Boston College Football: As Dillon Mends, New Names Emerge

Boston College got back to work in preparation to build against last week’s disappointing result at No. 23 NC State. It’s a rejuvenated setting for the Eagles, who return to game action at home on Saturday against the Louisville Cardinals. Now 4-2 on the season, the clear message learns from the past while continuing construction a game against an ACC Atlantic Division foe.

“It’s another conference game,” head coach Steve Addazio said. “(We have) Louisville coming in. Good to be back home. Another talented team, athletic team. Obviously, Coach Petrino has done a really good job there at Louisville. Really good football coach. Got a good staff (and) good players on their team. This is a motivated team coming in here. We have got to play our best game.”

The biggest storyline facing the Eagles remains the unknown status of AJ Dillon. The star running back is a central focal point of the Boston College offense, but an ankle injury against Temple sidelined him for NC State. His rehab remains day-to-day, which creates a mystery regarding his potential return against Louisville.

Dillon is the type of irresistible talent that only happens once in a generation. He can change an entire defensive scheme with his unique blend of raw horsepower and speed. He can run through defenders just as easy as he can run away from them. It’s a big reason why his absence can loom just as large as his presence.

That said, no season has a pause button. BC required adaptation to life without Dillon last week, and the offense requires continued revamping until he is back at full strength. It led to a mentality within both the locker and film rooms that has the running backs progressing. They remain fluid and flexible because their unit’s outlook remains day-to-day in its own right.

“I think that we are not changing who we are right now,” Addazio said. “We are running a lot of the same things. We might be tweaking some of them. We got a little bit more shotgun run in the game (against NC State). So I think these are things we are looking at right now. In a bye week, if we had to adjust something, we might try to make some adjustments. Right now I would use the word ‘accentuate,’ ‘feature’ more than ‘different.'”

An adaptive nature can produce new names and faces, and that leads the conversation straight to Ben Glines. The former wide receiver never held any kind of top billing at his recruited position, so he transitioned to running back in an attempt to help the team’s depth chart. He developed skills during training camp, which in turn earned him limited snaps against UMass.

It created a hybrid positioning capable of producing touchdowns against Holy Cross and Wake Forest, but he was never the kind of player who jumped to the top of the depth chart. Glines instead had to create a spot through his own sheer will, using a mentality that forced his skillset into the lineup. He wasn’t the top receiver, and he wasn’t the top running back. So he had to become something of his own type of player.

“I trust my hands and my route running out of the backfield,” Glines said. “We have great route-running backs that can spread the field out. Training as a receiver for the first however many years gives me a personal advantage, especially against linebackers. I figure that if I can do it against (defensive backs), I can do it against linebackers.”

All of that changed with the injury to Dillon. Glines’ warrior mentality showed a willingness to give his entire body and soul to the team. The injury required someone to grab a proverbial brass ring, and the Ohio native did it by continuing to adapt himself. He carried 23 times against Temple after Dillon went down, gaining 120 yards. That earned him the start this past weekend, where he amassed 119 all-purpose yards with two touchdowns.

“Whether I’m a starter or coming in behind another back, it doesn’t really change much for me,” Glines said. “I approach every day with the same mentality. I’m focused on finding something to get better every day. When I came in when AJ got hurt, it’s the next man up mentality. We always play like that and prep every day like you’re the starting back.”

That mentality blended with a trademark Ohio kind of toughness, and it’s now made him a household, Boston College football name. He’s grabbed the position with that team-first mentality, which is allowing the Eagles to filter and adapt the nuances of the position to Glines’ receiver skills.

“You can only run so many routes out of the backfield,” Glines said. “But we’re working on routes all the time. There’s individual stuff in between footwork drills and ball security stuff. You can run some arrows and wheels, and we’re working on them all the time. I think we have great repertoire working out of the backfield. We hit those plays all the time in practice, so it’s nothing new in the game.”

It’s stabilized the position while it awaits AJ Dillon’s return. He is allowing BC to continue to develop depth without rushing players into uncertain or unsteady roles. Travis Levy continues to learn and grow into his role, and David Bailey will be used similarly to Dillon. Glines’ presence enables them to develop without stepping on a field until they’re absolutely ready.

“We are trying Travis and are trying to develop David Bailey,” Addazio said. “We got pretty accustomed to a style of play with AJ there. I think what we will do now is try to make sure we find the right rhythm for the new normal. We started to hit a little stride with it in the second half against NC State. Obviously, it was a little too late. I would have liked to have seen that happen earlier. Although earlier there were some really good opportunities.”

“I talk to the coaches when we game plan for different teams,” Glines said. “We talk about what kind of plays I like, what kind of plays they like, what shows up on film. It changes against different teams week-to-week. Everyone has their own feel to how they run the ball, so certain plays work out better for certain guys. But we have trust in everyone that’s on the field.”

It will ultimately benefit the Eagles in the long run. Dillon’s status is currently unknown, but he gets closer to game ready every day. His first snaps will mark the return of a workhorse, and the Eagles will welcome him back to the lineup with open arms. Until that happens, the Eagles have options. When it happens, BC has an added wrinkle thanks to the nuances currently employed.

The offense, for example, is known to use the entire field, and planning breaks the field into different zones and quadrants. It stretches the field north-south and east-west while attempting to tax opposing defenses with different formations. A jet sweep run establishes a sprint sweep to the outside or runs to daylight. It sets up a pass to a tight end and runs up the middle or a deep ball routing against different areas. Everything works together.

Dillon’s ability to run is obviously a centerpiece for any offensive foundation, but BC can now slot different running backs and wide receivers to new potential groupings. Glines, Dillon, and others can form new formations and combinations tasked with executing the same offensive mentality. There’s always room, after all, for another weapon of choice.

“We’re not going to install a whole new offense (without AJ),” Glines said. “We will just do our thing and play our game. We have playmakers all over the field. Coach has confidence in me and whoever we put out there, so that’s important.”

“In the run game, there are some adjustments,” Addazio said. “We’re trying to make sure we take advantage of each guy’s individual (talents). (Ben) just went from having a supplemental role to a full-time role. Exactly how that tweaks us and shapes us, we will have speed fashion trying to get that right.”

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