Shifting and Moving

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Though Boston College's offense comes to Chapel Hill this weekend for a road game against North Carolina ranked ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring offense (25.2 ppg) and 13th in pass offense (180.5 ypg), they've got a capable running game that currently ranks eighth in the league with an average of 172.3 yards per game.
Most of the attention goes to senior standout Andre Williams, who leads the ACC in rushing attempts (157), rushing yards (838), rushing average per game (139.7), and is currently second in rushing touchdowns with seven.
But they've got a big, veteran offensive line featuring three juniors and two seniors, so if the Eagles get things rolling on the ground, they could make things quite tough for the Tar Heels (1-5 overall, 0-3 ACC) as they seek a much-needed gridiron triumph.
"I've been very impressed watching them on film. They are a physical football team, and they are bringing the ball downhill," said UNC head coach Larry Fedora Wednesday. "The running back (Williams) is pretty special, obviously. He's, what, No. 5 or 6 in the country in rushing, and they are going to bring it downhill and try to beat you with a play action pass."
"He's built like a running back," added Fedora on Williams. "He's 215 pounds. He's got some legs and hips on him, and he's a big, physical runner, but he can still make you miss. But he's a physical guy. He's run well against everybody, really. He's a good player, now."
"He's got some guys in front of him who are doing a nice job. I mean, these guys aren't freshmen in front of him. They've got some experience up there (along the BC offensive line)."
One of the primary features of the Boston College offense is multiple formations and lots of shifting and movement, which is designed to get a defense out of position with players running around unsure of who to cover.
"(BC runs) a lot of different formations, a lot of different shifts, a lot of different motions to create problems for your defense, to get you out of a gap, misaligned, have miscommunication, all those things," said Fedora of the BC offense. "They're going to run multiple formations and multiple shifts and bring the ball downhill at you and be physical on offense."
In practice this week, the UNC offensive scout team has been seen doing a great deal of shifting and moving around with various personnel groupings in an effort to simulate the Eagles.
"In our basic formation breakdowns, we had 104 different formations (for Boston College). So you're sitting there asking your players with one defense, that's 104 different defenses they've kind of got to understand. So it's an issue," said defensive coach Vic Koenning.
Koenning told us most average opponents have 'Fifteen maybe' in terms of offensive formations, so he added, 'This is not going to be a normal deal.'
"This is going to be a whole bunch of different looks. And they've had a couple weeks to put in some new ones," said Koenning of the Eagles. "Their schemes are really effective, and they're really hard to defend."
One particularly unique---and challenging---aspect of the BC offense is the multi-tight end set that they've used successfully this season at times.
Some have called it a 'jumbo' set, but whatever terminology you use, it's designed to get muscle and bodies at a position on the field where a big play can emerge.
And with UNC ranked dead last in the ACC in total defensive yardage allowed and 106th in the country at 456 yards per outing, anything opposing offenses can do that could lead to big plays is a cause for considerable concern in practice.
"Schematically, what they do with their tight end packages is really hard to defend," said Koenning. "With those of us that have been in the Big Ten, they do what Wisconsin used to do. They get three guys---three big bodies---to the point of attack. It's just really hard to schematically get three guys there (defensively). And they shift them around and move them, tackle over, unbalanced, etc."
With a quintet of veteran offensive lineman including senior tackles Ian White and Matt Patchan, guards Bobby Vardaro and Harris Williams, and center Andy Gallik who average over 300 pounds, naturally they'll be looking to take control of the line of scrimmage against UNC.
"Their offensive line is every bit as good as ones we usually face. I would say Miami's was unbelievable, but Boston College is really physical, really aggressive. They do everything right," said Koenning.
"What we're going to have to do is we're going to have to commit ourselves to stopping the run. That's for sure," added Fedora. "We've got to really stop the run. That's going to be the key to our defensive effort. I don't expect us to shut them out, but we've got to stop the run and put them into some long yardage situations where they have to throw the football."
"We're going to have to play extremely well with a lot of energy, and we're going to have to match the physicality, and we're going to have to bring it all on Saturday. (This is) a team that we know that's going to be a physical, hard-nosed football team that's going to play."