ACC: Steve Addazio
Defensive tackle Luther Maddy is out for the game, while super freshman running back Marshawn Williams is "very doubtful." Maddy has missed two straight games after having surgery on a torn meniscus, while Williams sprained his ankle in a win at North Carolina on Oct. 4.
The Williams injury may be tougher to overcome, considering the Hokies are getting thin at running back. Trey Edmunds and Shai McKenzie already are out, leaving J.C. Coleman as the probable starter against the Panthers. Joel Caleb and Sam Rogers will be in the rotation as well.
In other ACC injury news, Virginia coach Mike London was not yet ready to announce who would start at quarterback against Duke on Saturday. Greyson Lambert practiced on Sunday so if he is ready to go after an ankle injury, he will start. If he is not quite ready, then Matt Johns will.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino also was mum on his starting quarterback against NC State. Both Reggie Bonnafon and Will Gardner played last week in a loss to Clemson. There also is still not decision on when receiver DeVante Parker will return from a foot injury. He has resumed practicing but was not quite ready to play last week.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said quarterback Justin Thomas was OK after injuring his ankle in a loss to Duke.
Now let's take a quick look at what else is happening in the ACC:
- It's midseason report time! Athlon Sports attempts to predict the Coastal champ at the midway point of the season. All four writers pick Virginia Tech. Note to Athlon Sports friends: There should never be agreement on the Coastal! Ever!
- Boston College coach Steve Addazio could not have been more complimentary of the Clemson defense.
- Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware played like a pit bull last Saturday.
- Dennis Dodd at CBSsports.com wonders whether Florida State can escape the shadow of the Jameis Winston investigations.
- Miami kicker Matt Goudis might be heading toward a redshirt.
- North Carolina hopes for a second-half turnaround, just like last season.
- NC State coach Dave Doeren suspended seven players for their role in a BB gun fight at their off-campus residence.
But it is not that simple, really. Yes, Will Muschamp made the decision to stick behind Jeff Driskel while allowing Murphy and Brissett to walk out the door. But even if Murphy and Brissett had stayed in Gainesville, they probably would not have been the solution Florida is looking for at quarterback.
Driskel has not lived up to the hype, but he also has not had the coaching help, either, especially when you consider the revolving door he has had at offensive coordinator. Murphy is running spread principles at Boston College; so is Brissett at NC State.
Not so much at Florida.
BC coach Steve Addazio, who recruited Murphy while serving as Florida offensive coordinator, uses many of the same plays he did when they were both with the Gators in 2010. That helps explains why Addazio wanted him to come to Florida in the first place and wanted him again as a fifth-year senior transfer at Boston College.
Murphy is the top rushing quarterback in the country, averaging 115.8 yards per game. He has carried the ball 71 times so far this season. Now, strictly as a stats comparison, Tim Tebow carried the ball 72 times in his first five games his senior season when Addazio served as play-caller. Tebow was a different type of runner, bulldozing defenders. Murphy turns on the jets. But Addazio knew he could run with Tebow, and he knows he can run with Murphy.
“Our goal has always been to try to accentuate what your players do best, and this year Tyler, as he proved earlier in the season, he's very explosive as a runner,” Addazio said. “He's a true dual-threat guy so we try to give him some things that allow him to use his legs. He's a real weapon.”
The challenge then is to open up the passing game just a little more to strike more of a balance. NC State has been able to do that, allowing Brissett to maximize his talents in the pass game. Brissett can also make plays out of nothing, using his escapability to keep drives alive.
Addazio was no longer at Florida when Brissett was being recruited. However, there is no denying that Brissett has dual-threat capabilities and has benefited from sitting out one season with the Wolfpack because of NCAA transfer rules.
Brissett has 52 carries already this season. But he is a more skilled passer, ranking No. 5 in the ACC in passing with 1,181 yards, 13 touchdowns and just one interception. He also ranks No. 4 in the ACC in total offense, and Addazio compared him to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
“I'm not going to critique what the other coaches did with him or didn't do with him,” said NC State coach Dave Doeren, referring to Brissett’s time at Florida. “We recruited him here because we knew he would be great in our system and giving him a year and a half to learn it has definitely helped him.”
Given the athleticism both players have, Boston College and NC State resemble the offenses Addazio and Doeren envisioned when they arrived at their respective programs. Neither school had mobile quarterbacks a year ago. NC State suffered greatly because of it; Addazio simply relied on Andre Williams to carry the offensive load.
Meanwhile, Florida has yet another new offensive coordinator in Kurt Roper, who still is looking for answers with Driskel. Murphy and Brissett did have their chances with the Gators, but they were probably not fair chances -- related more to scheme than talent. Had they stayed, maybe they would have been given an opportunity with Roper in charge.
But maybe not. Muschamp has always preferred Driskel, and it's hard to blame them both for leaving.
“It's nice to see two kids having success and given the fact that they weren't able to get on the field as much as they probably would have liked to at their previous place,” Addazio said.
