In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
No. 32 Boston College
"Boston College is seeking a return to ACC relevance and job security for head coach Steve Addazio," I wrote when ranking Boston College 68th in the 2017 preseason rankings.
They've returned to relevance with back-to-back seven-win seasons, Addazio has a little more job security and, most importantly, this should be the program's best team in a decade.
2017 Record: 7-6 (4-4, ACC)
Boston College won seven games for a second straight season (and fourth time in five years) but it was a big step forward. They won four ACC games for the first time since 2014, walloped Florida State and nearly beat both NC State and Iowa.
Head Coach: Steve Addazio (6th Year, 31-33)
Steve Addazio has righted the ship after going 3-9 (0-8, ACC) in 2015 and now has four seven-win seasons in five years. While that won't earn him a spot in Boston College's Varsity Club Hall of Fame, he has delivered consistency to a program that won six total games in the two years prior to his arrival and is now on the verge of leading their first eight-win season since 2009.
RB Jon Hilliman, DE Harold Landry, LB Ty Schwab, CB Isaac Yiadom, CB Kamrin Moore
For the third time since 2014, Boston College had at least three players selected in the NFL Draft. The headliner is Harold Landry, who had a staggering 37.5 tackles for loss and 21 sacks from 2015-16. However, as he battled injuries as a senior, the defense didn't suffer.
Leading tackler Ty Schwab is gone after a career season, as are corners (and draft picks) Isaac Yiadom and Kamrin Moore, and backup running back Jon Hilliman. Hilliman (transfer to Rutgers) averaged just 3.4 yards per carry over three years but was a capable all-purpose back behind AJ Dillon.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Anthony Brown, RB AJ Dillon, WR Kobay White, WR Jeff Smith, WR Michael Walker, TE Tommy Sweeney, TE Chris Garrison, OT Aaron Monteiro, OT Chris Lindstrom, G Sam Schmal, G John Phillips, C Ben Petrula
When you have a Heisman candidate at running back and one of the best offensive lines in the country, you run the football. A lot.
Boston College averaged nearly 50 rushing attempts over their final three games of 2017 and finished 11th in the FBS with 47.5 attempts per game. Expect that number to increase if incumbent quarterback Anthony Brown (he resumed full activity in July after missing the final three games and all of spring practice with a knee injury) struggles to throw the ball beyond five yards.
Regarding Dillon — who set the program record for most rushing yards by a freshman (1,589) and helped BC bumped their yards-per-carry average by 44 percent from 2016 — this is one of my favorite quotes of the offseason (courtesy of Athlon Sports):
"Our coaches were laughing when watching game tape of [AJ] Dillon. Not laughing at him, laughing at how ridiculously good he is."
But as good as Dillon was, the Eagles offense was terrible on third downs (although they did improve from 30 percent in 2016 to 38 percent in 2017) and terrible in the red zone (82 percent). A lot of that falls on Brown, who flashed dual-threat potential as a freshman (just the second freshman quarterback to start the season opener in program history) but had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 1.2 and too often bailed from clean pockets. In Dillon and some talented receivers — namely sophomore Kobay White — Brown has the skill group to improve in year two.
All five starters return from an offensive line that had the 13th-best sack rate in the FBS (3.7 percent), led by All-America candidate Chris Lindstrom at right tackle.
"Look at the versatility and depth now," Addazio said of the line in February. "Not only do we have seven guys with 10 starts, but we have seven guys that are fairly interchangeable. Left side, right side, guard to tackle, center to guard, guard to center, that's what you want."
Also, receiver Michael Walker is one of the best kick and punt returners in the country.
Returning Defensive Players
DE Zach Allen, DT Ray Smith, LB John Lamot, LB Connor Strachan, LB Kevin Bietzer, S Lukas Denis, S Will Harris
Boston College's scoring numbers improved (points per game, points per play and first-half points all declined) but they weren't good on third downs, allowed 4.8 yards per rush (up from 3.4 in 2016), their sack rate was cut in half and they forced 0.3 fewer turnovers per game. And while co-coordinators Anthony Campanile and Jim Reid have some high-end talent, there are depth issues at nearly every position.
The great news is that defensive end Zach Allen passed on the NFL draft after a strong finish and is back for his senior season. Despite being banged up for most of the year, he was one of only two FBS defensive linemen with at least 100 tackles last year (among his 100 tackles were 15.5 tackles for loss and four sacks).
“He had a lot of grit,” Addazio said of the 6-foot-5, 285-pounder. “He dealt with that and got it fixed and now he feels fantastic. It’s hard when you’re playing dinged up or injured. That’s the way the game is, you’ve got to play that way. Especially at the level he’s going to be playing at.”
Middle linebacker John Lamot is back after a strong freshman season, and strong-side linebacker Connor Strachan is back after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
"We brought John to Boston College because he was a high school quarterback," Addazio said of Lamot, whose 63 tackles ranked fifth on the team last year. "He was a great athlete, and he's transitioned over to playing linebacker. He's amazing. He's a natural athlete. He's got great acceleration to the ball. He's part of that linebacker crew that had like five (players) go down. All these new guys like John came in and played at a high level, (so) now we've got the whole pool of them."
Two senior safeties will carry a secondary that's replacing two NFL corners. Lukas Denis is a former corner who's is a true sideline-to-sideline player. He led the team in interceptions (seven) and pass breakups (10). Will Harris had his best season yet, registering 83 tackles.
DE Drew McQuarrie, DT Jaleel Berry, CB Tate Haynes
Rarely does Steve Addazio rely on new faces, whether that's true and redshirt freshmen, JUCO transfers or FBS transfers. And that will be the case again in 2018; not many new faces are projected to have notable roles.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Drew McQuarrie occasionally took reps with the first team during spring ball, and redshirt freshmen defensive tackle Jaleel Berry could help their depth issues at the position.
Also, Tate Haynes, a 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman corner made some nice plays in the spring and will begin preparing for a starting shot in 2019.
After opening vs. UMass and Holy Cross, things get tricky for Boston College. They visit Wake Forest on a short week, visit an improved Purdue team, and draw the top two teams from the Coastal — Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech.
|Saturday, Sept. 1||vs. UMass|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||vs. Holy Cross|
|Thursday, Sept. 13||at Wake Forest|
|Saturday, Sept. 22||at Purdue|
|Saturday, Sept. 29||vs. Temple|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||at NC State|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||vs. Louisville|
|Friday, Oct. 26||vs. Miami (FL)|
|Saturday, Nov. 3||at Virginia Tech|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||vs. Clemson|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||at Florida State|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||vs. Syracuse|