BOSTON (AP) — Boston College doesn’t have one player who can replace Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams, so the Eagles are trying to do the job with three or four.
BC coach Steve Addazio is platooning three running backs in 2014, one year after Williams’ record-setting season. And that’s not even counting quarterback Tyler Murphy, who was the leading rusher in BC’s season-opening victory over UMass on Saturday.
“We’re rolling three (running backs). I don’t even know who it is back there half the time,” offensive lineman Aaron Kramer said Monday. “No matter who it is at the running back, we know that we can be successful.”
Williams emerged as BC’s primary rusher in 2013, when he averaged 175 rushing yards per game and became the 16th player in FBS history to surpass 2,000 rushing yards in a season. Then he left for the NFL, where he was a fourth-round draft pick of the New York Giants.
Without him, BC opened with a 30-7 victory over UMass in which the Eagles ran 61 times for 338 yards.
“We needed to be a collective effort. And in that game it was true,” Addazio said. “We’re always going to be a heavy run team; let’s face it.”
In the place of Williams, who ran for 2,177 yards last year and was the Doak Walker Award winner, the Eagles have sophomore Myles Willis, who ran 16 times for 57 yards and also returned kicks for a total of 113 all-purpose yards in the opener. Tyler Rouse carried the ball 19 times for 87 yards, and Murphy had 118 yards on 13 carries, including a 1-yard naked bootleg for a touchdown.
Three other players also carried the ball for the Eagles.
“We’re not just one back anymore,” Willis said. “All of us are coming, and the quarterback’s running, too.”
Murphy completed 17 of 24 passes for 173 yards in his first game at BC since transferring from Florida. Although Addazio said he would prefer to mix more passes into the game plan, the imbalance was due in part to it being Murphy’s first game, in part because the Eagles took an early lead against overmatched UMass and in part because the running game was working.
“In a perfect world, you’d like to have more balance,” Addazio said. “Will we be able to have our way with everybody in the conference running the football? No. We’d like to get more balance. We’d like to grow in certain areas. But I don’t look for style points. I don’t look for stats, but to win.”
Addazio said that because he isn’t relying on one back, it creates more variety in the offense. While Williams was a power, straight-ahead back who would make tacklers miss, BC’s new ball carriers have different qualities they can bring to the job — like the sweeps run by receiver Sherman Allston for a total of 30 yards.
“We’re ahead of where we were a year ago — schematically, running the football,” Addazio said. “We don’t have that one power back yet. But I’m pretty pleased with that piece.”