2010 Boston College Preview - Defense
Boston College DE Alex Albright
Boston College DE Alex Albright
Posted May 11, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Boston College Eagle Defense

Boston College Eagles

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Frank Spaziani relinquished his coordinator duties when he became head coach in 2009. The results on defense, however, remained predictably the same. The Eagles, with defections and holes throughout the front seven, still managed to rank among the top four ACC programs in rushing, scoring, and total defense. Expect more of the same from a school which is quietly among the steadiest, year after year. With Damik Scafe and Alex Albright up front, Luke Kuechly in the middle, and Wes Davis, Donnie Fletcher, and DeLeon Gause in the secondary, Boston College has few glaring holes … except the pass rush. The school was impotent at getting to the quarterback, its single biggest need area. Coordinator Bill McGovern would prefer not to blitz too often, forcing Albright, Brad Newman, and Max Holloway to crank up pressure the old fashioned way. This is a good defense without LB Mark Herzlich, the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. If he's all the way back from Ewing's sarcoma, it could be one of the toughest in the country. Stay tuned.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Luke Kuechly, 158
Sacks: Damik Scafe, Kaleb Ramsey, 2
Interceptions: Wes Davis, 3

Star of the defense: Sophomore LB Luke Kuechly
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Alex Albright
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DT Dillon Quinn
Best pro prospect: Kuechly
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kuechly, 2) Senior DT Damik Scafe, 3) Senior FS Wes Davis
Strength of the defense: Defending the pass, run defense, red zone defense, the middle of the defense
Weakness of the defense: Pressuring the pocket, veteran depth

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Boston College returns six lettermen and a couple of regulars to a line that needs to create more pressure than it did in 2009. The catalyst on the inside will be 6-3, 291-pound senior DT Damik Scafe, a second-year starter with a chance of improving his NFL stock. An explosive all-around athlete, who uses his hands and feet well to get penetration, he made 35 stops, including 21 solos, 6.5 tackles for loss, and a couple of sacks.

The sky is the limit for redshirt freshman DT Dillon Quinn , who has moved into a starting role in his first year of eligibility. One of the nation's top-rated tackles of 2009, he'll be available to an Eagle interior that welcomes his raw power and quickness. He moves a lot faster and lighter than your average 6-6, 279-pounder, and has an All-ACC trajectory once he gets accustomed to the rigors and speed of this level.

The veteran among the defensive ends will be 6-5, 248-pound senior Alex Albright , an injury-prone player with starts in each of the last three seasons. He played in nine games last year, making 32 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and a sack. If he can make it through the season without getting hurt, he has the long arms and dynamic pass rushing skills to be one of this fall's pleasant surprises.

One of the primary candidates to fill the other end spot is senior Brad Newman , a veteran of three letters and six starts a year ago. While at just 6-2 and 256 pounds, he lacks prototypical size for the position, he's a scrappy player with a knack for fighting through blocks and making plays. Last season, for instance, he led all defensive linemen with 45 tackles, including five in the Emerald Bowl loss to USC.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Max Holloway was borderline unblockable in April. If the 6-2, 242-pounder can carry that momentum into the summer and fall, the Eagles might finally have an edge rusher, who can consistently collapse the pocket. In the Dwight Freeney mold, he has a low center of gravity and plays with good pad level, making it difficult for tackles to lock on to him. Four sacks in the spring game have the staff cautiously optimistic about the season ahead.

The Eagles can only hope that this is the season 6-3, 274-pound junior Kaleb Ramsey stays healthy and starts approaching his sizable potential. He started three times in 2009, making 11 tackles and two sacks, but was never quite right throughout the year. Even after packing on some weight, he has a playmaker's upside, combining strength and agility with good get-off on the snap.

Watch Out For … Ifeanyi Momah . In an effort to ignite the defensive end position, the staff has moved the former wide receiver to defense for the first time in his career. The senior was expectedly raw in the spring, but at 6-6 and 228 pounds, he has the long arms and explosiveness to be a factor on obvious passing downs. If he stays on this side of the ball, he could be the first end off the bench in 2010.

