2013 Boston College Preview - Defense

Posted Jun 27, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Boston College Eagle Defense

Boston College Eagles

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 Boston College Preview | 2013 Boston College Offense
- 2013 Boston College Defense | 2013 Boston College Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: New defensive coordinator Don Brown has a direct approach to his new team—you’re Eagles, now start acting like it by soaring all over the field. Brown wants his kids to attack, a particularly poignant message for a defense that’s been anemic in the pass rush for years. In fact, BC was 120th nationally in sacks in 2012, and hasn’t finished higher than 90th since 2008. Back from last year’s disappointing unit are eight of the top nine tacklers, so experience and a veteran presence in the huddle won’t be an issue. The strength of the 2013 edition will be the linebackers, which house all-star candidates Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto and up-and-comer Steven Daniels. The secondary is mediocre at this stage of the offseason, and will only go as far as the pass rush allows it. If the Eagles get as much support as they received a year ago, six sacks, there aren’t many defensive backfields in America capable of holding up on an island for that long.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Steele Divitto, 92
Sacks: Kevin Pierre-Louis, 2
Interceptions: Spenser Rositano, 3

Star of the defense: Senior LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Kasim Edebali
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Steven Daniels
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Kaleb Ramsey
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Pierre-Louis, 2) Senior DE Steele Divitto, 3) Ramsey
Strength of the defense: D-line depth, linebackers, experience, red-zone stops
Weakness of the defense: Sacks, pass coverage, takeaways, run defense, third-down D

Defensive Line

The Eagles defensive line was a jumbled mess in 2012, the result of injuries and general ineffectiveness. The job of the new staff will be to take all of the disparate pieces it inherited, and mold them into a cohesive unit. One piece of very good offseason news was the sixth year of eligibility granted to 6-3, 288-pound Kaleb Ramsey. While the senior has played in just two games in each of the last two seasons, he’s spent much of the offseason making believers out of the staff with his power, athleticism and overall disruptive tendencies.

The interior linemen most likely to join Ramsey in the lineup is 6-4, 267-pound sophomore Connor Wujciak. As a rookie, he played in 10 games, starting five, and made 24 stops. He’s strong in the upper body and his hands well, but he’ll need to continue adding weight in order to consistently anchor against ACC competition.

Two other tackles with extensive experience in the rotation will be fighting for jobs this summer. Junior Dominic Appiah has nice size at 6-5 and 291 pounds, and he played well in his debut, but he slumped a year ago. Appiah was only able to crack the lineup four times, while chipping in 18 tackles and 1.5 stops for loss. Senior Jaryd Rudolph was a 6-4, 265-pound journeyman before starting five games and contributing 16 tackles last season.

Someone in the rotation either inside out out needs to wake up and find a way into the backfield on occasion. Junior Brian Mihalik is one of the most imposing defensive players on the roster, but his production hasn’t matched his 6-8, 285-pound physique. In 2012, he started a couple of games, missed time with injury, and wound up with only 22 stops, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sacks and four pass breakups.

The Eagles will have a much better shot of generating heat from the other side, the one where senior Kasim Edebali lines up. The athletic 6-2, 244-pounder is the most experienced and the quickest of the ends. He led all of last season’s linemen with 59 tackles, adding 7.5 behind the line, but just 1.5 sacks. While Edebali can be sudden in his moves, he has to do a better job of finishing his pass rush.

Like the tackles, BC has no shortage of seasoned ends trying to avoid the B team. Junior Mehdi Abdesmad was in the lineup eight times last season, yet who could tell from the numbers? He posted just 25 tackles, three behind the line. However, at 6-6 and 275 pounds, he does have the frame to be an effective strongside run defender. Sophomore Kieran Borcich got a taste of action in his first year of eligibility, even starting three straight games. The 6-3, 273-pounder was active as he learned the ropes, notching 16 stops and a pick.

