Following an agonizing 3-9 season (0-8 in ACC conference play), Steve Addazio and the Boston College Eagles face a long and grueling off-season of restructuring. Less than one month after a demoralizing loss to Syracuse on a last-second field goal, there have already been some notable changes in the program. Though the 2016 season is more than eight months away, it is already worth considering what the team is doing for the upcoming year.
Two days after the season ended, Marcus Outlow, Sherman Alston, and Jordan Gowins all announced their decisions to transfer. While Outlow and Alston will be missed the most, they each saw a decrease in both playing time and production during their sophomore seasons. The team should be able to compensate for the loss of these three players, but the offense will nevertheless need to readjust.
In the wake of losing three offensive players, BC picked up a notable transfer from Kentucky in quarterback Patrick Towles just this past week. Towles, a two-year starter for Kentucky, will join the Eagles for his final season of eligibility as a graduate student. Adding a graduate quarterback to the program is nothing new for Addazio. Eagles fans surely recall the benefit of bringing in Tyler Murphy from Florida for the 2014 season.
As the 2015 season revealed, BC’s four quarterbacks— freshman John Fadule, redshirt freshman Troy Flutie, freshman Jeff Smith and sophomore Darius Wade—all lack experience. Following a season-ending ankle injury to Wade, the three other signal callers struggled with consistently throwing the ball, among other things.
At 6’5” and 250-pounds, Towles has the physical attributes of a prototypical gunslinger, in stark contrast with the smaller statures of the other four quarterbacks currently on the roster. Even better, Towles offers the Eagles more than just size. Having started twenty-two games, he also comes to BC with plenty of experience, something that Addazio and the team sorely need. It remains to be seen how Towles plays into the 2016 scheme, but adding an experienced transfer surely will spark healthy competition between the quarterbacks, at the very least.
The excitement around Towles quickly died, however. The cycle of unexpected off-season changes took a turn for worse last Sunday when defensive coordinator Don Brown announced that he will be leaving the program to take the same position under head coach Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
Throughout his time at BC, Brown helped orchestrate a considerable improvement to the defense. When Coach Addazio hired Brown as defensive coordinator in 2013, he inherited a team ranked 76th in scoring defense and 102nd in total defense. This past year, the Eagles finished the season ranked fourth in scoring defense (15.3 points per game) and first in total defense (254.3 yards-per-game). In recognition of his success, Brown was awarded the American Football Coaches Association's Assistant Coach of the Year Award, reflecting his invaluable contributions to the program.
Under Brown, the Eagles defense became a dominant force. Especially this past year amidst a turbulent offensive season, a tenacious defensive unit became the undeniable identity for the Eagles. Despite a 3-9 record, the defense put forth valiant efforts in losses, including in games against Florida State and Notre Dame.
Brown was not only a superb coach, but also an excellent talent scout. Throughout his tenure at BC, Brown was pivotal in luring some of the Eagle’s top defensive recruits, including sophomore defensive end Harold Landry, a four-star recruit from North Carolina, who chose BC over multiple offers from SEC schools.
Not surprisingly, Brown’s departure seems to already have affected BC’s recruiting process. Days after Brown announced he was taking the job at Michigan, a pair of 2016 recruits announced that they were decommitting from the Eagles. K.J. Gray, a three-star recruit from New Jersey, announced via Twitter his decommitment. A day later, Devante Cross, recruited to play cornerback, also tweeted that he was reopening the recruiting process and beginning to talk with other coaches.
Losing Brown might have already cost BC a couple of recruits, but that doesn't necessarily affect next year's program; it remains to be seen if the defense can replicate last season’s success under a new coordinator. While much of the defensive success can be attributed to Brown’s leadership, key players including Harold Landry, Connor Strachan, and Matt Milano will return to anchor a front which can only hope to duplicate last years outstanding production. Regardless, Addazio will have a big hole to fill in Brown’s place.
Three years into the Addazio era, the 2015 season is the most forgettable to date. Following a year marred by injuries and disappointment, the Eagles need to implement drastic changes. Adding Towles to the mix of quarterbacks is a good start, but it seems to only serve as a short-term solution with a “win now” mentality. Furthermore, losing three players, a top-notch defensive coordinator in Brown, and a pair of dynamic recruits marks a bad trend for a program that needs to focus on adding rather than losing talent.
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