The rebuilding at Boston College only gets more difficult from here.
After five straight seasons of decreasing win totals for the Eagles, BC went 7-6 in coach Steve Addazio's first year in charge, a five-game improvement from 2012.
The Eagles had a Heisman Trophy finalist and were one of the few teams to give national champion Florida State a game in 2013. Addazio's infectious enthusiasm and intensity injected much-need optimism into the program. That helped him earlier this month land the best-rated recruiting class to come to Chestnut Hill since 2011.
Still, Addazio makes it clear that getting Boston College back to being a consistent contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference is still a long-term project.
''This is going to be our most difficult year,'' he said Thursday in a phone interview.
The upperclassmen Addazio inherited, the backbone of last season's surprising team, including All-American running back Andre Williams, quarterback Chase Rettig, and linebackers Steele Divitto and Kevin Pierre-Louis, were good players who came to Boston College during better times.
''Then it got sideways and they got caught up in that,'' Addazio said. ''Winning brings out the best in a person and losing brings out the worst.
''We came in here and brought back some accountability. We did some things to put our philosophy forward and maximize who we can be.''
The problem Boston College encounters in 2014 is now some of those weaker recruiting classes that came in on the heels of losing seasons under former coach Frank Spaziani are going to be counted on to fill holes left on the roster.
''There's a void in there. Some missing layers,'' Addazio said.
Depth could be a problem and inexperienced players are going to be expected to produce quickly.
''There's going to be a whole lot of young players competing,'' Addazio said.
Including promising freshman quarterback Darius Wade, though he'll have to go through Florida transfer Kyle Murphy, who Addazio said is over the shoulder woes that cut last season short and will be full-go when spring practice begins March 11.
Also coming from Florida, where Addazio was an assistant under Urban Meyer before taking the Temple head coaching job in 2011, is offensive lineman Ian Silberman.
Because of geography and academic requirements, Boston College is never going to field a team loaded with five- and four-star recruits. At its best BC has been a program that maxes out its talent and has occasionally been blessed with talented quarterbacks (Doug Flutie, Glenn Foley and Matt Ryan).
''What's our edge?'' Addazio said. ''What we have to get is kids who believe in team, who want to be a part of team that's accountable. That's our edge.''
Offensive line coach Justin Frye, who played for Addazio at Indiana and has worked for him at Florida and Temple, said toughness, discipline and attention to detail can close the gap on talent.
''On a scale of 1 to 10, you can play to an eight,'' Frye said, ''but do you play that way all the time? Do you sometimes only play to a four? Say you are only a six or a seven. If you're constantly at a seven, than you're going to win.''
`Be a dude' is the slogan Addazio installed at BC. A cool recruiting pitch and twitter hashtag, it is also how Addazio sums up what BC is looking for in a player.
''A dude is a guy that just attacks it. He loves it and gets after it,'' Addazio said. ''Really that's the most important thing we want here at BC is flat toughness. And team accountability. Willingness to make sacrifice for your teammates. That's what we're striving for. That's how we want to get an edge at Boston College.''