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Asked and Answered: The Running Backs

The Eagles made a significant transition in their running back room this offseason. How has it played out?

As with any team in any season, Boston College entered the 2021 season facing numerous questions. Luckily, they brought back all but four starters entering Week 1. That, along with the same coaching staff and a full offseason of practice and training, put the Eagles in a great position to begin the season.

With the Eagles on a bye week after five games, now is a good time to revisit those questions. BC has played two home games and three road games along with one conference game. Obviously, the injury to Phil Jurkovec put a damper on the season. But it’s still appropriate to take stock of where the Eagles stand. In this exercise, I will pose a question from the preseason surrounding Boston College football, discuss if and how it’s been answered, then deliver a verdict.

Asked: How will carries be distributed among the running backs? Who is RB1?

Under Steve Adazzio, the running back position was never in question. He inherited Andre Williams, brought in Myles Willis and Jonathan Hilliman early in his tenure, then pivoted to AJ Dillon and David Bailey. Bailey remained for the first season of the Hafley era. But, as previously mentioned, the offensive line took a while to adjust to the new system and the running game never really took off. Apparently, Bailey struggled to grasp the new offensive system, which led to his transfer to Colorado State, reuniting with Adazzio.

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Back in Chestnut Hill, Boston College retained veteran, do-it-all back Travis Levy and the highly-touted but inconsistent Pat Garwo III. Jeff Hafley went to the transfer portal as well and picked up former West Virginia Mountaineer Alec Sinkfield. Sinkfield brought a different dimension of elusiveness and home-run-hitting ability to the backfield. Additionally, the recruiting class brought Xavier Coleman, a diminutive but explosive athlete.

Through the first three games of the 2021 season, the Eagles deployed an even rotation in the running back room. Each of the three returning backs, Levy, Sinkfield, and Garwo, started one of the first three games. Throughout the games, the three backs cycled in and out on a drive-by-drive basis. In the season opener against Colgate, the running game, in general, did not perform well. But in the second game against UMass, it was Garwo that showed out, rushing for a career-best 160 yards. In the Temple game, the ground game looked more like it did against UMass, but the overall offense struggled.

However, in the next game against Missouri, it became clear who the lead back would be moving forward. Even without his 67-yard touchdown scamper, it became abundantly clear that Pat Garwo deserved to be the Eagles’ primary running back. Garwo displayed great vision and contact balance in another career game for him. He seems like a natural fit for the new BC offense.

In a surprising turn of events, with Garwo seizing the lead job, the rest of the running back room actually fell into appropriately defined roles. Sinkfield looks like the proverbial “change-of-pace” running back, providing the lightning to Garwo’s thunder. Despite being the elder statesman among the backs, Travis Levy is not as well-suited to the role of the lead back. But he has been excellent as the “closer” back. Like a game-ending pitcher, Levy comes on the field for the most important downs, especially late in the game. He made several big plays late in the game against Missouri, both as a runner and receiver. Therefore, even though it doesn’t look like we thought it would, this group of running backs is ready to rock and roll for the rest of the season.

Answered: Pat Garwo III is RB1 but everyone has an appropriate, essential role.