Thursday, August 8, 2013
Eagles committed to balance on offense
By Jack McCluskey
NEWTON, Mass. -- When it comes to the new offensive philosophy at Boston College this season, one word tends to come up frequently: Balance.
In 2012, the Eagles skewed heavily toward the pass. There were a variety of reasons for this, including often playing from behind, the chemistry between quarterback Chase Rettig and wideout Alex Amidon, and the fact the running game just wasn’t very good.
BC, long known for its success on defense and in the running game, had little of either in the final season under Frank Spaziani. The Eagles finished last in the ACC and 119th in the country in rushing average (90.92 yards per game).
The team that ranked right ahead of BC in the national rushing yards per game? First-year FBS team Massachusetts (91.58).
New head coach Steve Addazio wants to re-establish BC as a power running team in 2013, thereby opening up more play-action chances for Rettig and the wideouts.
“I think the most important thing is not to look back and to look forward,” Williams said when asked about the disappointment that was 2012. “Because there are no remnants of the past left in this program, everything is new. You can even see the locker room is new, everything is new.”
The locker room did get an upgrade this offseason, but it remains to be seen if the running game has received a similar face lift.
Gone from the offensive line are both tackles, with Emmett Cleary (left tackle) and John Wetzel (right tackle) moving on to the NFL. In their place are Matt Patchan, a postgrad transfer from Florida, and Ian White, respectively. Andy Gallik remains at center, flanked on the left side by guard Bobby Vardaro and on the right side by guard Harris Williams.
Gallik said he believes the line is poised to perform better than it did in 2012.
“I’m really excited about the group,” he said. “This is probably the most athletic and strongest offensive line I’ve been around, going into my fourth year. We lost Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel to the NFL, and Matt Patchan came in and hit the ground running. It’s like he’s been here the whole time, he’s done well.
“Ian at right tackle is kind of the leader up front. We’ve all really been working hard together. We’re all really close on and off the field. So I’m really excited about the things we can do this year up front.”
All the O-linemen are excited to work with Addazio, who Gallik called a “guru of the offensive line,” and to run the ball more and with better results.
For that to happen, the Eagles need a big season from Williams, the only back on the roster with more than 100 career carries. Tahj Kimble, as a junior the second most experienced BC back, has only 60 career carries after suffering injuries that limited him to 10 games as a freshman and four games as a sophomore.
David Dudeck, who is listed second on the preseason depth chart, had 39 carries in seven games as a true freshman, after being converted from a defensive back to a running back midseason.
“I know that it’s up to me,” Williams said. “I’m the oldest running back here, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my last year, and I feel like everything is shaping up the way it’s supposed to. And I think that the offensive philosophy that we’re following this year is definitely gonna allow us to have a lot of balance but also give us an edge to take advantage of our strengths.”
Williams, a 6-foot, 227-pound native of Schnecksville, Penn., is excited to play a featured role, entering the season as the undisputed No. 1 back for the first time. Last season, Williams figured to split carries with Rolandan Finch, who later fell out of favor and has since left the school, taking the lead only after injuries and ineffective play from others pushed him ahead.
At media day, Addazio made it clear how important it is to him to be able to run the ball this season.
“I was teasing Ryan Day today, I told him ‘This is a really tough day for me, you know -- Day 2 of practice and we threw the ball at the ones 29 times and we ran it 20,’ ” he said. “I said ‘I don't think that's ever happened to me in my life.’ But we’ve got good balance, I just want to make sure we always be 30 run, 29 pass.”
Considering Williams averaged 14.44 carries a game in 2012, and that represents a career high, getting to 30 rushes a game likely will require one or more of the other backs on the depth chart stepping up to share the load.
Williams believes the Eagles have players capable of doing that, praising both Kimble and Dudeck.
“Dudeck probably works harder than anybody else on the team,” Williams said. “I can’t think of somebody else who works harder than Dudeck, and I love him for it. TK, he’s definitely got a skill that nobody else has. He just knows how to make people miss.”
And the head coach, unprompted, offered a vote of confidence for the two freshmen on the roster at running back, Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse.
“So far, I like the young backs,” Addazio said. “That’s a big concern for us -- the depth at running back -- and I like the young backs so far, so that has been a pleasant deal.”
The 90.92 yards per game on the ground in 2012 was BC’s lowest average since 2007 (101.14), when the offense was led by superstar QB Matt Ryan (the future No. 3 pick in the draft who averaged 321.9 passing yards a game on his way to 4,507 yards that season).
And since Rettig is not Matt Ryan (few people are as good as Ryan, as he’s proven in the NFL in recent seasons), chances are that if the Eagles end up more successful in the win-loss column than they have been in recent seasons, they will have given their running game that much-needed upgrade.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.