The only time we’ve seen this much offense from Boston College in recent years was against FCS Howard. UMass clearly has a lot of work to do on defense, but it was still an impressive opening game for the Boston College offense. All-American running back AJ Dillon along with the sophomore connection between quarterback Anthony Brown and wide receiver Kobay White stood out in the first half.
Brown flashed in his half of play Saturday, showing much-improved accuracy. He spent the off-season rehabilitating from last fall’s knee injury, but was able to work on non-mobility passing drills. By the start of fall camp Brown was ready to go and his off-season work clearly paid off. Saturday he displayed significant improvement in the intermediate (and deep) passing game. In particular, Brown showed a touch on intermediate balls that was rarely seen from him as a freshman. He threw a perfect ball on his second touchdown pass to Kobay White. As seen here against man coverage, Brown’s improved ball placement makes single coverage a dangerous proposition, particularly with White.
Against zone coverage, balls layered over the linebackers and in front of the secondary are almost impossible to defend. This would open up an entirely new dimension for the offense. Most expected to see more of this ability in 2018. However, not many expected this much improvement from Brown, especially given his off-season limitations.
The next step for Brown is recognizing coverages and making better decisions with the football, but he’s on his way to a huge sophomore leap. Brown’s improvement greatly raises the ceiling of the Boston College offense. Coach Steve Addazio praised Brown’s performance as “probably one of the best performances around here in a long time.”
A quick note on primary backup Travis Levy before we get to the star of the game. Levy is quick to the hole and should find success running behind the Eagle’s veteran offensive line. His style is a good complement to the physical Dillon, but he also displayed his comfort working in the passing game once again.
The real key, of course, is Dillon’s improvement in the passing game. The Boston College coaching staff clearly feels comfortable leaving him on the field on passing downs this year, which is new. Dillon made two nice catches (zero in 2017), including a catch and run for a score. Dillon also dropped an easy catch with lots of room to run, so his focus and confidence still need to improve. This will come with experience, something the Eagles can develop with the help of their light early schedule.
As expected, Hamp Cheevers continues to display exceptional play making talent from the secondary. Cheevers, in run support, made a fantastic form tackle at the goal line, forcing the ball loose and then recovering the fumble. Addazio won’t be the only one talking about his NFL future when Boston College begins their ACC schedule.
Taj-Amir Torres and Brandon Sebastian, both essentially starters in modern college football, were mostly solid. Early in the game, Torres interfered on an underneath route that he was in a good position to defend. The coaching staff will look for improvement on plays like this as the year goes on. Sebastian fell for a double move by Minutemen star Andy Isabella and got beat deep. Isabella is a dangerous deep threat, and on a play without safety help, Sebastian needed to recognize and react to the situation. Once again, the coaching staff will expect smarter play from their starters.
The biggest concern of the week. Again. Colton Lichtenberg sent a kickoff out of bounds, giving UMass the ball at the 35-yard line. Lichtenberg did not get to attempt any field goals thanks to the offensive success, but this remains a concern. The punting unit looked even worse. The Eagles only punted four times, but they need all the practice they can get before the games get close. Sophomore punter Grant Carlson doesn’t have a huge leg and nearly had a punt blocked, and the coverage unit continues to struggle on both punts and kickoffs. If the Eagles are as improved as this game indicates, the special teams unit needs to step up and become reliable in pressure moments.