Previewing Saturday's Game With BC Bulletin's AJ Black
To preview Saturday's game against the Eagles, we spoke with AJ Black, publisher of the SI Duke site BC Bulletin. He gives an insider's perspective on the team and the upcoming game. Make sure to follow him on Twitter as well for analysis throughout the season.
Shawn Krest: What can we expect from new coach Jeff Hafley, and does he have the pieces in place to do what he wants this year?
AJ Black: Hafley is a first year head coach who has had multiple stops both in the NFL and in the college ranks. His specialty is the defensive side of the ball, and as he mentioned Wednesday he is going to tailor his scheme based on the talent in front of him. We will talk more about it further later but he addressed some of the glaring issues (quarterback, defensive line) by landing some impact transfers. On top of that, credit to former head coach Steve Addazio who left the program in pretty good shape. Hafley doesn't have to do a complete rebuild at Boston College he has to just tinker with the players that he has, which should leave him in position to compete in 2020.
Shawn Krest: Hafley is a defensive guy, but the offense seems in good hands with former NFL O/C Frank Cignetti and former Notre Dame QB Phil Jurkovec. Are we done seeing the run-heavy Boston College offenses of recent years?
AJ Black:The run heavy offenses of years past are gone. The Eagles will be going to what Cignetti called a pro style offense with a touch of spread. When talking about his scheme, Cignetti did acknowledge that this team is built to pound the ball if needed, but they should have the flexibility to a lot more. David Bailey the running back played Robin to AJ Dillon's Batman last year, and will be the lead rusher. While I think long term they won't be a heavy rushing team, don't be surprised if they try and keep things simple and on the ground on Saturday, especially given the strength of that offensive line.
Shawn Krest: Hafley has gotten to work on this defense, bringing in a host of graduate transfers. Who are the experienced newcomers who can have the biggest impact on that side of the ball?
AJ Black: The Eagles most likely will have three graduate transfers starting on defense this year. The biggest is the most recent transfer, Luc Bequette from Cal. Hafley has him slotted already as one of the starting tackles mirroring his last year with Cal, but Bequette played two years of defensive end as well. The Eagles badly need a pass rush, and Bequette should be an improvement over what they had last year. In his final season with the Golden Bears he had 5.5 sacks. Deon Jones was recruited by BC's defensive backs coach while at Maryland, and is projected to start at one of the safety positions, while Chibueze "Boozie" Onwuka will be the other starting defensive tackle. He played last year with Buffalo, and has impressed his teammates already in camp.
Shawn Krest: This offseason seems to be the worst possible timing for a new coaching staff and transfers at quarterback and across the defense. Has BC had enough time together to be on the same page at this point?
AJ Black: That's the big question, and with practices closed we won't know until Saturday. Hafley has talked a lot about how impressed he has been with where the team is versus where they were, but has admitted he hasn't given them the whole playbook yet. I think Hafley and his offense will try and keep things simple on Saturday, to put his team in the best position on Saturday.
Shawn Krest: What is a reasonable expectation for the Eagles this season?
AJ Black: Analysts and Vegas have BC around 4 wins this season, but I have them performing better than that, and becoming bowl eligible. Here is why. Boston College's offense has more weapons than any team I can remember since Matt Ryan. Zay Flowers, Hunter Long, David Bailey, Kobay White, and that offensive line are really going to put BC's offenses over the top. Add in the potential with Phil Jurkovec, but reminder we haven't seen him as a starter, and this offense will put up points. So that leaves the defense, which was dreadful last year. There were three major issues with the defense: youth, lack of pressure and scheme/technique. Scheme and technique will be addressed just by having a new staff, and I believe Hafley had enough time to fix that. Lack of pressure, by replacing 3/4 of the offensive line, two players of which are graduate transfers. Finally, youth, this team grew up quickly and I don't believe that will be an issue this year. If Hafley let's Frank Cignetti Jr. run his offense, and he focuses on the game and defense I think BC should be a bowl eligible team at the end of the year.
Shawn Krest: What are you expecting from Saturday’s game?
AJ Black: I think BC is going to surprise some people, just like Duke did last weekend. The key to this game is BC's offensive line, which I don't think is getting enough credit. If they can keep Jurkovec clean, and open some holes for Bailey, I think the rust comes off quickly for this squad. Expect a tight game, probably one position with the winner determined late. I'll give my official prediction on BC Bulletin on Friday morning.