Monday, October 4, 2010

We've got problems

The hell with doing day-by-day breakdowns on games this team probably isn't going to win.  We need to take today to explore in a little more depth what Boston College football's difficulties are.  I have my pick, and luckily, one of them isn't the quarterback position anymore, as it looks like Chase Rettig will return this season.  When a true freshman QB is one of the least of your problems, you have issues.  The major ones are, in no particular order:

1.) The offensive line.  Look no further than the five up front.  We're supposed to be "O-Line U," and instead Boston College has put forth one of the worst offensive lines in the nation this year.  What is just as mind-boggling is the fact that this line is freshman-free; most notable amongst them is Anthony Castonzo, who was supposed to be a high draft pick in 2011 (and I can assure you, that dream is rapidly fading away). 

The offensive line is often one of the most overlooked parts of the team when the guys are going well.  Indeed, when they're doing their jobs, the playmakers are making plays and your team is winning.  Unfortunately for them, if they're not the unsung heroes, when the offense looks bad, then you really start to take notice of them.  That has been the case this year, and they are a major reason for the offense's failures.

They're not blocking, and you know what happens when a team doesn't block: the run game never gets off the ground (star RB Montel Harris has gotten very little done this year so far) and your quarterback is virtually always prone to getting decked.  What's worse is that this group of experienced linemen looks the same every week; that is to say, bad.  Which brings me to point 2:

2.) Coaching.  Undeniable fact now: this coaching staff pretty much stinks.  First, take Head Coach Frank Spaziani.  He has been with the program since last decade, and I don't question that he has a strong affection for BC football and its players.  That, however, is not enough to be a head coach.  On many occasions during his tenure, we have seen an unwillingness for Spaziani to make the gutsy call; in fact, more than once, we've seen him wave the white flag on the field or being indecisive.  Further, his teams often look flat and unprepared (which BC certainly was against Notre Dame on Saturday night). 

Personally, I don't think the guy is wired to be a head coach.  I don't think he has the right personality for a football head coach for starters, and I don't think his teams will ever out-coach the other.  We know why he was hired, however: loyalty.  Our last coach was content to get back to the NFL, and it cost him his job here.  We were promised a search far and wide for our coach to succeed Jeff Jagodzinski; instead, BC hired the guy right under their nose as a sort of lifetime achievement award rather than him being the best guy out there.  Spaziani had no such dreams of going anywhere else, and was the easiest guy to break in, which is partially why he was hired.  Boston College should have gotten a coach who had prior success in FBS football or a young coordinator from a successful FBS school who would shake things up and take BC to another level.  We got an older coach, in the twilight of his career, from the same program who has yet to shake anything up.  He is a different flavor of Tom O'Brien, Mr. We Are What We Are himself, who may be good but never great, and is typically a few bad games from a disastrous season.  I'm sure the players have respected Spaz for a long time, but he should not have gotten the job in the first place.

The other most important coach to single out is Offensive Coordinator Gary Tranquill, who was a bad hire by a bad hire.  The guy is experienced, no doubt, but Tranquill's offenses have been uninspired, un-inventive, predictable, and generally lacking.  The play calling is usually conservative and sometimes bizarre.  Nothing ever seems to get better with these guys on the field, and since he took over, they have gotten completely embarrassed as a unit more than once.  Now, to add insult to injury, the offensive line is making no adjustments and look as bad as they have in ages.  If there's another guy who needs to be called out, it's Sean Devine, the offensive line coach.  This line has gone from very good to very bad in a year.  What are they paying this guy for if he can't make it work?  Clearly, there's plenty of blame to go around.

I have only been watching BC football since I was a freshman on the Heights, which means it's been less than a decade.  The fact that this is the worst BC offense I've seen by far doesn't mean much, but I'm sure this is the worst BC offense a lot of you folks have seen in a while.  In another article this week, we're going to look at just how bad the BC offense is. 

3.) Soft defense.  BC can't stop the pass.  There's often a cushion (the hallmark of a "bend but don't break" defense) and we've gotten some bad play from the secondary.  DeLeon Gause in particular hasn't done much of anything this season. 

Elsewhere, they still can't generate a pass rush.  This team's inability to get to the quarterback is almost a sickness.  As of this writing, BC is second only to Duke for worst in sacks in the ACC.  The Eagles are tied for 95th in FBS.

The opposition has an instant blueprint for beating this team: pass the ball.  BC doesn't seem to be able to stop it or to make big adjustments, so that's what teams do, and they generally succeed this year.  BC is now 80th in FBS football in pass defense, a stat which is unlikely to improve very much as the season wears on.

As a matter of fact, I'm not sure any of this will get better as the season goes on, but I know one thing: if we don't see dramatic improvement in these key areas immediately, Boston College will have a horrible season.  If you want me to quantify "horrible," think 4-6 wins. 

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