Offensive questions loom as Boston College opens spring practice

Darius Wade gets another crack at the starting QB job he held for the first part of 2015 before he got hurt. AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Boston College is set to open spring practice Wednesday, and while the Eagles certainly won’t win any Atlantic Division popularity contests, they finished 2016 by winning three straight and enter spring ball with ample enthusiasm for an even better 2017. Still, some big questions loom, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

Is there an answer at quarterback?

Steve Addazio has had some success with transfers (Tyler Murphy, Patrick Towles) but struggled to develop a long-term solution at quarterback. That figures to change this year, as Darius Wade gets another crack at the starting job he held for the first part of 2015 before an injury sidetracked his career, and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown pushes to land the job for the foreseeable future. Wade has the experience, Brown has the upside, and the offense in general is desperate for one of the two to take a big step forward. In Addazio’s four years on the job, BC has averaged just 135 passing yards per game, the seventh-lowest nationally and worst by a non-option offense.

Can the offensive line get some push?

It’s been a slow march toward respectability for BC’s offensive line, but with last year’s unit chock full of freshmen and sophomores, it’s a group Addazio is excited about in 2017. Veteran Jon Baker will miss the spring, but the rest of the group offers a foundation, Addazio said. “The offensive line experience allows you to hit the thing running and not have to hold your installation,” he said. “We're very far advanced right now.” That’s good news because last season BC ranked 56th among Power 5 teams in yards before contact and had the second-most runs stopped for a loss or no gain. The Eagles are never going to have more skill-position talent than their Atlantic Division competition, but the big guys up front can make a difference.

Are the young receivers ready to take the next step?

Addazio sees talent at receiver, with Jeff Smith, Michael Walker and others maturing. Still, it’s been four years since a BC player topped 500 receiving yards, and last season the unit led all Power 5 teams in drop rate. The inconsistency at QB certainly hasn’t helped, but the rapport has to go both ways. Right now, the receivers are well ahead in terms of experience, and they need to make the job easier for the quarterbacks if the offense is going to take a big step forward.

Is the defense good or elite?

There’s so much to like about Boston College’s defense, even with Connor Strachan out for the spring. Two years ago, theirs was the top-ranked defense in the nation, despite playing alongside the country’s worst offense. The D was strong again in 2016, with one of the best pass rushes in the country, led by Harold Landry. But here was the key stat for the BC defense last season: Against teams that won seven games or fewer last season, it allowed 4.1 yards per play and recorded 37 sacks. Against teams that won eight games or more, BC allowed 6.5 yards per play and nabbed just 10 sacks in five games. To compete with Clemson, Louisville and Florida State in the Atlantic (combined score of 153-24 last year), the Eagles need to be an elite defense, not just a good one.