To prepare for Saturday's football game between Maryland and Boston College, we traded emails with Michael Vega, who covers the Eagles for the Boston Globe. You can check out more of Michael's coverage on their website.
TRACKING THE TERPS: For an outsider looking in, the Eagles seem like a different team under Steve Addazio. Is that a fair assessment, and what specifically has he done to lead Boston College out of its dry spell
MICHAEL VEGA: The difference has been night and day under Steve Addazio. He has achieved no small feat in getting the Eagles bowl-eligible one short year after BC went 2-10 under Frank Spaziani. What Addazio has succeeded in doing is rebranding the Eagles as a physically and mentally tough football team.
Although it was his intention to implement a spread-option type of offensive scheme, he was smart enough to realize that doing so would not be playing to the strengths of this team. And so, with on offensive line loaded with road graters, and a big, powerful running back, Addazio made a commitment to establish the running game and to complement it with a play-action passing scheme.
Defensively, he brought aboard Don Brown to implement a high risk-reward attack-oriented defensive schemed aimed at causing as much disruption and negative plays as possible. Addazio, though, has been fortunate to have inherited a solid senior class, which has produced the school's all-time leading receiver (senior wideout Alex Amidon), the school's all-time leading scorer (kicker/punter Nate Freese), and a running back, Andre Williams, who broke the school's records for rushing yards in a game (264) and in a season (1,726) in one fell swoop with a 65-yard run in the fourth quarter of last Saturday's 38-21 victory over North Carolina State.It punctuated a career day in which Williams rushed for an ACC-record 339 yards, giving him 1,810 yards on the season.
Addazio knows he was fortunate to have those seniors lead the way for the rest of the team in his first year at the Heights.
As you mentioned, Maryland’s former defensive coordinator Don Brown is in his first season in that capacity with the Eagles. Has he made any significant changes to BC’s defense, and do you think his knowledge of Maryland will be a factor Saturday?
The first thing Brown did when he took over as BC's defensive coordinator was to challenge his players to step up their production in the pass rush, which posed only a token threat last season in recording six -- count 'em, six -- quarterback sacks last season.
Brown threw his players for a loss when he challenged them in the preseason to come up with 36 sacks this season.
Why 36? It was the number of sacks BC's opponents had last season against the Eagles.
Now the Eagles are seven sacks away from reaching their DC's preseason projection. Also, they have nearly doubled their production in tackles for loss with 71 this season after recording only 45 a year ago.
The defense is predicated on creating chaos through a multitude of looks and different defensive packages aimed at creating a mismatch and turning someone loose on the edge. Kasim Edebali leads the team with 9.5 sacks while Kevin Pierre-Louis, who ranks as BC's leading tackler with 89 stops, has four sacks.
Sure, Brown will have some familiarity with Maryland's personnel -- but much of it will be of the Terrapins defense. So it's not likely to influence how BC's defense goes about scheming for Maryland's offense. So I don't think it'll be much of a factor, if at all.
OK, tell us a little more about this Andre Williams character who is fast becoming a household name after last week’s performance?
Williams is a rugged 6-foot, 227-pound senior from Schnecksville, Pa., who, up until this season, had never rushed for more than 584 yards in a season. In fact, he only had one modest goal for himself at the beginning of the season: to rush for 1,000 yards. Asked why he was fixated on that figure, Williams replied, "Because it's the mark of any good back, plus I've never done it before."
Williams, apparently, sold himself short. A Doak Walker semifinalist who leads the nation in rushing (181.0 yards per game), Williams is 190 yards away from becoming the first running back in BC history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. And he needs 364 yards to pass Montel Harris (3,735 yards) as BC's career rushing leader.
What's been amazing about Williams' strong finishing kick as a senior, is the strong finishing kick he's had in almost every game this season. To wit: in his 295-yard performance in a 48-34 victory at New Mexico State, Williams gained 130 yards on the last three carries of a 30-carry performance, rushing for touchdowns of 80 and 47 yards on two of those totes; In a 263-yard performance against Army, Williams busted a 34-yard TD run, his fifth of the game, with 12:27 left; In a huge 34-20 home victory over Virginia Tech, he broke the Hokies' will with a 62-yard TD run, making it 34-20 with 4:35 left in the game.
In his last two games, Williams topped his previous best season (as a junior) with a pair of staggering rushing performances that totaled 634 yards. If anyone has put the Eagles on his back, it's been Williams, who has shown this season he has the sturdy legs and thighs to handle the load.
Whether they’re a top team or not, the Eagles always seem to have some future NFL talent on the roster. Who should we be keeping an eye on Saturday?
It goes without saying that we'll likely see Williams playing on Sundays. But, given the way the NFL seems to have devalued the running back position of late, it's likely that Williams might give teams pause to reconsider that trend by looking at him as a possible first-round pick.
But Williams will tell you his success would not have been possible without his offensive line. Left tackle Matt Patchan, a University of Florida transfer, and right tackle Ian White, a team co-captain from Conway, N.H., have been at the tip of the spear of BC's punishing ground-and-pound game. I'm sure Rex Ryan, if he's still working as an NFL coach next season, would love to have either -- or both -- of these guys on his roster.
Alex Amidon is sneaky fast and sneaky good. Perhaps, he'll sneak up on some unsuspecting NFL team and seduce them into investing a pick (third or fourth round?) on him.
Senior kicker Nate Freese has shown he has ice water in his veins in becoming BC's all-time leading scorer with 299 points, converting 64 of 75 career field goals, including all 14 his attempted this season.
Defensively, Kevin Pierre-Louis, BC's leading tackler (89), has an NFL future as does Kasim Edebail, who leads the Eagles in sacks (9.5).