In my first article for Full10Yards College, I take a look at whether Phil Jurkovec can be the first QB to guide Boston College to a Bowl victory since their 2016 Quick Lane Bowl win.
In the past nine visits to a Bowl game, Boston College has only won once, albeit having the 2018 Servpro First Responder Bowl deemed as a no contest. This follows a successful run of visits, including winning 8 in a row from 2000-2007.
There seems to be a fair bit of optimism around Boston College’s expectations for the 2021 season. They head into a much easier schedule than previous years, with many, including ourselves, tipping them to win at least 8 or 9 games this season.
Although there are many positives surrounding Boston College’s offense, especially the role Zay Flowers may have in 2021, the key place to look at is their starting Quarterback.
The first week of the College Football season saw Boston College resoundingly beat Colgate 51-0, with Jurkovec passing for 303 yards, 3 touchdowns and rushing for 61 yards. His use of 11 different receivers shows the support of his offense, something covered later in the article.
After transferring to the Eagles in 2020, Jurkovec has shown his ability at utilising his size and build to rack up decent yardage in his first season as a QB1. Standing at 6’5, he has the mobility and agility alongside the strength aspect of his game to keep himself moving around the pocket and out of trouble.
Although he isn’t renowned for his deep passing accuracy, Jurkovec has enough options to improve that part of his game and has had success with the deeper passing due to his strength and ability to launch the ball downfield.
Under the guidance of Head Coach, Jeff Hafley, Jurkovec had a 61% completion rate, with 2,558 yards and a 17-5 TD-INT rate. He adapted to the role he had craved back in Notre Dame quickly and with great effect. His first start of 2021 saw him complete 67% of his passes, throwing for 303 yards, with a long of 51 yards to Trae Barry.
He can also move well going forward with the ball. He managed 150 yards with 3 TDs in 2020, including a season-high of 28 yards in a 94 yard running performance against Georgia Tech. This was followed by a big 61 yard gain in the most-recent win over Colgate.
Tipped to be a Top 100 pick in the NFL Draft 2022, Jurkovec certainly has the strength and range to guide the Eagles to a first Bowl appearance since 2016.
Jurkovec’s Supporting Cast
The Eagles may be missing one of their best receivers in 2021 Draftee Hunter Long, but can look at an attack that could be deemed as one of the best in the Conference.
Zay Flowers alone had 892 yards last season, with 9 TDs, and he has his sights set on an early round pick in the 2022 Draft. This could be dangerous for defenses that come up against him, as he looks to build on an impressive 2020 season. He earned himself first-team All-ACC honors, becoming just the 2nd Eagles receiver to do so.
Flowers’ ability to be versatile, his athleticism, his quick-feet, and his route-running ability has headlined him as one of the top receivers to watch out for in 2021. His first appearance of 2021 saw him rack up 135 yards from a team-high 7 receptions.
Joining Flowers in the receiver department is a resurgent CJ Lewis, Jaelen Gill, and a healthy-again Kobay White. Although these 3 have a lot to prove in different ways, Jurkovec has a wealth of targets to rack up significantly larger numbers than that of 2020.
The Eagles may not have Hunter Long available at Tight End anymore, but the rotation of Trae Barry, Joey Luchetti and Spencer Witter should be enough to make plays when called upon, although there may be less need due to the depth of the Wide Receivers. This was very much highlighted in the opening game win over Colgate, with the use of 11 receivers, with Witter not even making a play.
Supporting the highlight-reel cast are the tough guys given the task to protect Jurkovec at all times. Tyler Vrabel, Zion Johnson and Alec Lindstrom possess power, quickness and nastiness in abundance. Vrabel has the speed and strength to play either tackle position, Johnson asserted himself as one of the best guards in the Conference, and Lindstrom is technically refined and a big player in both the running protection and the passing protection.
With a stable offensive line, and an impressive selection of wide receivers and tight ends, Boston College should flourish in the passing game, especially under the guidance of Jeff Hafley. They utilised the passing game a lot more last season, although there will need to be more of a balance in 2021. This leads us on to the next point…
A New Emphasis at Running Back
After AJ Dillon declared himself eligible for the 2020 Draft in the back end of 2019, Boston College have struggled to replace him with consistency and match their previously strong running game.
