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1. It's not easy to be consistently anything
Last week in my Wisconsin preview, I mentioned how difficult it is to make three straight good head coaching hires. By bringing on Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema back to back, the Badgers embarked on a golden age of sorts with their football program. After three decades of not winning a thing, Wisconsin has for two decades won and won. When Bielema left for Arkansas, however, Wisconsin was forced to try again, and hitting the jackpot three straight times is rough.
Don't believe me? Look at Alabama. Frank Thomas (great), Red Drew (good), Jennings Whitworth (awful). Bear Bryant (brilliant), Ray Perkins (alright), Bill Curry (alright). Gene Stallings (very good), Mike DuBose (no), Dennis Franchione (alright), Mike Shula (no).
Look at Oklahoma. Jim Tatum (good), Bud Wilkinson (brilliant), Gomer Jones (bad). Chuck Fairbanks (great), Barry Switzer (great), Gary Gibbs (alright), Howard Schnellenberger (lol), John Blake (nooooooo).
Or, if you want, look at Boston College. Though the Eagles are not the national name of Alabama or Oklahoma, they have, for the last three decades, gone through the Curse of 3. Jack Bicknell (good), Tom Coughlin (good), Dan Henning (not so good). Tom O'Brien (good), Jeff Jagodzinski (good), Frank Spaziani (not so good).
In the 2000s, Boston College basically pulled off a 1990s Virginia level of success: rarely great but always good. Tom O'Brien won at least seven games for each of his last eight years in Chestnut Hill and won at least nine games four times. When O'Brien left for N.C. State, Jeff Jagodzinski went 20-8 in two years before his awkward dismissal. In all, BC finished in the top 25 for four straight years (2004-07) and finished with a winning record every year from 1999-2010. That's really hard to do. And BC showed just how hard it was by failing to keep it up.
Longtime stud defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani took over for Jagodzinski in 2009, and things pretty quickly went south. BC won nine games and finished 26th in the F/+ rankings in 2008 but sank to eight and 30th in 2009, seven and 49th in 2010, four and 74th in 2011, and two and 88th in 2012. Improvement and regression are rarely linear, but for BC ... it was pretty linear.
Case in point:
2. Gut vs. evidence
Spaziani was an outstanding defensive coordinator but wasn't a very good BC head coach; he's gone now, replaced by a head coach whom one could view in two very different ways.
Without context, Steve Addazio has a hell of a resume. Addazio has nearly 30 years of coaching experience, spent three years as Indiana's offensive coordinator and two as Urban Meyer's at Florida. He spent the last two years as Temple's head coach, where he went 13-11 ... a pretty respectable record at Temple, really.
At the same time...
- A) Addazio is an offensive coach who oversaw either offensive regression or stagnation at each of his last two jobs. He inherited a Florida offense that ranked first in Off. F/+ in both 2007 and 2008; the Gators ranked seventh in 2009 (Tim Tebow's senior season) and 55th in 2010. At Temple, he inherited an offense that was 76th in 2010, jumped to 45th in 2011, then fell back to 76th last year. Overall, he inherited a Temple program from Al Golden that had gone 17-8 in the previous two years, but after a 9-4 finish with a No. 25 F/+ ranking in 2011, the Owls dropped to 4-7 and 84th in their first year back in the Big East.
- B) Addazio is known as a quality recruiter. But in the four years before his Temple arrival, the Owls averaged a Rivals recruiting ranking of 89.5; in his two years at Temple, his classes averaged a ranking of 91.5. (Yes, there is context there; his first, abbreviated class ranked 107th, while his second ranked 76th.) Boston College has a rather impressive 21 commitments so far in the 2014 class, but eight are two-star prospects, and six more have received the lowest three-star designation.
