Opponent Analysis: Boston College Eagles — 2021 Syracuse Football preview

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Boston College linebacker John Lamot tackles Syracuse quarterback JaCobian Morgan during Saturday’s game at the Carrier Dome. Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team opponent preview each week over the summer. This week, we’re previewing Syracuse’s matchup with Boston College on Oct. 30 with three major storylines.

Eight wins?

Former Boston College head coach Steve Addazio was a hallmark of consistency (not always for the better) during his time at Chestnut Hill.

In his first season with the Eagles, he took a team that went 2-10 in 2012 and immediately established a winning culture, going 7-6 (4-4 ACC) and raising hopes that Boston College was ready to contend in the ACC and become a threat to be a double-digit win contender.

But seven wins would be as good as Addazio would ever achieve with the Eagles. In seven seasons with Boston College, Addazio led them to five separate seven-win seasons and six bowl appearances, but could never break the eight-win threshold. Enough was enough in Chestnut Hill after after mediocre 2019 season where the Eagles went 6-6, and he was fired and took the head coaching position at Colorado State.

Current head coach Jeff Hafley has brought new hope to BC. He’s revamped the dated run-first offense with an innovative pass-first scheme, and he’s restored Boston College’s defense to respectability in just one season where he went 6-5 and an even 5-5 in ACC play.

Hafley is in good position to finally get Boston College past the seven-win barrier in 2021.

BC’s 2021 schedule is decidedly less difficult, with tune-ups against Colgate and UMass, plus Temple, which went 1-6 in 2020. Their most difficult non-conference matchup is a date with Missouri, who went 5-5 and was forced to withdraw from the Music City Bowl because of COVID issues. Plus their two Coastal crossovers against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are certainly winnable as well.

Jurkovec and the passing game

Upon arriving at Boston College, Hafley immediately ditched Addazio’s ball-control offensive style and installed a dynamic passing attack, which averaged 284.2 yards through the air, good for 24th in the FBS. That was in large part due to Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec, who won the starting job in summer camp and finished with 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns in 10 games.

Jurkovec gets most of his favorite passing targets back, which is headlined by All-ACC First Team selection Zay Flowers, just the second wide receiver in school history to be named to the first team. He finished second in the ACC with 892 yards and was tied for 12th nationally with nine touchdown catches.

Two other names to watch are redshirt senior CJ Lewis (28 receptions for 460 yards and five touchdowns) and grad student Kobay White, who led the team with 29 receptions in 2019 and added 460 yards and five touchdowns, but was out in 2020 because of an ACL injury.

It remains to be seen what Hafley will do about the run game. Boston College averaged just 101.7 yards per game on the ground (118th in the FBS) last year and incumbent starter David Bailey entered the transfer portal and wound up with Addazio at Colorado State.

The Eagles get back grad student Travis Levy and redshirt sophomore Pat Garwo, and with a year of the zone run scheme in place plus a veteran offensive line returning, look for BC to jump in the rushing rankings.

» Related: Did Syracuse’s offensive line improve from 2020?

Questions at linebacker but a deep secondary

Addazio’s defensive was uncharacteristically bad in 2019, finishing at or near the bottom of the FBS in all major categories. But Hafley made big strides on that side of the ball, with the Eagles finishing a respectable 68th in defense on 28.4 ppg.

A large part of the improvement came from linebackers Max Richardson and Isaiah McDuffie (206 tackles and 6.5 sacks), but they’re now gone from the program. It’s particularly significant in light of Hafley’s switch to a 4-2-5 base formation last year, but the Eagles also landed Temple grad transfer Isaiah Graham-Mobley to take one of the available spots.

The secondary is where the strength of the defense lies. The Eagles’ biggest win of the offseason may be former five-star recruit and Florida State safety/linebacker transfer Jaiden Lars-Woodbey.

At corner, three-year starter Brandon Sebastian, All-ACC Honorable Mention Josh DeBerry, and redshirt junior Jason Maitre (six starts at corner in 2020) all return, and should be key parts of a defense that had 21 takeaways in 2020 (third in the ACC).

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]sujuiceonline.com.