Perhaps no incoming Boston College football coordinator or position coach got better offseason publicity than Don Brown. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator, six games into his tenure, has preached intensity and “organized chaos,” changing looks and having the team go after the football, as opposed to the non-adjustable, bland “cover zero” we saw in the recent past. With that in mind, what is a good, impartial evaluation of this defense so far in 2013?
Again, like with the offense, the statistics tell a less-than-picturesque story. Some of the numbers, like red zone defense, sacks, and third-down defense, indicate a unit that has held its own. Others, like yardage allowed and ACC ranks in almost all categories, show that this group is still behind the pack when it comes to the rest of their own conference. That is not to be unexpected given how the team crashed in all phases of the game in the late portions of the Spaziani era, but numbers aside, there is reason to believe that things are improving.
In the past, the Eagles had a defense which was almost in an eternal prevent scheme, and it did not emphasize the sack because Boston College rarely blitzed. It reached ludicrous proportions in 2012 when the Eagles were dead-last in the country with six sacks on the season. This team has 15 (according to some sources, while the ACC says 16) sacks, on pace to quintuple their total from last year. The eyeball test shows definitively that this team is more aggressive than recent Boston College teams, and though the execution has not always worked, the Eagles have also been rewarded for their risk-taking with some big plays.
Boston College’s defensive line has lost Mehdi Abdesmad for the season and Kieran Borcich is gone from the depth chart (message board chatter regarding Borcich indicates some not-so-good news on that front), so the Eagles have had to make do with what they’ve got. So far, considering the sack total increase and some stretches of decent play, the line has been adequate. Not great, but adequate. It is certainly not having all the difficulties it faced last season, though it has gotten exposed several times (e.g. Army 80-yard touchdown run and a few big runs by Villanova). Kasim Edebali has been very good, leading the team with 4.5 sacks and six tackles for a loss.
The linebackers are doing well. Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto, respectively, are leading the Eagles in tackles this season. In fact, the third starting linebacker, Steven Daniels, is third. Divitto and KPL have played well all season, while Daniels started slowly but has come on strong and is now doing fine himself.
Relative to recent years, the secondary has been passable at times and they are doing their best, but Boston College is thin back here. They have given up some big plays, including two (one which counted and one which did not) against Clemson last week, and most of the day against Jameis Winston and Florida State. At least we no longer have to watch them spot the other team’s receivers fifteen yards per play.
Overall, the defense does not have the ability to say it has been good, nor has it been thoroughly bad. Don Brown and his players are doing the best they can given the situation with depth, which is all that fans of a rebuilding team can ask. The numbers will possibly get better over the second half of the season, as the Eagles have already played arguably their three toughest opponents this year, with several light-scoring offenses on the horizon.