Monday, September 26, 2016

What the Coaching Carousel means for BC

The College Football Coaching Carousel got off to an early start with a National Championship coach biting the dust just four games into the season. But LSU is just the first domino. USC could make a change. Maybe even Notre Dame. I don't think nor -- at this point -- want a change at BC, but what happens elsewhere will impact our team. It will also serve as a reminder of how precious these jobs are and how fluid power is within the ACC.

Coaching Changes among our opponents
Right now it feels like the best BC can finish in its own division is 4th place. FSU, Clemson and Louisville have the talent and coaching that we cannot match. But none of that is permanent. Both Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino are prime targets for LSU. Fisher could also pursue NFL opportunities if he wanted to go to the next level. Two years from now, it is highly unlikely that both will still be coaching in the Atlantic Division. Despite their geographic and institutional advantages, neither program is guaranteed to make a good hire or keep winning at their current pace. (Remember the last time Louisville replaced Petrino?) Dabo Swinney seems well entrenched at Clemson, but don't think that he wouldn't go home to Alabama at his first opportunity. Saban is 64. He's not going to keep this pace forever.

All of that instability is good for BC. Our last great run coincided with a downturn at FSU and an extended mediocre period from Clemson. It can and will happen again. We just have to make sure we have our own house in order.

Even the bottom of our division could turn over. Wake appears to be a surprise team. If they keep it up, Dave Clawson will be up for openings. When he leaves, Wake can go back to being Wake.

Always a buyer's market
Just because BC hasn't hired a great coach in a while doesn't mean that we are not constantly one great hire away. All schools are. These jobs are few and the candidate pool is many. Even with all our challenges, there will be dozens of guys wanting their shot or a second chance at BC. Think of how many coaches who have spurned our interest who would die for the job now (Al Golden?). Dan Henning, Tom O'Brien, Jeff Jagodzinski, Frank Spaziani and Steve Addazio have all taken BC to bowl games. None of those guys are Hall of Fame coaches. There are plenty of college coaches with healthy egos and strong work ethics who will think "if those guys could do it, so can I."

I don't want a change now, because I don't trust BC's current process for finding a new coach, but I don't think we will be a permanent bottom dweller in College Football. No program should be. A head coach just needs to find each program's inherent advantages and build on them.

Finding the right coach is hard. Look how long Michigan struggled until landing Harbaugh. Or Alabama until Saban. Look at Nebraska's slow slide from dominance since Osborne retired.

BC can and will be great again. Probably not under Addazio, but the coaching carousel serves as a great reminder that we will be making changes sooner rather than later.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Second viewing thoughts and grades: Wagner

I've always handed out grades in these recaps, but now I am trying something different: Pass/Fail. This game sort of felt like one of those pass/fail classes from back in the day. All BC had to do was avoid a major screwup. They did, so they get a Pass. I will still nitpick a bit, but how can you judge the OLine in a game like this? How can you judge the play calling when running base stuff dominated? There was little to learn from any of this. I am just glad no one got hurt.

Offense: PASS

I don't think Towles played all that well (considering the circumstances) and was very surprised by how critical the broadcast crew was of his performance. It was true that he missed wide open guys and many of his passes were not crisp. But even with those problems, I see why he is starting. His deep throws are effortless and he's pretty athletic for a big guy. If we can figure out what works, he can help us win games. Wade looked really good. He made quick, accurate throws. Even though it was only garbage time, I feel better about him as a backup.

Other than Wade, Davon Jones benefited the most from this game. Is there any reason to think he can't do that against a real opponent? Maybe he should be getting more touches. Hilliman had a lot of stats, but I thought he was just okay.

Walker made some tough catches. Smith's TD was nice. We should be stretching the field with him more often.

The OL...there isn't much I can say. No glaring errors or consistent problems. They opened holes and gave Towles time.

As Addazio promised, things were simpler. That was primarily because of the opponent, but maybe it benefited the OLine and the QB.

Defense: PASS

Landry had a big game and was just too fast for any of the guys in front of him. Kavalec was also pretty active early. The DTs weren't as disruptive.

The only problem I had with the Linebackers were on Wagner's only TD. All got sucked in and not one waited for the cutback. Plus no one ran him down. That was disappointing. The rest of the time they weren't really in the action. We didn't blitz with any and they were more patient the few times Wagner ran.

The DBs were fine. They played off and tackled well. Nothing stupid nor anything that you can really complain about.

I give Reid another Pass. Once again the one score was off of a broken play. I don't know how you address that, but I am sure they will. We didn't do anything exotic or bring all that much pressure.

