Opponent Insider: Talking Boston College
AJ Black, the site editor for BC Maven, took time to answer questions about Boston College and its upcoming matchup against Notre Dame.
Q: Boston College has won seven games in all but one season of Steve Addazio’s previous six seasons, and this season getting to seven wins could be a challenge. Is Boston College content with where things are or is Addazio starting to feel some heat?
Black: Sitting at 5-5 there is still a lot of uncertainty on how this year will play out. Steve Addazio said at the beginning of the year that Boston College's goal should be to go bowling, and unless they beat a vastly superior Notre Dame team, or a strong Pittsburgh team this probably won't happen. If you talk to the fans the final two games don't really matter because it is clear what the limitations and ceiling are for Steve Addazio. He is 21-35 against the ACC and has only one Top 25 in his seven years at the Heights (and that was five years ago). If Addazio goes 5-7 I have to believe the heat on his seat will be immense, if it isn't already. BC's attendance has dwindled and there is a general lack of passion around the program based on the reasons outlined above. If I were to predict, if BC loses the final two games I think Addazio will not be back in 2020.
Q: Has losing QB Anthony Brown hurt the offense much? The pass game is used less, but the overall numbers seem to be good with or without him.
Black: To an extent it has, new quarterback Dennis Grosel, a former walk on, can't throw the deep ball like Brown could, but I believe Grosel is better fitted to run Addazio's system. He is a more accurate passer in the short and underneath passes, which was a huge problem for Brown, and he isn't afraid to run a QB draw or just tuck it and run if his reads aren't there. While the passing numbers have dropped drastically, Grosel has run the offense more efficiently in every game he has started, minus Clemson. I hate cliches but he is a gamer, a QB that does what BC needs whether it is absorbing a huge hit for a touchdown or hitting third-down passes when they need it most.
Q: Obviously Boston College has talent at running back, but what has allowed the Eagles to be so good at running the ball this season?
Black: The offensive line has played excellent this year. One of the biggest questions going into this season was replacing first-round NFL Draft pick Chris Lindstrom and two other starters on the line. Boston College not only replaced them, but I argue this line is better than last year, and possibly the best offensive line Addazio has produced at Boston College.
Tyler Vrabel (son of Tennessee Titan head coach Mike Vrabel) has been a revelation, coming in as under weight under recruited offensive linemen who has progressed to a good ACC starter in just his redshirt freshmen year. Zion Johnson, a transfer from Davidson is possibly the best linemen on the team and is tremendously strong and quick with his hands. Add in Alec Lindstrom (brother of the aforementioned Chris), and Ben Petrula, a preseason first-team All-ACC member, and you have a very good offensive line that can create mammoth holes for David Bailey and AJ Dillon.
Q: The numbers for the Eagle defense aren’t pretty this season. What is the reason for the big drop-off on that side of the ball?
Black: The defense has been a complete mess all season for a number of reasons and I have yet to figure out what is the biggest reason they are struggling all over the place.
First, the defensive line can not get any pressure on the quarterback, BC is near the bottom of the country in sacks, which has allowed opposing QBs to sit in the pocket and pick apart their secondary. Secondly, they are very mistake prone. They have younger players, so some mistakes are expected, but what you see is a constant array of mistakes: missed tackles, wrong gap assignments, safeties out of place, the list goes on and and on.
Finally, the scheme is killing them. Boston College plays a base 4-3 defense, and rarely do you see them come out of it, even on third-and-long. Opposing teams have killed them because of this, as offenses will go heavy with WR's and force BC to cover a slot receiver with a big lumbering safety or linebacker. Combine that with no pass rush and you can see how that will end up.
Q: What is your biggest concern about this matchup from a BC point of view? What is the area where BC has the best matchup against Notre Dame?
Black: My biggest concern all year has been the defense, and rightfully so. But to hone in a specific answer I would say my biggest concern is defending Ian Book. BC's defenses under Addazio have historically struggled against dual threat quarterbacks, and Book is better than any they have faced all year. I imagine he will be able to find a lot of space against a slower less talented BC defense and pick up easy first downs with his feet whenever needed.
In terms of the best matchup for BC? I would say it's the rushing offense against ND's rushing defense. However, I couch my optimism here because ND is talented enough to do what Clemson did which was just stack the box and force BC to throw the ball, which will be a recipe for disaster.
Q: If BC beats Notre Dame on Saturday it will be because ….
They can make a stop on defense. If BC's defense can get off the field and allow Dillon and Bailey to do their thing, they could make this competitive. Truthfully though, I doubt this defense that allowed Kansas to put up 600 yards will be stopping Notre Dame.