CHESTNUT HILL — On Wednesday, Boston College kicked off its lead-up to spring practice with a press conference inside the Conte Forum media suite.
For roughly an hour, the Eagles rolled out coach Steve Addazio, new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, and new defensive backs coach Eric Lewis for interviews.
We will hit on more later in the week, but we wanted to get out some nuggets tonight as the Eagles prepare for their first practice on Saturday.
— With the return of quarterback Anthony Brown, the Eagles have a starter coming back with experience, but Addazio left some wiggle room in regards to who will end up with the job.
"I always feel that (Brown)'s the starter. And he's done a phenomenal job, and he had an outstanding year," Addazio said. "But having said that, we're going to compete. Mike (Bajakian) is going to get up here and talk about it. He's coming in here — you know what the beautiful thing is sometimes when you have new coaches coming in? Everybody starts from the same spot, and I love that. And I think it just creates a really great competition because he's going to evaluate it the way he sees it, and I've told him that. I want him to do that. So I think that's great."
Addazio did mention that backup EJ Perry "had an unbelievable bowl prep." From what we observed last year during practices, we feel that the Eagles have solid depth at the position, and Perry played enough when Brown went down with injuries last year to feel confident that the offense can function well if it comes to that.
— As for what the offense will look like under Bajakian, we got more and more the sense that you won't see too many radical changes from what the Eagles ran last year under former OC and current Bowling Green coach Scot Loeffler.
Bajakian said he aligned philosophically with Addazio in a conversation with the Eagles coach before he took the job. When we asked him how specifically that was, this was Bajakian's answer.
"My background as an offensive coordinator had been one of being involved in an uptempo offense," Bajakian said. "Here, we move very fast. Coach Sheridan talked about relentless effort, and toughness, and physicality. Well, to me, that plays hand-in-hand with playing with tempo. If we can wear down an opponent and physically dominate them, and make conditioning a factor, I think that's important.
"So, I've always placed a high, high, high importance on effort. Well, obviously, coach Addazio, with his background as an offensive line coach, has stressed that. And, No. 2, as a head coach, you can see it permeate all the positions. I watched the scheme, and I watched the personnel, but I pay close attention to the effort level of the players, and our players are more than willing to play their butts off. That was number one: playing with tempo.
"Number two, in my time at Tampa, we had some good tight ends. So, I had been, along my travels, when I was at the University of Cincinnati, we had Travis Kelce was our tight end there. We had another tight end named Adrien Robinson, another guy named Blake Annen. All were future NFL players. They became an important part of our offense. But when I went to Tampa Bay, I learned a lot about how to use a tight end more effectively in an offense.
"So, between playing with tempo and knowing that we have a room full of tight ends who are all good players, and we live in what I call 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends), and are able to play two, three tight ends at a time the majority of the time, that was attractive to me. So the effort, the tempo, the tight end position in particular, I felt like I could come in and transition easily into what they were doing here already."
In other words, Bajakian is not looking to come into The Heights to reinvent BC's offense. If anything, he likes what he sees already and wants to keep the basics of it the same.
— Sheridan spoke mainly about how seven positions are up for grabs, and how he wants to see a physical group of players take those spots. He honed in one one specific team-wide area of improvement.
"The one thing, and it's super-critical, and I know you guys will appreciate this, is we thought our third-down defense needs to improve," Sheridan said of the statistic of which the Eagles ranked 49th in the nation last season. "It's very, very critical area of football. There's two ways to get the ball back to our offense, One is to take the ball away. If you could get two takeaways a game, you'd definitely be in tops in the country in turnover ratio.
"But the second way to get the ball back is to stop teams on downs or make them punt. So, that's an area, both statistically and as we look at it, we definitely need to and want to do a better job, and that will be a point of emphasis throughout our spring practice."
— Lewis has the task of reloading a unit that loses cornerbacks Taj-Amir Torres and Hamp Cheevers and safeties Lukas Denis and Will Harris. There is some experience returning, but the secondary took a major hit to both graduation and, in Cheevers' case, early departure. In regards to Cheevers, both Addazio and Sheridan both expressed that they felt he could have used an extra year of experience, but wished him well in his quest to live out his NFL dreams.
But Lewis did not hit on that, only that he is excited to get started, and feels the cupboard is not bare.
"We have a lot of talent here," Lewis said. "Those guys, they feel like they've got a chip on their shoulder, (have) something to prove. We're excited to get going here in spring ball, and prove to everyone why they got here, and what we can do here in the ACC."
— Another major area of rebuilding will take place along the offensive line, where players like Jon Baker, Chris Lindstrom, Aaron Monteiro, and Sam Schmal are graduating. However, Addazio insisted that the production up front will be strong again.
"John Phillips has emerged to be a really outstanding player, and (returning starter) Ben Petrula is an outstanding player, and Alec Lindstrom is going to be elite at the center position," Addazio said. "Tony Palazzolo has waited for his opportunity to play here and is ready to play here.
"You know, and then we have some unbelievable young players here, as well. So it's exciting. We're not — our level of play at the offensive line will not drop off at all. I mean, and I think I'm pretty qualified to make that statement. So we're going to have a great front."
Two redshirt freshmen along the line who Addazio singled out were Finn Dirstine and Tyler Vrabel.
"Finn Dirstine went from like 330 (pounds) to 305, and he looks fantastic," Addazio said. "Tyler Vrabel, he looks fantastic. Those are two guys you can really see emerge this year. They're emerging."