This week I caught up with Niraj Patel from BC Interruption to get some perspective on NC State’s next opponent. Below you’ll find his answers to my questions, and I’ve answered some questions for him right here.
1.) How would you assess Dennis Grosel’s play this season? Have you had to re-set expectations for Boston College’s offense?
Grosel has played about as well as I expected filling in for Phil Jurkovec. I wouldn’t say he’s been by any means spectacular, and the offense isn’t close to the same level of potency, but he’s fine. He’s an experienced player who’s been with the team for some time now, and had opportunities to go elsewhere and start.
Still, in three full starts, he’s had mixed levels of success. His first prepared start was poor against Temple, but it was an easy win. He followed it up with doing what he does best against Missouri, playing the short to mid range game (for the most part) and using his legs. Clemson had some good and bad. He still hasn’t connected on a good deep pass even though they’ve been open, and badly turned the ball over a couple of times.
That deep ball is where the biggest reset is. BC’s offense is designed to really stretch the field vertically, and Jurkovec had that ability, but it just isn’t there with Grosel. With the talent on the outside, they’ll still try to let the receiver make a play, but I don’t expect a pretty deep ball even if the receiver is open anymore. Bottom line is, the team has to rely on the run much more than anticipated heading into the season.
2.) Are there any key injuries on the team that we should know about?
Jurkovec aside, there are really only two fresher injuries right now. On the offensive line, LT Tyler Vrabel went out against Clemson with a knee injury. He’s considered day-to-day, but it will really come down to how he feels and be a last minute call. He has practiced in some fashion, but behind him will be Jack Conley who will fill in just fine. Wide receiver Kobay White is the other name to note. He missed last week’s game and a couple of other games to start the year (as well as all of last season). The wide receiver depth is great, but White seems to be questionable at best. He’s a big, experienced receiver that’s been among the best on the team over the years.
3.) Given that BC’s defense has allowed over six yards per play in each of its last two games, where’s your concern level for that unit? What’s been hurting them the most this season?
It’s kind of a mixed bag honestly. Last game, I felt they played Clemson really tough. Press man coverage, and did exceptional on third down. They had one bust really that went for a long touchdown, but really great defensively. The previous game, they played very off, allowing Missouri to dink and dunk with ease and couldn’t generate any pressure (although they didn’t send many). It was death by a thousand paper cuts, but they still came away with the key turnover to win the game.
Depth on the line may be the biggest concern. They still don’t do a great job of generating pressure, and are thin particularly at tackle after some early injuries. I think the secondary has a lot of talent, and the line has still played above my expectation heading into the year. Level setting has made my general concern on defense much lower. I believe in the coaching to get the most out of the unit, but I don’t know if they can drag BC to a win at this point.
4.) Boston College has been exceptional on third downs, on both sides of the ball. What have been the keys there?
Keeping things manageable on offense and sticking to what quarterback Dennis Grosel does best has made it easier for the offense to move. Great play-calling and a surprisingly strong run game have all made for a much better third down offense. They also have not hesitated to be aggressive on fourth downs. That all being said, some turnovers and having played against some poor defenses definitely helps those stats.
On defense, the secondary has locked in on third downs for the most part. The coverage as a whole has been really good — appropriate given Hafley’s background. The team has improved as a whole tackling and getting guys to the ball as well. There are a number of new faces on the defensive end, and they’ve been caught up to speed really quickly. Isaiah-Graham Mobley has become a force at linebacker, and brings great energy and fire to the defense. There are still a number of questions on the defense though as I mentioned before.
5.) Tell us about a couple of guys who have been flying under the radar this season.
Jaden Williams has been a freshman revelation. Not flying the radar for BC fans of course, but he just keeps making plays despite being such a young receiver. He can do it all, and has three receiving touchdowns to lead the team. Honestly, punter Grant Carlson has been unbelievable this season. He’s flipping the field so well, averaging 47.5 yards per punt. I’ll also toss out Elijah Jones at corner. The others get more attention, but Jones has played really well at corner and been huge on special teams.
6.) If Boston College wins this weekend, what do you think will be the biggest reason why?
BC can’t turn the ball over and has to win on the line. They need to keep Grosel in his comfort zone, and limit getting too eager. State’s defense is too sound, so they can’t squander any opportunities. I think not giving Leary too many layups is going to be important on defense, but they’ll just need to be sound overall. I would not like our chances in any sort of shootout. The crowd may even play a big factor. The showing for Missouri was the best in years, and I’d expect a lot of energy in the stadium Saturday night.