Watch Out For … the competition for jobs to rage on deep into the month of August. Boston College is littered with a lot of similarly talented linemen, all of whom are scrapping for a chance to impress the new staff. Even once the season begins, it’d be a surprise if the pecking order is set firmly in stone.
Strength: Depth and experience. For many of the wrong reasons, the Eagles played a swath of D-linemen a year ago, which figures to benefit the 2013 edition. Boston College will actually be home to one of the deepest front walls in the ACC, at least in terms of reps and career starts. Now all the linemen need to do is transform that know-how into production.
Weakness: Production. The line was way too quiet in 2012; like, mousey quiet. Boston College made it a habit to get schooled routinely at the point of attack, allowing opposing quarterbacks all day to locate open targets. The team had a hard-to-fathom six sacks all year, none in the final four games, and was gashed for more than 214 yards a game on the ground.
Outlook: Boston College was atrocious up front in 2012. While the Eagles certainly won’t be nasty in 2013, they have got to be a little better this time around. On purely returning starters alone, BC will fill out a two-deep that has experience at all eight positions. Someone, though, has to figure out a way to get into the pocket with more regularity, or else the defensive backfield will again be stark naked.
Unit Rating: 6


Never short on productive linebackers, Boston College will again feature talent and experience at the second level. Manning the weakside will be 6-1, 215-pound senior Kevin Pierre-Louis, who’s been roaming the field with speed and range since his debut in 2010. What he lacks in ideal size, he more than makes up for with tenacity, closing speed and the agility to sidestep blockers. Despite missing three games for a second straight year, he still wound up fourth on the team with 85 stops, four tackles for loss and two sacks in 2012. The honorable mention All-ACC pick is capable of a much bigger spotlight, especially if he can finally make it through an entire year without spending time on the DL.

At strongside, 6-3, 238-pound Steele Divitto has emerged into the type of run defender the program felt he’d be when he arrived four years ago from one of the East Coast’s top prep schools. About to enter his third year as the starter, he was second on the team with a career-high 92 tackles, adding four fumble recoveries and a couple of forced fumbles. Divitto is stout at the point of attack, with the intangibles to go along with his physicality against the run. The senior operates with sound fundamentals and a level of dedication and intensity that becomes contagious to his teammates.

The graduation of underrated Nick Clancy has created an opening that’s likely to be filled by highly-touted sophomore Steven Daniels, a power puncher with a very high ceiling. The stout 6-0, 246-pounder excels in run defense, sifting through the traffic before lowering the boom on the man with the ball. He earned a start in 2012 when Pierre-Louis was injured, finishing the season 25 tackles and a whole lot of promise for the future.

The best option for the unit as a swing defender will be junior Sean Duggan. The well-built 6-4, 235-pound veteran can play multiple positions bringing 22 games of experience into 2013. He started three games as a rookie in 2011, and has registered 39 tackles in each of the last two years. Duggan, who comes from the same high school in Cincinnati as former Eagle star Luke Kuechly, is smart, tough and instinctive. Junior Josh Keyes is another valuable defender on the B team. Built like a safety at 6-2, 208-pound, he belongs at weakside rather than taking on tight ends. However, he flashes excellent speed and range on defense and special teams, making 20 tackles a year ago.

Watch Out For … more blitzes from the second level. Boston College is pining for more pressure. New coordinator Don Brown loves to attack. The confluence of events should free up the linebackers to spend more time in the opposing backfield. Pierre-Louis, in particular, would be a natural to pin his ears back and back bee line toward the quarterback.
Strength: Veteran talent. The Eagles have a very nice mix of talent at linebacker, from proven leaders, like Pierre-Louis and Divitto, to a budding star in Daniels. Plus, the bench isn’t comprised of wide-eyed rookies with minimal reps. Boston College is deep and versatile, affording the coaches peace of mind at linebacker.
Weakness: A sure-thing in the middle. From Kuechly to Clancy, who led the ACC in tackles, to … a little more uncertainty than the program has had in recent years. Although Divitto and Daniels possess the size, instincts and demeanor to play middle linebacker, neither has done it at this level, which could create an immediate impact on the run D.
Outlook: Whatever concerns Brown has regarding his first defense at Boston College, linebacker is unlikely to be one of them. The Eagles have long been a program that’s excelled at the position, which won’t change this year. Pierre-Louis and Divitto are rocks, in more way than just the physical kind, and Daniels is a quick riser, with a chance to turn heads in his starting debut.
Unit Rating: 8


Junior Sean Sylvia emerged as one of the emotional leaders of the Eagles’ secondary a year ago, starting seven games at corner and three at free safety. In his debut as a full-timer, the 6-0, 210-pound corner finished third on the squad with 86 tackles, adding his second career interception. He’s a terrific all-around athlete, with the size and the competitive edge to be like another safety on the field in run defense. Sylvia, who models his game after former Boston College All-American S Jamie Silva, still needs to tighten up in pass coverage while continuing to play with the same level of intensity and passion.

