Miami Beat: Preview of the BC Eagles

For better or worse, it’s been a relatively quiet week in Coral Gables. Quite an accomplishment indeed, given that we’re rapidly approaching the season opener, but it’s also given me a severe case of writer’s block. The names on the back of the jerseys have changed, the leadership has changed, but all of the talk from current Hurricanes could have been taken verbatim from preseason interviews from 2006 or 2010.

“We’re ready to shock folks.” “We’ve blocked out the doubters.” I’ve beaten this topic to a pulp over the past few weeks, but the bottom line is we have no idea what to expect come 3:30 Saturday. I’m not even sure Al Golden knows what to expect. So forgive me for attempting to temper my own enthusiasm as we embark on another season for the U.

And since I’m low on fresh ideas for this freshman-laden roster – lets shift gears and preview the ‘Canes opponent for Saturday, the Boston College Eagles. Thanks to my other writing assignment covering the ACC from a fantasy perspective, I’m reasonably well versed in all things offensively across the conference. I can also tell you that Boston College is one of the hardest teams to get solid, reliable information out of. Boston is a pro town, much like Miami, but all of their professional teams have a history of success, unlike Miami, and the Eagles are traditionally an afterthought when it comes to media coverage.

They’re a reasonably experienced team (I only counted four true freshmen on the current two-deep,) but former Kent State head coach Doug Martin is the team’s third offensive coordinator in as many years. Yikes – I may have just convinced myself we don’t know what we can expect from BC either!

Strength, Depth in Backfield

Casual fans will notice the school’s all-time leading rusher, Montel Harris, isn’t suiting up this season in Chestnut Hill. After missing various portions of the past two seasons due to knee injuries, Harris was dismissed from the team this summer for unspecified violations of team rules. Harris, now at Temple, has been pretty coy about his departure, and it simply seems like a situation where head coach Frank Spaziani wanted to go in a different direction, similar to Russell Wilson’s departure from North Carolina State a season ago.

Eagles’ fans can joke that Harris was so good, it takes three rushers to replace him, but that’s essentially the case with this backfield. With that in mind, this is a case where there’s strength in numbers, as each of the potential three backs we’ll see Saturday bring something different to the table.

Last season’s leading rusher, Rolandan Finch, looks like a capable bell cow. He rushed for 705 yards a season ago, including a ridiculous 243 yards against Maryland. Finch’s status for Saturday, however, is up in the air. He sprained his foot during a scrimmage the weekend before last, and was slated to return to practice Monday after missing most of last week. He’s not currently listed on the team’s injury report, or their depth chart.

Andre Williams figures to open the game as the starter, and is a powerful rusher who started the first four games of last season.  The six foot, 220 pound junior missed a scrimmage last week as well after spraining his ankle, but will be healthy enough to pound at an inexperienced Miami front seven.

He’ll be backed up by Tahj Kimble, who also suffered his share of bruises during August. Kimble wasn’t hit until this past weekend’s scrimmage, and while he’s a little shiftier than Williams, he’s likely to be used more as a change of pace Saturday. Williams, Kimble and maybe Finch will rumble behind an offensive line that’s been shuffled since last November’s meeting in Sun Life Stadium, but returns three starters.

Injuries Galore

To say August hasn’t been kind to the Eagles’ health would be an understatement. In addition to the banged up running backs, tight end, and ‘Cane killer, Chris Pantale, broke his foot early in camp, and is out “a while.” He hauled in four passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns in last season’s victory over Miami. A one-time Miami commitment, cornerback Al Louis-Jean, is also out with a broken foot, and last year’s second leading receiver, Bobby Swigert, is expected to miss the opener after tweaking a knee in a scrimmage last week.

Chase Rettig’s Time to Shine?

As previously mentioned, the Eagles, and in turn Rettig, will roll out Saturday with their third new offensive coordinator. Rettig, a former four-star recruit who has started since midway through his freshman season, simply hasn’t had a chance to grow as a signal caller given the constant turnover. Scrimmage and practice reports are hard to decipher, but by all accounts, Rettig has had a stellar camp. Martin has shown confidence in Rettig, is allowing him to make more decisions at the line, and simply has faith his quarterback will make the right choices. Missing Swigert and Pantale obviously hurts, but Rettig still has veterans Colin Larmond and Alex Amidon to rely on. Larmond has size and speed, but has struggled with consistency during his career.

I think I’m in the minority, but I think Rettig is poised for his best season in Chestnut Hill, by far, this year.  Call it a hunch, but there’s too much raw talent for Rettig to be a mediocre-at-best quarterback in this league. He’s created distance between himself and backup Josh Bordner, and his confidence and Martin’s confidence in him will go a long way towards a breakout season.

Defensively, the Eagles return seven starters from a season ago, not counting the injured Louis-Jean, who started twice. The big gaping hole amongst those seven is all-everything linebacker Luke Keuchly, who simply isn’t replaceable. It’s a unit that allowed 23.5 points per game last season, but also picked off Miami four times in the season finale. Place kicker Nate Freese is also back, after hitting 10-of-16 field goals a season ago.

For many obvious reasons, this is a game both teams need to win. The young ‘Canes need that first victory under their belts, and a loss by the Eagles’ would probably entice some local media coverage against Spaziani, who’s seat is already hot. My heart tells me to go with the youthful, carefree, talented homer pick. My head tells me to take the more experienced team who happens to be playing at home. But home field may not be as big of an advantage for the Eagles as it usually is. Saturday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s, which sounds an awful lot like south Florida. It will be interesting to see if cramping becomes an issue for either squad.

What won’t be interesting is the number of times we see Doug Flutie’s miracle pass in the O.B. from days of yore.  I’m finally on Twitter (@ChrisBennettACC) and would love to hear from folks as to the betting over/under as to how many times we’ll see this nonsense. Hit me up! Maybe I’ll even throw out a prediction sometime Saturday morning.

Before departing, a few quick notes from Miami

  • OL Seantrel Henderson is back and practicing (finally,) but won’t travel to Boston College.
  • LB Raphael Kirby had the cast removed from his leg, and will be reevaluated in 2-3 weeks.
  • WR Allen Hurns has been in and out of practice over the past week, recovering from a head injury. He’s donned red non-contact, yellow limited-contact jerseys , and also practiced with no restrictions, back and forth, for nearly ten days. He’s expected to be available, but who knows.
  • QB Preston Dewey has passed Gray Crow, and will be the team’s #3 quarterback.

Chris Bennett currently covers the ACC for Rotowire, and previously for College Fantasy Football Insider. Though a graduate of South Carolina, he had his allegiances well formed, and didn’t deviate despite spending four years in Columbia. Though completely against social media, he has signed up for Twitter, where you can find him at @ChrisBennettACC.

Follow Inside the ACC on Twitter at @InsideTheACC.  Get your ACC links at ITA’s NewsLink Twitter feed at @ITA_NewsLink. Talk about ACC sports on the ITA Forums.

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