Special Teams: PASS

Rouse looked really good. As in, he might be the best punt returner we've had in a decade. He's looked reliable and he's been aggressive. If this continues, he might be a real weapon.

Knoll's punts were fine.

Other than their one long run, the kick coverage was fine.

Overall: PASS

The one awkward thing that stood out to me was the announcing crew sharing a comment that Addazio wanted to play "fast." What does fast mean to Addazio? We rarely play up tempo. He loves to huddle. The clock has been an issue. I don't know. I would love to see BC play faster, but I don't know if Addazio defines it the same way I do.

BC came out a bit flat. I don't know if it was the opponent or lack of crowd, but it wasn't good. Addazio should have had them fired up. In the end it didn't matter. The team rallied and won. We will see if he can build on this.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

That was that

It certainly wasn't the most crisp or quality game, but it was a win. Who knows what to make of any of it? The only silver lining was the extended time for the backups.

I will have grades and second viewing thoughts up late Sunday.

In-game comments post: Wagner

This game shouldn't be interesting. Yet I know that just by thinking (and writing) that way invites all sorts of jinxes. I want to see a dominant performance that starts to erase the problems of last week. We can do this!

Leave your thoughts and comments below.

You can also follow me on Twitter.

Friday, September 23, 2016

End of the Week Rant: I don't care what happens with the National Anthem at Alumni Saturday

I am surprised. I thought the National Anthem protest would be just another short trend in our short attention span culture. However, it seems like each week brings new athletes into the mix. Most of the focus has been on professional athletes, but more college athletes are getting involved. Saturday will be BC's first home football game. Something may happen. Something may not. I don't really care either way.

If a player wants to protest, I am okay with that. If no one does, I don't care (or take it as sign of character of our team). If Addazio weighs in, I wish him the best. But his college coaching peir group hasn't been the most eloquent or intelligent on the subject.

I don't even care what BC fans do during the Anthem. Given how many fans regularly miss the opening kickoff, the Anthem is the least of our worries.

My indifference is not about not caring about our country, my pride in being an American, or my understanding on racial equality. It is more my position on a lot of things that get people fired up on either side. We get so caught up in the hot button issue of the day and showing our solidarity with one side or the other, that we miss the big underlying issues and do little to solve any of them. Solving these issues takes time and answering hard questions. Ranting about the hot button issue of the day is easy. I use ranting about sports as my distraction from the real life. On real issues, I struggle to find a way that I can make a difference beyond kneeling or ranting or tweeting or liking something on Facebook. Regardless of what happens at Alumni, how people react to the Anthem is not really a problem...or at least, not my problem.

Friday picks

My picks have been terrible so far this season. If I want to finish above .500, I've got to start getting some right. Maybe this is the week.

(Picks in bold.)

USC+2.5 at Utah

Florida State-5.5 at South Florida

Wisconsin+4.5 at Michigan State

Central Michigan-3 at Virginia 

Syracuse+3 at UConn

LSU-3.5 at Auburn

Louisiana Tech+4.5 at Middle Tennessee State

Stanford-3 at UCLA

Arkansas+6 at Texas A&M

Air Force-4.5 at Utah State

Last week I was 2-7-1. For the season I am 9-19-2.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

BC-Wagner preview

This might be the worst type of game to follow up on last week's disaster. This is such a mismatch, that there is little to nothing we or the staff can learn. I don't even think the guaranteed "W" will boost the team's confidence. They know this is a purchased win. Even if we dominate and Virginia Tech will be on everyone's mind until we beat an ACC team.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Win their win last week, North Dakota State has now won six straight road games vs FBS teams. Five of the six have been Power 5 teams. I hate the annual FCS game, but thankfully our administrators know how to schedule true cupcakes. I harp on our overly soft scheduling, but I promise that I would bash the administration even more if they couldn't even schedule a guaranteed win without screwing it up.

Three Simple Keys
1. Get some confidence back in the passing game. Things looked good against UMass. There were even some bright spots at the beginning of the Virginia Tech game. Then Towles started rushing things and chucking it out of bounds. Use this game to get back to what worked.
2. Play the backups. We saw some of the backups get in during the final minutes in Blacksburg. This week needs even more. I want to see everyone who is not redshirting. You never know who will step up.
3. Bring the pressure on D. Like the Offense, I want this game to be a tune up. While I don't want BC to give away all their upcoming wrinkles, I do want them to reestablish an aggressive mindset.

