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Notre Dame Football 2015 Off-Season Preview: Boston College Eagles

The Holy War is back at a baseball field.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports


2014 Record: 7-6

F/+ Rank: 36

Wins: UMass, USC, Maine, NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Syracuse

Losses: Pittsburgh, Colorado State, Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, Penn State


Season Recap

The Eagles started out 3-1 with easy wins over UMass and Maine in between a loss to Pittsburgh and a big victory over USC. They struggled on the ground versus Pitt but hung a season-high 452 rushing yards against the Trojans. They finished up September surrendering a late touchdown pass in a loss to Colorado State.

Boston College bounced back nicely with a good win over NC State and then led in the 4th quarter but would fall to Clemson by 4 points. A couple of close wins over Wake and Virginia Tech got the Eagles over .500 in conference play but they dropped the next 2 games to Louisville and Florida State. The Seminoles needed a field goal with 0:03 second left to win.

BC cruised past Syracuse in the regular season finale but blew a 2-touchdown second-half lead to fall in overtime to Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Series: 13-9-0 Notre Dame

This modern rivalry, whose 19 out of 22 total games have come since 1992, took a two-year break for 2013-14. Boston College won 6 straight smack dab in the middle of the Davie/Willingham/Weis era but have lost the last 4 meetings.

This will be the first regular season meeting between the two schools since the original meeting back in 1975 that will be played outside of Notre Dame Stadium or Alumni Stadium. That first game was played in the old Foxboro Stadium.

Coach Resume: Steve Addazio (14-12, 3rd Year, 27-23 Overall)

Addazio enters his third season in Chestnut Hill following back-to-back campaigns of 7-6 records, 4-4 league records, and bowl losses.

He was primarily an offensive line and tight end coach from 1985 through 2010 including a 3-year stint at Notre Dame and a more famous 6 years with the Florida Gators from 2005 to 2010, winning 2 National Championships with Urban Meyer.

Addazio took the Temple head coaching position in 2011 going 9-4 and 4-7 prior to being hired by Boston College on December 4, 2012.

Returning Starters: 9 Total (3 Offense, 6 Defense)

Addazio has a lot of thinking to do on the offensive side of the ball.

Linemen Situation: Awful on Offense, Pretty Good on Defense

Boston College has to replace......

....their entire offensive line.

Left tackle Seth Betancourt (13 starts), left guard Bobby Vardaro (12 starts), center Andy Gallik (13 starts), right guard Aaron Kramer (12 starts), and right tackle Ian Silberman (13 starts, 190th overall to the 49ers) are all gone.

That leaves one player, 6th-year senior Harris Williams, as the only lineman on the roster with starting experience and he was injured in the first game last year, missed the entire season, and was being eased back into things during the spring.

Fifth-year senior Dave Bowen started at left tackle during the spring with sophomore Jon Baker next to him at guard. Redshirt junior Frank Taylor is working at center, redshirt junior Jim Cashman at right guard, and redshirt freshman James Hendren at right tackle. For a team that loves to run the ball this is a scary situation.

The defensive line welcomes back junior Kevin Kavalec (13 starts, 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks), junior Truman Gutapfel (9 starts, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks), and 5th-year senior Connor Wujciak (13 starts, 7.5 TFL, 3 sacks) as the primary starters plus 5th-year senior Mehdi Abdesmad will return after starting the first couple games of 2014 and missing the rest of the year with a knee injury.

Brian Mihalik (13 starts, 5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and Seyi Adebayo (4 TFL, 3 sacks) are the main losses but redshirt junior Malachi Moore (6 TFL, 4 sacks) adds nice depth along with a few other bodies. The Eagles have also moved Will linebacker Mike Strizak (13 starts, 43 tackles, 5 TFL) to defensive end.

Returning Quarterback: No

Tyler Murphy transferred to Boston College in January of last year after graduating and starting a handful of games at Florida. He completely transformed the Eagles' offense with his legs while racking up 1,179 yards on 180 carries with 11 touchdowns. Through the air he was pretty average, and at times worse, tossing 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for 1,623 yards on 230 attempts.

Only Dak Prescott carried the ball more among Power 5 non-flexbone quarterbacks.

Boston College looks to be turning to sophomore Darius Wade who saw some brief snaps last year as a true freshman. If he doesn't start look for redshirt freshman Troy Flutie, yes Doug is his uncle, to handle the quarterback duties.

Biggest Problem for 2015: Reconstructing the Offensive Line

As mentioned above, it's a huge friggin' rebuild.

Biggest Strength for 2015: Defensive Line

Lots of players return on the D-line and at running back but there are too many other questions on offense to take the tailbacks.