Last year’s starter David Bailey failed to match the expectations post-Dillon, averaging just 50.3 yards a game compared to Dillon’s 140.4 yards in his final season. He picked up half as many rushing touchdowns and there was significantly less attempts per game as well. This is a key area for the Eagles to target heading into the 2021 season, and the transfer of David Bailey allows someone else to take over the helm as RB1.
So what are the options? There is last season’s RB2 Travis Levy, as well as freshman Xavier Coleman and West Virginia transfer Alec Sinkfield. Although there is no clear RB1, Levy might see more of the short-yardage work, but there are still 3 viable assets in the backfield for the Eagles. All 3 saw the ball against Colgate, with Levy (9) getting the most carries.
Levy will be looking to build upon a career-high yardage year last season with the majority of the short-yardage work, as well as the early downs. He has been playing 2nd choice for a few years now, but with the RB1 slot currently vacant he has every possibility of having a breakout year in 2021. Levy had nearly as many receiving yards as he did rushing yards in 2020, thus making him a valuable asset both on the ground and in the air.
Coleman may be making his first start for the Eagles, but he comes to Boston College with plenty of hype and anticipation. Ranked as a three-star prospect by ESPN, he received first team all-state honors in 2020, as well as being listed as the No. 47 running back in the country by 247 Sports. His inexperience may see him not receiving as much of the ball as Levy, but his energy, athleticism and previous accolades show that he has the potential to be something special in 2021.
Sinkfield transferred from West Virginia with two Academic All-Big 12 Second Team selections and an Academic All-Big 12 Selection under his belt. His 2020 season saw him rush for 327 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He should compete for carries in 2021, but a good start to the season should see him utilised a lot more than he was at West Virginia.
The backfield may have 3 solid options for the main role in 2021, but there is yet to be a standout RB1 come the season start. Although we are unlikely to see a running back match the likes of AJ Dillon, if these 3 can produce decent yardage on a regular basis and be as consistent as possible, then the Eagles could find themselves balancing the passing and rushing game a lot more than in 2020. Jurkovec will be key to the running of the offensive in 2021, but he needs help from his backfield to ease some pressure off him to look for passes more often that needed.
There is still some improvement needed from the backfield, with the 3 running backs mentioned above making just 2 more yards than Jurkovec from 19 carries compared to his 5, in their win against Colgate. The use of 8 players on the ground for Boston College shows no real RB1 as of yet, but they combined for 3 TDs.
Areas for Improvement
Despite all the positives that Jurkovec possesses, he does have a couple of areas he needs to improve. The first of which is his deep passing. This was touched upon previously, but was again highlighted in the win over Colgate.
His game-high of 51 yards was slightly behind Trae Barry, but the tight end’s awareness saw him turn the play into a big touchdown. The short passing of his game has always been good, but the deep passing to find receivers further down the field hasn’t been his strongest asset.
He averaged 12 yards a completion in 2020, whilst his performance against Colgate saw him average 18 yards a completion. This is already an improvement on last year, albeit from just one game, but this needs to continue to improve as he looks to be a key asset for teams heading into the 2022 Draft next year. His physicality and stature should allow him to be a big long-pass QB, but has yet to show these attributes.
Another aspect of his game that needs work is his ball carrying. Although he picked up a big 61 yard gain in the recent win, he averaged just 1.9 yards a carry in 2020. There has been times where he ran into the defenders when taking off from the pocket, thus making his general ball-carrying awareness an area that could be improved. With his size and stature, he should be able to pick up more yards per carry, and be a tough player to bring down. If he can adapt to find the gaps, then he could become more of a dual-threat, thus hencing his Draft stock.
These areas can easily be refined as he plays more games, and really take on the role of being a dominant starter. Jurkovec has plenty of positives, thus making these minimal, yet effective, areas to improve as he progresses.
The Real Answer
The initial question was whether Jurkovec can lead Boston College to a Bowl victory, and after seeing how they started their 2021 season and the offense as a whole for this season, there is a very good chance of that happening.
Jurkovec has been likened to Ben Roethlisberger due to his size and stature, but if he can work on his deep passing and ball-carrying skills, then he can make a name for himself and be a big player for Boston College this season. All eyes are on Jurkovec ahead of the 2022 Draft next season, let’s see if he can go into that with a big Bowl victory.
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