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Boston College's offense cannot be worse in 2016, but its defense cannot be better

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Steve Addazio needs a rebound after an absolutely bizarre 2015. This is Bill C's daily preview series, working its way through every 2016 team. Catch up on the ACC so far!

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. Challenge accepted

Last year's Wake Forest preview was titled, "I didn't realize an offense could be as bad as Wake Forest's was." Dave Clawson's first Wake offense was absurdly young and averaged 14.8 points per game and, per Off. S&P+, 11.1 adjusted points per game. It was easily the worst in the country.

Technically, Boston College's wasn't that bad in 2015. The Eagles averaged 17.2 points per game and, per Off. S&P+, 15.4 adjusted points per game. They ranked 124th, which meant that somehow there were four offenses worse. (Those four, which I am hesitant to name without involving the witness protection program: ULM, UCF, Charlotte, and Kent State.) They were bad at running and hideously bad at throwing.

The worst part: the timing. In Steve Addazio's first two years, he was able to engineer solid offense. The Eagles ranked 30th in Off. S&P+ in 2013 behind the bludgeoning power of running back Andre Williams. They lost Williams in 2014 but got a combined 2,000 rushing yards out of Jon Hilliman and graduate-transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy.

The defense was moving in the right direction, too. After ranking 73rd in Def. S&P+ in 2013, the Eagles rose to 36th in 2014. They went 7-6 each year but had improved rapidly since the end of the Frank Spaziani era.

It was painfully obvious BC was going to take a step backwards in 2015, however.

The record remained the same in 2014, mainly because the Eagles went from one game above .500 in one-possession games to one game below, but they ran through USC, won four road games for the first time since 2007, played strong run defense, and crafted a clear offensive identity. They were a sound team that gave us a glimpse of what Addazio is trying to build.

There's quite a bit more building to do. After strong improvement for two consecutive years, all expectations are off the table for now. The quarterback is gone, as are last year's top three wideouts, five offensive linemen who had combined for 134 career starts, the defense's two leading pass rushers, and five of the top eight in the secondary.

I needn't have worried about the defense, which went from good to incredible. But a young offense just kept getting younger. As brutal as Georgia Tech's offensive injury troubles were, BC's were worse.

Hilliman played in four games, and new starting quarterback Darius Wade played in three. The top three backup running backs missed a combined eight games, and three quarterbacks -- all freshmen, one a walk-on -- lined up behind center when Wade went down. Eight different linemen started at least one game.

The receivers remained reasonably healthy, but they were green, and there weren't any quarterbacks who could get the ball to them anyway.

This was a complete and total implosion. But if you're going to implode, you might as well do it with freshmen and sophomores. Wade and Hilliman are back, Addazio has added graduate transfers at quarterback and on the offensive line, and the receiving corps is led by sophomores and juniors instead of freshmen and sophomores. There is almost literally nowhere to go but up.

When an Addazio offense regresses, it plummets. In his two years as Temple's head coach, he improved the Owls' Off. S&P+ rating from 95th to 64th, then watched it drop right back to 96th. And in three years at BC, he's improved it from 103rd to 30th, then watched it fall from 46th to 124th. An optimist would say that's good news for 2016 -- if nothing else, he's turned really bad offenses around before.

But the offense will have to turn around, because there's also almost nowhere for the defense to go but down. It is experienced, if thin, but it is replacing a pair of fantastic linemen, and it's got a new defensive coordinator. Don Brown's 2015 performance was so impressive that he got a call from Jim Harbaugh and moved to Ann Arbor. Addazio replaced him with Iowa linebackers coach and former BC DC Jim Reid.

Even with a dreadful offense, it took BC five one-possession losses to fall to 3-9. The Eagles aren't far from a solid rebound. But Addazio has spent whatever goodwill he had banked from a decent first couple of years. Can he win some of it back?

