(An ousider's observations about what is happening at Boston College, AKA The Heights)
It was a gathering of friends and family, as well as fans. The start of training camp was still a month away, but Steve Addazio could sense the anticipation in the room as he looked over the core base of what has been a steadily shrinking Boston College fan base for over the past decade.
Addazio, starting his sixth season as the Eagles football coach, had tried to mute some of the overflow optimism which die-hard fans carry with them at the start of every football season.
Not this time. It was crunch time for not only the Eagles, but for Addazio himself. He has two years remaining on his contract and he knew as much as anyone that the tolerance level for mediocrity (four 7-win seasons in 5 years, with one 3-9 stink bomb as well) had reached its peak for the BC fans, as well as the BC administration.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
BC athletic director Martin Jarmond did not conceal his goal for BC football: more than 7 wins. The failure to break that barrier last season was one of the reasons why there was no contract extension being offered to Addazio--at this time.
So Addazio brought the subject out in the open: Nothing short of 8 wins would be acceptable. Sure, the schedule was again back loaded against the Eagles, including crossover games against the top two teams in the ACC coastal division--Miami and Virginia Tech.
And yes, there was a huge question mark at quarterback until projected starter Anthony Brown proved he was fully recovered from the knee injury which ended his season last November.
But there were more than enough positives to offset any doubts. The Eagles were returning 17 starters including 9 on offense, which also included running back AJ Dillon, who gained almost 1,600 yards rushing as a freshman. There was talent and depth everywhere on offense and defense.
And then, as the Eagles went about their business on the first day of fall camp in their brand new indoor facility, which now sits adjacent to Alumni Stadium, there were amenities which were unavailable to previous BC teams with big ambitions.
"It's a big time atmosphere,'' said Addazio on Friday after the Eagles finished their first workout of summer camp."This is a big time facility, which is as nice as any in the country.''
So the Eagles come into this season with no excuses for not reaching their goals. In the past, Addazio had tried to keep his goals within reason--getting back to .500, becoming bowl eligible, winning a bowl game.
Now? "We're ready to take the next step (8 wins?),'' said Addazio. ""But do you take the next step. And what is the next step.''
""Eight wins makes you relevant,'' said one former BC player who has watched the struggle for the past decade. It does not seem an unreasonable goal. Once former BC coach Tom O'Brien had built a foundation, the Eagles put together a string of 9 straight seasons in which they won 8 or more games. The dark side is that BC hasn't broken the 8-win barrier since 2009.
""We have the pieces now,'' said Addazio. We have a number of (NFL) draftable players. We have recruited this program.
“We have to attack the areas we were weak in last season...This is what we worked on, this is how we got better, veteran leadership, quality of players...It's a challenge, but we are now equipped to handle it.''
Addazio says the Eagles' margin for error is small, pointing out that the Eagles face the Top 7 ranked teams in the ACC. But this may be the most talented BC team to open the season in a decade.
Brown, of course must be healthy and continue to develop as he did last season as a freshman before injuring his knee against North Carolina State.
Addazio and the Eagles know they must come out of the blocks in complete harmony. With their opening games against Mass, Holy Cross, Wake Forest, Purdue and Temple, nothing short of a 4-1 start seems acceptable.[/membership]