And that could change again by the end of next week, as No. 23 Clemson travels to No. 1 Florida State on Sept. 20. With Saturday’s results, the ACC turns its eyes to you, Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Pittsburgh. And to be honest, most aren’t considering Duke or Pitt legitimate contenders just yet, considering each school’s nonconference schedule. Virginia Tech offered hope that a Coastal team might be able to crack the playoff four, but the Hokies laid an egg in the first quarter against East Carolina and were knocked off. Considering it came a week after their big road win at Ohio State, it leaves a sour taste in ACC mouths. Louisville was loading up the hype train after a nice win against Miami in a prime-time setting, but the Cardinals’ offense was suffocated by upset-minded Virginia. Pittsburgh has a manageable schedule and would almost certainly get in if undefeated, but the Panthers don't have the look of a team destined for a spotless record just yet. So once more, the ACC is looking to you, Clemson and FSU.
2. The ACC Coastal: 'Bring your brooms, because it’s a mess.'
Marty Huggins from “The Campaign” said it best, and there’s really no need to compound on what he said as far as the ACC Coastal goes. Following last week, it seemed Virginia Tech was the team to beat in the division. It certainly could still be that team as the East Carolina loss was out of conference, but there isn’t nearly as much confidence in the Hokies any longer. Pittsburgh was the flavor of the hour last week after a dominating win on a Friday night, but the Panthers struggled against a terrible Florida International team. Georgia Tech is 3-0 but has been less than impressive in all three wins. North Carolina hasn’t looked great, either. Right now, it is only Duke quietly taking care of business, which is what it did last season, too.
3a. Boston College was a bunch of Dudes on Saturday. So was the Virginia defense.
That is Steve Addazio’s motto for his team, and that is an apt way to describe what we saw from the Eagles against No. 9 USC. Many felt the Eagles had a chance to keep it close, but few felt they would be able to upset a USC team coming off a win at Stanford. Boston College followed the lead of its quarterback, Tyler Murphy, beating up the Trojans on the ground to the tune of 452 rushing yards. After a lopsided loss to Pittsburgh last week, it seemed Boston College was destined for a down year, but now the Eagles have the look of a bowl team. They’re not going to win the Atlantic, but that defense is nasty, and with Murphy running the option, the offense is efficient enough that this might not be the last upset the Eagles pull off in 2014.
In the aftermath of the BC win, we almost forgot the effort from Virginia, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Virginia deserves the recognition, and while it doesn’t use the same "Be A Dude" motto, you can certainly apply it to that Cavaliers defense after its performance against Bobby Petrino’s Louisville offense. All afternoon, quarterback Will Gardner was harassed and made uncomfortable. He was hit, chased and had passes batted back into his face. Eventually, Petrino turned to his backup quarterback. And just like Boston College, the Virginia offense never gave Louisville the ball back in the final minutes after forcing a Cardinals punt. If the Cavs can get any help from their offense, this is a bowl-worthy team. Good for Mike London and his team, which went winless in the ACC last season.
3b. The ACC owns prime time.
Virginia Tech last week. Boston College this week. Just let us have this one.
4. Speaking of Pitt and Georgia Tech, what do we make of their scares?
That one depends on the team. First, there is something to be said to still being undefeated at this point even if the competition is not very good. Now that that is out of the way, I’d be much less concerned with Pitt’s first-half struggles in its 42-25 win than Georgia Tech’s second-half nightmare against Georgia Southern. The Panthers were playing in a noon game against a dreadful FIU team. They came out flat. It happens in college football, and it happens a lot. Ideally, a coach never has those performances, but they’re hard to avoid. Expect a much more focused Pitt team against Iowa. As for the Yellow Jackets, this is becoming a trend. They did not look great against FCS teams Wofford or Tulane, and Saturday they blew a 25-point second-half lead to Georgia Southern. Georgia Tech needed an 11-play, 72-yard drive to score the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds remaining and earn a 42-38 victory.
5. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya can sling it.
The Hurricanes opened up the playbook a little more for Kaaya, and he responded with 342 passing yards, a school record for a true freshman. The Miami offense was balanced on first down, which allowed Kaaya to throw in situations in which defenses weren’t always expecting it. What really stood out to coach Al Golden in the Hurricanes' 41-20 win over Arkansas State was how Kaaya audibled into a new play at the line of scrimmage several times, including on two touchdowns. “Brad hits the quick out that Phillip [Dorsett] ends up taking. That’s all him. The other check that we ended up scoring on, the run, [it was] the same thing there. That was all him on the line of scrimmage,” Golden said. And the first touchdown was a deep throw, which Kaaya struggled with in the first two games. On throws of at least 10 yards in the first two weeks, he was 7-of-17 for 188 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
East Carolina at No. 17 Virginia Tech, ESPN, #ECUvsVT: The Hokies are riding high after notching the upset at Ohio State last week. But the Pirates can help bring them back to earth if they aren't careful. ECU itself is amid a tough three-game stretch against South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, and its offense, led by the dangerous Shane Carden under center, is certainly capable of testing the home team's D. If that's not enough to have the Hokies ready, these teams' past two meetings should: Narrow Virginia Tech wins in 2013 (15-10) and 2011 (17-10).
Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech, ESPN3, #GASOvsGT: Can the Eagles notch a signature road win over a Power 5 team for the second year in a row? A year after winning at Florida, they came awfully close in Week 1, falling at NC State by one after leading throughout. Now the FBS newcomers travel to face former head coach Paul Johnson and in-state neighbor Georgia Tech. Georgia Southern is coming off an 83-9 win over Savannah State last week, while the Yellow Jackets are still trying to get on-track offensively after a three-turnover performance in a win last week at Tulane.
Pitt at FIU, Fox Sports 1: Stat-watching might be a priority in this lackluster contest. Panthers running back James Conner enters with 50 carries, 367 yards and five touchdowns to his name through two weeks. Can he play himself further into early-season Heisman discussions? His coach, Paul Chryst, has not ruled out the chance that Conner still lines up at defensive end at some point this season. Still, given the workhorse he has been -- and will need to be if Pitt is to contend for the Coastal -- this might be a good chance to limit his workload in the heat and let Chad Voytik grow as a passer. Also worth keeping an eye on is the man snapping Voytik the ball, as center Artie Rowell is lost for the year after an ACL tear last week. Gabe Roberts and Alex Officer could both see action there in place of Rowell.
Syracuse at Central Michigan, ESPNEWS, #CUSEvsCMU: This game sure looks a lot more interesting than it did two weeks ago, no? The Orange have not even played a half this season with Terrel Hunt under center, as the starter was ejected from the opener after throwing a punch at a Villanova player. The offense struggled immensely without Hunt, needing two overtimes to hold off the FCS Wildcats. The Chippewas, meanwhile, ran Purdue out of their own building last week in West Lafayette, Indiana. Syracuse hopes to have gathered itself during its bye last week and unveil the faster-paced offense it had hoped to run this season.
Arkansas State at Miami, ESPNU, #ARSTvsMIA: Now would be a good time to see what Brad Kaaya is capable of doing, what with a game at Nebraska next week and a pair of league games after. The true freshman quarterback hasn't been bad through two games, but he hasn't really been asked to do too much, either. If the Hurricanes want to contend for the Coastal crown this season, they'll need more production out of him, and better to throw him to the (Red) Wolves of Arkansas State now than the Blackshirts of Nebraska next week under the lights.
NC State at USF, CBS Sports Network: USF forced six turnovers last week against Maryland but still could not pull out the win. Jacoby Brissett has played well through two games, but the ground game has been every bit as instrumental so far, averaging 207.5 yards per contest. Still, the Wolfpack need to start faster after falling behind at home to Georgia Southern and Old Dominion before mounting comeback wins. A 3-0 start for coach Dave Doeren after a 3-9 debut season would be absolutely huge, and it would make a bowl berth a real possibility for the Pack.
Kansas at Duke, ESPN3, #KUvsDUKE: The Jayhawks are undefeated. And Charlie Weis was set to be David Cutcliffe's boss nearly a decade ago. And Duke clearly needs to get off to a better start than it did last week at Troy after falling behind by 11 early. Still, the Blue Devils have a very balanced attack that will test Kansas far more than Southeast Missouri State did last week. And quarterback Anthony Boone has looked very, very good through two games. Expect more of the same against Kansas.
Wake Forest at Utah State, CBS Sports Network: Dave Clawson did some house-cleaning this week, kicking running back Dominique Gibson and center Cody Preble off the team for a violation of team rules, in addition to suspending reserve quarterback Kevin Sousa. Clawson is coming off his first win as the Demon Deacons' head coach, but the Aggies will provide a much stiffer test than Gardner-Webb did last week. True freshman signal-caller John Wolford got much better protection last week (two sacks) than he did in a season-opening loss at Louisiana-Monroe (five), but he has to improve his decision-making after throwing three picks last week.
No. 9 USC at Boston College, ESPN, #USCvsBC: USC has been among the country's most impressive teams through two weeks. BC hopes it is catching the Trojans at the right time. Steve Sarkisian's squad travels cross-country after an upset win at Stanford to face an Eagles team coming off a home loss to Pitt. Still, it's worth pointing out just how well Steve Addazio got BC to play last year against heavy favorites Clemson and Florida State, with the latter contest proving to be the Seminoles' biggest test before the national title game. Also, kudos to BC for its attire for this contest, as it honors Sept. 11 hero and lacrosse alum Welles Crowther.
