Editor’s note: The Roanoke Times is taking an early look at every game on Virginia Tech’s 2019 schedule. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday this summer for a new preview.
Virginia Tech’s 2019 season-opener on Aug. 31 at Boston College could be a shoot out.
The Hokies will head east for an early ACC showdown against a Boston College team that beat them pretty soundly last season.
While Boston College’s potent offensive attack is a cause for concern, the defense won’t be nearly as imposing. The Eagles have to replace eight defensive starters including its best pass-rusher (Wyatt Ray), top tackler (linebacker Connor Strachan) and the bulk of a secondary that had 18 interceptions each of the last two seasons.
Virginia Tech fans saw first hand the kind of growing pains a defense can go through having to replace that much talent.
“That turnover and that period of adjustment, if you will, it exists, and that's what spring is about,” Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. “I'm not going to minimize the fact that we lost potentially a first-round draft pick at one end at another draft pick at the other end and a draft pick in the back end. I'm not going to minimize that. I mean, but I'd like to think that in the making are the next round of guys that are going to come up and be really productive players. You know, are they going to be a second- or a first-round pick? I don't know that.”
Here’s an early look at Virginia Tech’s Week 1 opponent….
Last year vs. Virginia Tech: Boston College W 31-21
What happen? Boston College scored 21 unanswered points in the second half with injuries piling up on the defensive side of the ball for Virginia Tech.The Hokies had eight freshmen on the field at the same time during one stretch. Tech quarterback Ryan Willis put up big passing numbers — 281 yards (25 of 42) with three touchdowns — but the one-dimensional Hokies offense struggled after halftime.
Position(s) of strength: Boston College had an explosive offense in 2018 averaging 32 points (tied for fifth-highest scoring offense in program history). The bulk of the team’s skill players will all be back in 2019 led by quarterback Anthony Brown and running back A.J. Dillon.
“On offense we've got skill firepower,” Addazio said, this spring. “We've got it at the quarterback, we've got it at the backfield, we've got it at the receivers, we've got it at the tight ends, we're going to have a really good offensive line. So you know, we're excited about that.”
Dillon is one of the top returning running backs in the country. He has 2,697 career yards (he’s surpassed 1,000 yards the past two years) and 24 career touchdowns. Dillon wasn’t 100 percent in the game against Virginia Tech in 2018 and still managed 96 yards and a touchdown.
Ch...ch...changes: Some of the biggest turnover for Boston College this offseason was on its coaching staff.
Former Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler left Boston College after a three-year stint running the offense to take the head coaching job at Bowling Green. Addazio hired Mike Bajakian, a one-time offensive coordinator for Cincinnati and Tennessee. Bajakian spent the last four years coaching quarterbacks in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With Boston College’s defense trending in the wrong direction — the Eagles gave up 402.3 yards per game in 2018 up from 314.2 yards allowed in 2016 — Addazio made a change of his own accord to promote linebackers coach Bill Sheridan to defensive coordinator. Former defensive coordinator Jim Reid stayed on staff and will coach the defensive line.
Lingering questions: Boston College has work to do in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
The Eagles need to replace three talented, multi-year starters on the offensive line — guard Chris Lindstrom, center Jon Baker and Aaron Monterio. Lindstrom was selected with the 14th pick in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons.
Boston College’s offensive line entered the 2018 season with the second most career returning starts in the country. Addazio is confident in the young talent competing for the open spots, but the Eagles will miss that experience.
Boston College also graduated its top two pass-rushers. Senior defensive end Wyatt Ray, who played in 51 straight games, had nine sacks last year (fifth in the ACC). Fellow senior Zach Allen had six sacks starting opposite Ray. Allen was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
Boston College won’t be able to replace all that talent overnight.