eyes will be on Dillon in South Bend this Saturday, and Addazio will have a decision to make about how frequently those eyes will get to see the star rusher on national television. Boston College’s game against the Irish may very well be the climax in the decorated career of their all-time rushing leader as he bares the weight of saving the season and preserving his own future.