So it's not unfair to conclude his pregame speech flopped, as the seemingly outmanned Tigers led 21-10 at halftime, and the Seminoles looked nothing like the poised, dominating team they had been all season. Fisher concluded that his message hadn't resonated. He had told his team to focus on the game, not winning; to focus on playing, not the scoreboard. Instead, they played with a distracted air. They looked like a favorite that was too worried about being the villain in Auburn's fairy tale season.
Fisher gathered his team at halftime and reiterated his message. It was a simple, stern challenge with the added urgency of playing from behind. And this time it crystallized.
"That's what I told them. 'It's hard. This is what you're going to remember. You expect it to be tough. But this is how we're going to do it,'" he said. "I saw the look in their eyes and I knew we were ready to compete and we did."
Yet when Fisher recalls what he told his team before the game and at halftime, what he most wants to impart is not the isolated importance of either speech. Instead, it was about reconnecting his players to a season-long process that fostered the culture that gave them the potential to become a championship team.
"I think coaches can inspire," Fisher said. "[But] I think motivation comes from within. I think you can inspire people quickly, but I think that wears off. I think the motivations is in your habits."
To read Ted Miller's full story click here
Dare we say, the Big East era?
The two might be facing each other for the first time as ACC members tonight in Chestnut Hill, but their offenses mirror the history and tradition of both programs. Though they have adopted some spread influences, both offenses seek to pound the ball first behind a dominant offensive line.
The Panthers have James Conner doing the damage, and BC counters with mobile quarterback Tyler Murphy and a rotation of backs to replace the departed Andre Williams.
"I always say, 'Some people run it, some people know how to run it. (Chryst) knows how to run it," Addazio said this week. "So we know that this will be a real line of scrimmage game, a real physical game.
"I love it. I had four great years in the old Big East when all these teams traditionally played each other. They were such kind of black-and-blue games and just physical, so I'm really looking forward to it."
Between the two, Pitt had the more impressive opening-week performance. Though it is hard to read too much into games against lower-level competition, the Panthers dominated their opponent in a way many have not seen in years. Last season, they struggled to put away Old Dominion and New Mexico. In 2012, they lost to Youngstown State. In 2011, they nearly lost to Maine.
So you see why a 62-0 victory against Delaware made some people wonder whether Pitt truly is a dark horse contender in the Coastal.
"We wanted to come out and start the year off strong," Pitt cornerback Reggie Mitchell said. "Our whole thing this year is turning this program around. We really want to get Pitt back into the discussion with some of the top programs in the country. It felt good coming out and getting a good win."
Conner had 153 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and Pitt amassed 409 total yards on the ground. It was the Panthers' highest single-game rushing total since they had 444 yards in a 37-7 win against Army in 1976, when Tony Dorsett was still in the backfield.
For the first time in a long time, the Pitt offensive line looked dominant. The Panthers opened up rushing lanes and did not yield a sack.
BC, meanwhile, had 338 yards rushing in a 30-7 win against UMass. But it was Murphy who led the way with 118 yards rushing, becoming the first BC quarterback in school history to run for 100 yards in a game. Not even Doug Flutie did that. Running backs Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis received the majority of the other reps, combining for 144 yards rushing.
BC is not as much of a two-back power team as it was last season with Williams, a Heisman finalist with more than 2,000 yards rushing. Newer elements have been incorporated with a more mobile quarterback in Murphy. That is one key difference between BC and Pitt. The Panthers do not have a mobile quarterback, they will rely on in their run game.
"We don't have the one guy that we're going to hand the ball right now 40 times a game to, so we're going to be a little more diverse in our run-game approach," Addazio said. "We've got to have an execution offense where we have the ability to sustain long drives, you know, because we're not going to be able to get as much in chunks. So it's a little bit different right now. We're still evolving."
Still, the goal is to run the ball and run it well no matter the formation.
On both sides.
The ACC has three second-year coaches, each with differing expectations. Athlon Sports took a look at those coaches and what the 2014 outlook is for each coach's program.
Writer Steven Lassan states Boston College's Steve Addazio exceeded expectations in his inaugural season as BC's coach, and there is little doubt Addazio did a great job getting to a bowl game. Without Andre Williams it will be a challenge to get back to a bowl game, but the first half of the schedule sets up pretty nicely.
A bowl game in 2013 and key returners has Syracuse fans believing Scott Shafer will keep the Orange moving in the right direction. There are only two games on the schedule where the Orange will not be given a great chance to win, so there is an expectation for Syracuse to once again be bowl eligible.
At NC State, Dave Doeren is given a partial pass last season after losing his starting quarterback. While the Wolfpack have a long way to go, Doeren has his quarterback in Jacoby Brissett. There is definitely an expectation the Wolfpack will be better, and they can't be much worse after going winless in the ACC last season. Brissett was a highly regarded quarterback coming out of high school, so there is the potential NC State can surprise some teams this season and pull off an upset or two.
Here's a few more links to help you through the day. Remember, we get FBS football tomorrow!
- West Virginia and former Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett says Nick Saban's daughter was his first kiss. (He was 6 years old.) I'm guessing Saban will have a conversation with his defensive line before the opener against the Mountaineers.
