Chase Rettig

And in that corner… The Boston College Eagles

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Things aren’t so happy in Chestnut Hill. After winning 30 games from 2006-2008, Boston College athletic director Gene DiFilippo made the controversial decision to fire head coach Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing for the head coaching position with the New York Jets. After two seasons, including one where the Eagles ended in the AP top ten, DiFilippo handed the program over to Frank Spaziani, a loyal Eagles assistant who spent a decade as the program’s defensive coordinator.

It’s been a slow decay for the Boston College program, with Spaziani winning a respectable eight games in his debut season and following that up with a 7-6 year in 2010. But the Eagles took a large step back in 2011, winning just four games, and have plummeted to just two wins in their first nine games, with one coming against an FCS Maine team.

Following all of this has been the Eagle in Atlanta, Bill Mahoney, who has been living the highs and lows of being a Boston College fan from 1,000 miles away for quite a few years. He was kind enough to get us up to speed on what’s happening in Boston, where new athletic director Brad Bates has a lot of big decisions on his hands.

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The Eagles are 2-7 this year, with wins against Maine, an FCS team, and Maryland, a team on their fifth quarterback. Are things in Chestnut Hill as bad as they look?

I believe that BC is better than 2-7 but not that much better. Your records don’t happen by accident. BC is not even losing many close games. I also think things are bad because of the decline over the last four years and the speculation on Spaz’s future. Last week BC lost to a bad Wake Forest team. Three weeks ago BC lost to a bad Georgia Tech team. A decent coach would have won at least one of those games.

If there’s been a positive this year, pointing to Chase Rettig and Alex Amidon would be a good start. What has been the secret to that duo’s success, especially considering the lack of running game?

This sounds simple but Rettig is a good QB. On a good team, I think he would be talked about nationally and be considered a future pro. He’s not perfect, but he’s got a big arm, he is willing to take a beating in order to make a big play. He’s also had to run multiple offenses which shows his football IQ.

Amidon is a slightly different story. We pass a lot and he’s been the most healthy reciever, so he has put up big numbers. But I don’t want to dismiss his improvement. He’s always been fast. Now he’s become an improved route runner. He understands how to get open. His hands are not elite yet (he’s had a few drops), but he’s become a very good WR. He should be first team All ACC.

Boston College lost a tremendous player in Luke Kuechly. But what else has gone wrong with this defense? Frank Spaziani has always had a great reputation as a defensive coach, but the rush defense has fallen off a cliff and the Eagles are giving up more than 30 points a game.

Talent is a big issue but not the only one. BC is missing more tackles and there has been a lot of blown coverages this year. Maybe guys don’t care or others are trying to do too much.

But the defensive line and secondary are not of the same quality as Spaz has had in the past. I think there is good young talent at LB and they are getting on the field more and more each week.

It’s all but assumed that Spaziani will be fired. What qualifications would you look for in a new head coach? Any candidates you like?

The new coach needs to be a salesman. Spaz has been a total dud on the recruiting trail, the media and with fundraisers. He needs an energy and approach that modern college football coaches use. Spaz’s ideas in preparation and game management are 30 years behind the curve.

It is very early but I would say the two more popular names are BC grad and New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr and Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco.

Let’s take a wider look at the BC athletic department. Notre Dame fans have spent a ton of time critiquing Jack Swarbrick. What do you make of the hire of Brad Bates? What are the top items on his agenda?

I like the idea of Brad Bates. He has a solid, but not spectacular record from his time at Miami of Ohio. Now that the conference shuffle and TV deals are done, BC doesn’t need a deal guy. They need someone like Bates who can address coaching issues and raise money for facilities improvements.

Back to the game: The Irish are big favorites, but this is a rivalry game. Do you hold any hope for an upset? If so, what’s the recipe for a Boston College victory?

BC is one dimensional, but all you need is that one dimension to click for four quarters. I think because it is a rivalry game and because it is important to Spaz, BC has a chance. The key is for Rettig to light it up (he’s probably the best pocket passer Notre Dame has faced all year) and for clog up Notre Dame in the red zone.

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For more coverage on the game, check out Bill’s website and follow him on Twitter @bcatleagle

Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

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Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

DEPARTURES
Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*

 

ANALYSIS
Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more

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We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.

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Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention

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Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, UND.com ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.