Boston College Football Roundtable: Previewing The Duke Game
The Boston College Football Roundtable returns this week with panelists Emma Healy, sports editor of The Heights, Dan Rubin of BCEagles.com, and Kevin Stone of NE Football Journal, and AJ Black. Today the panel discusses some of the biggest topics surrounding the Duke game.
Boston College is the underdog this week. Vegas has Duke as the six point favorite and many pundits point to a coaching change as the big reason. While there is a lot of returning talent on both sides of the ball, what do you think the biggest challenge will be moving from Steve Addazio’s run heavy offense to a more balanced pro style attack?
Dan - It’s going to be hard to even compare the two eras, so I’m not sure if we want to use the term challenge or not. Last year’s style was built around completely different styles, mentalities, and, to a degree, personnel, and this year’s team is going to have a completely different battery to start the season. Whoever starts at quarterback didn’t work last year’s training camp as QB1, and David Bailey was an understudy to AJ Dillon last season. There’s a completely new weapon in Jaelen Gill. Given what we’ve heard, I think it will be fine, even though I think it’s reasonable to expect growing pains. There will be some plays resembling some of what the team did last year, but the entirely new staff means it will be completely different.
I don’t know if that answered the question at all, but I think it got the point across, at least.
Kevin — I think it’s as simple as just getting actual game reps and getting to know what works for who in this offense. There’s no question this offense will be far more creative with Frank Cignetti Jr. running the show, and he’s also more equipped to put the skill guys like Flowers, White, Long, Gill & Bailey in positions to succeed. Jurkovec talked about how “on the same page” they were early on in the process, so hopefully that translates to the field. I expect and hope it looks VERY different.
Based on the game last weekend against Notre Dame, what aspects of Duke’s game concern you, specifically against Boston College?
AJ — The wide receivers last week for the Blue Devils were incredibly slippery and tough to tackle. Given the challenges we saw last year from the defense in terms of tackling, I think this could be a major issue going into this game. BC can not give up extra yards after the tackle, they need to finish tackles and keep gains manageable.
Emma—As Hafley said in Tuesday’s press conference, Chase Brice is a force to be reckoned with in the pocket. He’s a sturdy quarterback who can take hits and still complete his passes, as he showed against Notre Dame. Though they’ve got a lot of experience individually, BC’s defensive linemen are new to each other, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can break down the pocket and get to Brice. If not, I’m concerned that Brice will have plenty of time to make big plays like we saw against Notre Dame, including a 55-yard catch-and-run to Eli Pancol four minutes into the contest.
Jeff Hafley made some adjustments on the offensive line, moving three of the four returning starters to different spots on the line. Does this concern you? Why or why not?
Dan - This past February - which feels about 20 years ago - Matt Applebaum talked to the media about finding the best five linemen to start and configuring them to find skillsets. He talked about developing players into insignificant drop-offs, and he touched on the flexibility of moving starters around to keep building abilities, even though he admitted he didn’t want to mess too badly with established starters. Given what we know about the skill on the Boston College line and what we understand about their collective unit, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about from these guys.
AJ — I am going to agree with Dan on this. Zion Johnson, Ben Petrula and Tyler Vrabel could basically play anywhere on that offensive line and still be solid players. Center Alec Lindstrom talked about the versatility of these players this week. It may help the team, but moving Zion Johnson to tackle probably will make him a lot of money in the NFL. Tackles are usually picked a lot higher in the draft, and if he can be dominant there, and also play guard, his draft stock is going to skyrocket.
The starting quarterback has yet to be named. Whether it is Phil Jurkovec or Dennis Grosel, what are you looking to see out of them this week?
Emma—If it’s Grosel, I’m interested to see how he adjusts from Addazio’s run-heavy attack to a more pro-style offense under Hafley and Cignetti. If Jurkovec gets the nod, I’d expect him to be more familiar with a more balanced offense, but his time with it at Notre Dame was limited. Either way, I’m excited to see more perimeter action and downfield shots, since BC’s experienced offensive line will (hopefully) give the QB plenty of time to throw.
Kevin - No matter who it is, I can’t wait to see how creative the play calling is. With so much speed to work with, both quarterbacks should be foaming at the mouth to get an opportunity to get the ball in the hands of the skill guys. Tempo will be interesting as well. You’ve got to expect a more pro-style offense, so I’m curious to see if no huddle is a weapon for them too.
In order for Boston College to win on Sunday what position group needs to have a big game?
AJ: Defensive line. Someone has to rattle Brice, and not let him pick apart this secondary. If the defense can’t get pressure it is going to be a long game.
Emma: Offensive line. Both quarterbacks up for the job—Grosel and Jurkovec—are relatively inexperienced, so expect either one to take some time to adjust. The O-linemen have to give their QB enough time to settle in and not get rattled by big hits early on.
Dan: Offensive line. Three things here: 1) Duke kept Notre Dame to about 15 yards of offense in the first quarter by not letting them touch the ball. 2) If BC can control the clock, Chase Brice can’t sustain drives or hurt the defense. And 3) I’m not doing this to antagonize Kevin...much.
Kevin: Defensive line. Chase Brice almost went in to South Bend and beat ND last week. Pass rush will be huge with the inexperienced secondary.
Photo courtesy of BCEagles.com