The turnaround Boston College orchestrated to salvage an injury-riddled 2-4 start — winning five of their final six games and securing a bowl berth for the fourth time in five years — took an all-hands-on-deck attitude throughout the locker room.
The contributions up and down BC’s depth chart were validated in the Atlantic Coast Conference postseason honors as nine Eagles were named to the All-ACC teams on Monday.
The cast of honorees was led by running back A.J. Dillon, who became just the second player in BC history to be named first-team all-ACC as a freshman. Linebacker Luke Kuechly did so in 2009.
“Obviously we all know he has such a bright future and very well-deserved,” said Eagles coach Steve Addazio. “Certainly A.J. being first-team All-ACC is very, very exciting for our program and for our future.”
Offensive tackle Chris Lindstrom and safety Lukas Denis were both second-team all conference. Linebacker Ty Schwab, tight end Tommy Sweeney and kick returner Michael Walker were all third-team selections along with defensive end Harold Landry, who missed the final four games of the season.
Defensive end Zach Allen and offensive lineman Sam Schmal were honorable mentions.
The nine all-conference players were the most BC has produced since 2008. The Eagles did it in a season in which they suffered injuries at critical positions, losing six players who started the season opener. Addazio called it a testament to the depth the program has been able to cultivate.
“It’s speaking to recruiting a little bit,” Addazio said. “I think we’ve done a good job of restocking our team, developing our team and we’re proud of that.”
A large part of the Eagles’ turnaround can be credited to Dillon’s breakthrough.
He had just 36 carries for 151 yards through the first three weeks of the season and didn’t take over as the starter until the eighth game of the season at Virginia (24 carries, 89 yards), but still shattered BC’s freshman rushing record with 1,432 yards, second in the nation among all freshmen and the second most by a freshman in ACC history.
He put up five 100-yard games, including a 272-yard explosion in a 45-42 victory at Louisville that sparked the Eagles’ late-season run. It was the seventh best single-game rushing total in the nation this season and the most by a freshman in the FBS.
“I think we’ve got a young player that’s gaining a lot of confidence and is really starting to do some great things,” Addazio said. “And just for the record, the best is still yet to come. He’s got a lot of development and if he continues to develop, he can be a hell of a player. You say, ‘He’s a good player now,’ yeah, he is a good player now, but that’s a tribute to how good he really can be.”
One nod that didn’t sit well with Addazio was Allen being voted as an honorable mention.
Allen led all defensive linemen in the nation with 93 tackles, with one third of those stops (31) coming in games against ranked conference opponents: No. 16 Virginia Tech (14), No. 2 Clemson (8) and No. 23 N.C. State (9). He led the Eagles with 14½ tackles for a loss, five sacks, and five hurries.
“One position that’s got me kind of befuddled, to be honest with you, is Zach Allen,” Addazio said. “I mean, he leads the country in tackles and he’s one of the most dominant players in our whole conference and I thought that he should’ve been further ahead on that team, personally.
“That’s hard for me to get my arms around.”
But the number of Eagles honored was a sign of not only the contributions they got across the roster, but also the potential for the future, Addazio said. Only two of the nine all-conference players (Landry and Schwab) are seniors.
“What makes it so exciting and I’m so jacked up is the fact that we have a lot of good young talent and medium-aged talent,” Addazio said. “The future’s bright. We have talented guys that have played a lot of football. And it’s not just skill players, they’re all over the place. And that’s represented I think on that team.”