2012 Boston College Preview - Offense
Boston College OT Emmett Cleary
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Boston College Eagle Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The hot potato that is the necrotic Boston College offense is now in the hands of first-year offensive coordinator Doug Martin. His objective? Light a fire under an attack that pulled up the ACC rear in both total offense and scoring in 2011. He plans to employ an up-tempo, fast-paced attack that'll also include a bunch of shifts and different motions. The blueprint won't matter a lick if QB Chase Rettig can't evolve in his third season as the starter. He's been no better than mediocre as the starter, fueling the whispers that sophomore Josh Bordner could be closing the gap. Rettig will need more support from his teammates, especially now that star RB Montel Harris was dismissed from the team in June. Rolandan Finch and Tahj Kimble have helped pick up the slack in the running game so far, while WR Colin Larmond will be bucking to impress NFL scouts in his final year of eligibility. Boston College would be wise to give more looks to Chris Pantale, a tight end who's going to play on Sundays. The line needs to do an about-face after underachieving last fall. Four starters return, with veteran tackles Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel looking to become the senior leaders.
Star of the offense: Senior TE Chris Pantale
Passing: Chase Rettig
170-317, 1,960 yds, 12 TDs, 9 INTs
Rushing: Rolandan Finch
157 carries, 705 yds, 3 TDs
Receiving: Bobby Swigert
44 catches, 470 yds, 3 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Chase Rettig
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LG Bobby Vardaro
Best pro prospect: Pantale
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Pantale, 2) Senior LT Emmett Cleary, 3) Senior RT John Wetzel
Strength of the offense: Backfield depth, tight end, the tackles
Weakness of the offense: The passing game, big plays, finding the end zone, sustaining drives
It's been five years since Matt Ryan was still on the Heights. It feels like a lot longer. To say that the Eagles have struggled behind center would be an understatement. Junior Chase Rettig has been the poster child for the program's problems behind center, playing sporadically as a two-year starter. He did show some progress last season, going 170-of-317 for 1,960 yards, a dozen touchdowns and nine interceptions. Still, despite the obvious arm strength and extensive reps, he lacks accuracy, and too often appears tentative in the pocket.
Late last season, head coach Frank Spaziani attempted to spark the offense by inserting Josh Bordner, who'll once again serve as the backup. The 6-4, 221-pounder brings a very different element to the attack, relying more on his bruising running style than his arm. He attempted just two passes in five games, but did rush for 73 yards and two scores on 19 carries. While unlikely to unseat Bordner, he could provide a change-of-pace, especially in short-yardage situations.
Watch Out For … how well Rettig digests new coordinator Doug Martin's system. While not dramatically different than what predecessor Kevin Rogers preached, Boston College does plan to speed up the tempo, get out of the huddle faster and take a few more shots downfield. It's a big deal for Rettig who hasn't been surrounded by much stability in Chestnut Hill.
Strength: Experience. Although success has been fleeting under center, the Eagles can take solace in the fact that they now have a veteran taking snaps. Rettig is a two-year starter, familiar with opponents in the ACC, and always improving his fundamentals as a passer. At this position, there's no substitute for reps, and the junior already has plenty of them.
Weakness: Consistency in the passing game. Rettig took another step forward in 2011, but it wasn't the quantum leap that many surrounding the program were seeking. He still ranked 100th nationally in passing efficiency, including 11th in the conference, throwing just nine touchdown passes versus 11 FBS opponents.
Outlook: This is huge year for Rettig, whose fortunes are tied very closely to those of the BC program. He needs to begin turning the corner in earnest now that he's about to enter his third season as the starting quarterback. In his defense, a little more help from the line, receivers and coaching staff would certainly make the junior's life a whole lot easier. He won't lead the ACC in passing efficiency, but he has to work himself closer to the first division, or else the offense will once again sputter.
Unit Rating: 6
The Eagles will not be welcoming back record-setting RB Montel Harris, who was dismissed in early May for a repeated violation of team rules. What the program will have in his place is a trio of talented backs who are poised to pick up the slack. Heck, Harris was only able to carry the ball 31 times in 2011, so it's not as if BC didn't get a dress rehearsal. Deadlocked for the top job are 5-10, 201-pound Rolandan Finch and 5-11, 211-pound Tahj Kimble. Finch returned from a season-ending ACL injury to lead the team in rushing a year ago, going for 705 yards and three scores on 157 carries. He's a powerful slasher who doesn't go down easily, lowering his shoulder and bouncing off would-be tacklers for more yards.
