Alright guys and gals, in our last installment of BC Football 101, we took a look at the new coaching staff at Boston College this year (which you can read here). Today, we're focusing on this year’s Eagles’ defense, including the defense as a whole and a few key players you should keep an eye on this season.
Now, I think we can all agree that last year’s defense was, to put delicately, below average. Last year BC was ranked 74th in scoring defense, giving up just shy of 30 points per game, and they found themselves ranked 100th in total defense, surrendering 456 yards per game. That defense contributed to BC’s 2-10 record.
So, 2013 is another year, and the question has to be asked: is there any hope for optimism for the Eagles’ defense this season? In short, the answer is yes, but the real improvement will likely not be seen until a couple years down the road, especially after Addazio's early recruiting classes make their way to BC.
For starters, BC’s defense is led by new defensive coordinator Don Brown. Brown has gained a reputation for turning around struggling defenses. As defensive coordinator for the University of Maryland, he improved the Terrapins’ defense from 98th to 38th. His next stop, again as defensive coordinator but this time at the University of Connecticut, produced more of the same, as the Huskies saw their defensive rank improve from 51st in 2011 to 22nd in 2012. Assuming the trend continues, BC’s defense will be on the right track, and by 2014 or 2015 should be one of the better in the nation.
But let’s turn our focus to this year in particular. The Eagles return nine starters on defense this year, but they have a huge loss to fill at linebacker. LB Nick Clancy, last year’s leading tackler and the sole Eagle to make the All-ACC team, proceeds to the NFL after being signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent. While this returning group did not perform well last season, they will carry valuable experience into this season.
Let’s take a look at a few key players who will lead the Eagles in 2013.
First up is senior Steele Divitto, the heir apparent to the middle linebacker position. Divitto collected 92 total tackles last year and was BC’s second leading tackler. He stands at 6’3” and weighs almost 240 lbs., and like Clancy and Luke Keuchly before him, he will be expected to be all over the field and contribute heavily in run support. Hopefully in Coach Brown’s system Divitto will able to add a pass rush to his game, as he failed to collect a sack last season, and has only two in his BC career.
Fellow linebacker, senior Kevin Pierre-Louis, will be looked to for stability and production on defense. Pierre-Louis has contributed 93, 74, and 85 tackles in each of his three years at BC, respectively. He did miss time last season with injury, and hopefully a healthy Pierre-Louis can also contribute on pass defense, both in coverage and in pass rush. He is currently the best pass rushing linebacker on the Eagles roster, and led the Eagles with two sacks last season. (More on the Eagles’ lacking pass rush later).
Make sure to keep an eye on sophomore cornerback Al Louis-Jean Jr. Louis-Jean was the marquee recruit in BC’s 2011 class, as he was the only four-star recruit for BC and the ninth-ranked cornerback in the entire nation. After a decent freshman year in which he saw time in seven games and collected one interception, a foot injury sidelined him for the entire 2012 season. Seeing as BC’s pass defense collected only 10 interceptions last season, and was ranked 75th in the nation, he will be looked to for a bounce-back season, providing the Eagles with a true shut-down corner.
Now, as for the Eagles pass rush last season--I’m just going to assume that every BC fan blocked out that part about 2012. In 12 games last season, Boston College recorded six sacks. Six. Yeah, that was good for dead last in the NCAA.
The Eagles’ defensive line, which will now feature three juniors and one senior, will look to improve last year’s pass rush. To be competitive this season, the Eagles will look for big seasons from starting defensive ends, senior Kasim Edebali and junior Mehdi Abdesmad, who will need to get after the quarterback to give the secondary a little support. However, after the two combined for a total of 1.5 sacks last season, any increase in production would be welcome.
Lastly, let’s take a quick look at the Eagles’ secondary for this upcoming season. Though they were bested by some of the ACC's best receiving corps last year, there were a couple bright spots.
Junior safety Sean Sylvia is very solid in run support, and was third in tackles last season for BC, with 86. If he can improve on his ball skills and coverage for this season, Sylvia could be looking at an All-ACC selection when it’s all said and done.
Also, be sure to look out for junior cornerback Spenser Rositano, who led the Eagles with three interceptions last year. Rositano plays a very physical style of game, and was sixth on the Eagles in 2012 with 56 tackles. If Al Louis-Jean can rebound this season, he and Rositano could form a solid 1-2 combination at cornerback for the Eagles.
Though coming off one of the worst seasons in recent memory, the Eagles defense will look to vastly improve for 2013. Head Coach Steve Addazio will set the bar high for this group, and with Coach Brown leading the way, the BC defense could very well surprise a few pundits in 2013.
Feature Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / CapeLawyer.
Follow @BCGavelSports on Twitter for all the latest updates on BC athletics.