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 5-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 70 | Final S&P+ Rk: 67
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep Maine N/A 24-3 W 78% 100% +2.6
12-Sep Howard N/A 76-0 W 99% 100% +34.4
18-Sep Florida State 12 0-14 L 30% 5% -3.6 -6.5
26-Sep Northern Illinois 66 17-14 W 78% 95% -4.9 -1.5
3-Oct at Duke 74 7-9 L 63% 72% +11.8 +5.0
10-Oct Wake Forest 92 0-3 L 47% 72% -16.1 -10.5
17-Oct at Clemson 2 17-34 L 31% 4% +11.3 -1.5
24-Oct at Louisville 39 14-17 L 34% 18% -1.9 +4.5
31-Oct Virginia Tech 59 10-26 L 35% 27% -23.0 -13.5
7-Nov NC State 49 8-24 L 7% 0% -15.9 -12.0
21-Nov vs. Notre Dame 7 16-19 L 36% 16% +10.8 +13.5
28-Nov at Syracuse 85 17-20 L 61% 83% -3.5 -6.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 15.4 124 14.0 3
Points Per Game 17.2 121 15.3 4

2. The wheels on the bus go flying off

BC's defense was damn good by any measure. The Eagles allowed more than 20 points just three times; they allowed 3.8 yards per play to FSU, 2.7 to NIU, 4.9 to Louisville, 4.0 to Virginia Tech, and 3.4 to Syracuse. They suffered some blips along the way -- 34 points and 6.8 yards per play to Clemson, 24 and 5.9 to NC State, respectively -- but this was a dynamite unit.

Still, the Eagles' overall statistical profile probably benefited a bit from what they did to outmanned Maine and Howard squads. Two games in, BC had allowed 102 yards and three points. Both Maine and Howard were credited with seven rushing yards, and Howard combined that with just four passing yards.

BC scored 206 points in 2015, and 37 percent of them came in one game. Take out the 76-3 Howard win, and BC averaged 11.8 points.

Even acknowledging the lopsidedness of these two games, however, there was still a clear trend. The Eagles came within five points of a 5-1 start with great defense and merely bad offense, then watched as the offense got slightly worse and the defense became mortal.

  • First 4 games vs. FBS opposition
    Record: 1-3 | Average percentile performance: 55% (~top 60) | Yards per play: BC 4.0, Opp 3.1 (+0.9)
  • Last 6 games:
    Record: 0-6 | Average percentile performance: 34% (~top 85) | Yards per play: Opp 5.2, BC 3.9 (-1.3)

BC managed to lose four games while allowing 17 or fewer points, which is pretty difficult to do.

But seriously, it was a damn shame BC lost those Duke and Wake Forest games. The Eagles could have won 10-9 and 6-3, and they'd have been 5-1 and probably receiving poll votes ... while having scored 33 points in four games against FBS teams.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.19 102 IsoPPP+ 69.7 126
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 30.4% 128 Succ. Rt. + 76.0 125
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.9 47 Def. FP+ 29.0 53
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.0 104 Redzone S&P+ 98.8 78
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.7 ACTUAL 20 +0.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 126 126 125 126
RUSHING 73 111 116 107
PASSING 125 127 128 127
Standard Downs 128 128 127
Passing Downs 114 99 120
Q1 Rk 121 1st Down Rk 124
Q2 Rk 125 2nd Down Rk 118
Q3 Rk 124 3rd Down Rk 90
Q4 Rk 77

3. A Scot Loeffler offense

Loeffler has now been an offensive coordinator at four schools, all of which were basically asking him for a miracle. He came with Addazio to Temple in 2011 and was asked to fix an offense that hadn't been good since the 1970s. He succeeded -- as mentioned, the Owls improved from 95th in Off. S&P+ to a respectable 64th, and it powered a 9-4 squad.

So he's 1-for-3. His Temple success got him hired by Gene Chizik at Auburn. The Tigers' offense had fallen from first in Off. S&P+ to 37th in Gus Mazlahn's last year, and when Malzahn took the Arkansas State head coaching job, Loeffler finalized the collapse. Auburn ranked 93rd; nothing worked.

On to Virginia Tech. The Hokies had fallen from 13th to 44th to 87th in the three years before he arrived. With Loeffler, it neither rebounded nor fell further: They ranked 71st, 85th, and 74th in his three years.

Loeffler's philosophy is hard to read. My first stab at describing it was a word salad: pro-style spread. Power spread? He wants to run and feature plenty of power concepts, but he doesn't slow the tempo to a crawl, and he doesn't mind spreading defenses out.

