As Boston University hopes to build off its best season in program history, it will need to replace Cal Dearth’s offensive production. It’s difficult to overstate what Dearth meant to the Terriers. He moved between attack and midfield throughout his career, and made an impact each game regardless of position. Per analyticslacrosse.com, Dearth accounted for 31.1% of BU’s offense in 2017; that chunk is equivalent to Dylan Molloy’s share of the Brown offense, and greater than Connor Cannizzaro’s share of the Denver offense.
One player won’t fill Dearth’s shoes on his own – but a pair of underclassmen may be ready to wear one shoe each. Freshman Chris Gray (ranked ninth on Recruiting Rundown’s Top 100) looked confident dodging and scanning the field in his debut, leading the Terriers with three assists. Any portion of the creative burden that Gray can take off the shoulders of seniors Jack Wilson’s and Ryan Hilburn (17 assists each in 2017) will be welcomed on Comm Ave.
Sophomore John MacLean will be a best friend to those feeders. He’s one of the most lethal time-and-room shooters in the country – up there with fellow Massachusetts natives Danny Seibel (Villanova) and Pat Fraser (Johns Hopkins). The success of the Terriers offense depends on how well they can design schemes to get MacLean open on his natural side of the field. Against Providence, a three-man midfield action left him uncovered for a couple key goals.
MacLean’s best shots were created when his defender was put into adjacent help situations. The game-winning goal was set up by a two-man game between Gray and Burr, which did exactly that: Force MacLean’s man into a help scenario. When his man is ball-watching, a seal – this time from #24 Brendan Homire – sets up to give MacLean just enough space to release a rocket.
The overtime winner was the last time we saw that action, but it was far from the first. Sometimes the seal wasn’t even necessary. MacLean starts the play so far away from his shooting spot – and his movement is so synchronized with Gray’s dodge – that the defense is forced to balance the two threats for a long time. Are we switching this initial slipped pick? Does Gray’s defender need help? Are we sliding from MacLean? (Hopefully, that answer is no. Not even if there’s a fire.) Who’s got MacLean if his man slides? Nobody? Oh, okay. Sorry, keep.
Three of MacLean’s four goals were from nearly the same exact spot on the field. If Providence left him open one more time, then IL’s Kyle Devitte might have run out of ‘Die Hard’ jokes.
(Quick confession: I didn’t know that these were ‘Die Hard’ jokes until Kyle tweeted that last GIF. Never seen a ‘Die Hard’ movie. While I’m at it, I’ve never seen a ‘Lethal Weapon’ movie either, aside from ‘Lethal Weapon 5’ and ‘Lethal Weapon 6’.)
BU ran that same action a couple more times throughout the game. Whether it was Gray or Hayden Ruiz running that midfield two-man game, but the concept remained the same. Put pressure on MacLean’s man to help, then seal him while he’s ball-watching. These two seals either whiffed or made contact too early so that MacLean’s man could recognize and scurry out to the perimeter in time.
MacLean’s restraint on those two non-shots is a sign of maturity. LM’s Marisa Ingemi wrote about his determination to improve his shot selection, and in turn, to increase his shooting percentage, as a sophomore. Bet on BU going back to these actions several times throughout the season. If the Terriers can mix in some more creative ways to spring their sharp-shooting sophomore free from the left-handed wing — and if MacLean can take his dodging game to the next level — then this BU offense can rank near the top of the Patriot League again.