Steve Addazio has been seen as a coach with loads of potential for quite a while. His "hybrids on hybrids" description of his ideal offense is tantalizing. He's ridiculously charismatic. And for all we know, he has just the CEO skills needed to be a successful head coach over the long haul. But the actual results and stats on his résumé are not very impressive. As with recruiting, upside and production are two different things; BC is betting on upside. We'll see if it pays off.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 88|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||Miami||32-41||L||29.7 - 24.6||W|
|8-Sep||Maine||34-3||W||22.1 - 11.8||W|
|15-Sep||at Northwestern||13-22||L||25.3 - 31.0||L|
|29-Sep||Clemson||31-45||L||25.6 - 32.6||L|
|6-Oct||at Army||31-34||L||26.4 - 36.7||L|
|13-Oct||at Florida State||7-51||L||24.7 - 43.9||L|
|20-Oct||at Georgia Tech||17-37||L||30.9 - 28.5||W|
|27-Oct||Maryland||20-17||W||22.5 - 27.9||L|
|3-Nov||at Wake Forest||14-28||L||24.9 - 35.0||L|
|10-Nov||Notre Dame||6-21||L||25.8 - 32.9||L|
|17-Nov||Virginia Tech||23-30||L||24.3 - 27.0||L|
|24-Nov||N.C. State||10-27||L||19.7 - 20.9||L|
|Points Per Game||19.8||111||29.7||75|
|Adj. Points Per Game||25.2||92||29.4||77|
3. If you're going to have bad turnovers luck…
...you might as well do it when you stink anyway. Boston College was the fifth most unlucky team in college football last year; only Illinois, UConn, Virginia, and New Mexico State lost more points to random turnover bounces than the Eagles (minus-4.1 points per game). But they lost only one game by fewer than seven points and went just 1-2 in one-possession games overall. The bad luck perhaps made some losses look less competitive than they were, but they didn't exactly cost BC a lot of wins.
In all, BC was semi-interesting early but pretty quickly established itself on the wrong side of average.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): BC 25.7, Opponent 25.0 (plus-0.7)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 8 games): Opponent 31.6, BC 24.9 (minus-6.7)
There was just no way BC could keep Spaziani for another year, but what betrayed him more than anything was his once-stalwart defense. BC was top-30 in Def. F/+ every year from 2007-10 (and would have been before 2007, too, if we had the data), fell to 51st in 2011, and sank dramatically to 81st in 2012.
|Q1 Rk||100||1st Down Rk||76|
|Q2 Rk||63||2nd Down Rk||56|
|Q3 Rk||79||3rd Down Rk||114|
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Chase Rettig||6'3, 206||Sr.||*** (5.7)||253||467||3,065||54.2%||17||13||33||6.6%||5.7|
|Josh Bordner||6'4, 220||Jr.||*** (5.5)||1||2||7||50.0%||0||0||0||0.0%||3.5|
|Mike Marscovetra||6'4, 207||Sr.||** (5.4)|
|James Walsh||6'2, 185||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Andre Williams||RB||6'0, 227||Sr.||*** (5.7)||130||584||4.5||6.0||4||-8.0|
|David Dudeck||RB||5'11, 190||So.||** (5.4)||39||118||3.0||3.9||1||-6.5|
|Chase Rettig||QB||6'3, 206||Sr.||*** (5.7)||21||61||2.9||4.5||0||-4.3|
|Tahj Kimble||RB||5'11, 211||Jr.||*** (5.6)||17||70||4.1||2.9||0||-1.8|
|Myles Willis||RB||5'9, 187||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
4. You've got to be able to run a little bit
BC's offense bore a strange resemblance to Mike Leach's Washington State O last year: pass-happy and incapable of even pretending to run the ball. The line was awful, and the running backs were only semi-capable of taking advantage of the blocks they got. The Chase Rettig-to-Alex Amidon pitch-and-catch combo was pretty stellar, but BC rushed for more than 100 yards just four times all season, two of the four were against Maine and Army. Big Andre Williams, who missed most of the last four games of the season, had a lovely game against Army (21 carries, 191 yards) but averaged just 3.6 yards per carry the rest of the way, then-sophomore Tajh Kimble was hurt, the line was, again, awful … this was just a bad experience all the way around.