- Scandal once again is hitting North Carolina, as allegations of hazing arose Tuesday. The Tar Heels are no strangers to off-the-field issues, and this is another black eye for the university athletic department.
- An eye-opening feature on the plight of Devaughn Darling's family as they wait for the remaining $1.8 million from a settlement in the Florida State football player's 2001 death.
- FSU running back Dalvin Cook could see significant playing time as a reserve this season.
- Miami's quarterback situation will be one to watch all season as true freshman Brad Kaaya, named the starter earlier this week, still has seniors Jake Heaps and Ryan Williams pushing for the role. Williams tore his ACL in April and is hoping to return at some point during the season.
- Many of Duke quarterback Anthony Boone's interceptions came when he put too much pressure on himself to make a play.
- Recovering from injury, Virginia Tech running back Marshawn Williams was initially hesitant, but he moved past that rather quickly.
- Could Georgia be more of a threat passing than rushing for Clemson?
- Last season, Pitt relied on freshmen stars Tyler Boyd and James Conner. The 2014 recruiting class will be counted on to make freshmen contributions, too.
- Expectations have been raised for Louisville's receivers now that DeVante Parker will miss significant time.
- Attendance is an issue across college football stadiums, but the decrease in Virginia's numbers is significant.
ESPN.com caught up with Murphy recently to touch on a number of topics.
What has the acclimation process been like at BC?
Were you familiar with any of the players before?
TM: No, I really didn't know anyone really before I got here. I came up with Ian (Silberman), me and Ian helped each other with the process. But I was able to get to know the guys quickly and build relationships really fast, which made everything easy for both of us.
What did you remember about Addazio from recruiting and from Florida?
TM: He's a very passionate guy, I remember that from the recruiting process. He loves what he does, he takes pride in what he does. Not only does he try to make you the best football player that you can, he also tries to develop you as a person and make you the best man off the field as well. That really stuck with me. That's something I really look for when trying to find a new program, and knowing that coach Addazio had that instilled in him, it made my decision very easy.
Did you watch BC at all last season? Were you surprised by the jump they made in Addazio's first year?
TM: I definitely followed the team a little bit last year, especially with coach Addazio being the offensive coordinator my freshman year. You always kind of root for guys that you know, so any time BC was playing I'd definitely tune in and watch. It shows what kind of guy coach Addazio is and the leader he is, and the seniors last year did a great job of turning things around and building a culture. You have to give them credit, and it's something that I really look for when choosing a new school, and it's a great culture, it's something I'm happy to be a part of. And I'm just going to do my best to help this program, help this team and find a way to lead, get us a few "Ws" and take the next step for this program.
Coach Addazio said you are a BC guy and that you fit into the culture there. How so?
TM: When you think of Boston College you think of a high-standard program with lots of great people that really do the best to try and excel and help the community around them. The people academically and athletically are all very nice. They all go out of their way to try to help people and uplift people. When I got here you could also see that with the team. Guys were really a close-knit bunch of guys and they were sacrificing for one another and doing things that that they probably wouldn't do for themselves, but they would push through things because they didn't want to let the guy down next to them. When I saw that and felt that, I was really happy and I felt like I made the right decision.
How would you describe the offense you are running?
TM: Right now we're in heavy sets, we're in spread sets, we're a little bit of everything right now. We're still trying to find our identity. We're trying a bunch of things out to see what we're good at and we're just going to really try and excel once we find out what we are good at. We're just trying to be successful with everything the coaches throw at us and try to execute everything, because the more things we have, the more versatile we can be and the more pressure on the defense. So we're just trying to make things easy for us, and the more things we can do, the better. We're just trying to go out there, execute, fly around, have some fun.
Who are some of the receivers you think will step up this year?
TM: I think all of the receivers are doing a great job. Starting with Charlie Callinan to Dan Crimmins to Drew Barksdale, those guys have really stepped up and are finding roles. And we also have Shakim Phillips with some experience, David Dudeck and Josh Bordner, he's been doing a good job lining up and doing some things outside. So I think our fans should be excited, because these guys can make some plays and they work hard and they do a lot of the little things right to help this offense go. They're going to do some things and surprise some people, and hopefully they'll be able to have great careers while they're here.
How did you and (NC State quarterback) Jacoby Brissett help each other throughout the transfer process?
TM: We both played at Florida and we both didn't play much, so we kind of would try to keep each other up. Sitting on the bench isn't fun, it could be difficult. We tried to build a friendship where we keep each other up, keep each other motivated, and each and every day find a way to go into the office and get better, and so we both decided we needed to move on. We both talked to each other, and when it was his time and he wanted to leave I sat down with him and we both tried to break things down and what his options were and what was the best option. And it was vice versa, he did the same thing with me. So we have a really good relationship. We still talk to this day. We talk, if not every day then maybe every other day, just to check up on each other and see how things are going, because it can be a tough transition. And as friends you always want to see your other friend do well, and we both look forward to competing against each other when we do line up and play this year.
