As his team's season opener creeps up, Boston College coach Steve Addazio knows that this season is just a little different than his other ones at Chestnut Hill.
For the first time in his tenure, now his sixth season at The Heights, there are expectations for real success. The Eagles are getting preseason top 25 votes, and his star running back, AJ Dillon, is among the candidates with Heisman aspirations.
These are the types of things that lead to the Eagles expecting more than a 7-6 season, something Addazio has accomplished four times at BC.
Now, with UMass coming to Alumni Stadium Saturday, Addazio and Co. have to show they are worthy of this early praise. And during Wednesday's Atlantic Coast Conference teleconference, Addazio spoke about having such expectations heading into the fall.
"Well, it sure beats the alternative," he said. "But it's nice to be in a position where people can recognize some of the growth in the program. Now, that being said, that doesn't make it a reality. That's up to us to make it a reality. What we like to say around here since the offseason last year is taking the next step. That's what we're into right now. How do we systematically take the next step? To say it or have a cute T-shirt about it is one thing, but the actual nuts and bolts of here were the issues that we had, here's how we're going to go about correcting those issues, here's the video to back up the fact that we addressed those issues and overcame those issues."
Luckily, the Eagles are experienced in the right places, including an offensive line that is senior-laden with plenty of starts under its belt. That type of leadership can only help with the schedule the Eagles will take on, which includes Purdue in non-conference play, the usual heavy-hitters from the ACC Atlantic Division, and the two toughest crossover matchups from the Coastal in Miami and Virginia Tech.
"I think our team is a very mature team," Addazio said. "We have a bunch of sharp guys on the team. They get it. They've worked real, real hard to address those issues. We feel confident that we're going to have a better football team that's going to be capable of taking the next step.Right now what's in front of us, I talked to the team today post-practice, I have one expectation, and that's this: At the end of Saturday, that we were the most physical team on the field and that we come out of that game with a W. That's my expectation for Game 1. That's what I want to see on our football team.
"We're going to take that one week at a time, and we're going to grow because every year you have to have a growth to you, and everything isn't always exactly the way you want it to be, but at the end of the day, you continue to develop and grow and you watch yourself improve as a program, as a player, and as a team. So that's been our message."
Another interesting aspect of this opener that Addazio covered in the teleconference was that UMass already has a game under its belt, a 63-15 whitewashing of Duquesne last Saturday.
Addazio was asked if that was an advantage or disadvantage for his team.
"You know, I think it's got some pluses, and I think it's got some minuses," Addazio said. "Having the film to watch, no doubt that's a plus. But a team having a one game up on you is a plus for them. No matter who you are, whatever, opening day always, for whatever reason, brings about some issues, and it's just — I think no matter how much you try to simulate, it's hard to simulate opening day and getting in the groove of playing a game and the tempo and the intensity and all the little things that surround game: Fans, crowd, everything. I think getting your first one out of the way is definitely — if you can stay healthy, I think that's an unbelievable benefit.
"Now, having the tape to watch, sure, it helps you. It helps you confirm some ideas. But I think staying healthy and playing an opening game is by far an advantage, and I think that truthfully everybody should start at the same time."