A strong ground game has long been a professed priority for Addazio and offensive coordinator Ryan Day (who was also his OC at Temple), and even last year with a shaky offense, Temple still ranked 21st in Rushing S&P+ (strangely enough, with former Boston College running back Montel Harris playing a major role). It will be interesting to see how much they are able to improve this unit in just one year. A healthy Williams has solid explosiveness for his size, and frankly, the line almost literally cannot be worse. And if the Eagles are at least competent on the ground, that could open up opportunities for not only Amidon, but also junior Spiffy Evans, who is almost too good a return man to be as bad as his 2012 stats suggest.
|Alex Amidon||WR||6'0, 182||Sr.||** (5.4)||145||78||1210||53.8%||8.3||34.1%||55.2%||8.3||164.8|
|Spiffy Evans||WR||5'11, 190||Jr.||*** (5.7)||51||22||247||43.1%||4.8||12.0%||56.9%||4.8||33.6|
|Bobby Swigert||WR||6'1, 186||Sr.||*** (5.7)||37||22||249||59.5%||6.7||8.7%||64.9%||6.6||33.9|
|David Dudeck||RB||5'11, 190||So.||** (5.4)||22||16||115||72.7%||5.2||5.2%||50.0%||4.9||15.7|
|Tahj Kimble||RB||5'11, 211||Jr.||*** (5.6)||11||10||151||90.9%||13.7||2.6%||72.7%||12.4||20.6|
|C.J. Parsons||TE||6'6, 253||Jr.||NR||10||7||34||70.0%||3.4||2.4%||80.0%||3.4||4.6|
|Andre Williams||RB||6'0, 227||Sr.||*** (5.7)||8||4||34||50.0%||4.3||1.9%||50.0%||4.7||4.6|
|Jake Sinkovec||FB||6'4, 244||Sr.||** (5.4)||7||4||69||57.1%||9.9||1.6%||85.7%||7.5||9.4|
|Colin Larmond, Jr.||WR||7||3||19||42.9%||2.7||1.6%||28.6%||4.0||2.6|
|Brian Miller||TE||6'3, 241||So.||**** (5.8)||6||4||43||66.7%||7.2||1.4%||33.3%||5.3||5.9|
|Dan Crimmins||WR||6'5, 222||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Marcus Grant||WR||6'2, 198||So.||*** (5.6)|
|Michael Giacone||TE||6'5, 260||So.||*** (5.6)|
|Emmett Cleary||LT||38 career starts; 2012 2nd All-ACC|
|John Wetzel||RT||24 career starts|
|Ian White||RT||6'5, 302||Sr.||** (5.3)||23 career starts|
|Bobby Vardaro||LG||6'5, 310||Jr.||*** (5.7)||20 career starts|
|Andy Gallik||C||6'3, 302||Jr.||*** (5.5)||15 career starts|
|Matt Patchan (Florida)||LT||6'7, 300||Sr.||***** (6.1)||8 career starts|
|Seth Betancourt||RT||6'6, 298||Jr.||*** (5.7)||3 career starts|
|Bryan Davis||RG||1 career start|
|Dan Lembke||LT||6'6, 304||So.||** (5.3)|
|Harris Williams||RG||6'3, 298||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Paul Gaughan||LG||6'6, 303||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Aaron Kramer||LG||6'7, 299||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Dave Bowen||LT||6'7, 297||So.||** (5.4)|
|Win Homer||OL||6'5, 276||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Frank Taylor||C||6'3, 287||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Jim Cashman||OL||6'7, 298||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
5. How quickly can a talent infusion help a line?
The line does have to replace both tackles (including Emmett Cleary, a second-team all-conference performer), so improvement might not be a given. But there really is almost nowhere to go but up, and newcomers could make a pretty quick difference. The Eagles welcome Florida transfer Matt Patchan and some pretty highly touted redshirt freshmen, including four-star Win Homer, to the rotation, so there could be some hope here. But BC was dead last in both Power Success Rate (short-yardage success) and Stuff Rate (negative plays on the ground); improvement might still mean BC's line is pretty bad.
