Josh Haden arrived on the Boston College campus last fall as a highly regarded running back prospect who was expected to provide immediate help in filling the void left by the departures of Andre Callender and L.V. Whitworth. Montel Harris came to Boston College with few expectations; he was brought in late in the recruiting process after almost heading to Duke.
Billed as 1-2 punch out of BC's backfield, the two sophomores were supposed to lead the Eagles' rushing attack for the next three seasons. Going into Saturday's game against Central Michigan, only Harris remains as Haden has chosen to transfer out of Chestnut Hill.
Haden struggled with injuries through most of his freshman year, which allowed Harris to step into a more prominent role. But Haden's promise kept him part of BC's offensive plans. Through the first seven games, Haden ran for 213 yards and 1 touchdown on 58 carries. After rushing 17 times for 93 yards against Wake Forest Sept. 26, Haden saw his opportunities start to fade. He only had 15 total carries in the next three games and left the NC State game early with an ankle injury. He had to watch as Harris broke BC's single-game rushing record with 264 yards against the Wolfpack and must have seen the writing on the wall.
For all of his speed and explosiveness, Haden was never really able to develop into the big-play threat the Eagles needed. His longest run from scrimmage was only 20 yards and he often had trouble finding open holes in the Eagles' zone run schemes. Haden often got caught trying to force runs to the outside when lanes were opening up on the interior. Haden was averaging less than four yards per carry and never seemed to find his groove.
Haden will be missed most in BC's wildcat formation, where he provided a viable second option. Most plays out of the formation began with Harris making a read on whether to hand to Haden or keep it himself. Haden's speed coming across the formation forced the defense to remain in its lanes and allowed Harris to exploit them with tough cuts.
Now true freshman Rolandan Finch will have to step into a more prominent role to replace Haden's production. BC used the wildcat very sparingly -- and with little success -- last week against Notre Dame. Wear and tear on Harris also is a concern.
But the broader issue for BC is the failure to utilize such a highly touted prospect. ESPN listed Haden as the 35th-ranked running back in his class and his arrival at Chestnut Hill was highly anticipated. But Haden joined a growing list of highly regarded recruits who couldn't grow into college stars at the Heights.
Brian Toal was a high school All-American and the Big East defensive freshmen of the year, but the success wouldn't last as his tackles decreased every year as he battled injuries. Pat Sheil was a promising offensive line prospect who was all-state in Virginia, but never saw extended playing time in three years as an Eagle. Jordon McMichael, a tight end from Minnesota who was also recruited by Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Nebraska, still hasn't seen consistent playing time.
Boston College has developed a reputation as a school that achieves despite its talent limitations. That mentality may help rally most of the locker room, but could discourage and deter the development of higher-regarded recruits. Coach Frank Spaziani and his staff need to make sure Haden's departure and the struggles of other top recruits don't deter future big-time recruits from coming to Chestnut Hill.