That he's been a college coordinator for half a decade and it's hard to describe his intentions is probably not a good thing, but a) no coordinator in the world was going to save that 2012 Auburn team, and b) his one success has been when he was paired with Addazio.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Patrick Towles
(Kentucky)
6'5, 238 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8902 183 326 2148 9 14 56.1% 25 7.1% 5.7
Jeff Smith 6'1, 182 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389 27 82 253 2 3 32.9% 8 8.9% 2.3
John Fadule 6'1, 215 So. NR 38 73 464 1 4 52.1% 10 12.0% 4.7
Troy Flutie 6'0, 182 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7959 24 49 382 3 1 49.0% 5 9.3% 6.5
Darius Wade 6'0, 204 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8510 21 42 232 2 1 50.0% 4 8.7% 4.4
Anthony Brown 6'3, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8517








4. Two distinct directions

BC featured a unique quarterback battle this spring. With Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie both tentatively moving to receiver, that left Wade, walk-on John Fadule, and Kentucky graduate transfer Patrick Towles. Wade showed decent run-pass (but mostly run) potential before he got hurt last year, rushing 18 times for 103 yards (not including sacks).

Towles isn't going to run very much but has had his moments gunning the ball around. He didn't have ENOUGH of those moments in Lexington, but in singular performances -- 22-for-27 for 249 yards and two scores against Missouri in 2015, 24-for-43 for 390 yards and two scores against Mississippi State in 2014 -- he was brilliant.

The choice of Wade vs. Towles is as much about style as quality. Combining Wade with a bull like Hilliman and explosive (and inefficient) options like Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis could give BC a dynamic run game if the principles remain healthy, especially if the line takes a step forward after giving freshmen and sophomores 26 starts last year (and adding Jimmy Lowery, a nearly three-year starter at Eastern Illinois).

On the other hand, if you don't think you can get enough efficiency out of those running backs, you could go with more of a pass-first attack by having Towles distribute to juniors Thadd Smith, Charlie Callinan, and Drew Barksdale, sophomores Elijah Robinson and Michael Walker, and countless running backs and tight ends.

Knowing Addazio's style, and acknowledging that Wade was evidently quite a bit better than Towles in the spring game (even while seemingly working on a pass-heavy attack), I figure the former is more likely. But it's nice to have options, right?

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Tyler Rouse RB 5'8, 194 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 100 422 7 4.2 6.0 31.0% 2 0
Myles Willis RB 5'9, 194 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8419 67 259 0 3.9 6.0 29.9% 0 0
Jeff Smith QB/WR 6'1, 182 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389 64 504 6 7.9 9.9 48.4% 6 2
Marcus Outlow RB 53 241 1 4.5 4.3 37.7% 0 0
Jon Hilliman RB 6'0, 224 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8808 51 198 2 3.9 2.9 37.3% 1 1
John Fadule QB 6'1, 215 So. NR NR 29 171 0 5.9 7.1 41.4% 2 2
Richard Wilson FB 5'10, 224 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8080 25 73 1 2.9 3.1 24.0% 0 0
Darius Wade QB 6'0, 204 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8510 18 103 0 5.7 5.0 44.4% 0 0
Troy Flutie QB/WR 6'0, 182 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7959 18 62 0 3.4 5.0 27.8% 2 1
Jordan Gowins RB 15 43 0 2.9 2.6 26.7% 2 2
Sherman Alston WR 13 36 0 2.8 2.7 38.5% 2 1
Thadd Smith WR 5'9, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8675 9 56 0 6.2 3.9 55.6% 1 0