|Q1 Rk||64||1st Down Rk||51|
|Q2 Rk||58||2nd Down Rk||50|
|Q3 Rk||69||3rd Down Rk||91|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Kasim Edebali||DE||6'3, 246||Sr.||** (5.4)||11||45.5||5.7%||7.5||1.5||0||4||1||1|
|Mehdi Abdesmad||DT||6'7, 278||Jr.||*** (5.5)||12||17.5||2.2%||3||0||0||1||1||1|
|Connor Wujciak||DT||6'3, 300||So.||**** (5.8)||10||17.0||2.1%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Brian Mihalik||DE||6'9, 283||Jr.||*** (5.5)||9||16.0||2.0%||3.5||1||0||4||1||0|
|Dominic Appiah||DT||6'5, 291||Jr.||*** (5.7)||10||13.5||1.7%||1.5||0||0||2||2||0|
|Kieran Borcich||DT||6'3, 276||So.||*** (5.7)||8||12.5||1.6%||2.5||0||1||0||0||0|
|Jaryd Rudolph||DT||6'3, 275||Sr.||** (5.0)||7||11.5||1.4%||0.5||0.5||0||1||1||0|
|Malachi Moore||DE||6'7, 252||So.||** (5.4)||4||3.5||0.4%||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|Kaleb Ramsey||DT||6'3, 285||Sr.||*** (5.6)||2||3.0||0.4%||0.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Nick Lifka||DE||6'2, 274||So.||*** (5.6)|
|Tevin Montgomery||DT||6'5, 295||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
6. BC couldn't rush the passer? BC?
BC hasn't always had a Matt Ryan offense at its disposal, but defense was long a strength for the Eagles. And even last year, they were perfectly decent on standard downs, preventing big plays and playing at a top-30 level overall. But thanks mostly to the country's worst pass rush, BC was a passing-downs abomination, almost completely incapable of closing drives and getting off the field.
That's right, the nation's worst pass rush. UTSA ranked 110th in Adj. Sack Rate, Wyoming ranked 116th, UMass ranked 118th, Kansas ranked 120th, Texas State ranked 121st, New Mexico State ranked 122nd, and Eastern Michigan ranked 123rd. BC ranked lower than all of them. BC recorded four sacks in the first four games, which is a pretty bad total. The Eagles then recorded two sacks in the final eight games. TWO. BC defensive ends combined for 3.5 sacks. BC linebackers combined for two (both from Kevin Pierre-Louis). And that's pretty much it. You almost have to trying NOT to get the QB when you're only bringing him down 1.2 percent of the time on passing downs.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Steele Divitto||MLB||6'2, 237||Sr.||*** (5.5)||12||73.0||9.2%||0.5||0||0||6||2||4|
|Kevin Pierre-Louis||SLB||6'1, 225||Sr.||**** (5.8)||9||68.0||8.6%||4||2||0||3||0||0|
|Sean Duggan||MLB||6'4, 241||Jr.||*** (5.7)||11||28.0||3.5%||1||0||0||1||1||1|
|Steven Daniels||WLB||6'0, 249||So.||**** (5.8)||9||20.5||2.6%||0.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Keyes||SLB||6'2, 216||Jr.||** (5.4)||10||17.5||2.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tim Joy||LB||6'2, 222||So.||*** (5.5)||9||10.5||1.3%||1.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Mike Strizak||WLB||6'2, 239||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Jack Cottrell||LB||6'4, 215||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
7. Talent on paper
New defensive coordinator Don Brown, if nothing else, has proven that he can field a pretty good defense in the northeast. His two Maryland defenses (2009-10) ranked 57th and 26th in Def. F/+, and his two UConn defense (2011-12) ranked 28th and 26th. UConn had a stout front seven last season, and he's got some interesting pieces here, new (four-star sophomore tackle Connor Wujciak) and old (senior linebackers Steele Divitto and Kevin Pierre-Louis). His first BC defense could be decent, but only if he figures out how to get guys in passers' faces at a higher frequency.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Sean Sylvia||FS||6'0, 208||Jr.||*** (5.5)||12||69.0||8.7%||1.5||0||1||4||0||0|
|Spenser Rositano||SS||6'1, 208||Jr.||** (5.4)||10||44.5||5.6%||2||0||3||6||1||1|
|Justin Simmons||FS||6'3, 188||So.||*** (5.6)||12||41.5||5.2%||0||0||1||4||2||0|
|Manny Asprilla||CB||5'10, 167||Jr.||** (5.4)||12||34.5||4.3%||2.5||0||2||5||1||0|
|Al Louis-Jean (2011)||CB||6'2, 195||So.||**** (5.8)||9||13.0||2.0%||0||0||1||3||1||0|
