The Boston College football team completed its first full-tackle scrimmage this morning, with the first team defense defeating the first team offense 35-29, according to head coach Steve Addazio. Here are some notes from the day:
Darius Wade hurt his hamstring during practice on Friday, so Josh Bordner stepped in to get some reps as the second team quarterback. Addazio called Bordner's quarterback reps an annuity that he could put in the bank for later. Wade is expected to be back on Wednesday and Addazio didn't sound concerned about the injury. Bordner is definitely better suited at wide receiver. He's been impressive there so far in camp, running crisp routes, flashing solid hands, and using size to his advantage. His arm was shaky today and he didn't throw many good balls.
Tyler Murphy got off to a bit of a slow start, but he picked it up at the end. Addazio and Myles Willis both said they were impressed. Murphy dashed outside to pick up a first down on a 3rd-and-5, showing off very good speed. He also had nice footwork in the pocket. Bobby Vardaro was out with an illness and Andy Gallik sat out the second half of the scrimmage as a precaution, so Murphy faced some more pressure than usual, but he handled it decently. It's difficult to take too much from this one scrimmage since he was missing Bordner and Crimmins (who was out with an ankle sprain) and the defense typically dominates this early in camp.
Troy Flutie had a good day, especially in the second half of the scrimmage. He's very quick and showed off a few good throws. Freshman Cameron Seward tried to compare his running to Jameis Winston, which drew plenty of laughs.
Jon Hilliman also has a minor hamstring injury, so Richard Wilson got plenty of carries. I mistakenly tweeted during the scrimmage that Hilliman was having a good day, but those were actually Wilson's carries. He's big and fast and fought for extra yards very well. The backfield depth should be a big strength of this team. Willis also had some highlights.
Overall, though, it wasn't a great day for the offense. They gave up 20 points to the defense on turnovers (each turnover is worth 5 points in whatever scoring system BC uses). Murphy fumbled a snap at the one-yard line, and there were two other fumbled snaps as well as an interception. Without Gallik and Vardaro the offensive line looked out of sync. I can't recall seeing more than two plays break 20 yards. Addazio said he was expecting that for the first scrimmage and that the offense should start to gel more next week.
A few young players did stand out, though. Sherman Alston drew plenty of praise from his teammates, Addazio, and the crowd with his speed and juking ability. He returned some kicks and was used on wide receiver screens that broke for first downs. Charlie Callinan blocked nicely on those plays. Alston should be able to step in and make at least a few big plays this season.
With the injured receivers, freshman Gabriel McClary also got some time in the slot with the first team and he looked very good. At 6-foot-3 he's big for the slot, but he had some nice catches and showed off that Florida athleticism.
The defense looked great pretty much all day, but they'll probably come back to the earth as the offense figures itself out. Josh Keyes was an animal, racking up at least five sacks as he filled that Kevin Pierre-Louis role. He also broke up plenty of runs in the backfield.
Addazio said he was impressed with the play of Truman Gutapfel, who was filling in for Mehdi Abdesmad as he continues to work his way back from injury. Gutapfel did a nice job stopping runs up the inside.
Bryce Jones and Manny Asprilla continue to play well at corner, although they aren't being tested much. There wasn't any word on the status of Ty-Meer Brown. He was at the scrimmage hanging out with the DBs, but he didn't see the field. Not sure if the staff is being precautionary with him like Shakim Phillips and Abdesmad. I'll update if I learn more. I heard that he might be filling in for Justin Simmons at safety, but I'm unsure about that.
Strizak and Duggan filled in nicely alongside Keyes. It looks like they've improved a lot. Both made plays in the backfield and defended passes well.
Malachi Moore played well on the defensive line. Even if he doesn't earn a starting spot, he'll definitely get playing time after sitting out last year. The staff is very high on him and his athleticism.
Young players also stepped up on defense. Sophomore Matt Milano made some nice plays at safety. Isaac Yiadom and Kamrin Moore both looked good at corner. There were some rookie mistakes from them, but they also showed that they should be able to fill in nicely if needed. Addazio said he liked the play of freshman linebacker Ty Schwab.
-I would be surprised to see Phillips or Abdesmad participate in many scrimmages with tackling before the opener. Addazio did this with Andre Williams last year too, even though Williams wasn't really injured. He knows they can both play and he doesn't need to see more of them if they are banged up. Addazio kept Willis out of most of the goal-line reps for the same reason, and it's also why Gallik had an early exit. If Addazio trusts that a player is ready and doesn't need to gel with the rest of the unit, they're likely going to start scrimmaging less.
-The team as a whole, though, will be scrimmaging much more before the opener. Things were sloppy enough today that Addazio said he has to change his approach. He said earlier in the week that today and next Saturday would probably be the only scrimmages to help avoid injuries, but that he has to take the risk now.
"We've go to do more than that," Addazio said. "I'm not going to be able to get away with one or two shots at tackling. It's not going to happen. Too young."
He's planning on having some sort of scrimmaging involving tackling on Tuesday and Thursday before coming back for a full scrimmage on Saturday.
"We all know what the risks are going to be," he said. "I could limp into that first game with a bunch of injuries. It might happen, but, you know what, big picture, you've got to do it."
-Murphy said the coaches challenged him to be more vocal and show his leadership during the scrimmage. Addazio mentioned at media day that although there are a good amount of seniors on this team, there aren't any established leaders yet. Ryan Day and Addazio are encouraging Murphy to fill that role. Murphy said it's a challenge for him because his demeanor is typically more laid back, but when he's on the field he has to break out of that. Willis said Murphy did a good job of rallying the offense during the break in the middle of the scrimmage after they had been struggling some.
-Bryce Jones handled the first team punt returning and was joined by Tyler Rouse on kick returns. Willis was asked if he wanted to get out there in the return game and his demeanor clearly showed he's itching to get the opportunity again after doing it last year, but he ended up smiling and saying he'll do whatever the coaches want.