In the weeks leading up to the season, it appeared Emmett Morehead had cemented himself as Boston College’s starting quarterback.
Morehead showed promise while starting four games last year and seemed poised to take a significant leap. He attended the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C. — a rare honor for a redshirt sophomore — and continued to log regular reps with the 1′s in practice.
Coach Jeff Hafley officially named him the starter the Monday before the Eagles hosted Northern Illinois in their opener. But when Morehead struggled in the first two series of an eventual 27-24 overtime loss, Central Florida transfer Thomas Castellanos entered and provided a different look.
As it turned out, that was the plan going into the game.
“Thomas had a really good training camp,” Hafley said. “He and Emmett both did. We felt he was deserving to play. That was not indicative of how Emmett played.”
Morehead (6 feet 5 inches, 235 pounds) finished 4 for 10 for 30 yards and added a carry for 4 yards. Castellanos (5-10, 196), a sophomore, was 13 for 28 with two touchdowns and one interception, plus nine carries for 74 yards and a score.
As the Eagles prepare for a dangerous FCS opponent in Holy Cross (1-0) Saturday at noon at Alumni Stadium, Hafley elected Wednesday to keep BC’s plans a secret. The staff, however, has made up its mind.
“We sat down, cleared our heads, talked about it Monday at length, and went full speed ahead,” Hafley said.
The case for Morehead:
Morehead is a more traditional pocket passer than Castellanos and has a higher ceiling. He struggled with accuracy in limited action last Saturday, but he’s proven that he can deliver pinpoint passes at this level.
The NIU game was far from his best effort. Whether it was rust, lack of opportunity, NIU’s defense, or some combination of the three, he wasn’t close to where he needed to be.
It’s fair to assume that Morehead would have a strong chance to bounce back if given the opportunity. He was tremendous last season against Duke and North Carolina State, throwing for 330 yards and three-plus touchdowns in each and leading the Eagles to a thrilling 21-20 road win over a ranked Wolfpack team.
Morehead said he has watched BC great Matt Ryan extensively and that Ryan’s fundamentals are “very, very attainable.” He’s less mobile than Castellanos but clearly delivers a more powerful ball.
Hafley said after the game that fans should “most definitely” expect to see Morehead again at some point this season.
“Emmett can really throw it,” linebacker Vinny DePalma said. “He has great command in the huddle.”
The case for Castellanos:
During Media Day, Castellanos described himself as a “game-changer” who can extend plays and make things happen when they’re not supposed to.
“Every now and then, I make the crowd go, ‘Ohhh!’ You know what I’m saying? ‘That was crazy. I wasn’t expecting that to happen.’ Wild plays, I feel like I have in my bag,” he said.
He wasn’t exaggerating. Early in the fourth quarter against NIU — on fourth and 5 from the BC 46, with the Eagles trailing, 21-7 — Castellanos zigzagged and looped his way all the way back to the 14-yard line before delivering a dart to Lewis Bond for a first down.
“Those are like the crazy college football plays you watch for the next 25 years,” DePalma said.
It was essentially a do-or-die moment for BC, and Castellanos’s magic trick helped fuel a surprising comeback. He scored from 2 yards out moments later, then found Jaden Williams for a 30-yard strike with 1:44 left to send the game to overtime.
Though Castellanos “runs around like a maniac,” per DePalma, Hafley made it clear Castellanos is a quarterback, “not a gadget guy.” Castellanos may be less polished than Morehead, but he certainly has a flair for the dramatic and the ability to make something out of nothing.
“Once the play breaks down, that’s when things get scary for the defense,” Castellanos said.
The case for both:
Bond said the Eagles are comfortable with either or both QBs. They operate differently and bring unique traits to a game.
“They’re both going to give you a good ball,” Bond said. “You’ve just got to make the plays and mentally know who’s in the game.”
Against NIU, Castellanos came in for the third series, Morehead started the second half, then Castellanos finished the game. There is an argument to be made that playing both is the best option.
Adjusting to two quarterbacks theoretically is more tricky for a defense than it is for an offense. Plus, if both deserve to play, it provides incentive for each to execute at a high level.
One option is to start one, have the other ready, and go there only if you have to. Hafley has made up his mind. Everyone else will find out Saturday.
Either way, it’s clear Hafley views this as a good problem to have.
“This year,” Morehead said, “we have depth that I haven’t seen at BC before.”
Trevor Hass can be reached at email@example.com.