Gambling Notes
-- BC has never lost to an FCS team since they started rescheduling these games in the 2000s
-- Wagner is 0-4 all time vs FBS teams
-- Addazio is 2-1 in home openers
The major sports books are not putting a line on this game.

This is only the second New York City school BC has faced in Football. Fordham is the other. I was surprised to find that even back in the day we never played Columbia or St. John's.

Scoreboard Watching
Syracuse plays UConn this weekend. Both are future opponents and most of us considered future wins. Playing each other gives us an indicator of which team we should fear more.

I hope to see...
No one get seriously hurt. The last thing we need in this game is to lose a key player.

BC is in trouble if...
BC can't be in trouble in this game. If we some how screw this up, Bates gets fired Saturday night and Addazio should be fired Sunday morning.

I expect this to be like last year's Howard game. BC will just overwhelm them with size and speed. It won't be close and it won't tell us anything.
Final Score: BC 49, Howard 7

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How safe is Addazio?

After last week, it didn't take long for some BC fans to build At this point I am not onboard with a coaching change and think that Addazio is relatively safe. Unless we go winless in the ACC again, I don't see Brad Bates making a change. 

Some frustrated BC fans will claim that the money owed to Addazio makes him too expensive to fire. That's not the issue. BC has to view the contract as a sunk cost and every miserable season that he is kept on would lead to lost Football revenue, harder fundraising and fewer applications. It becomes too expensive to keep losing, despite what he might still be owed. 

But money won't be the primary factor. I think it is more about Bates' power or lack there of. Because it was his first and most high-profile move, Bates is tied to Addazio. And he hasn't accomplished enough at BC to be viewed as anything other than the guy who hired Addazio and Christian. Bates benefits by giving Addazio more time. If, and only if, Addazio turns things around, will Bates earn back the trust with fans and BC leadership. If Addazio continues to struggle, no one around BC will want Bates searching for another coach.

If Addazio can't win more this year, I think it will be Bates who is fired (or not renewed, however you want to view it). It would then be up to Bates replacement to evaluate Addazio after five years and set the new direction for BC Football. 

So get used to Addazio. I think he's going to be around another year or longer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What was that?

Last week I highlighted good offensive playcalling and play design. This week is the opposite. This was only one play, but I feel it captures many of the problems of the day and is an example of what Addazio explained away as things getting too complicated.

In my opinion, the best college offenses keep things as simple as possible. Variations, counters and new wrinkles are built on the foundation of what works. Because of the relative inexperience of all college players, the limitation on practice reps, and the challenge of trying new things, being a different offense week to week is nearly impossible. That was my frustration last year. We kept trying all sorts of things and none of it worked. It is all more frustrating because of what Day (and Addazio) did in Daz's first two years at BC was so brilliant. But that is another post for another time.

Here is the play. BC just got the ball back and it is early in the 2nd Quarter. This is first down. It is an empty backfield. Once they realize the backfield is empty, VT crowds the line and shows blitz.

The leftside of the Oline are trying quick cutblocks. For this to work, they need to execute well and Towles has to get rid of the ball quickly. 

Both guys miss and Towles is waiting. For what, I don't know. It looks like he's looking to his left, however, there is no separation. He has options to the right, but either doesn't trust them or is so locked on getting it away to the pressure side that he doesn't even look. He probably sees the total cluster that the cut blocks were too. 
The cut blocks were terrible and two defenders are coming right at Towles. Although there is space to the right, he doesn't run. Instead he launches the ball right at the VT DLinemen. They swat it and the play is over. 2nd and 10.

Now this is just one play in a terrible game. Who cares? Well BC was already down at this point but there was plenty of time to play. Instead of trying something that worked earlier in the season or early in the game, BC comes out with an empty backfield. This is my first issue. Second there was the Pop Warner sloppy cut blocks. This is not something BC has done much this year or in recent years. That leads me to believe they don't spend a ton of time practicing it. So either two things happened for this play to make the gameplan. They either didn't practice enough so that the OL could cut blockin their sleep OR they did practice it a lot and the linemen still couldn't pull it off (therefore wasting valuable practice time). Neither answer is good. I hope they didn't practice it much and were just rolling the dice. If they did practice it well enough to make the gameplan and that is how the guys blocked, then we have bigger issues.

While Towles is a 5th year, he is still new to this Offense and facing Bud Foster. Why not keep things simple for him. Tell him to take off if the play breaks down or the cuts don't work.

Addazio mentioned getting back to basics. That's good, because we need to find what works. Save the cut blocking, five wide stuff once we can block, pass and run.