Offensive Scheme: Pro-Style Multiple

Last year the Eagles relied a ton on heavy sets with tight ends all over the place. They worked a lot out of shot-gun and used the read option and QB keeper plays a lot.

Offensive coordinator Ryan Day left in the off-season to become the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and wide receivers coach Todd Fitch was promoted. It remains to be seen how much the new offense will rely on running the ball but the team should still do it quite often because that's the Addazio way.

4 Players to Remember

RB Jon Hilliman, So.- Emerged as Boston College's starter fresh out of St. Peter's Prep rushing for 13 touchdowns last fall. Gained a career-high 148 yards in the bowl game against Penn State.

WR Charlie Callinan, RS So.- Also out of St. Peter's Prep, he logged 9 starts last year despite finishing 5th among the Eagles' receivers in yardage. A big body at 6-4, 224 he'll be relied on with the loss of all 3 top receivers from 2014.

LB Steven Daniels, Sr.- Finished second on the team in tackles with 72, also chipping in 7 tackles for loss. With the move of Strizak to defensive end, Daniels is the lone linebacker returning with any starting experience.

S Justin Simmons, Sr.- Played both safety and corner last year, leading the Eagles in tackles with 76 and picking off 2 passes. Really good size at 6-3, 201 pounds and is the only full-time starter coming back in the BC secondary.

Special Teams: 4/4

Wide receiver Sherman Alston is back as the punt returner after gaining a solid 125 yards as a freshman. Running back Myles Willis was the primary kick returner and is back for his junior season.

The Eagles also welcome back punter Alex Howell for a 5th season, and he was one of three kickers to attempt field goals in 2014--sophomore Mike Knoll is back too.

Uniforms: 4/10

BC uni

Rich Barnes, USA Today Sports

Under Armour has kept things pretty simple with Boston College's uniforms. They're carrying traditional gold pants with a classic maroon and white vertical stripe and wearing white pants with the same design, too. Although it's tough to see there is a nice alternating pattern on the tips of the sleeves and back half of the jersey collar. Otherwise, the jerseys are painfully dull.

During the USC game the team wore some red bandana themed accessories which included their helmet stripe. That was to honor BC alum Welles Crowther who died during the World Trade Center Attacks.

What's To Like About the Matchup

Notre Dame's history in the Shamrock Series games. The relatively easy lead up to the game via the schedule. BC might be among the least effective offenses Notre Dame faces in 2015.

What's Not To Like About the Matchup

The Eagles have a bye week and will have 2 weeks to prepare. They're likely to be better on offense late in the season. Shamrock Series offers some distractions, particularly in Boston just 4 miles from Chestnut Hill. An Irish loss in Fenway would make Boston College's decade.

Opponent Power Ranking Based on Irish Schedule: 8th Toughest

Boston College is in a weird place. From 1999 to 2010 the Eagles went 103-50 (.673%) and were at minimum a tough out for every team they played, never winning fewer than 7 games and grabbing at least 8 wins in 10 out of those 12 seasons. Then for two years they fell to 6-18 and were among the bottom quarter Power 5 programs, at best.

Then Steve Addazio came along and he's implemented a nice turn around finishing a very respectable 36th finish in F/+ last year. But almost no one expects the improvement to continue. SB Nation's Bill Connelly is already calling this a rebuilding year for Boston College:

Boston College will be breaking in underclassmen in quite a few big roles -- quarterback, receiver, defensive back, pass rush, most of the offensive line two-deep. That could mean 2015 struggles, but there's enough potential here to be confident in a 2016 rebound.

BC kind of struck gold last year finding a perfect fit in Tyler Murphy to anchor the ground game, and we all know how much a tough running quarterback can carry an offense (/crosses fingers on Malik Zaire) in the college game.

The Eagles threw for 1,681 yards last year but finished 17th in FEI offense and 29th in S&P offense, while also ranking 18th in rushing S&P. I don't want to simplify things too much but those rankings are largely built from a quarterback who was among the top 4 or 5 rushers at his position in the entire country.

BC isn't likely to get anywhere close to that production again in 2015.

BC's defense was okay last year, finishing 50th in FEI and 43rd in S&P, and is going to have to take a significant step forward as the offense regresses. Maybe that's possible but there's just so much to replace on offense that it's going to be tough to overcome for a head coach like Addazio whose never been known to do anything other than run the ball incessantly.

Notre Dame should win this game comfortably but I'm not sure the Eagles are going to fall down to 3 wins or anything that drastic. They get Northern Illinois and Duke in late September into early October and those feel like the make-or-break games for Boston College. Win both and a 5-1 start is very possibly before they get into the bulk of their ACC schedule.

It might still be an uphill battle to bowl eligibility from there but Virginia Tech, NC State, and Syracuse could be one of the team's to fall to the Eagles and keep Addazio's winning record streak alive.