BC counts on youth, expects roller coaster

The list goes on and on.

There are freshmen (of both the redshirt and true varieties) everywhere on the Boston College depth chart.

There's 11 on the offensive two-deep depth chart, eight more on the defensive two-deep and one more (not counting players twice) on the special-teams two-deep for a total of 20. That's nearly a third of the 63 total names listed.

Add in the six sophomores listed and you're up to 41 percent underclassmen.

"We have a lot of youth in our skill positions," sophomore back Myles Willis said. "But you'd much rather have it that way than [have it] flipped and have a young O-line and old skill position players."

The youth at the skill positions doesn't mean there's no experience on BC's sideline -- the Eagles have 15 graduate students on their roster, tied with Alabama for most in the country. All five starters on the offensive line -- including returning starters Andy Gallik, Bobby Vardaro and Harris Williams and new starters Seth Betancourt and Ian Silberman -- will be in their fifth year in 2014.

"It's good to have them coming back -- they know what's up," Willis, a likely starter at running back alongside fellow sophomore Tyler Rouse, said of the O-line. "They know how it feels to go win a game on Saturday and know how hard it's gonna [be]."

But the rest of the young Eagles don't -- at least not yet. And for BC to build on its 7-6, bowl-worthy performance in Year 1 of the Steve Addazio era, those untested players will have to ace all their early tests at the college level.

The first of those comes on Saturday, when the Eagles will bus to Foxborough to face in-state foe UMass at Gillette Stadium (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

"You sit here and you say to yourself, 'OK, for the future of the program we've gotta get them on the field. We've gotta get 'em going,'" Addazio said of the young players. "But you also know that you lose games when you put the ball on the ground. And that's the dilemma you're in.

"Those guys, they're working really well and they're getting better every day but it'll be the first time in that environment."

BC's Class of 2014 was ranked as high as No. 24 nationally by Recruiting Nation, before landing at No. 42, and includes three four-star prospects and a whopping 19 three-star prospects. Clearly that youth is enticing.

But the fact is young players are prone to making mistakes, and BC's reliance on youth -- which is unusual for the program -- no doubt has cost Addazio shuteye ahead of this season.

"It's an interesting dynamic in Year 2," Addazio said. "We have a lot more talent in here now, so it's exciting. There's a lot of unknowns, but I'm excited about it. I'm not sitting here in front of you whining about it. I just know it's gonna take a little time. That's what this season is going to be."

Just because BC went from 2-10 in 2012 to 7-6 in 2013, appearing in a bowl (losing to Arizona) for the first time in three seasons, doesn't mean all the holes have been patched over and the rebuilding is complete.

Some structural work remains.

"When I took this deal, this job, I knew that this was minimally a three-year, probably more in line closer to [a] five-year [project]," Addazio said. "And nothing has changed. Not from my vantage point. Grabbing seven wins last year didn't solve it all, but we're rolling our sleeves up and building more.

"Year-by-year we will get a little bit more experienced and a little bit more restocked. And then you get to the point where you're in your fourth or fifth year, in there, and you have a nice drawer full of good players that have varied experience levels ... then hopefully you're starting to get back to where you were when you were hitting it."

In the meantime, Addazio likes what he's seen from Willis, Rouse and freshmen Jonathan Hilliman, Marcus Outlow and Richard Wilson in the running back corps. He's high on redshirt freshman Charlie Callinan and true freshmen Thaddius Smith, Gabriel McClary and Sherman Alston at wide receiver. He's been impressed by freshmen defenders Harold Landry, Connor Strachan and Ty Schwab.

"Now, will that equate to production this year?" Addazio asked rhetorically. "Probably, but maybe not to the level you're hoping in Year 1. But the talent's there."

That comment was specifically about the wideouts, but it can apply to the team as a whole. The Eagles return just 16.9 percent of their rushing yards, 0.08 percent of their passing yards, 31.1 percent of their receiving yards and 57.2 percent of their tackles from 2013.

There will be plenty of opportunities for new players to emerge and make up for some of that lost production.

QB Tyler Murphy has never taken a regular-season snap for the Eagles, but he started six games for the Florida Gators. The graduate student transfer says that experience was invaluable, and he's been trying to pass on what he learned to the young players around him.

"It feels good to be the guy, but it comes with a lot of responsibility," said Murphy, whom teammates and coaches alike have praised his leadership ability. "You have to make sure you're ready, individually, and then you also have to make sure everybody else on the offense is ready. That's part of the challenge.

"You can't just focus on your job, you have to make sure everybody else is doing their job, pushing guys and making the best of each rep."

With the first regular-season reps almost here, the Eagles can probably best be described as cautiously optimistic.

"I really like our guys. Every day I go to work and it's fun to coach this football team," Addazio said. "I've got a lot of respect for the guys on this team. They really like ball, they have talent and they want to be good, so what else do you want?

"Now we'll go about the business of putting this together and developing it. You hope you can get out early and get some positive momentum going and that'll go a long way in the development. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. But I mean that's the hope. It would be great for the building of this team. But part of development and part of maturity is those scars, those scars from going through it the hard way."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.