You're forgiven if this entire exercise seems foreign. But at least 10 of the ACC's 14 teams will start new faces under center when games kick off next week. And there is a good chance that four of those 10 will have quarterbacks who began their college careers elsewhere.
"I really don't know," Miami coach Al Golden said of the surplus of ACC quarterback transfers. "We liked where we were in the spring, and clearly Ryan [Williams] went down the week before the spring game. It's really not a function of not being confident in the guys that are on campus. It's more a function of just wanting to get a guy that has been in the game and has the experience."
Golden acknowledged the quarterback market has been busier than usual, particularly in his league. He brought in former BYU and Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps this summer after Williams, the Hurricanes' No. 1 quarterback, suffered a right ACL injury that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. (Williams, naturally, began his career elsewhere, at Memphis.)
Heaps, eligible immediately as a graduate transfer, is battling true freshman Brad Kaaya to start Miami's opener.
"I think the quarterback position has grown in terms of talent over the last few years," said Heaps, who set several freshman records at BYU in 2010 before losing his job both with the Cougars and later at Kansas. "There’s a lot of great, quality quarterbacks in college football right now and they all want a chance to play. That’s where you’re seeing a lot of these guys transfer. They’re in their situation but they know they can play somewhere else so they make those moves and try and find the best situation for them and in some cases it works out, in others it doesn’t. Just knowing they have that opportunity is first and foremost.
"Sometimes things just don’t work out. Recruiting is the way it is and sometimes a situation isn’t what you think it will be when you get there. It’s been a unique trend in the last little bit, but I think if a guy has an opportunity to go play, he should go explore that."
Likewise, fellow Coastal member Virginia Tech turned to the free-agent route following an underwhelming spring from its three quarterbacks, welcoming Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer (and two true freshmen) to the race to replace Logan Thomas and kick-start an offense in need of a jolt after just 15 wins in the past two seasons. In an odd twist, Brewer, who has two seasons left to play after graduating from Texas Tech, was recommended to the Hokies' staff by Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who coached Brewer back at Lake Travis (Texas) High.
Brewer brings with him a nearly 71 percent completion percentage from his limited action with the Red Raiders, including 440 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
On the other side, in the more daunting Atlantic, a pair of second-year coaches are turning to former Gators quarterbacks to command their offenses.
Boston College coach Steve Addazio goes back with Tyler Murphy, a fellow Connecticut native whom Addazio had initially recruited to Gainesville, Florida, during his time as an assistant there. Jacoby Brissett transferred to NC State shortly after coach Dave Doeren was hired there, sitting out last season and taking enough initiative behind the scenes to earn the starting nod before spring ball this year.
“Last year we brought in Brandon Mitchell [from Arkansas] through the one-year loophole, and then at the end of the year, Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker left to go to [Louisiana-Monroe and UT-Martin]," Doeren said. "While that was going on, Jacoby transferred here from Florida. So I’ve seen about all of it that can go around. It’s just part of what recruiting is now. Guys want to play and people don’t want to wait their turn much anymore."
Murphy, who transferred in January, has one year to add some pizzazz to an Eagles' offense looking to spread the field more after last season's run-heavy approach. He spoke often with Brissett (who has two years left at NC State) back when both were still weighing their options when departing Florida.
The familiarity was more than enough to reunite Murphy with Addazio, who said a guy like Murphy probably should have gone to BC in the first place.
"Being a New England guy and growing up around BC, I watched a lot of BC and Matt Ryan in the early 2000s," Murphy said. "So it feels good to be a part of this institution, this program and I'm looking forward to the season."
Florida State could see a pair of its former quarterbacks start against each other next week, as Jake Coker transferred to Alabama one year after Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher was supportive of both, with Trickett being familiar with WVU (his dad used to coach there before moving to FSU) and Coker heading to his home-state program after backing up Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Fisher likened the rash of quarterback departures to that of college basketball transfers, because both are possession-dominated athletes.
The graduate-transfer rule, popularized by Russell Wilson three years ago, has only added to that. And, in many ways, it has been a boon for both sides.
"[It] gives some opportunities for guys that are worried about situations like Tyler's," Addazio said, referring to Murphy's injury-shortened 2013. "He's like, 'I've got one shot at this thing. I want to go where I feel like I've got the best opportunity to be the starter.' So you're seeing a lot of this right now. I like this opportunity."
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
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
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
Simply put, Addazio says, he is looking for Tim Tebow.
“When I saw Tim Tebow, I watched him play in high school and will never forget it. To me your quarterback has to have the ‘it factor,’ and I’ve never seen a guy with the ‘it factor’ more in my life,” Addazio said. “It was oozing off his uniform. I saw him put his whole team on his back and win. He was going to lead and win championships.”
