If there was any unit on Boston College football last season that picked the whole team up, it had to be the defense. Towards the end of the year, they gained some traction and made it possible again for BC to win the only sorts of games they’ve been taking the last few years: close, low-scoring contests. The Miami game to end last season was no different, as the Eagles won largely on the strength of their defense, and the ineffectiveness of Miami’s offense (especially their now-departed quarterback).
In 2012, there has been some definite turnover on the Hurricane offense. As aforementioned, Jacory Harris, former Miami quarterback whose final game in green and orange was a complete disaster, is gone. So is running back Lamar Miller, who didn’t have to go far away to play for the Dolphins. The latter will hurt the Hurricanes, but the former won’t, if the last matchup between these two teams is any indication.
Now, Miami has Stephen Morris as quarterback, and they could be better off for it. In his only start last season against Maryland in the first game of the year, Morris threw two interceptions (Jacory Harris was suspended just a few days before the season began, giving Morris relatively little time to prepare), but didn’t see much time in relief for the rest of the year. Morris was regarded to have had a great summer training camp following back surgery and definitely earned his job. The starting running back will be Mike James, who has played in every game of his first three years but only started a few.
There is quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Hurricanes at several key offensive positions, and not just at quarterback and running back. Former Hurricanes Tommy Streeter (WR), Travis Benjamin (WR), and Brandon Washington (OG), for example, are all gone now.
As for the Eagles, no preview of the new defense can go without mentioning someone who is no longer here: linebacker Luke Kuechly. The linebacking corps he leaves behind is still good and probably the deepest unit on the team, but there is another area of the defense which lacks it: the secondary. Cornerback Al Louis-Jean is out for several weeks, and as a result, BC has suffered a critical loss in a unit that needs the help. The Eagles’ secondary is top-heavy, with solid players Manny Asprilla and Jim Noel still active around here, but a growing amount of inexperience as one goes down the list. With depth being suspect in the backfield, the starters are going to have to (a) stay healthy at all costs and (b) raise their games. It wouldn’t hurt if BC tried blitzing, either, as the Eagles pass rush has been totally ineffective (and that’s being very charitable).
The defensive line for Boston College looks alright, with Kaleb Ramsey and Dominic Appiah up the middle and Kasim Edebali and Brian Mihalik on the edges. BC will have to work a little harder in 2012 to bring its run defense back up to par, which fell from 1st in the nation in 2010 to just 59th last season. Putting both Ramsey and Appiah at the tackles should help.
Boston College can get the better of this matchup if they get production from their key players, though it is of course too soon to know for sure. Still a toss-up, you know.