April 27, 2008

Offense struggles in Spring Game

On a stunning spring day in Chestnut Hill., Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski rolled out his version of the 2008 Eagles, with his stamp on the program loud and clear. Gone are the days of massive offensive lines running down hill, gaining chunks of yards at the expense overmatched defensive tackles and linebackers. And is that a concern? It could be.

In place now and going forward is a scheme which involves mobile quarterbacks, slimmed down offensive linemen running zoneblocking schemes and running backs waiting for an opening rather than creating one.

And one other thing is clear, the change is happening at Boston College. Under the old regime, the Eagles had a unique advantage in that they played big, hard-nosed football in a league that was built on finesse. However, under the tutelage of Jagodzinski, the Eagles have been retooled and now possess an entirely new look, one that will undoubtedly provide new opportunities and new challenges for the Boston College Eagles.

The defense held the offense at bay, outscoring them 43-34 on a point system where they got points for tackles for a loss, turnovers and three and outs. On one play alone, the defense scored nine points on an interception and return for a touchdown by Razzie Smith.

However, the innovative point scheme and the gamesmanship are solely for the fans who crave a view of their beloved Eagles during the long, cold offseason. The game, the annual Jay McGillis Spring Football game, is almost strictly for diehards. In fact, from a coaches standpoint, the program is probably better off by not playing, given the physical nature of spring ball and the risk of injury very little can come from the spring game.

Played in front of about 5,000 hard-core fans, the seasoned, veteran defense manhandled an offense that is still struggling to develop an identity and find a leader. The offensive line is oft-injured, the main running back is three months out of high school, and the quarterback position would frighten even the most seasoned coaching staff.

While Josh Haden looks like everything that was promised -- quick, great feet, smart runner -- but he struggled to find the seams in the zone blocking that are designed for a back just like him. The clear winner in the quarterback position is Chris Crane, though he looked raw and while his arm strength is good, he had a tendency to lock on receivers and his throws were not always accurate.

Additionally, the wide receivers struggled to get separation and you have an offense that has a lot of questions to answer come August.
All that being said, it is a fools game to judge the offense based on an event like today. An offense's biggest advantage is knowing what the defense doesn't, primarily when the ball will be snapped and where the play is going. When a defense is practicing against and offense over an extended period of time they learn the cadence, the alignments and just as importantly, the checkoffs.

Added to that is the fact this defense is quite possibly one of the top 15 to 20 defenses in the nation, and you have a situation where it's next to impossible to judge how potent this offense can and will be.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles were able to contain the mobile quarterbacks and not allow the offensive line to create seams for cutbacks for the running backs. This was all done without two of the potentially starting defensive linemen (Ron Brace, Brady Smith) playing and one of the apparent starting linebackers (Mark Herzlich) playing predominantly for the second string.

Overall, the Eagles are smaller but much more athletic. The offense is not in synch yet, still lacks an identity on offense but has a defense that should win enough games on it's own merit to keep the bowl streak alive. There are a lot of questions to answer and some very big shoes to fill, but as the old saying goes and stills rings true, defense wins championships and hopefully this defense can give the offense enough time to gell and find itself before it's really needed to win some games.

In fact, when evaluating either the offense or the defense in a game such as this, one must remember that this team has been playing against itself for six weeks and the defense has a very distinct advantage so while the offense did not click on all cylinders,it's too soon to worry.

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