Everyone knows what Keith Jackson, ABC’s voice of college football emeritus, would have had to say about Boston College running backs Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse.
“What’s that?’’ asked BC coach Steve Addazio, after wrapping up Day 1 of camp Monday.
“They’re only soph-a-mores,’’ Jackson would bellow.
“Yeah, they’re only sophomores,’’ said a smiling Addazio. “They’ve played a lot of football, which is a good thing, but they’re young.’’
Willis, a 5-foot-9-inch speedster who bulked up 18 pounds during the offseason to 203 pounds, and Rouse, a 5-8, 194-pounder who rushed for 125 yards on 26 carries last season, will attempt to fill the yawning hole left by Andre Williams, a fourth-round draft pick of the Giants and the school’s all-time leading rusher.
“This time last year, not many people were expecting Dre to do what he did,’’ said Willis, who served as Williams’s understudy last season, running for 346 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 60 carries in 11 games.
“But he just kept working and was always one of the last guys off the field and always doing extra, and that’s what I hope to do,’’ Willis said. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen during the year, but all I can say is that I’m going to work my hardest so when the time comes, I’ll be able to step up and reach my full potential.’’
Williams’s former teammates celebrated his first professional touchdown in Sunday’s night’s exhibition game against the Bills.
“I was actually his roommate when we traveled and I got to become really close with him,’’ Rouse said of Williams. “I really just took how he embraced the game. For me, it was to embrace the game like he did, and have fun and just play.’’
Willis said he was inspired, in part, to pack on added weight after seeing the devastating effect of Williams’s explosive runs.
“I came in last year and played mostly at 185, but now I’m 203 pounds, so I’m excited,’’ Willis said. “A lot of times, I’d go back and watch film and there were a couple of plays where a guy might have got me, or clipped me, and knocked me off balance, so that was my motivation in the offseason to put on that weight.’’
But Addazio is confident his sophomores are capable of providing excellent leadership for freshmen Jon Hilliman, Marcus Outlow, and Richard Wilson.
“Myles, the stage is not going to be too bright for him. He’s [been] through that . . . so he’s a different player,’’ the BC coach said. “I’m not really concerned whether he’s ready. I know he’s ready. He’s ready to go and he’s physically and mentally ready to be a starter in the ACC.
“And Tyler, mentally, is absolutely ready. ‘’
Rouse gave a glimpse of that last year when he scored on a 29-yard run at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against Southern Cal.
“It was one of the greatest feelings in my life, to be honest with you,’’ Rouse said. “Who could have dreamed up anything bigger than that, to score your first touchdown in the Coliseum against USC?’’
Given the breadth of their experiences, though, Willis and Rouse do not carry themselves like second-year players, but more like grizzled upperclassmen.
“Those two guys are unique now,’’ Addazio said. “They’re wired different. There are a lot of seniors who don’t act like those two guys, the way they approach everything. They’ve got an unbelievable approach. I know they’ll be fine.’’
That approach, though, was likely molded by playing backup to Williams.
“I think that was good for them,’’ Addazio said. “These guys are different now. I’ve been around players who have been wired like that. They’re wired for greatness. Whatever their ability level, they will get there and then some. Those guys, they’re going to maximize themselves because they’re wired like that, so they have a big-time mentality and that’s why I feel like they’ll be productive.’’
And, better yet, they’re only sophomores.Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.