CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Seven is no longer a lucky number for the Boston College football team.
After five seven-win seasons that produced five bowl bids in the last six years, coach Steve Addazio is eager for the Eagles to achieve another level of success in 2019. Addazio, 38-38 in six seasons at the Heights, said Wednesday on the first day of the Atlantic Coast Conference Kickoff that competing for the league title is that next step.
“To do that, we have to stay consistent with our level of play through the course of the season and develop depth so injuries don’t unseat us,’’ Addazio said. “So we have to stay consistent, stay healthy and be able to beat a team like Clemson in order to play for that conference championship and win it.’’
The Eagles got close enough to almost taste that scenario after a 7-2 start last season that propelled them to 20th in the national rankings entering a home game against the eventual national champion Tigers. BC trailed Clemson, 13-7, at halftime, but lost starting quarterback Anthony Brown to an injury. Minus Brown, the Eagles were shut out in the second half and wound up on the short end of a 27-7 final score.
The setback started a frustrating finish for the Eagles, who dropped a 1-point game at Florida State (22-21) and suffered a 21-point loss in the home finale against nationally ranked Syracuse (42-21). Adding insult to injury, the Eagles never got the chance to reverse their fortunes against Boise State after the First Responder Bowl in Dallas was canceled because of weather.
“Last year I feel like we left a lot of meat on the bone,’’ said senior defensive tackle Tanner Karafa. “We didn’t play our best ball those last few weeks. The bowl was especially frustrating because we didn’t get a chance to get that eighth win. We could have easily had nine [wins] if we had beaten Florida State. They played a great second half, but we could have won that game if we had played a little tougher and not made as many mistakes.’’
Although no one is projecting BC or anyone else to unseat the Tigers in the ACC’s Atlantic Division in 2019, the Eagles are optimistic about the potential for improvement, especially on offense, where 11 starters return, including All-ACC running back A.J. Dillon.
The 250-pound Dillon racked up 1,000-plus yards in each of his first two seasons and will spearhead a unit Addazio called “the most explosive offensive team we’ve had here.’’
“I want to win the Heisman and the Doak Walker,’’ Dillon said. “I want to be the best back in college football. But more than that, I want to help this team out. I’ll do whatever is necessary to help win a championship.’’
Dillon added he is fully recovered from the ankle that forced him to miss two games last season.
“Being more mature now, I’ve learned how to take care of my body better,’’ he said. “So the first thing I did in the offseason was to get my ankle back to 100 percent. Then I went to work on my strength and conditioning. I want to be somebody, who, first down to fourth down, first quarter to overtime, is reliable in any situation.’’
Karafa and his BC defensive mates will be the key to any step forward for the Eagles.He’s one of four returning defensive starters and the only one on the front line. The Eagles could get a boost there from Clemson grad transfer Richard Yeargin, a 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pounder whose career with the Tigers was hindered by injuries.
“Our margin of error is small,’’ Addazio said. “The difference between an eight- and nine-win season isn’t that great. We need some good fortune. Defensively, we are young, but we have some talent. How fast we mature on defense will be a big factor for us.’’
ACC schedule makers did little favors for the Eagles, who open the season Aug. 31 at Alumni Stadium with a league game against Virginia Tech, one of the Coastal Division favorites.