The Eagles’ coaching staff has brought in five quarterbacks since Addazio was named coach following the 2012 season. Four quarterbacks have signed out of high school and Tyler Murphy transferred to Boston College from Florida, where Addazio coached from 2005-10.
Legendary Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie certainly qualifies as a player with intangibles rarely seen in college football, and Addazio is hoping it’s genetic. Troy Flutie, the nephew of Doug, is a freshman with the Eagles.
“I think he does,” Addazio said when asked if Troy has the intangibles he covets. “Obviously we didn’t take him because of his size (6-foot, 178 pounds), but he’s a gym rat and I think he’s got a lot of that it in him. That’s why we took him.”
Addazio admits it is an inexact science and it’s the type of decision that can lift a program to new heights or get a staff fired. A common gripe among coaches is they don’t get to spend enough time with recruits to get a strong enough read on a player’s character. Putting a program in the hands of such an unknown is frightening and Addazio said determining whether a quarterback can lead a team to a title is the “$60 million question.”
It can be a divisive debate among staff, and Addazio witnessed that in 2005 as Florida was recruiting Tebow. Addazio was the offensive line coach on Urban Meyer’s staff, which also included Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen as the offensive coordinator. But it was defensive coach Greg Mattison that went to bat for Tebow when the staff considered passing on him. Even in high school coaches questioned whether Tebow was a better quarterback or linebacker. Addazio said Tebow was a tough sell to the entire staff.
“Thanks to Greg Mattison we got Tebow,” Addazio said, “because Greg stood on the table and pounded the table, like you guys are nuts we got to take Tebow.
“Nuts right? A lot of people got a lot of jobs because of that.”
You get the point. In the absence of practice reports and games, we need something to do in the summer until football actually begins. So we make lists. Lots of lists. This one is a pretty fun, light read: Top revenge games for 2014. Because who doesn't love exacting revenge?
One ACC game makes the list. And it's a bit surprising.
I suppose the Hokies do want to exact a measure of revenge on the Blue Devils, whose shocking win in Blacksburg last season helped propel them to the Coastal Division title. It was Virginia Tech's first loss to Duke since 1981. They meet again Nov. 16 in Durham, North Carolina, and just about everybody believes there will be ACC championship game implications at stake when they play.
Still, the Duke-Virginia Tech matchup does not exactly scream revenge the way most of the others on the list do. After all, this game has actually meant something just once. The shock factor clearly put this game on a different level.
Now, here are some choices for top revenge games in the ACC:
Boston College-Syracuse: BC coach Steve Addazio said last season's last-second loss to Syracuse was one of the toughest of his career. Syracuse scored with 6 seconds left to win 34-31. The Eagles surely want payback.
North Carolina-East Carolina: The Tar Heels came completely unraveled in a shocking 55-31 loss to the Pirates last season. It was East Carolina's first win in Chapel Hill since 1975.
Miami-Louisville: The Hurricanes are still smarting from their embarrassing performance in a 36-9 loss to the Cardinals in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Revenge could be served up in Week 1.
Let's take a look at other headlines across the ACC:
- Laura Keeley counts down the most important players to Duke football.
- Four-star receiver Jayson Stanley lists Miami and Clemson among his five finalists.
- Can Jameis Winston be even better in 2014?
- Louisville receiver DeVante Parker had some choice words for former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.
- David Teel does a great, in-depth interview with incoming Virginia Tech president Tim Sands on autonomy, Hokies' football and the future of intercollegiate athletics.
- Is eight wins a reasonable goal for Syracuse?
They all share one thing in common: They are the only four ACC schools that must replace their leading passer, leading rusher and leading receiver from a year ago. That is the highest number of teams going back to 2010.
So who is actually taking the biggest hit when it comes to returning experience and returning yards?
With Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams, quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Alex Amidon gone, the Eagles lose a whopping 88 percent of their offensive yards from their 7-6 bowl team a year ago. Making matters worse? Boston College is the only team among the four listed above that also loses its leading tackler and top sack-producer. Making matters worse than that? The Eagles actually lose their top TWO leading tacklers.
Easy to see why many have labeled this a big-time rebuilding year for coach Steve Addazio. Hope, however, is not completely lost. The Eagles do have a quarterback with starting experience in Florida transfer Tyler Murphy, who is better equipped to handle the spread offense Addazio wants to run. There are young players at running back, but they all played behind Williams a year ago. Steve Daniels, expected to anchor the BC linebacker group, finished third on the team with 88 tackles a year ago.
Now, let us look at the flip side. Among these four teams, which does not lose nearly as much in returning yardage?
With the departures of quarterback Vad Lee, B-back David Sims and A-back Robert Godhigh, the Jackets lose 66 percent of their total yards.
A big reason why it's not too bleak is the return of quarterback Justin Thomas and 10 other players who had at least 100 yards rushing or receiving.
As a small point of historical reference, Pitt was the only team in the ACC in 2013 that went into the season without its leading passer, rusher and receiver from the previous season. The Panthers finished with one more victory and another bowl appearance.