Strength: Stopping the run. Sure, those active linebackers did their part to help, but the front wall was also a big reason Boston College was No. 14 nationally versus the run, allowing under three yards a carry. With Scafe, Quinn, and Ramsey shooting the gaps, the Eagles can disrupt running plays before they're able to develop.
Weakness: The pass rush. In a word, the Eagles were feeble at generating pressure in 2009, ranking last in the ACC and 103rd nationally. Very little push was mounted by the defensive linemen, specifically the ends, the single biggest concern facing the D heading into the upcoming season.
Outlook: After getting bailed out by the second and third lines of defense a year ago, Boston College to win more battles at the point of attack in 2010. By the ACC measuring stick, this is an average group, though the combination of Scafe and Quinn in the middle is capable of giving plenty of teams fits in the fall.
Unit Rating: 7


Projected Starters: In one of the most unexpected, feel-good stories of 2009, 6-3, 225-pound sophomore Luke Kuechly emerged from a difficult situation to become one of the ACC's breakout stars as a rookie. The emergency starter after it was learned Mark Herzlich had a rare form of cancer, he responded by making a team-high 158 tackles and 13 tackles for loss to earn a spot on the all-league first team. The total package in the middle, he has an off-the-charts football IQ and uncommon field awareness for such a young player. The coaching staff tried to temper the enthusiasm about Kuechly's great first year, but he finished first in the ACC and second in the nation in tackles, and he even took an interception for a score against Central Michigan. Steady, he came up with double-digit stops in each of the last nine games including a 19-tackle performance against North Carolina. Great in the open field, he doesn't miss a stop.

Herzlich will be a big part of the defense in some way, shape, or form, and while it might be a perfect scenario to get him back to his old form, there's still a chance he could take more time off to make sure he's physically up to where he needs to be. Before the cancer, he was one of the nation's premier all-around defenders and was considered by many to be the top NFL linebacker prospect in college football.

The Eagles' are banking on 6-1, 230-pound junior Will Thompson locking down weakside for the next two seasons. Although he made it back from an injury to play in the final six games, he never quite found a rhythm or much playing time, finishing with three tackles. Healthy again, he's looking to parlay his keen instincts and run-stuffing ability into a breakout year as a regular.

At least for the time being, strongside will be the property of 6-2, 219-pound senior Mike Morrissey . A former walk-on, with a blue-collar work ethic, he worked his way into the starting lineup in the second half of 2009, finishing the year with 37 tackles, seven tackles, and a sack. While he won't wow you with his range or size, he's been around long enough to know where he belongs and be in a position to make stops.

Projected Top Reserves: Behind Morrissey at strongside is 6-3, 226-pound sophomore Nick Clancy, a wrap-up tackler with a bright future on the Heights. A converted safety, who had 17 tackles as a first-year reserve, he has nice range and is capable of staying backs and tight ends in pass coverage.

True freshman Kevin Pierre-Louis has made quite an impression since arriving on campus in January. One of the top prospects in the state of Connecticut last year, he's already ascended to No. 2 on the depth chart at weakside, surpassing last year's regular Alexander DiSanzo. While just 6-1 and 215 pounds, he's going to add more muscle, and has the speed and range to serve a lot of different functions for this defense.

Watch Out For …Herzlich. He's cancer-free and back with the team, but what exactly does that mean for 2010? While he's in great shape and most expect him to be back at strongside, he's not trying to overcome an ordinary hurdle. Even if he doesn't replicate his 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year form, his mere presence in pads could mean an extra win or two this season for Boston College.
Strength: Diagnosing. With Kuechly as the poster child, all of the Eagle linebackers do an exceptional job of reading, reacting, and sniffing out running plays. Collectively, they're smart, hard-working defenders, and a huge reason why Boston College ranked 14th nationally at stopping the run.
Weakness: Depth. This remains an area of concern for a second straight season, particularly if Herzlich is anything less than full strength. Coming out of spring, the Eagles were facing a sophomore, redshirt freshman, and true freshman as the composition of the second unit.
Outlook: In reality, any grading of the Boston College linebackers has to be considered an incomplete until the full potential of Herzlich for 2010 is determined. If he winds up being an emotional leader from the sidelines, it's still a solid group with a budding superstar in the middle. If he's the player he was two years ago, the Eagles could boast one of the two or three best starting units in America.
Unit Rating: 8.5


Projected Starters: With two starters gone and two starters back, Boston College will look to regroup and move forward in the defensive backfield. One of the mainstays will again be 6-1, 221-pound senior Wes Davis , a third-year starter at free safety. An aggressive, ferocious defender, he can also cover, finishing with 46 tackles, two stops for loss, and a team-high three interceptions. With his skill set, he could be using this final season as an NFL audition.

