The frustration of last season did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Boston College head coach Steve Addazio.
The memories of last season’s 0-8 mark in ACC play – despite boasting one of the nation’s elite defensive units – seemed distant on Friday as Addazio took the podium to address media in attendance at the 2016 ACC Football Kickoff.
“Awfully excited to be here today,” a spirited Addazio said. “Awfully excited that the start of college football is going to be happening here. We're all in a buzz about it. You start to feel that thing heading into summer once the 4th of July is over. It's about football. That's the greatest thing there is. We're talking about the best sport in America.”
The Eagles led the nation in total defense in 2015, but injuries and inexperience on offense wound up telling the final story. Even with the continual week-to-week struggles, BC still came within 14 points of playing in a third consecutive bowl games. Five of the Eagles’ losses were by three or fewer points.
The good news, said Addazio, is that end results didn’t kill the spirit of his football team – nor its head coach – as it looks to make amends, starting with the Sept. 3 season opener against Georgia Tech in Dublin, Ireland.
“This is arguably one of the best teams I've ever been around in terms of our players' commitment to football, their attitude, their passion for the game, and their relentless work ethic throughout the spring and throughout the winter and throughout the summer,” Addazio said.
Linebacker Matt Milano – one of seven returning defensive starters – is more than ready for a fresh start. Several new assistant coaches are on board – including veteran defensive coordinator Jim Reid and defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni – but the Eagles’ hard-nosed overall approach won’t change.
“It's a new year, 2016.” Milano said. “I try not to think about last season. It's a new set of coaches, new set of players. I think we are just putting that behind us, learning from it, moving forward.”
That’s where Addazio’s positive attitude could be the biggest plus, and Milano said it is indeed contagious.
“The energy is definitely something that brings a lot to the table,” Milano said. “Every practice we try to go out there with that same intensity and replicate it on Saturdays. I think you can see that on Saturdays as it does roll over. It's definitely a big factor for us. Keeps us going, keeps us in the game. I think it's the one thing that makes us different from other defenses, is every play coming in with a lot of energy and a lot of passion.”
2015 In Review
Boston College led the nation in total defense (254.3), finished second in rushing defense (82.8) and fifth in team pass efficiency defense (104.56), but Steve Addazio’s Eagles fell victim to inexperience and a significant rash of injuries on offense to finish just 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the ACC...Those records did not tell the entire story, though, as BC was within 14 points of its third straight bowl trip under Addazio, losing five games by three or fewer points...The Eagles got off to a 3-1 start, then lost starting QB Darius Wade and RB Jon Hilliman and several others to injuries, losing eight straight games, none by more than 17 points...DT Connor Wujciak and LB Steven Daniels keyed an aggressive defense and earned first-team All-ACC honors while S Justin Simmons was a second-team All-ACC honoree...DEs Mehdi Abdesmad and Harold Landry were Honorable Mention All-ACC.
BC’s main losses are on defense this year and begin with coordinator Don Brown who will be plying his trade at Michigan this year...Addazio was able, though, to hire away a quality replacement in veteran coordinator and former Richmond head coach Jim Reid from Iowa...BC will also feature a new offensive coordinator in former Virginia Tech OC Scot Loeffler...The Eagles lose only four starters on “D”, but they are all key players in Wujciak, Daniels, Simmons and Abdesmad...Offensively, BC will be without OL Dave Bowen and Harris Williams and TE Louie Addazio.
The Eagles’ slate begins in Ireland and has a definite Northeastern flavor...BC opens the year with Georgia Tech in Dublin in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic and then faces non-conference foes Massachusetts, Wagner, Buffalo and Connecticut.
For the first time in three seasons, Boston College won’t have to rebuild its entire front as C Jon Baker, G Chris Lindstrom and T Aaron Monteiro all return to their starting positions to anchor the line...Wade, a dual-threat QB, returns after playing in only three games last fall due to injury...He will face competition in the fall from Patrick Towles, a graduate transfer from Kentucky...More of a pocket passer, Towles completing 56 percent of his passes for 2,158 yards for the Wildcats...Hilliman, who ran for 860 yards and 13 TDs as a freshman in 2014, Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse return at RB, where they are joined by promising redshirt freshman Davon Jones...Addazio’s teams like to utilize a physical ground game and the Eagles appear to have the weapons this time to be successful...Former QB Jeff Smith takes his speed and talents to wide receiver, where he is joined by Elijah Robinson, Charlie Callinan and Thadd Smith with kickoff specialist Michael Walker adding more speed to the mix...Defense is where the Eagles will be looking to fill some holes, though LBs Connor Strachan and Matt Milano, DEs Harold Landry and Kevin Kavalec and DT Truman Gutapfel are excellent building blocks...Despite losing Simmons, an NFL draft pick, the Eagles return four starters in the secondary in CBs Gabriel McClary and John Johnson and SS Isaac Yiadom and Kamrin Moore...Look for LB Mike Strizak, DT Ray Smith and CB Taj-Amir Torres to push for playing time.
Numbers & Notes
2.73 - Over its last 25 games, or the past two seasons, Boston College’s defense has allowed just 2.73 yards per rushing attempt. The Eagles finished second nationally in both 2014 and 2015 in defense against the run. The 2.73 yards per attempt leads the nation over the past two seasons.
9.6 - Boston College led the nation in team tackles for loss in 2015, averaging 9.6 tackles for loss per game. A true team effort, the Eagles did not have a player in the NCAA’s Top 25, but had five players record 12.5 tackles for loss or more, with three of them returning this fall in LB Matt Milano (17.5), DE Harold Landry (15.5) and LB Connor Strachan (12.5).
6.5 - Jeff Smith averaged 6.5 yards per carry in an abbreviated stint at quarterback for the Eagles last year as a true freshman. Smith moved to wide receiver in spring practice to bring more explosiveness to the Eagles’ receiving corps. Smith ran for 100 yards against Notre Dame on just five carries and 117 yards against Syracuse.
28.6 - Michael Walker finished second in the ACC and eighth nationally in kickoff return average last year as a freshman. Walker averaged 28.6 yards on his 24 returns.
2,122 - RBs Jon Hilliman (1,058) and Myles Willis (1,064) have combined for 2,122 rushing yards in ther careers at BC. Both missed significant time with injuries last year, but both are expected back healthy this fall.