TCI recently spoke with Tyler Calvaruso to get some insight on Boston College ahead of Clemson’s game against the Eagles. Calvaruso covers Boston College football as the publisher of EagleInsider.com, a 247Sports affiliate.
Calvaruso hit on a number of topics during the following question-and-answer session, including the Eagles’ undefeated start, the offensive identity without QB Phil Jurkovec, Boston College’s defense against Clemson’s struggling offense and more heading into Saturday’s game at Memorial Stadium.
Note: This interview was edited and condensed for clarity
At 4-0, Boston College is one of two unbeatens left in the ACC. Are the Eagles this much better after winning just six games last season or have they benefited from a weak non-conference schedule?
I definitely think there have been some benefits from the non-conference schedule they’ve played. They used the first three games to really work out a lot of the kinks they had entering the season and continued to install more things as each week went on leading up to the Missouri game (an overtime win last week). They unleashed essentially what they call the non-developed playbook. They ran a lot of base stuff throughout the first three weeks of the season. Then the Missouri game came along, and they got exotic with their packages on both sides of the ball and they brought to the table what I’m sure Clemson is looking at on film as we speak.
So I think the non-conference schedule prepared BC for the ACC slate to an extent. Obviously the first three games weren’t anything special from a competitive standpoint when you look at the opponents they played. Colgate is Colgate. UMass is one of the worst FBS programs in the country right now if we’re being completely honest. And Temple is not what it used to be under Matt Rhule. Obviously Missouri posed a challenge as an SEC program, and (BC) passed it. So I think they are ready to take on the challenge of playing Clemson and taking on the ACC slate. It’s not going to be easy. There’s definitely going to be an adjustment, especially when you have a team like Clemson and that defense right off the bat. But I think they’ll be ready to handle it.
They’ve been able to do this with their backup QB for much of the season. How has has losing Jurkovec (season-ending hand injury) and turning to Dennis Grosel changed what BC does offensively?
They’ve gone a little bit more run heavy. And that might have been something that we saw out of them whether it was Jurkovec under center or Grosel. But they’ve definitely gone more run heavy. They’ve established the run with Pat Garwo III more, Travis Levy and Alec Sinkfield. All of those guys have seen touches. There’s been a lot more running plays compared to last season when they really just aired it out on a weekly basis. They’ve tailored the offense to Grosel in a way. They kind of get him more outside on some boots. They didn’t really do a lot of that with Jurkovec. They did some of it, but not as much as they’ve been doin with Grosel.
And Grosel is a veteran. He’s been at BC about as long as anyone on the roster, so (offensive coordinator) Frank Cignetti didn’t have to do a ton to get him ready to run the show. He did last year on occasion. He actually filled in for one pass last year against Clemson when Jurkovec had to leave the game. He set some records when he started against Virginia to end the season, so he was ready to step in and take the reins of this offense without BC having to go into a complete overhaul. So you’re going to see a lot of the same principles that BC would’ve had with Jurkovec under center, but I’d say there’s definitely been more running the football.
Boston College’s defense has been stout statistically. What’s the strength of that group, and what might be an area that this struggling Clemson offense could exploit?
To start with the area of concern, it’s definitely the defensive line and the lack of pass rush they’ve generated throughout the season. It was an issue last year. They worked on it throughout the offseason, and it kind of looked like the tide was turning with some of the guys getting going coming off the edge. But the last two weeks, the pass rush has really been dormant. Temple, they had a true freshman quarterback who was able to stand in the pocket and do whatever pretty much. The same goes for Connor Bazelak last week for Missouri. So they haven’t been able to generate a ton of push up front when it comes to getting after quarterbacks. They’ve been decent against the run, so you have to give the defensive line credit there. But when it comes to collapsing pockets and just wreaking havoc in the backfield, it hasn’t really been there.
I would say the biggest strength with this unit is probably getting off the field on third down. They’re one of the best third-down defenses in the country. They struggled a little bit in that regard against Missouri with the uptick in competition. Missouri went 8 of 12 on third down, so that’s something to monitor moving forward. But this team usually has the ability to get off the field, which is huge for any defense. No defense wants to be out there for chunks of minutes, and that’s something they’ve been able to eliminate this season.
Speaking of Clemson’s offense, do you expect Boston College to try to defend the Tigers differently because of their struggles, particularly running the ball?
I think they’ll really run a lot of the same stuff out there that they ran out against Missouri. They run the 4-2-5, so obviously you’re going to have those two ‘backers down in the box. They’re going to play a balanced attack, and that’s really what Jeff Hafley does and (defensive coordinator) Tem Lukabu does on a weekly basis. They play a very basic system. That’s the thing. They execute it well, but it’s nothing crazy. And they don’t really change up all that much based on the opponent. They do what they do. They run the stuff, and it really just comes down to execution at that point. And that’s something that sometimes hasn’t been there this season. Sometimes it has. Mostly it has, but there have been some times BC has not executed up to its standard.
Many Clemson fans remember the scare Boston College gave the Tigers just a season ago when the Eagles had an 18-point lead in the first half. Was that more a result of Clemson not having Trevor Lawrence, or is there something from that specific game plan that you think Boston College will try to mimic Saturday?
Probably a mix of both. Obviously not having Trevor Lawrence, that goes without saying as to the impact. D.J. (Uiagalelei) settled in in the second half though, and Clemson’s defense did an excellent job of shutting out BC. So they’re gong to have to go back, watch that tape and see what they did wrong in that second half essentially to allow D.J. to settle in and (BC’s) offense to go stagnant. But there was definitely an element of luck, I would say. Some of it last season, the circumstances with the (97-yard) scoop and score by Brandon Sebastian, that doesn’t happen every game. But the scheme was there. You don’t go up 28-10 on accident. Obviously you had some things break in your favor, but they drove the field against a good team and put some points on the board. There are definitely some things on tape that they’re going to try to replicate, but at the same time, there are some things on tape they’re going to try to avoid based on the way that second half went.
Boston College has one of the ACC’s top playmakers at receiver in Zay Flowers. How many ways will they try to get him the ball?
How long do you have? The way they use Zay Flowers, especially with Jurkovec out, they don’t take as many deep shots as they would have with Flowers. They’re still going to take their shots. Don’t get me wrong. But they’re doing some more work with him around the line of scrimmage on screens, bubbles screens and pop passes. He doesn’t really care for jet sweeps, but they still run them occasionally. He’s a better short-to-intermediate route runner than people give him credit for. A lot of people just look at him as this speedy deep threat that can take the top off the defense. He can do a lot more than that, and BC is going to be utilizing that more than ever.
I believe he had 12 targets last week. He caught eight for 62 (yards), and a lot of them were underneath on intermediate routes. There weren’t a ton of shots downfield with him. Because Zay’s a guy, you get him the ball in space and you let him do his thing after the catch and hope for the best. That’s what BC is going to be rolling out with him from here on out.