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Thadd Smith WR 5'9, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8675 33 17 233 51.5% 15.7% 7.1 45.5% 39.4% 1.49
David Dudeck WR 30 15 127 50.0% 14.3% 4.2 40.0% 26.7% 1.26
Elijah Robinson WR 6'2, 187 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8503 29 11 111 37.9% 13.8% 3.8 44.8% 20.7% 1.62
Charlie Callinan WR 6'4, 224 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8210 25 14 192 56.0% 11.9% 7.7 56.0% 44.0% 1.63
Tyler Rouse RB 5'8, 194 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 15 11 186 73.3% 7.1% 12.4 60.0% 66.7% 1.85
Sherman Alston WR
14 7 77 50.0% 6.7% 5.5 35.7% 35.7% 1.41
Bobby Wolford FB 6'2, 248 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8403 12 9 80 75.0% 5.7% 6.7 66.7% 58.3% 0.93
Bobby Swigert WR 11 5 39 45.5% 5.2% 3.5 18.2% 36.4% 0.93
Marcus Outlow RB
9 4 53 44.4% 4.3% 5.9 22.2% 22.2% 2.39
Tommy Sweeney TE 6'5, 246 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7939 8 5 68 62.5% 3.8% 8.5 75.0% 62.5% 1.16
Michael Walker WR 6'0, 195 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8106 4 2 41 50.0% 1.9% 10.3 25.0% 50.0% 1.48
Drew Barksdale WR 5'11, 198 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8178 3 3 20 100.0% 1.4% 6.7 33.3% 33.3% 1.84
Michael Giacone TE 6'5, 254 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8419
Jeff Smith WR 6'1, 182 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389
Jake Burt TE 6'5, 230 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8084
Troy Flutie WR 6'0, 182 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7959
Ben Glines WR 6'2, 205 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8414
Nolan Borgersen WR 6'3, 200 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8371
Kobay White WR 6'1, 187 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482

5. A lot of guys who bring one thing to the table

Willis and Rouse showed explosiveness in the open field but almost never found the open field. Hilliman has not been as efficient as his four-star status and size (224 pounds) would suggest, but he seemed to be improving last year. Wade could bring one hell of a read-option game but was wholly unimpressive throwing. Towles is somewhat mobile (he'll give you three or four non-sack rushes for 15-20 yards in a given game) but has been best as a stand-and-throw statue.

It continues with the receiving corps. Thadd Smith is the size of a slot receiver but offered explosiveness (13.7 yards per catch) with almost no efficiency. Charlie Callinan was basically the same, only from a tight end-sized package. Jeff Smith is a strong athlete who was far worse than Wade at throwing and was slow to adapt to receiver this spring. Rouse and fullback Bobby Wolford were efficient receiving options out of the backfield, but you can't base a decent offense around fullback flares. (Oh, but if you could...)

Loeffler has his work cut out for him. He's got options, but it's mostly one-dimensional talent.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 88.4 2.26 2.95 36.0% 61.5% 26.5% 59.6 10.3% 11.8%
Rank 115 125 93 100 93 127 125 126 120
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Harris Williams LG 12 26
Jon Baker C 6'3, 293 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8547 12 13
Dave Bowen RT 10 10
Chris Lindstrom RG 6'4, 260 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8275 9 9
Jim Cashman LG 6'7, 302 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8434 7 7
Aaron Monteiro LT 6'7, 336 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8464 5 5
Frank Taylor C
3 3
James Hendren RT
2 2
Jimmy Lowery
(Eastern Illinois)
OL 6'4, 290 Sr. NR NR 12 30
Sam Schmal LT 6'6, 294 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8183 0 0
Austin Stevens RG 6'3, 270 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826 0 0
Anthony Palazzolo OL 6'6, 315 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8590

Wyatt Knopfke OL 6'4, 285 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8449

John Phillips OL 6'6, 295 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8390

Shane Leonard OL 6'1, 291 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8301

Sean Ragan OL 6'5, 291 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8269


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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.26 67 IsoPPP+ 134.4 2
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 29.1% 1 Succ. Rt. + 133.0 2
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.9 45 Off. FP+ 30.3 57
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 3.2 2 Redzone S&P+ 166.4 1
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.5 ACTUAL 23.0 +7.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 1 2 2 2
RUSHING 2 2 2 2
PASSING 6 14 8 21
Standard Downs 10 7 17
Passing Downs 1 1 1
Q1 Rk 13 1st Down Rk 2
Q2 Rk 3 2nd Down Rk 3
Q3 Rk 9 3rd Down Rk 3
Q4 Rk 1

6. The Leicester of college football defenses

Leicester recently won the English Premier League based on a unique concoction of perfect counter-attacking and pace. While all of soccer's haves were purchasing brilliant foreign talent, the Foxes rode to the title with a few unproven pieces and a couple of Englishmen who had failed in their first try at the big-time. Manager Claudio Raineri, once fired by Chelsea, used almost the same lineup all year.

That's an over-simplification -- Leicester's story requires a lot more than one paragraph -- but BC's defense in a lot of ways reminded me of Leicester. The sustainability might, too.

