Improvement in passing game again a primary focus
Keep the momentum going.
That will be the goal for Boston College as it opens spring practice on March 15. The Eagles won their final three games of the 2016 season to finish 7-6 after head coach Steve Addazio appeared to be on the hottest of seats following blowout losses to Louisville and Florida State. But things have cooled in that regard since then, and now the Eagles look primed to have at least another bowl-worthy squad, which would be Addazio's fourth in five seasons.
But not all is entirely stable in Chestnut Hill. Athletic director Brad Bates resigned last month and the new man in charge will keep a close eye on the progress of the Eagles and how they're trending in the ACC. So even though Addazio's job is safe for now, the hot seat is never that far away. However, compared to last season where the Eagles were coming off an 0-8 ACC record, they have a little bit of success to build off this time around.
Top 5 Storylines to Watch in Boston College's Spring Practice
1. Anthony Brown's Development
If there's any common thread among Addazio's offenses at The Heights, it is an inability to find consistent production out of the passing game. However, Brown was recruited by current offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to eventually take the reins and it appears the redshirt freshman will do so this fall.
At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Brown is an athletic, dual-threat option that Addazio tends to covet, and reports out of practices last season indicated that he had potential to solve the team's woes at the position. As the fourth new starting quarterback to begin the season in the last four years, Brown must show the Eagles are ready to take the next step at the position.
2. A United Front
For a program that likes to tout itself as O-Line U, Boston College's offensive line play has been rather tepid the past two seasons. However, there should be no excuse this fall. Senior center Jon Baker, guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Aaron Monteiro, both juniors, all have a wealth of experience and need to provide a solid anchor for Brown and a running game that returns backs Jonathan Hilliman and Davon Jones.
The Eagles allowed 2.15 sacks per game and only rushed for 3.42 yards per carry. Those numbers need to improve if BC wants to pull itself up and out of mediocrity. The experience is there. Now the Eagles need to start playing well enough to handle the top defensive lines in the ACC.
3. Money Man
As NFL teams move names around their board for April's draft, one player that they'll have to wait a little bit longer for is defensive end Harold Landry. Expected to declare after a sensational junior season where he led the nation in sacks with 16.5, Landry surprised many by coming back for his senior year.
Now it will be interesting to see how much the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder has improved over the offseason. Is there any way he can top what he did in 2016? If he even comes close, look for him to be projected to go in the first round of the 2018 draft.
4. Running Forward
Part of the problem was the lack of holes created by the offensive line, but Hilliman and Jones did not put up the type of numbers they're capable of last year. Even though they saw sporadic success, the Eagles lacked a consistent running game for most of last season.
Early enrollee Travis Levy joins the fray for spring ball, and in the fall prized recruit A.J. Dillon, who flipped from Michigan to the Eagles late in the process, will get some long looks. Either way, Addazio's best teams have a strong running game, and the Eagles need to find that again.
5. Secondary Concerns
If you wanted to score on the Eagles last year, you generally had more success doing so through the air, as the defense allowed 28 touchdown passes. Although most of the secondary returns, Boston College does lose free safety John Johnson, who had a decent showing at the NFL Scouting Combine and will be difficult to replace.
But the defensive backs need to improve for the defense to truly live up to its billing. Cornerbacks Isaac Yiadom and Kamrin Moore and strong safety William Harris all return as starters, so if the Eagles want to make strides defending the pass, those players will need to lead the way.
Pre-Spring Outlook for Boston College in the ACC
There is enough experience on both sides of the ball for the Eagles to show improvement. For the first time in head coach Steve Addazio's tenure, the Eagles will be starting a quarterback who was recruited out of high school to run the current offensive coordinator's system. If that pays off in the intended results, offensive improvement is possible.
That said, with the likes of Clemson, Florida State and Louisville ahead of them in the ACC Atlantic Division, upward mobility for the Eagles has a ceiling. Getting past teams like Wake Forest, Syracuse and, to a lesser extent, NC State, are more realistic goals at this stage.
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.