Steve Addazio comes from the Urban Meyer coaching tree, and he’s never shy to mention all of the lessons he has learned from Meyer. Addazio’s son, former Boston College tight end Louie, is even a first-year student intern on Meyer’s Ohio State staff.
But one of Meyer’s mantras may come as a surprise, given the Buckeyes coach’s pyrotechnics on offense.
“When I took this job, when I took the Temple job, what I learned from Urban is the plan to win starts with playing great defense,” Addazio told ESPN.com. “That means there’s a total commitment as a team to playing great defense. It’s not: ‘Hey, play great defense. Yippee-ki-yay!’ No. It’s play great defense, let’s have an offense that helps your defense, controls the ball, runs the ball, let’s have special teams that help our defense.
“Everything is geared toward the defense, and that’s why we play pretty good defense.”
With that in mind, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that BC boasts the nation’s No. 1 defense despite losing four starters — including two draft picks — and four assistants off a unit that was the nation’s best a year ago. Whether that’s enough to give the Eagles more than a fighting chance when No. 3 Clemson comes to town Friday remains to be seen, but Addazio likes what he has seen from the unit through its ups and downs so far.
“When you can get the No. 3 team on a Friday night in our stadium, which will be pretty close to packed, electric buzz in the air, Red Bandanna game, it’s a heck of an environment,” Addazio said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and we’re going to go out and just let it rip and play.”
The Eagles have the nation’s best passing defense, lead the nation in yards per play and rank sixth in rushing defense. Sure, consecutive home wins against overmatched opponents Wagner and Buffalo — in addition to a Week 2 win at UMass — have contributed to those lofty statistics. But BC also weathered a 49-0 loss at Virginia Tech, and that game as much as any helps drive home Addazio’s point about gearing everything toward that side of the ball.
Addazio felt BC over-schemed for that tilt instead of setting players free. The Eagles had two first-half turnovers in Hokies territory, along with a long kick return brought back due to penalty. While no longer the injury-plagued atrocious unit it was last season, BC’s offense still cannot afford to find itself in dire field position again and again, though new quarterback Patrick Towles helped the unit regain its footing a bit in its last two outings — consecutive 35-plus-point, 400-plus-yard contests ahead of the matchup with the Tigers.
“If you can play great defense then you’re going to be in the middle of every game and it gives you a chance,” Addazio said. “Our issue is if we get behind early too much then it gets to be a difficult mountain for us. But at home, we have a good defense obviously, our offense is really maturing, we’re starting to come along — very young, but you can see the signs now of a more balanced approach.”
Friday will be a showcase for other reasons, too, with Welles Crowther being honored in BC’s service day game. The red bandanna accessories BC sports will honor the alum who was credited with saving more than a dozen lives before losing his own on Sept. 11, 2001, and the Red Bandanna Hero Award will be presented by Crowther’s parents to Christopher Baity, founder of Semper K9 Assistance Dogs.
The occasion has led to one of college football’s best scenes in each of the past two seasons, and Addazio knows the impact Crowther’s legacy has on his roster.
“We’ve got a lot of Northeast guys, a lot Jersey guys, New York guys — their parents, they remember, they were a part of what happened, and so it’s got a very big impact on them,” Addazio said. “It’s just the whole concept with Welles in terms of the ultimate sacrifice that he paid to help other people. BC’s whole motto and mantra here is ‘Service for Others.’ That’s service for others at the highest level.”