- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Boston College Eagles:
Key returners: RB Myles Willis, WR Josh Bordner, LG Bobby Vardaro, C Andy Gallik, RG Harris Williams, DT Mehdi Abdesmad, LB Steven Daniels, LB Josh Keyes, CB Manuel Asprilla, CB Bryce Jones, S Dominique Williams
Key losses: QB Chase Rettig, RB Andre Williams, WR Alex Amidon, LT Matt Patchan, RT Ian White, DE Kasim Edebali, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Steele Divitto, K/P Nate Freese
Most important 2014 games: Sept. 5 vs. Pitt, Sept. 13 vs. USC, Nov. 1 at Virginia Tech, Nov. 22 at Florida State, Nov. 29 vs. Syracuse
Projected win percentage: 37.9 percent
Over/under Vegas odds: 5 wins
Instant impact newcomer: Florida transfer Tyler Murphy is the front-runner to start at quarterback, having been recruited to Gainesville back when Eagles coach Steve Addazio was an assistant there. Murphy started six games last year for the Gators, completing 60.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions, adding 61 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
High point from 2013: Pick any Andre Williams highlight and you'll find it easy to understand how the previously unsung running back bullied his way to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Williams rushed for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns, finishing fourth in the Heisman voting. His 166 yards and two touchdowns in a Nov. 2 upset of Virginia Tech sparked a four-game winning streak for BC, helping the Eagles get to a bowl in Year 1 under Addazio.
Low point from 2013: A two-game slide to finish the season at 7-6 diminished some of the glow that had come from such a surprising run during BC's four-game winning streak earlier. The Eagles lost Williams in the regular-season finale at rival Syracuse, and lost the game 34-31 on a touchdown pass with six seconds left. Then Arizona routed BC 42-19 in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Best-case scenario for 2014: Murphy proves to be an efficient dual-threat quarterback, adding a dynamic to BC's offense that wasn't there last year. Willis leads a running back committee that, running behind a veteran line, is able to collectively make up for much of the production that went out the door when Williams left. A strong secondary offsets a mostly untested defensive front, and BC continues its ascent under Addazio, winning eight games and pulling several more upsets along the way.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: The offense struggles to find its identity without the machine-like Williams pushing it forward. Murphy and a green receiving corps have trouble meshing, the defense lacks punch up front and the Eagles fall back to a three- or four-win season, which is what many thought would happen last season.
They said it: "Really, the interest level now is about winning those games. It's really not about being close; that's not really what we're striving for here. Year 1 was about winning the opener, it was about getting bowl eligible. Now I think as the program moves on in Year 2, you want to get to Charlotte, and that's the next goal on the program's docket right now, is to get to Charlotte." -- Addazio, on BC's respectable 48-34 loss last season to eventual national champion Florida State
442dDavid M. Hale
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703dJack McCluskey, Special to ESPNBoston.com