|Bryce Jones||CB||6'1, 166||So.||** (5.4)||12||12.5||1.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|C.J. Jones||CB||5'11, 185||Jr.||*** (5.5)||7||11.0||1.4%||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|James McCaffrey||DB||5'10, 194||Jr.||** (5.4)||12||8.0||1.0%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Dominique Williams||SS||6'0, 212||Jr.||** (5.3)||9||6.0||0.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ted Davenport||CB||6'1, 203||Jr.||NR||11||3.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Matt Milano||DB||6'1, 202||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
8. The secondary could thrive with any sort of pass rush
Hey, have I mentioned how awful the pass rush was? Because the pass rush was awful. And it stunted the growth of what could have been a pretty good, young secondary in 2012. That BC managed to rank 76th in Passing S&P+ despite the aforementioned sack problems, and despite the fact that nine of 11 DBs were either freshmen or sophomores last year, is actually pretty impressive.
It could be a sign of good things to come. Manny Asprilla was a pretty effectively aggressive corner at times last year, and the return of four-star sophomore Al Louis-Jean, who has barely played in two years because of a foot injury, can only help. The secondary could be good in 2013 and tremendous in 2014. If it gets help. If, if, if.
|Nate Freese||5'11, 192||Sr.||6||33.0||0||3||5||133.3%|
|Nate Freese||5'11, 192||Sr.||52||60||17||32.7%|
|Alex Howell||6'5, 215||So.||4||60||0||0.0%|
|Nate Freese||5'11, 192||Sr.||24-24||16-16||100.0%||2-4||50.0%|
|Spiffy Evans||KR||5'11, 190||Jr.||34||18.6||0|
|Bryce Jones||KR||6'1, 166||So.||4||24.0||0|
|James McCaffrey||KR||5'10, 194||Jr.||4||13.8||0|
|Spiffy Evans||PR||5'11, 190||Jr.||11||25.3||1|
|Special Teams F/+||36|
|Field Goal Pct||4|
|Kick Returns Avg||120|
|Punt Returns Avg||1|
9. Hey, Spiff
Spiffy Evans had an 82-yard punt return touchdown against Maine and a 72-yarder against Maryland. That'll skew the averages a bit, but he still averaged 13.8 yards in his other nine returns, an average that would have placed him in the nation's top 15. That he was so effective in punt returns and so mediocre as a receiver and kick returner is interesting, but ... hey, at least he's a good punt returner.
And with the return of kicker Nate Freese, who was automatic under 40 yards, this unit has a couple of stars. It has issues (kick returns, mediocre kickoffs), but it should once again be a top-40 unit.
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|26-Oct||at North Carolina||29|
|9-Nov||at New Mexico State||123|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||52|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||76|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-5 / +4.9|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||14 (7, 7)|
10. No favors from the schedule-maker
This schedule was not built for a team looking to build confidence after its worst season in 25 years. You want your worst opponents at home, and you want your best opponents near the end of the schedule. Well, Boston College gets USC and Florida State in September, and in its last seven games, three of the four easiest opponents are on the road.
I do expect some growth from BC in 2013. The run game should improve at least a little bit, Rettig-to-Amidon is still a thing, the front seven should benefit a bit from new leadership, and the secondary is exciting.
But BC was just SO BAD in the trenches last year that the Eagles could improve there and still be pretty bad. And the schedule really is an impediment. A top-60 team could get to six wins if it closes out every winnable game, but I figure the bar for BC in 2013 is closer to five. That's better than two, of course.
Long-term, I'm not completely sold on the Addazio hire, but he does have more interesting pieces to work with in 2013 than one might realize, and he might take a pretty decent first step.