Here at TSMD, we like to get to know our opponents. This week, the Terps have got Boston College on the schedule and very clearly have their hands full with Andre Williams. I got a chance to pick the enemy’s brain (in this instance, Joe Micik of SoaringToGlory.com) about how the Eagles and how Maryland can stop Andre Williams. Be sure to follow Joe @soaringtoglory and check out his site for the inside scoop on the Eagles.
TSMD: It begins and ends with Andre Williams. We all knew he was good, but why is he turning into an unstoppable force this season? What’s changed?
Joe Micik: Andre was always a good player and we’ve seen that, but I can see why people think it came out of the blue: because our offensive line stunk previously and we had no real offensive identity under Frank Spaziani. Now, under Steve Addazio and Ryan Day, we do: Boston College is a power-run team which has an offensive line playing at a high level. That’s it in a nutshell.
Boston College is committed to the run and Justin Frye has done a great job resurrecting the offensive line. The rest has been Andre Williams, who is just a very talented player (and we knew that way back in 2010 when he first filled in for Montel Harris). His confidence is enormous and the coaches have a gameplan that puts a great deal of stock in his ability to succeed. It’s not just him, either: freshman Myles Willis has also played very well for many of the same reasons.
TSMD: Here’s a hypothetical for you: Let’s say Andre Williams is completely shut down against Maryland. What is Boston College capable of if he has a bad game?
Joe Micik: What we’re capable of is losing, being completely honest.
Boston College’s offense is fairly one-dimensional right now. At present, we just happen to be very good at that one dimension. If Andre Williams is shut down and we have no run game whatsoever, then we’re simply not going anywhere because I doubt they’re going to abandon the run. This offense is not designed to rest on Chase Rettig’s shoulders, and when it has, it sometimes has not been pretty. When I say it’s Andre or bust, that’s very much the case.
TSMD: Your defense goes overlooked because of how effective Andre Williams has been. Is he the reason they’re so good, too?
Joe Micik:You know, I was thinking about this the other day when I was evaluating our defense for the game. If you look at the stats, we’re last in the ACC in several categories but to be completely honest with you, I think they’ve been a little better than what the numbers state. Those numbers, for what it’s worth, also happen to say that BC is a night-and-day improvement in sacks from last season, and the reason for that is that Spaziani’s conservative defensive gameplan was fundamentally opposed to blitzing, therefore we had no pass rush. Don Brown, as you may know since he used to be your defensive coordinator, is a blitz-heavy guy and we’re going after the quarterback for the first time in a long time. That’s obviously huge in the field position game.
Andre Williams and the rest of the offense have pitched in to extend some drives, yes, so that has certainly helped. I would give more of the credit to the guys themselves; they’re far from the most talented defense we’ve had even in the last 5-10 years, but they are working very hard and are being put in situations where they can succeed. I’m dismayed that some BC fans are dissatisfied with the defense under Brown, given that this exact same unit was a complete top-to-bottom abomination last year. He can’t turn chicken shinola into chicken salad, as it were, so I’m not sure what they thought was going to happen. They’re passable this year and are poised to get better in the coming years when Harold Landry comes on board.
TSMD: I’ve always liked Chase Rettig. He’s gritty, he loved to throw earlier in his career, but he’s not that great. Is he just a guy who hands off to Andre Williams, or can he also beat Maryland?
Joe Micik: If it were me, I wouldn’t put the game in Rettig’s hands. It’s not because I think he’s bad, but because I think we’ve seen this season in particular that he’s effective in being a game manager. Early last year, we had Doug Martin as offensive coordinator and the offense was geared towards Rettig slinging it around. That worked for roughly the first half of the year and then his numbers took a dive. Now, he’s handing it off and doing a lot of play action bootlegs, many of which have worked. He’s still missing some open receivers and there have been times he’s looked straight-up rattled, but his turnovers have been minimal this season and generally speaking, he’s not hurting the team. He’s also made his share of big plays, like hitting Alex Amidon for a long touchdown at Clemson to retake the lead in the second half.
Unlike Maryland, BC is not deep at wide receiver. We have Amidon and that’s about it. The rest of the guys there now are very green and have only caught a handful of balls. There has been some tight end involvement but only here and there. That’s another part of why it would be problematic if it was on the passing game to win this one.
Still, as I’ve said, I find Rettig to be better in smaller doses. He’s been consistently good on play action this year, but if he hit all the receivers he’s supposed to hit, he’d be having a solid year.
TSMD: Better BC Eagle when it’s all said and done: Andre Williams or Matt Ryan? This one’s a two parter, though. Better BC Eagle in the NFL when it’s all said and done: Andre Williams or Matt Ryan?
Joe Micik: The answer to both is probably Matt Ryan; allow me to explain. By the time this year is over, Andre will have probably rushed for over 2,000 yards and will have had the best year any Boston College running back has ever had, and there have been some great names on that list. Further, if he doesn’t win the Doak Walker this year, then he will have gotten royally screwed. Finally, I believe Andre will probably go on to some form of professional football career where he’ll acquit himself well.
However, Matt Ryan was both a great Eagle AND part of a very special time in Boston College football history. He helped engineer our best team since the Flutie generation and is a known quantity as a solid player in the NFL. Andre will have his place in Eagles history, and maybe time will change the view, but as it is right now, Matt Ryan is still always going to win that “better Eagle” argument because of the context of his rise at this school.
Bonus: Your prediction, and work in Andre Williams.
Joe Micik: I’ll take the contrary view to the one you gave me on my site and go Eagles, 28-24. I do expect a close game as these teams are nearly even on paper, but my lingering concern is how poorly BC plays on the road. Andre has a modest 150 to 175-yard afternoon and Myles Willis has a nice afternoon himself in relief.
Big thanks to Joe for answering some questions! Be sure to check out his site, SoaringToGlory.com, where I answered five burning BC questions about Terps football. Both informative.