After solid improvement in 2014, Don Brown, who has bounced around to nearly every Northeastern school (Dartmouth, Yale, Plymouth State, Brown, UMass, Northeastern, Maryland, UConn, BC), found the perfect mix of old-school principles, a willing collection of talent, and a small rotation. And because the defense didn't suffer the injuries the offense suffered, he got away with it.

Reid has quite a bit to work with with the return of three of the top five on the line, two of three linebackers, and five of six defensive backs. But injuries will almost certainly hit this unit harder than they did last year, and without the strong core of end Mehdi Abdesmad, tackle Connor Wujcak, and middle linebacker Steven Daniels, it's easy to wonder if the recipe has been altered a bit too much. Last year's defense was uniquely brilliant; this year's may be only good.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 144.4 1.97 1.99 26.6% 56.2% 31.3% 136.1 5.2% 12.0%
Rank 1 1 2 1 19 1 15 59 7
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Harold Landry DE 6'3, 245 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8606 12 48.5 8.1% 14.5 4.5 0 0 3 1
Mehdi Abdesmad DE 12 42.0 7.0% 15.0 5.5 0 0 0 0
Connor Wujciak NT 12 27.5 4.6% 11.0 4.5 0 0 1 0
Truman Gutapfel DT 6'3, 281 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7914 12 20.0 3.3% 7.5 2.0 0 1 0 0
Kevin Kavalec DE 6'2, 253 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7982 11 16.5 2.8% 8.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Ray Smith DT 6'1, 264 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8393 5 4.5 0.8% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Wyatt Ray DE 6'3, 230 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8447 12 3.5 0.6% 1.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Evan Kelly NT 12 3.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jack Cottrell DE 6'4, 247 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8519 2 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Zach Allen DE 6'5, 265 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8461 12 1.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Noa Merritt DT 6'0, 268 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7756
Kevin Cohee DT 6'2, 257 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8295
Tanner Karafa DE 6'3, 240 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8439
Bryce Morais DE 6'5, 259 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8493








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Steven Daniels MLB 12 66.5 11.1% 16.0 6.0 1 2 0 0
Connor Strachan MLB 6'2, 230 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8810 12 61.5 10.3% 12.5 2.0 2 1 0 0
Matt Milano SLB 6'1, 218 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8220 12 54.0 9.0% 17.5 6.5 0 3 2 1
Ty Schwab WLB 6'1, 222 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8266 10 12.5 2.1% 2.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Mike Strizak WLB 6'2, 239 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8789 12 4.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Kevin Bletzer SLB 6'2, 217 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7992 12 3.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Colton Cardinal LB 6'3, 230 So. NR NR 2 2.0 0.3% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sharrieff Grice SLB 6'1, 201 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8268
Jimmy Martin LB 5'11, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8307
Ethan Tucky LB 6'3, 218 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8684








7. Who's gone vs. who's back

It wasn't a complete surprise that BC's line stats were so good in 2015. The Eagles ranked 30th in Adj. Line Yards and fourth in stuff rate in 2014 and returned four of their top five linemen. Plus, Abdesmad was returning from injury, and former four-star recruit Harold Landry was ready for a breakthrough.

The degree of dominance, however, was a little bit of a surprise. BC was first in Adj. Line Yards, first in stuff rate, second in Rushing S&P+, and suddenly 15th in Adj. Sack Rate as well. The Eagles combined a brilliant run defense with the best passing downs defense in the country.

If you look at the talent that left, you have to figure regression is on the way. But I already made that point. And if you look at who's back, it's hard to assume BC won't still hvae a pretty potent front line.

It starts with Landry and Matt Milano. These edge defenders combined for 32 tackles for loss and 11 sacks last year, and that wasn't all because of Abdesmad, Wujcak and Daniels. Their return gives BC proven attacking ability. Plus, in Connor Strachan, the Eagles have a willing, awesome run defender at middle linebacker, and in end Kevin Kavalec and tackle Truman Gutapfel, they have two guys who shined in reserve roles.

