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Boston College Football: 2019 Eagles Season Preview and Prediction

AJ Dillon, Boston College Eagles

AJ Dillon, Boston College Eagles

Boston College's 2018 season had so much promise, but it ended with an all too familiar result.

In early November, the campus was buzzing when College GameDay returned for the first time in nine years. The Eagles were ranked in the top 20 with an outside shot at making the ACC Championship Game as they hosted Clemson, but a blowout loss started a late-season tailspin. BC dropped its next two regular-season games before its bowl game was canceled due to weather, abruptly ending its campaign with a 7–5 record.

BC decided the season was good enough to give coach Steve Addazio a two-year contract extension through 2022, but it remains to be seen if he can take the Eagles to the next level. Despite making five bowl games in Addazio’s six seasons, BC has yet to win more than seven games or finish better than .500 in the ACC. And after losing key players on both sides of the ball, Addazio faces a tough challenge in plugging holes and trying to regain the momentum from a year ago in what some believe to be a make-or-break season.

Previewing Boston College's Offense for 2019

With former offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler leaving BC to become the head coach at Bowling Green, Addazio's first coaching change came when he hired Mike Bajakian, formerly the quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to become his new OC. And Bajakian certainly has plenty to work with.

BC experienced most of its turnover on the offensive line, where four starters graduated, but the Eagles still return experience and depth in the trenches. Ben Petrula, an All-ACC honorable mention pick last season, is the lone returning full-time starter and will likely shift from right tackle to left, and he’ll be joined by a group that has Addazio excited. Most notably, Alec Lindstrom will likely take over at center, and Addazio believes he’ll be "elite."

The line will once again work to create holes for a Heisman Trophy candidate. AJ Dillon is back after rushing for 1,108 yards and 10 touchdowns and earning All-ACC honors despite missing two games to injury. One area where he could stand to improve is the receiving game — he had just eight receptions for 41 yards last season — to pair with his explosive running ability. He has plenty of depth behind him, with Travis Levy and David Bailey also back.

Quarterback Anthony Brown is back to run the offense, and he has his top target returning in Kobay White, who emerged as a capable threat last season. Brown has improved as a passer but will need to be even better if the Eagles want to do some damage in the ACC. Elijah Robinson will likely start opposite White at receiver. Addazio says that both Levy and Ben Glines are talented players, and he’ll try to involve them in both the running and receiving game.

BC lost All-ACC tight end Tommy Sweeney but returns plenty of experience for its two-tight-end sets. Korab Idrizi and Hunter Long project as the starters, but the Eagles will use all of their tight ends.

Previewing Boston College's Defense for 2019

Addazio wasn't finished remaking the coaching staff after hiring Bajakian. He also shook things up on defense by promoting linebackers coach Bill Sheridan to be BC's new defensive coordinator, and demoting Jim Reid, who served as the DC for the last three seasons, to defensive ends coach. The unit hasn’t lacked talent but never seemed to reach its full potential under Reid. Sheridan faces a big challenge in trying to improve a unit that lost most of its starters. Only five defensive players with at least one collegiate start return, and at the beginning of spring ball, Sheridan saw only four locks to be starters this season — Tanner Karafa, Max Richardson, Isaiah McDuffie and Brandon Sebastian. The rest is wide open.

The weakness of this group is the defensive line. Karafa is the only returning starter, as the Eagles are tasked with replacing ends Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray, both of whom left for the NFL. Brandon Barlow, who played well at the end of last year, will likely start on one end, and sophomore Marcus Valdez will line up on the other. Clemson graduate transfer Richard Yeargin was a late add to the defensive end competition and should push for snaps in the fall. TJ Rayam figures to start at the other tackle spot next to Karafa.

The Eagles also have big shoes to fill in the secondary. Hamp Cheevers, who tied for the national lead with seven interceptions last year, declared early for the NFL Draft, and safeties Lukas Denis and Will Harris are gone. Sebastian is the most experienced corner returning, and Tate Haynes, who may be the best athlete in the secondary, will likely start opposite him.

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Previewing Boston College's Specialists for 2019

Danny Longman and Grant Carlson return as BC's kicker and punter, respectively, but the Eagles have more shoes to fill in the return game. Michael Walker is gone after leading the nation with 1,294 return yards last year. Glines figures to be the kick returner, while Jason Maitre should take over punts.

Final Analysis

Led by Dillon and a new-look but strong offensive line, BC’s offense should be productive, but the Eagles will only go as far as their defense — especially the line — can take them. BC should be good enough to make another bowl game, but unless Sheridan can press all the right buttons on defense, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles taking a bigger step.

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National Ranking: 61