Despite having to replace record-setting running back Andre Williams, the 2013 Doak Walker Award winner, Boston College offensive coordinator Ryan Day said he is encouraged by the group of running backs he will have on the roster this summer.
With six talented players to choose from, the staff used its past two recruiting classes to help bolster the depth and skill at the position.
“Those six guys we feel good about,” Day said. “We feel like we upgraded our skill level. You can’t replace Andre, but we’re doing the best we can.”
There’s only one problem: none of them have started a college game, and four of them just signed their letters of intent earlier this month.
Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis received some valuable reps last season as backups to the nation’s top running back, and they’ll be joined by four players in the 2014 recruiting class who could also give the Eagles a boost. Jonathan Hilliman, an ESPN 300 player and the No. 25 player at his position, was the top recruit in the class. Day said Hilliman is physically comparable to Williams, and that fellow incoming freshman Marcus Outlow is “versatile, big and strong.” Day called Richard Wilson “a good, all-around back,” and said Sherman Alston is a hybrid receiver/running back who will add speed to the group.
None of them, however, enrolled early, so Rouse and Willis will get the bulk of the work this spring. Willis played in 11 games last season and was second on the team in rushing with 346 yards and two touchdowns. Rouse was right behind him, having played in nine games. He totaled 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back is one of several position groups in which BC fans will see some new, young faces this fall, along with wide receiver.
“There’s no question,” Day said. “They’ll have a lot of opportunities. We have about 30 kids coming in, new in the program, which is about 30 percent of your roster, so 30 percent of our team is going to be first-year kids. We’re going to be really young.”
Still, the staff is confident it can build off of last season's success. Under first-year coach Steve Addazio, Boston College made one of the biggest turnarounds in the country, going from 2-10 to 7-5, including a 4-4 record in ACC play. The Eagles advanced to the AdvoCare V100 Bowl -- their first bowl appearance in the last three seasons.
“Every team is different,” Day said. “We’ve just got to find a way to put the right pieces together, just like we did last year. Find the leaders. We lost some good leaders. Once we can find the leadership, it’s our job as coaches to find the right scheme to put it all together and get them to play hard.”