This week, I enlisted the help of Michael Vega, who covers Boston College football for The Boston Globe to help preview this week's game between the Panthers and Eagles. Here are Michael's responses to a couple of questions...
1. How would you assess Tyler Murphy's debut for the Eagles under center? Is he simply a scrambler or does Boston College integrate a lot of quarterback runs into its offense? What are some of his other strengths and weaknesses?
Boston College is going back to the future, in some respects, with the arrival of Tyler Murphy, a graduate-transfer from the University of Florida, where he went 2-4 in six games as a starter last year before having his season cut short by an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder. It's funny to note, though, that at a school that produced Doug Flutie, who set the gold standard for mobile quarterbacks, it seems dual-threat quarterbacks have been the exception rather than the norm. In his BC debut, Murphy gave notice he was here to do more than just serve as a bridge to the future while freshmen QBs Darius Wade and Troy Flutie, Doug's nephew, gained some much-needed seasoning. Murphy led the Eagles to a 30-7 victory over UMass by accounting for 291 of BC's 511 yards total offense, passing for 173 yards and a 43-yard TD pass while rushing 13 times for 118 yards and a 1-yard TD (on a third-and-goal naked bootleg). Believe it or not, it was the most yards rushing by a quarterback in school history.
As [head coach] Steve Addazio has said before, ''I want a thrower who can run and not a runner who can throw,'' and Murphy showed against UMass he fit that bill, converting some quarterback runs on the read-option. But Murphy recognizes that he cannot solely rely upon his feet to make BC's offense go, and therein lies his greatest strength and weakness: While he possesses the ability to breakdown a defense with his feet, he knows he must resist the urge to do so if he intends to help BC's offense establish any kind of vertical passing threat.
2. How does B.C. go about replacing a guy like Andre Williams? Is there one guy in the backfield or will it be more of a running back by committee? Who are some other skill position players Pitt needs to look out for Friday?
Andre Williams was the workhorse of BC's backfield last year and it was clear that replacing him was going to take more than one man to do the job. Sophomores Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse have been tabbed to help fill that role. While both have good speed on the perimeter, Willis and Rouse, both small and speedy backs, do not have the same physical stature and raw shock-and-awe running power as Williams or James Conner, as is the case this week. But they managed to combine for 134 yards (Rouse 87 yards; Willis 57 yards, 1 TD) against UMass. There is plenty of talent behind them on the roster with the arrival of freshmen running backs Jon Hilliman, a four-star recruit from Plainfield, N.J., who seems cut from the same physical mold (6-foot, 215 pounds) as Williams, and Marcus Outlow, a 5-10, 207-pound three-star prospect from Norwich, Conn., who has an interesting blend of size, speed and strength. BC's wide receiving corps will be led by a trio of physical, hybrid-type wideouts in Josh Bordner, a 6-4, 230-pound senior who was converted form quarterback to wide receiver in the winter, Dan Crimmins, who at 6-5, 237 pounds ranks as the biggest and most athletically-gifted of the group, and Charlie Callinan, a 6-4, 220-pound sophomore who probably is the fastest of the hybrid trio.
3. B.C. has a pair of really tall defensive linemen in Brian Mihalik (6-foot-9) and Mehdi Abdesmad (6-foot-7). How important are these guys to the Eagles' defense? Is there a guy at linebacker this year that keys the defense a la Luke Kuechly, Kevin Pierre-Louis, etc?
Certainly, Mihalik and Abdesmad make for an imposing pair of defensive linemen BC basketball coach Jim Christian no doubt would love to have in his frontcourt. Both are physical run-stoppers who have the ability to get upfield and disrupt passing lanes with their length -- a la J.J. Watt. While they are anchors on BC's front seven, senior middle linebacker Sean Duggan, who was elected one of BC's four team captains, has emerged as the defensive ringleader, with his strong interior play and his understanding of [defensive coordinator] Don Brown's attack-oriented defense.
4. How close is Boston College to returning to contention in year two of Steve Addazio? Without Williams, Pierre-Louis an four-year starting quarterback Chase Rettig, how much is this year a rebuilding year for the Eagles and what are reasonable expectations for this season?
No one expected Addazio to do what he did in his first year at BC, taking a team that had won just two games in 2012 and turning it into a seven-game winner that earned its first bowl berth since 2010. He exceeded all expectations. But now that he's been able to set the foundation for his program, and recruit the type of players he will need to implement the spread-type offense and the attack-oriented defense he wants to run, Addazio isn't about to scale back his goals for the team just because they graduated the school's all-time leading rusher (Williams), all-time leading receiver (Alex Amidon), all-time leading scorer (kicker Nate Freese), in addition to a 46-game starter at QB in Chase Rettig. Quite the contrary. Addazio made clear at the ACC's Football Kickoff that he wanted BC to set the bar higher by challenging his team to make it to Charlotte for the ACC Championship. Now some cynics would cite those notable losses and say the only way the Eagles make it to the championship game will be as spectators, but Addazio believes Year 2 is when the real building of his program -- not just the rebuilding of it -- will take place.
Good stuff from Michael, and thanks again for helping us out this week. You can read Michael's work here, and follow him on Twitter @MBVega