Veteran safety Spenser Rositano is back for his junior year, looking to recapture a starting job he held for eight games in 2012. The versatile 6-1, 200-pounder made his presence felt as a run and pass defender last fall, picking up 56 tackles, two stops for loss, a team-high three picks and six passes defended.

Corner Manny Asprilla is on the verge of becoming one of the leaders of the secondary. One of the rare Eagles to start every game of 2012, he logged 42 tackles, 2.5 stops for loss, two picks and fix passes defended. The fluid all-around cover guy has soft hips, but at 5-10 and only 167 pounds, he struggles when matched with physical receivers.

The program ought to be ecstatic about the healthy return of sophomore CB Al Louis-Jean, who missed all of 2012 to a foot problem. He’d started two games as a rookie, and played very well last spring, but expectations were doused by the injury. Now that he’s back, though, the ceiling remains very high for a 6-2, 195-pounder, with safety size and the athleticism and speed to evolve into a top cover guy.

Junior CB C.J. Jones retuned from a season-ending knee injury in 2011 to see action in seven games last fall, including a pair of starts. The 5-11, 185-pound kicked off his career by making 13 tackles and a fumble recovery. Physical junior Dominique Williams has proven in the past that he can contribute as a safety or a cornerback. He’s 6-0 and 212 pounds, with five starts of experience from 2011, four at safety and one at corner.

Watch Out For … Louis-Jean to lay the ground floor of what will wind up becoming an All-ACC career in time. The one-time commit to Miami is gifted physically, but just needs the reps to become a more consistent pass defender. Those will come in the fall, as will some notoriety and attaboys from around the league.
Strength: Physicality. Depending on which combination of DBs is employed, the Eagles should be very physical from the final line of defense. Sylvia and Rositano, the likely starting safeties fly around with the mindset of linebackers, and Louis-Jean is big enough to body up receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Weakness: Consistency in coverage. BC just didn’t do any one thing well out of the secondary a year ago. And changing that trend will not be easy. The pass defense was last in the ACC in completion percentage and near the basement in picks. The Eagles are thirsting for a true lockdown guy, a role that Louis-Jean is hoping to fill.
Outlook: Boston College wants to attack more on defense, but doing so could expose a secondary that’s no better than middling in coverage. The return to health of Louis-Jean should not only help the cornerbacks, but also allow Sylvia to line up at a more natural safety position. Already physical, the Eagles need to nuance their approach with a little more finesse in 2013.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

In senior Nate Freese, the Eagles welcome the return of one of the ACC’s top kickers for his final year of eligibility. He bounced back in a big way from a sketchy sophomore season, nailing 18-of-20 field goal attempts. Freese has made 82% of his career tries, making him one of the most accurate kickers in America.

At punter, sophomore Alex Howell is in line to take over for Gerald Levano. Howell is a 6-5, 222-pounder from South Carolina, with the big leg to not only handle punts, but also succeed Freese at placekicker in 2014.

Junior Spiffy Evans will once again provide the spark in the return game. Lightning-quick and elusive, he averaged 25.3 yards on punt returns, including an 82-yard touchdown, but struggled to locate daylight as a kick returner.

Watch Out For … Howell to run with his promotion. He had a shot of winning the punting job in 2012, but Levano’s consistency won the day. However, now that the competition has graduated, Howell is eager to showcase his versatility and his ability to drive the ball high into the air.
Strength: Freese. Placekickers tend to get overlooked until one is needed to win a game with only a few moments left on the clock. Freese showed a few cracks in 2011, but otherwise has been the kind of specialist who can be counted on during the critical points in games.
Weakness: Kick returns. Spiffy was anything but on kickoffs last season, standing as the figurehead of a group that ranked 117th in the country. The Boston College offense needs all of the help it can get, including from the return men on special teams.
Outlook: The special teamers took a turn for the better in 2012, a trend they hope to further in 2013. It all begins with Freese, a kicker who shouldn’t get overlooked by All-ACC voters for a second consecutive year. Howell is green, but ought to be fine just fine in his debut as the regular punter. Evans is capable of elevating this unit from good to great if he can provide more of a spark on kickoffs.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2013 Boston College Preview | 2013 Boston College Offense
- 2013 Boston College Defense | 2013 Boston College Depth Chart