When Scot Loeffler came on as Boston College’s offensive coordinator a year ago, he was well aware of what was ahead because he had faced those challenges before.
BC had one of the worst offenses in college football in 2015: 121st in scoring, 125th in passing yards, 126th in total offense.
The Eagles were able to mask that to a degree with one of the best defenses in the nation, but playing in the star-studded Atlantic Coast Conference, there was no way they could survive without scoring.
Coach Steve Addazio had faith in Loeffler because of his pedigree (he was Tom Brady’s quarterbacks coach at Michigan and had NFL experience as the Detroit Lions’ quarterbacks coach in 2008). Addazio and Loeffler also had revamped the offense at Temple in 2011. But Loeffler made sense for the job because at almost every stop in his coaching career — from Temple to Auburn to Virginia Tech — he had been tasked with turning things around.
“He’s always had to go into tough situations,” Addazio said. “It’s amazing. Some people walk into great situations. He’s walked into tough ones where he’s really had to be a part of rebuilding it. That’s painful sometimes. But he’s done a fabulous job.”
Last season, the Eagles were able to return to a bowl game and shake the storm clouds that followed them after a dismal 2015 campaign. For much of the year, the offense still struggled. It was 118th in scoring and next to last in total offense. But in their 36-30 win over Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl, they rolled out a different look — an uptempo offense that produced 29 first-half points, the third-best scoring half in BC bowl history.
It was a wrinkle Loeffler and the coaching staff considered adding from the time he arrived at The Heights. But after being defined by their defense for years, the Eagles are now hoping they’ve found an offensive identity that’s been missing.
“There was a debate the day that we came to Boston College . . . if we should go tempo,” Loeffler said. “We totally changed the throw game, and there was a ton of learning, and we were very, very — to be quite honest — very simple last year just because we were working on getting in the right splits. It was all new.
“Now, it’s a year ahead. We’re much more ahead. We’re much more comfortable with the system, and we’ll play more consistent because of, again, those kids have heard the same things for more than 30 days, you know, like it was last year.”
With preseason All-American defensive end Harold Landry returning for his senior season, Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray emerging on the defensive line, and linebacker Connor Strachan as an anchor, the Eagles’ defense will continue to be their constant.
The offense will once again be their question mark.
The Eagles will go into the season with an uncertain quarterback situation. Darius Wade got the starter’s reps during spring practice, but he’ll be competing with redshirt freshman Anthony Brown throughout camp for the job of opening day starter.
While he’s leaned on fifth-year quarterbacks Tyler Murphy in 2014 and Patrick Towles in 2016, Addazio has been trying to find a quarterback he could develop since he arrived at BC in 2013.
“When you go into these places that have established depth at quarterback, it makes that process a little better,” Addazio said. “When you don’t have that, it’s a tough process. It can create havoc for many a guy.”
Loeffler’s been on both sides. At Temple, he inherited an offense in 2010 that was ninth in the Mid-American Conference in passing yards, sixth in rushing, and fifth in scoring. With a weapon in running back Bernard Pierce, Loeffler helped turn the Owls into the seventh-best rushing team in the nation and the fourth highest-scoring in the conference in 2011.
Following that season, Auburn was searching for answers on offense after a steep decline following the departure of Cam Newton, and the Tigers turned to Loeffler to revive an attack that was ninth in the Southeastern Conference in passing (152.5), fourth in rushing (202.6), and seventh in scoring (25.7) in 2011.
But in his lone season at Auburn, the Tigers went 3-9, their offense was at the bottom of almost every statistical category in the SEC, and Loeffler was gone when coach Gene Chizik was fired. Loeffler spent the next three years at Virginia Tech as offensive coordinator under Frank Beamer. There, he had time to put pieces together, and a team that was 12th in the ACC in scoring when he arrived was sixth by the time he left.
How things will play out at BC remains to be seen, but both quarterbacks trust the system Loeffler’s put in place.
“He’s a great offensive coordinator,” said Wade. “He knows what he’s doing. He has his own plan, and he’s just kind of unveiling it to us as an offense, and I love it. I love going fast-paced, and that’s what we’re trying to do. I’m excited, and I’m just ready to get after it and whatever Coach Loeffler and Coach Addazio want me to do, I’m all for it. I feel I’m a very capable person and quarterback to be able to do whatever they ask me.”