With camp officially getting underway Monday morning in Chestnut Hill, here are three things to watch out for in Steve Addazio’s first fall camp with the Eagles:
1. Who steps up in the backfield?
Depth is Addazio’s No. 1 concern as Boston College gets the ball rolling for the 2013 season, as there isn’t much to speak of at several key positions.
The most important position with a dearth of experience might be running back, where there is Andre Williams and not much else. David Dudeck, the defensive back-turned-emergency-running back whom the previous regime liked to call “The Natural,” is listed second in the preseason depth chart, but that’s mostly out of necessity.
Tahj Kimble, the second-most experienced back on the roster, hasn’t proven he’s fully recovered from a knee injury that ended his 2012 season. And the other two running backs on the preseason roster are true freshmen, Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis.
Since Dudeck profiles more as a change-of-pace, pass-catching back than an every-down ball carrier and Kimble has to clear physical hurdles before he can be counted on to contribute, chances are Willis and Rouse will be given a shot to play early.
Will one of them answer the call?
2. Who steps up on the edge?
Running back isn’t the only position without proven depth. At wideout, only Alex Amidon (18 career starts, 12 in 2012) and Spiffy Evans (10 career starts, nine in ’12) have double digit starts to their names. (Bobby Swigert, with 11 career starts, would make three, but he’s out for the season with a knee injury.)
And while Amidon should be a potent weapon again this season, coming off a 78-catch, 1,210-yard, 7-TD campaign in 2012, Evans is BC’s second-leading returning receiver with a mere 22 catches for 247 yards.
If the Eagles succeed with Addazio’s plan to establish a power running game (no sure thing, considering item No. 1 above), they’ll need Evans, Dan Crimmins, Marcus Grant and Harrison Jackson, or some combination thereof, to step up and become threats at wideout to really make the offense work and maximize senior quarterback Chase Rettig’s talents.
3. Who stands out in the secondary?
New defensive coordinator Don Brown was brought to BC for a reason: to install an “attack-style” defense.
That means many things but in simple terms, Addazio wants his D to disrupt the opposing offense's best-laid plans. That could be by blitzing, from any level of the defense. It could be by shifting from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4, to make the opposition think (or re-think).
It also likely will mean that more will be asked of the guys on the back end of the defense, the corners and safeties who will have to play more man-to-man as people in front of them rush the passer.
Do the Eagles have the quality players in their secondary to allow this kind of defense to succeed? The answer to that question depends on how guys such as Manuel Asprilla (projected to start at left corner) and Bryce Jones (projected to start at right corner) play, on how guys such as Al Louis-Jean and C.J. Jones rebound from injuries, and on how improved guys such as Spenser Rositano (projected starter at strong safety) and Sean Sylvia (projected starter at free safety) are at safety.
Opposing offenses will hit big plays against this defense in 2013. You can take that to the bank.
But if the back end holds up and Addazio and Brown can boost BC’s sack total from the woeful 6.0 the Eagles had in 2012, which ranked 124th and last in the nation, to a respectable level and set the tone for future seasons, you just might have to call it progress anyway.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.