How the Boston College Eagles replace four key defenders will determine the ceiling for the most talented team of Coach Steve Addazio’s tenure. There is a lot of work to do for the 2018 Boston College Eagles.
Boston College Eagles Replacing Defensive Stars
DE Harold Landry
Star defensive end Harold Landry was limited by injury early in 2017 and missed the last five games, hampering the defense’s explosiveness. This does mean a few potential difference-makers received crucial game experience as some youngsters had to step up. No one can replace Landry’s speed and explosiveness off the edge, but there are options to replace his production.
Jim Reid, Defensive Coordinator and End Coach, requires his linemen to stay strong at the point of attack. Landry’s explosiveness and bend were unique for the low-recruiting Eagles. However, they often still develop linemen capable of wreaking havoc in the backfield. That won’t change in 2018, as Zach Allen returns after producing four sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. He was also one of only two linemen in the country with 100 tackles last year. The key for Reid and Addazio is finding someone opposite Allen to draw some of the attention Landry commanded even when injured. In the final five games of 2017, which Landry missed, Allen upped his play, notching two sacks and eight tackles for a loss.
The other expected starter at end, senior Wyatt Ray, is a talented and stout (6-3/255) player with significant experience. He has eight career sacks, displaying enough pass-rushing ability to draw enough attention away from Allen. Beyond Ray is the real concern, with very limited experience or demonstrated talent. Three-star redshirt sophomores Bryce Morais and Brandon Barlow ended spring on the two-deep, but the Eagles desperately need a freshman standout to push them as fall camp begins. Without any defensive ends in the 2018 recruiting class, redshirt freshman Marcus Valdez (6-1/260) is the player to watch. Fortunately, Valdez worked with the second team at times in the spring and flashed enough to draw attention.
LB Ty Schwab
The Eagles also lose the heart and soul of their defense, linebacker Ty Schwab. In addition to his leadership, Schwab made 107 total tackles (eight behind the line) while forcing three turnovers in 2017. Despite this loss, the linebacking corps is the least concerning unit on the Eagle’s defense.
Star senior Connor Strachan is back from injury after notching at least 75 tackles and 11 tackles for a loss in both 2015 and 2016. The crippling injuries to the linebacking corps last year could benefit Boston College in 2018, with youth being forced into action. Sophomore Max Richardson returns from injury as well. True freshman John Lamont excelled in their place last year despite being a high school quarterback just one year prior. With so many returning playmakers, Reid and co-coordinator Anthony Campanile may rotate linebackers often and give more responsibility to the linebackers in their 4-3 defense.
CBs Isaac Yiadom and Kamrin Moore
The Eagles’ pass defense was tremendous last season, ranking tenth in passing S&P+. No great surprise, with four potential NFL players in the starting lineup. Corners Isaac Yiadom and Kamrin Moore combined for two interceptions and 16 additional passes defended. Both were drafted into the NFL in April. Star safeties Lukas Denis (second in the country with seven interceptions) and Will Harris return.
With third corners essentially becoming starters in modern football, the Eagles still return a pair of experienced options. Taj-Amir Torres, now a senior, had an interception and 33 tackles last year and should provide the much needed veteran presence in the cornerback room. Behind him is explosive junior Hamp Cheevers, who totaled eight and a half havoc plays (passes defended, fumbles forced and stops behind the line) despite playing in only five games. If Cheevers can maintain his explosiveness in an increased role, the defense will be excellent against the pass again.
As with the rest of the defense, depth is a question mark. Second-year players Brandon Sebastian and Mike Palmer are slated in as the backups entering fall camp. Star recruit Elijah Jones has immense potential, and some around the Boston College Eagles team believe he could push for playing time early on as a freshman.
A Strong First String (And Little Else)
Depth continues to be a huge question for Boston College, as recruiting has yet to pick up significantly despite on-field improvements over the past two years. Somehow, Addazio and Reid continue to develop high-level playmakers and consistent team defense. Expect no different in 2018 unless injuries wreak havoc on the line or in the secondary again.