Kimble may have the smallest resume among the competitors, but no one has impressed the staff more with his play and versatility this offseason. He'll do a little bit of everything this fall, hitting the hole with excellent vision, and even motioning out as a receiver so his soft hands can be showcased. In a taste of action last season, he ran 43 times for 156 yards and a score, adding eight catches for 67 yards and another touchdown. If the spring is an indicator, Kimble is going to soar past those numbers by the end of September.
Third in the pecking order, but not far behind, is 6-0, 222-pound junior Andre Williams, the toughest of the backs to bring to the ground. The powerful north-south runner has played plenty over the last two seasons, rumbling for a career-high 517 yards and four touchdowns on 124 carries in 2011. Not to be overlooked, he's also a skilled blocked, which could earn him snaps on obvious passing downs.
Watch Out For … everyone to get a crack at the spotlight. The coaching staff has not been bashful about the possibility of employing a committee approach, especially since each of the competitors brings something a little different to the offense. While it doesn't look as if the Eagles will produce a 1,000-yard rusher, the aggregate numbers on the ground ought to be solid.
Strength: Diversity of options. Of course Boston College was hoping to have access to Harris for one more season, but there is no trepidation about what waits in the wings. The Eagles boast a quality stable of running backs, each with something a little different to offer to the attack. There'll be no shortage of power runners either, with all three of the primary ballcarriers exceeding 210 pounds.
Weakness: Big-play backs. If there's a knock on the BC backs entering 2012, it's that they can be a little methodical and predictable in their running style. Oh, they're effective and always moving in a north-south direction, but a few more bursts through the secondary and a higher yards per carry would help ignite the offense. The team ran the ball 437 times in 2011, yet produced just two runs of more than 25 yards.
Outlook: Harris may be gone, but Boston College will be just fine in the backfield. The program houses three quality running backs, each of whom is capable of shouldering the load if asked. The job of the coaching staff will be to maximize the talent surrounding it, doling out carries in a fashion that best benefits the offense. Kimble is one to watch, with a legitimate shot of standing out from the crowd.
Unit Rating: 7.5
All four of the Boston College receivers who caught at least 20 balls last year are back, lending hope that this group can elevate another rung higher in 2012. The headliner of the wide receivers figures to be 6-3, 202-pound senior Colin Larmond who made a successful return from a season-ending knee injury to catch 34 balls for 528 yards and three touchdowns. Not only does he have the good size to gain position in traffic on defenders, but he's also the Eagles' best big-play receiver. Larmond is averaging almost 18 yards a catch for his career, but needs to be targeted more frequently in his final season of eligibility.
If Larmond is the passing game's homerun threat, junior Bobby Swigert is its singles hitter. He's the steady, if unspectacular, target on intermediate routes, the player most often eyeballed by QB Chase Rettig. The 6-1, 186-pounder caught a team-high 44 passes for 470 yards and three touchdowns in 2011, showcasing soft hands and a knack for locating the soft spots in defenses on underneath patterns.
Topping off the starting lineup in three-wide sets will be 5-11, 186-pound junior Alex Amidon. While not very big, he exhibits toughness on the field, and a willingness to make things happen over the middle. After producing a workmanlike 20 receptions for 220 yards and a score last year, he's looking for an even larger role in the offense this season.
Behind Amidon is a very different type of receiver, 6-4, 228-pound Johnathan Coleman. Although he remains unpolished at the position, and caught only five balls for 55 yards last fall, his size and leaping have compelled the staff to try and invent ways to get him more involved with the passing game.
In senior Chris Pantale, Boston College boasts one of college football's premier tight ends, a next-level talent deserving more looks from Rettig in the fall. The fourth-year starter has raised the level of his game each year on the Heights, gradually becoming a complete player at the position. A sturdy 6-6, 255-pounder, he excels as an in-line blocker, yet is also able to exploit opposing linebackers down the seam as a receiver. Pantale finished third on the team with 21 catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns, numbers he's capable of doubling in 2012.