The favorite at strong safety is actually a former linebacker, 6-2, 218-pound junior Dominick LeGrande . Miscast on the second line of defense, he started six games in 2009, making 36 tackles, three tackles for loss, and a pair of interceptions. Back where he belongs, he has the size and pop to throw his support to run defense and intimidate receivers crossing through the secondary.

After playing in a reserve role last season, 6-0, 183-pound junior Isaac Johnson appears to have locked down a starting assignment at boundary corner. An active defender, with the open-field tackling skills of a safety, he notched 27 tackles and two tackles for loss, now needing to prove he can cover consistently and prevent the big play.

There's an interesting battle brewing at field corner, where 5-11, 179-pound senior DeLeon Gause is trying to hold on to the job he had for 10 games last fall. Fourth on the team with 33 solo tackles, he had 49 total stops and four pass breakups. Although he has the requisite speed and athleticism, big plays and consistency have eluded him for much of his career.

Projected Top Reserves: Coming out of spring, 6-1, 196-pound junior Donnie Fletcher was in Gause's hip pocket. One of the rising stars of the secondary, he started four games as a true freshman and was fourth on the team with 51 tackles a year ago. With outstanding size and improving cover skills, he'll have an important role on defense no matter who's in the opening huddle.

LeGrande is getting pushed at strong safety by 6-4, 181-pound sophomore Jim Noel , who played in all but one game in his rookie year, making a dozen tackles and a positive impression on the staff. One of the key signings from the 2009 class, he's a long and lean athlete, covering a lot of territory and using his height to elevate high in the air and beat receivers for the ball.

Watch Out For …the battle at field corner. This could wind up being the tightest competition at any position in the summer. Both Gause and Fletcher have starting experience and the skills of every-down player, testament to the depth and talent Boston College will enjoy at cornerback.
Strength: Keeping the ball in front of them. Yeah, a couple of starters need to be replaced, but don't expect there to be any dramatic drop-off in talent in the secondary. The Eagles do a solid job in press coverage, limiting last year's opponents to just 6.5 yards an attempt and a dozen touchdown passes for the entire year.
Weakness: Strong safety. Potential? Yes. A sure-thing? Not quite. LeGrande has been bounced around in recent years and Noel is in just his second season on campus. While hardly causes for an inhaler, this is the one area that could give the secondary its most concerns down the road.
Outlook: With the Eagle secondary, the sum is always greater than its parts. While no single player earned all-star recognition in 2009, this unit is still comprised of feisty defenders, who yielded little and rarely get beaten over the top. Plus, they maintain that high level of play with almost no help from the pass rush.
Unit Rating:

Special Teams

Projected Starters: For the first time since 2006, Boston College will have a new placekicker. Who that will be remains to be determined. The favorite is versatile junior Ryan Quigley , who also handles kickoffs and is the team's punter. He has a strong leg and good mechanics, but hasn't attempted a field goal since his final year at North Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High School. As the Eagle punter, he was an All-ACC honorable mention performer, averaging 40.8 yards and helping the coverage team with his hang time.

While Quigley has no serious threats as the punter, he will be challenged at placekicker by redshirt freshman Nate Freese. After sitting out last season to add strength, he's ready to mount a challenge early in his career. Like the competition, he has good leg pop, once booting a 52-yarder in high school.

The favorite to handle both punts and kickoffs this season is senior DeLeon Gause . He got a taste of action in the return game a year ago, returning seven kicks for 144 yards and fielding one punt.

Watch Out For … Freese. Although Quigley may have the edge, Freese is confident and has considerable upside. With undisputed leg strength, he now needs to display consistency and an ability to deliver in the clutch.
Strength: The coverage teams. The Eagles don't always have the best athletes, but they're disciplined and perennially do a terrific job of getting down the field and breaking through the wedge. In typical fashion last year, they were 14th nationally in kickoff coverage and allowed just 7.7 yards on punt returns.
Weakness: The return game. On punts, Rich Gunnell will be missed, and the kick returners were among the worst in the ACC last season. Gause has a tall order this fall, sparking a return game that typically isn't very explosive.
Outlook: Who kicks this season at Boston College? The answer will go a long way to determining just how effective this unit is in 2010. It's a middling group right now, but if Quigley or Freese can be as accurate as Steve Aponavicius was a year ago, that assessment bumps up a notch.
Unit Rating:

- 2010 Boston College Preview | 2010 Boston College Offense
- 2010 Boston College Defense | 2010 Boston College Depth Chart
- Boston College Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006