It's easy to worry about depth in the front seven, but if the intended starting seven can avoid injury or the most part, it will still be a really good unit.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Justin Simmons FS 12 58.0 9.7% 1 0 5 2 2 0
John Johnson SS 6'0, 198 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7919 12 54.0 9.0% 1.5 0.5 3 3 2 0
Gabriel McClary CB 6'3, 204 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8392 12 25.5 4.3% 1 1 0 2 2 0
Kamrin Moore CB 5'11, 192 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8367 8 23.0 3.8% 2 0 0 4 0 0
William Harris SS 6'2, 193 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8272 12 18.5 3.1% 0 0 1 1 1 0
Isaac Yiadom CB 6'1, 184 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8396 9 16.5 2.8% 0 0 1 4 0 0
Taj-Amir Torres CB 5'10, 170 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7932 11 9.5 1.6% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Atem Ntantang FS 5'11, 193 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7844 12 5.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Palmer DB 6'1, 163 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8054

8. Nobody get hurt

BC survived a couple of injuries in the back last year -- corner Kamrin Moore suffered a leg injury near the end of October, and Isaac Yiadom got hurt a game later. This was the primary reason for late-season regression: After allowing a 97.0 passer rating through eight games, the Eagles allowed a 119.0 over the last four and a 146.1 against Scot Loeffler's Virginia Tech offense.

The base of returnees is strong with John Johnson, Gabriel McClary and William Harris at safety and Gabriel McClary, Moore, Yiadom, and Taj-Amir Torres at corner. But there aren't any obvious reinforcements waiting in the wings, so if injuries occur again, it's hard to imagine there won't be more regression this time around.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Alex Howell 92 41.7 6 24 22 50.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Colton Lichtenberg 5'10, 175 So. 24 60.1 4 3 16.7%
Alex Howell 17 58.2 4 0 23.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Mike Knoll 6'0, 207 Jr. 9-9 2-2 100.0% 0-1 0.0%
Colton Lichtenberg 5'10, 175 So. 6-6 1-3 33.3% 2-3 66.7%
Alex Howell

8-8 1-2 50.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Michael Walker KR 6'0, 195 So. 24 28.6 0
Myles Willis KR 5'9, 194 Sr. 3 21.7 0
Sherman Alston PR 22 8.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 101
Field Goal Efficiency 125
Punt Return Success Rate 81
Kick Return Success Rate 28
Punt Success Rate 15
Kickoff Success Rate 109

9. Punting was a (necessary) strength

The bad news: BC cycled through three place-kickers and stunk at kickoff coverage.

The good news: That rarely mattered with an offense that didn't score.

Punter Alex Howell was awesome, with came in handy considering he was asked to punt 92 times, more than anyone in the country outside of Kent State's Anthony Melchiori. But he's gone, so uh, maybe BC shouldn't punt so much this year. Analysis!

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep vs. Georgia Tech 54 0.3 51%
10-Sep at Massachusetts 127 18.3 85%
17-Sep at Virginia Tech 32 -8.1 32%
24-Sep Wagner NR 47.6 100%
1-Oct Buffalo 109 19.4 87%
7-Oct Clemson 3 -16.0 18%
22-Oct Syracuse 44 2.4 56%
29-Oct at N.C. State 40 -6.2 36%
5-Nov Louisville 20 -6.2 36%
11-Nov at Florida State 5 -18.5 14%
19-Nov Connecticut 81 10.2 72%
26-Nov at Wake Forest 74 0.6 51%
Projected wins: 6.4
Five-Year F/+ Rk -2.5% (67)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 64 / 66
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 3 / -4.1
2015 TO Luck/Game +2.7
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 81% (92%, 71%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 5.9 (-2.9)

10. This is a tenuous time for Addazio

With an offense that almost certainly won't be as bad, BC very nearly won eight games last year.

With a defense that almost certainly won't be as good, BC lost nine games and nearly lost a 10th.

Both of these things are true, and it makes it very difficult to figure out the Eagles in 2016.

I expected a reset from Addazio's squad in 2015, but I didn't expect the Eagles to lose nine games with the worst power-conference offense in the country. I expect the offense to rebound more than the defense regresses, which means improvement, but how much?

The schedule doesn't feature quite as many tossups as we have seen from other ACC slates. The Eagles are given between a 36 and 56 percent chance of winning in five games but are likely favorites in four. Split the tossups, and you're bowling again.

A few close losses in 2014 meant Addazio hadn't stored up as much goodwill as he should have from what really was an impressive two-year surge. And a total offensive collapse (with a few more close losses) meant he used all of it up. He needs to rebound this year, and he probably will.