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Boston College Football: 2022 Eagles Season Preview and Prediction

Phil Jurkovec, Boston College Eagles Football

Phil Jurkovec and the Eagles are ranked No. 43 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

Last season, everything was lining up perfectly for Boston College. Coming off an impressive first year under head coach Jeff Hafley, the Eagles were returning a combined 18 starters on offense and defense. They had a cakewalk of a non-conference schedule, and the Atlantic Division was actually winnable.

Then Phil Jurkovec, BC's best quarterback prospect since Matt Ryan, suffered a season-threatening fracture to his throwing hand in Week 2 at UMass. Although longtime backup Dennis Grosel led the Eagles to their first 4–0 start in 14 years, their four-game win streak was followed by four straight defeats in which BC averaged a meager 10 points per contest against ACC opponents.

Jurkovec made an unexpected return for the final four games of the season, helping the Eagles clinch bowl eligibility for the sixth year in a row, but BC finished 2–6 in conference competition and didn't even get to play in the Military Bowl because of COVID-19 complications and player opt-outs.

Jurkovec is back for one final year, as is star wide receiver Zay Flowers. They're the faces of a program that's trying to break the shackles of ACC mediocrity. BC hasn't had an eight-plus-win season since 2009. And, while Hafley's recruiting success — which has included back-to-back top-40 classes — has been a shot in the arm, the honeymoon phase of his hire is over. The pressure's on in Year 3.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Boston College's Offense for 2022

BC operated out of a pro-style offense the last two years. Those days are over. Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. was hired away by Pittsburgh, and now former Notre Dame tight ends coach and two-time Rutgers OC John McNulty is running the show on the Heights. McNulty's offense figures to include a mix of college and NFL components with run-pass options, quick releases and progression-based reads as well as a variety of personnel packages, including some spread.

BC needed change. A year removed from ranking third in the ACC in passing offense, the Eagles were 12th in 2021. What's more, BC averaged 11.8 fewer points per game against conference foes last season than it did in 2020. The one thing the Eagles had going for them was a much-improved rushing attack, which featured running back Pat Garwo III. As a redshirt sophomore, Garwo went from being fourth on the depth chart to becoming BC's bell cow and the 19th Eagle in history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

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He'll be without all five primarily blockers this season, however. Right guard Christian Mahogany was the Eagles' lone returning starter up front but suffered a torn ACL this offseason and will miss the entire year. How well the new-look offensive line plays could dictate BC's success in 2022. It's a group that will have to give Jurkovec enough time to get the ball to dynamic receivers like Flowers, sophomore Jaden Williams and redshirt senior Jaelen Gill.

Previewing Boston College's Defense for 2022

Along with McNulty, BC has three new offensive assistants. Defensively, however, the Eagles boast the same staff they've had each of the past two seasons. That side of the ball has seen steady growth, particularly against the pass. In 2019, the season before Hafley took over, BC ranked 122nd in pass defense. Last year, the Eagles climbed all the way to third nationally in that category, allowing a mere 173.5 yards per game through the air. BC was tied for 16th in the country in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (14) and tied for 27th in the FBS in opponent completion percentage (57.9).

BC returns most of its starters from last year's secondary, including star nickel Josh DeBerry and strong safety Jaiden Woodbey, who was All-ACC honorable mention. At the second level, veteran Vinny DePalma will likely replace Isaiah Graham-Mobley at middle linebacker in BC's 4-2-5 base. He'll be joined by Kam Arnold, with Bryce Steele getting a good bit of run, too, following an impressive true freshman season.

Teams ran on the Eagles more than they went to the air last year because BC ranked 92nd in rushing defense, giving up 170.8 yards per game on the ground. Generating a pass rush was the unit's biggest issue in 2021, though. The Eagles were tied for 96th in sacks per game (1.75). If they can't shore up those two areas, it won't matter how good they are on the back end.

Related: ACC Predictions for 2022

Previewing Boston College's Specialists for 2022

Placekicker Connor Lytton was thrown into the fire last season after returning starter Aaron Boumerhi suffered a season-ending hip injury. Lytton and kickoff specialist Danny Longman battled to be Boumerhi's replacement, but Lytton got the call before halftime against Missouri in Week 4, and the true freshman drilled a 49-yarder. Lytton went on to make 11-of-12 field goal attempts and all 25 of his extra points. As for the punter position, BC has to replace four-year starter Grant Carlson. Longman and Australian true freshman Sam Candotti are competing for that role.

Final Analysis

We'll know a lot about what kind of team BC has after four weeks. The Eagles' 2022 opener against Rutgers is no gimme, and then they travel to Virginia Tech and Florida State for two of their next three games. If BC can dodge the injury bug this season, and Jurkovec plays to his maximum potential, Hafley's bunch could finally reach the eight-win barrier. Winning the division, however, will be a stiff test. But even just stealing a game or two against AP-ranked teams — a caliber of opponent BC hasn't defeated since 2014 — would be considered the kind of step in the right direction Eagles fans desperately crave.

National Ranking: 43

Podcast: ACC 2022 Complete Preview + Predictions + QB Debate