In 2012, Miami went into the season without its leading passer, rusher or receiver and also had one more win (though the Hurricanes were ineligible for a bowl because of a self-imposed postseason ban).
In 2011, NC State and Virginia went into the season without their leading passer, rusher or receiver. The Wolfpack had one fewer win; Virginia made huge gains, going from 4-8 to 8-5. That was the Hoos' last winning season. Incredibly, all 12 ACC schools in 2010 headed into that season without having to replace their top passer, rusher AND receiver.
Here is a closer look at the four teams losing their top passer, rusher and receiver headed into 2014:
Lost: QB Chase Rettig, RB Andre Williams, WR Alex Amidon.
Offensive yards lost: 88 percent.
*-Both leading tackler Steele Divitto and leading sack producer Kasim Edebali are gone.
Lost: QB Tajh Boyd, RB Roderick McDowell, WR Sammy Watkins
Offensive yards lost: 83 percent.
*-Both leading tackler Stephone Anthony and leading sack producer Vic Beasley return.
Lost: QB Tanner Price, RB Josh Harris, WR Michael Campanaro.
Offensive yards lost: 81 percent.
*-Leading tackler Ryan Janvion returns; leading sack producer Nikita Whitlock is gone.
Lost: QB Vad Lee, Backs David Sims, Robert Godhigh.
Offensive yards lost: 66 percent.
*-Leading tackler Jemea Thomas and leading sack producer Jeremiah Attaochu are gone.
Toughest stretch: Nov. 1-22 (at Virginia Tech, Louisville, bye, at Florida State)
Why: If Boston College wants to duplicate its success from Year 1 of the Steve Addazio era, it will probably do itself a big favor by getting off to a fast start. The Eagles, coming off a 7-6 debut campaign under Addazio, experienced one of the most surprising turnarounds in the nation last season, more than tripling their win total from 2012 en route to a bowl game. The challenge will only get tougher this fall, however, especially with the number of key personnel losses at the skill positions on offense.
An early-season rematch with USC, this time at home, highlights the nonconference portion of the Eagles' slate. But the toughest three-game stretch will likely come during the season's final month, as BC travels to Virginia Tech, hosts Louisville and heads down to Florida State before closing the regular season at home against former Big East foe Syracuse.
Last season's win over the Hokies was the defining moment of BC's season, as it pulled off the major upset at home. Things will only get tougher on the road, especially with the Hokies -- like seemingly everyone else in the Coastal Division -- expected to contend for the division title entering the season's final month. The Cardinals, meanwhile, present a new annual challenge for the Eagles, who welcome in one more roadblock toward the top of the Atlantic Division. Who knows what kind of shape Louisville will be in a new league with a new staff, but recent history says this one will be no easy task for BC, especially with the game sandwiched between Virginia Tech and Florida State. It should go without saying that the matchup in Tallahassee will be a tough task for the Eagles, who sneaked up on the Seminoles last season and gave them their best test from anyone not named Auburn, falling 48-34.
A bye the week before the FSU contest, on Nov. 15, cannot come at a better time. But it does little to lessen the difficulty of the task at hand for BC as it enters the final month of its second season under Addazio.
Week 3 schedule
Saturday, Sept. 13
- NC State at USF
- Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech
- USC at Boston College, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2, 8 p.m.
- Kansas at Duke
- Louisville at Virginia, ACC Network, 12:30 p.m.
- East Carolina at Virginia Tech, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2, noon
- Syracuse at Central Michigan
- Pitt at Florida International
- Arkansas State at Miami, ESPNU, 3:30 p.m.
- Wake Forest at Utah State
Why you should come along: It's not often we can get to see a Pac-12 program travel this far East, so we should take advantage of the opportunity when it arises. USC will be entering its third game under new coach Steve Sarkisian, and it will be coming off what promises to be a tough road trip a week earlier at conference rival Stanford. Boston College, meanwhile, will be into the second year of the Steve Addazio regime after a promising inaugural campaign in 2013 -- one whose first loss came at the hand of these Trojans, 35-7, nearly one year to the day of this rematch.
Can the Eagles pull off the big upset and give the ACC a signature nonconference win early on? Don't underestimate this bunch, as it gave Florida State all it could handle last season during the Seminoles' national title campaign. And a night-game atmosphere should only contribute to the frenzy. Any time we can pit L.A. against Boston in any sport, we should sit back and enjoy what's in front of us. So hop on a flight to Boston, enjoy all that the city has to offer (I recommend Grill 23 for dinner Friday night) and take in what promises to be the best atmosphere of the Addazio era for the Eagles.
Final Syracuse 30 Wake Forest 7 Final Virginia 13 Duke 20 Final 24 Clemson 17 Boston College 13 Final North Carolina State 18 Louisville 30 Final Georgia Tech 43 North Carolina 48 Final 5 Notre Dame 27 2 Florida State 31