Steve Addazio brings one of the best defenses in the country into PJCS this weekend. Unfortunately for him, he also brings one of the worst offenses. Addazio is an offensive coach who brought a blue collar mindset to BC. The issue that he's run into, however, is that he hasn't been able to bring in the talent to produce the way his offense needs to. With fans starting to clamor, Addazio has to hope that his run-heavy offense can take advantage of a defense that had trouble tackling last weekend.
The Eagle's offense started this year with hopes that it could ride the legs of quarterback Darius Wade and running back Jon Hilliman to a power run offense that could wear down defenses. The season started off well enough but both Hillman and Wade were lost to injury before the middle of the season. That has forced the offense to rely on two freshman quarterbacks that weren't likely to see significant time this year. Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie (Doug's nephew) have split time at qb with Smith taking all of the snaps last week.
Smith is a wirey kid that is more of an athlete at this point than he is a quarterback. He has shown some flashes of having nice arm strength but he hasn't been able to put the ball on the money too often. Smith hasn't been helped too much by the play calling he's been given. One of the first passes that jumped out to me last week was when they ran a reverse bootleg for him. A freshman quarterback in a night game in Death Valley against one of the best defenses in the country? Let's have him roll out to his weak side and try to throw on the run. Smith, of course, threw the ball into the ground 5 yards in front of the receiver because it's an unorthodox throw that not a lot of guys can make. Smith has speed to make plays with his legs but I wouldn't say that he's a guy that worries you with his passing ability. He will have to hope that his offensive coaches put him in a better position to succeed.
BC plays a lot of running backs. Four different backs got carries last week. I'm not sure if there's a method to he madness with Addazio's use of so many backs, but all of them are fairly good players. Tyler Rouse is the main back and he will remind some of Kenneth Farrow of Houston. He isn't a flashy guy but he puts his head down and he falls forward. Marcus Outlaw is next in line as a guy that is pretty good at finding cutback lanes and getting to the second level. He's probably the quickest of the group. Myles Willis is coming off of a game where he ran for 88 yards against a very good Clemson defense. Willis is the guy I think UofL will see the most of Saturday. He combines the skills you see from Outlaw and Rouse and he also has pretty good open field speed. The fourth back the Eagles roll out is freshman Jordan Gowins. Gowins is the "power" back of the group and he saw a handful of carries last week.
All of the running backs for BC are fairly similar players but none of them really strike fear into you unless they start to do a better job or teaming them up with Smith. A read option factor in this offense could do wonders. Addazio will mix a little bit in, but he tends to stick with more traditional runs between the tackles. If the Eagles attempt to attack the edge with option plays this offense is a different animal.
So far this season, there hasn't been a consistent receiver on the Eagles roster. Thad Smith is averaging over twenty yards per catch, but with only six catches, the 66-yarder he has kind of skews that number. Sherman Alston is the fastest and quickest player on the offense, but he's another guy that the offensive staff struggles to put in a position to win. To put this group of receivers (and the way they're utilized) in context, the team's leading receiver is a fullback. I wouldn't be surprised to see Todd Grantham leave his corners on an island with one safety high, and make these receivers make plays to beat them.
An inexperienced offensive line has been a big issue for BC this year. They have veteran players at four spots on the line, but they didn't have a lot of playing experience coming into the season. The line has been a letdown in many areas as the running game is averaging under four yards per carry against FBS competition. The offense is also averaging seven negative plays a game. With a front seven that has 17 tackles for loss over the last two weeks, Louisville has to feel good about the matchup up front.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Myles Willis, RB Marcus Outlow, WR Sherman Alston
Boston College has what is arguably the best defense in the nation. With any defense you're only as good as your defensive front and BC has a great one. Harold Landry and Connor Wujciak are both having outstanding seasons against some of the lesser opponents they've played as well as teams like FSU and Duke. Landry finished the game against FSU with 3.5 tackles for loss going against the lone returning offensive line starter the Seminoles have. Wujciak has seen his name on multiple midseason All-American teams. Wujciak sets the tone at his nose guard spot for the entire defense. His effort and ability to take on double teams and collapse the pocket makes the job everyone else has behind him much easier. The Eagles have five linemen who have made a good amount of plays behind the line of scrimmage and they have the depth needed to apply pressure for four quarters.
Steven Daniels was once a Louisville recruiting target. Daniels was a high school teammate of Darius Ashley and he fit the mold of the jumbo middle linebackers that Charlie Strong seemed to like. Daniels is a jumbo linebacker that doesn't run all that well, but he has plenty of burst in short areas which makes him a really good blitzer and run-stuffer. Connor Strachan is listed as his backup but he's second on the team in tackles and tends to line up next to him as a weakside linebacker. Both linebackers are extremely sound tacklers but neither are going to run down many players without an angle. Converted safety Matt Milano is the player they utilize to spy quarterbacks. It's an interesting system because they will run man coverage across the board and blitz with Daniels and/or Strachan and leave Milano as kind of a tool to clean up whatever slips through. Milano can't run with a guy like Lamar Jackson, but he does do a good job of reading the holes left by the rush to better position himself behind the rush.
Louisville will get a break from playing against an outstanding boundary cornerback for what seems like the first time this year against BC. The defensive backs for BC aren't bad at all but they don't have the speed or skill that Louisville has faced so far this year. The Eagles play press man coverage across the board with their safeties even coming up to press slot receivers at times. That means that they don't have a safety deep a good amount of the time. Clemson did a good job of exploiting this by just playing backyard ball. Clemson just started running go routes in the second half last week and trusted their better athletes to beat the defense. What this also did was negate the pass rush. Deshaun Watson was getting rid of the ball within seconds. Louisville will have to attack this defensive backfield the same way. Their corners get called for pass interference a lot and they've been shown to be a group that can get beat deep repeatedly.
KEY PLAYERS: The Front Seven