Watch Out For … a big year out of Larmond. Boston College wants to take a few more chances downfield than they have in recent years. Larmond is by far the team's most dangerous threat over the top. The senior, with the gaudy career yards per catch, could be good for a handful of plays for more than 50 yards this season.
Strength: Good hands. The bigger BC receivers, like Pantale and Larmond, have sizable mitts. The smaller pass-catchers, like Swigert and Amidon, have sticky ones. This group figures to be an asset to Rettig by giving him the hands and the large catch radiuses to reel in even those throws that aren't always precise.
Weakness: A bona fide go-to guy. Who really is it? It could be Larmond, but only if his production goes north. While Swigert is consistent, he doesn't produce enough game-changing plays to warrant extra attention from the defense. Boston College is one legit star receiver away from being a sound, borderline dangerous, corps of pass-catchers.
Outlook: If the Eagles passing game is going to improve in 2012, it'll have to be a collaborative effort involving the quarterback and his receivers. While BC has a decent collection of pass-catchers, it remains a little light on consistency and deep pops down the field. Rettig will have to make better use of the talent around, particularly Larmond and Pantale.
Unit Rating: 6.5
With all but one starter back from a year ago, Boston College is thinking big when it comes to its offensive line. Yeah, the unit underperformed in 2011, but a new season brings renewed hope that the results will be different in 2012. One of the most important offseason developments has been the shift of junior Ian White inside to center from right guard, where started every game in 2011. The 6-5, 303-pounder has so far shown the versatility, leadership and clean snaps to look like the most logical choice at the pivot for the upcoming season.
The other option at center will be to go with 6-3, 300-pound sophomore Andy Gallik, who did start three games at the position last September. However, a lack of consistency has the coaches thinking in a new direction.
If White is delivering snaps in the fall, 6-4, 301-pound Harris Williams is the favorite to replace him at right guard. After coming off the bench to earn a letter a year ago, the sophomore is bucking to prove that he possesses the drive blocking skills to warrant a promotion.
Over at left guard, the program is real excited about the future of sophomore Bobby Vardaro. He started the final seven games of his rookie year, positively impacting a line that improved as the season unfolded. Even at 6-5 and 312 pounds, he's a terrific athlete for a player his size, blocking with balance and light feet. After putting down the foundation in 2011, the hope around Chestnut Hill is that he can take another step toward becoming the next really good BC blocker.
The tackles are going to be a couple of familiar faces, senior bookends Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel, who are looking to do a better job of protecting the pocket. After Cleary started every game on the right side and Wetzel all 12 on the left, the pair is expected to swap sides for this season. Cleary has a lot of potential, and the right frame and arm length to get the job done as a blindside protector. However, the 6-7, 300-pounder hasn't quite put it all together for the Eagles, and is quickly running out of time.
At 6-8 and 302 pounds, Wetzel is in a similar position as a Cleary; he sure looks the part, but must begin blocking with a higher degree of consistency. He can be an assertive run blocker, now needing to improve his footwork and overall technique in order to keep opposing rushers form zipping around the edge. Since NFL scouts have begun to watch No. 73 more closely, it promises to be a crucial final year for the senior.
Watch Out For … the final destination of White. For now, it looks as he has impressed the staff enough to remain at center. However, if he slides back out to guard, it's going to impact the rest of the interior. The program is fortunate to have an experienced Gallik waiting in the wings just in case, giving the coaching staff different options with which to tinker.
Strength: The tackles. Yes, Cleary and Wetzel both disappointed in 2011, but that was then and this is now. The seniors are long, experienced and familiar with their assignments. Oh, and don't discount the added motivation of having one remaining year to impress pro decision-makers. Boston College is poised to make a quantum leap forward in pass protection this fall.
Weakness: Getting a push. The Eagles were supposed to be more physical in 2011, but disappointed, too often getting shoved back onto their heels. The ground game ranked a disappointing 82nd nationally, averaging 3.6 yards a carry, and generally laboring to make much happen downfield.
Outlook: There's talent—and more than enough experience—for the Boston College offensive line to be far more effective than it was last season. While a lack of proven depth could creep into the picture later in the year, the starting unit has upside. Vardaro is a riser, and the three upperclassmen will be the steadying influences making e sure that the number of lapses in assignments is reduced from 2011.
Unit Rating: 7
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