BC’s Ball-Hawking Defense Dictates Second Scrimmage

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For the greater portion of the 21st century, Boston College football has often been labeled “O-Line U,” and reasonably so. Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, 15 of the Eagles’ 34 previous draft picks were offensive linemen, including Chris Snee, Dan Koppen, Damien Woody, and Marc Colombo—all of whom played at least nine seasons in the pros. Yet, over the course of the past three years, the school has garnered a new reputation, that of a program that churns out NFL-ready defensive backs.

In that span, BC has sent a pair of safeties and cornerbacks—Justin Simmons, John Johnson III, Isaac Yiadom, and Kamrin Moore—to the league. And it could very well watch a couple more come off the board this April. The Eagles’ secondary has the stats to live up to hype. Last year, they picked off 18 passes, more than any other team in the ACC and the 12th-most in the entire FBS.

Two weeks prior to the regular season opener, and BC’s ball-hawking defense is already back at it again. On Saturday, the Eagles recorded four interceptions during the team’s second scrimmage of training camp, per BCEagles.com.

Interestingly enough, it was a linebacker who got the ball rolling. After moving the rock downfield on the opening drive of the game, Anthony Brown, five days removed from taking his first live snaps of the preseason, was intercepted by Connor Strachan. The redshirt sophomore tried to hit Tommy Sweeney, but Strachan was all over the route.

“Tom’s a good friend of mine, we’ve been together for five years here now,” the graduate student told reporters, per BCEagles.com. “Anytime I get a chance when they throw the ball to him, and I’m on him, I’m trying my hardest to make that play.”

Eventually, Brown strung together a touchdown drive—one that was hinged on a long completion to Jake Burt. The tight end barrelled all the way to the 9-yard line, ultimately setting up freshman running back David Bailey for a goal line score.

Bailey’s mentor, A.J. Dillon, did not suit up for Saturday’s scrimmage. As for the other two members of the apex of the Eagles’ offense—Brown and center Jon Baker—their days would be over following the conclusion of the first half. When all was said and done, head coach Steve Addazio noted that he liked what he saw from his starting quarterback this week, but acknowledged that the gunslinger is still a bit rusty after missing the end of last season with a torn ACL.

“He needs to get back into the flow,” the sixth-year Eagles coach said. “For him, it’s cumulative. We were having a lot of conversations about how many reps we wanted him to take today, and he didn’t take very many.”

Backup signal caller Matt McDonald, who shined in last week’s scrimmage, took over for Brown and racked up a few first-team reps of his own. Running the two-minute drill, the redshirt freshman hooked up with Chris Garrison for two completions to push the ball across midfield. Unfortunately for the Newport Beach, Calif. native, things only got worse from there. First, Lukas Denis broke a pass in the secondary, and then Taj-Amir Torres picked off McDonald to halt the drive. E.J. Perry, on the other hand—McDonald’s competition for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart—padded his resume with a couple of big-time throws.

Leading the second-team offense from his own 30-yard line, the sophomore connected with both Ray Marten and C.J. Lewis to move the sticks. Once in the red zone, Perry found wide receiver Christian McStravick from six yards out for the score.

Soon after that, Noah Jordan Williams turned a short reception into a 76-yard score, marking Perry’s second touchdown pass of the day. As an encore of sorts, Travis Levy ripped off the longest run of the scrimmage, a 46-yard gain which set the stage for a 42-yard Colton Lichtenberg field goal.

Matt Valecce got some third-team reps and ran with the opportunity, literally. In a matter of plays, the freshman quarterback scrambled up the middle for a 47-yard touchdown. He didn’t have nearly the same success throwing the ball, though. In fact, he was even baited into throwing a pick-six to redshirt freshman Jahmin Muse, who raced down the sideline for the defensive score.

As far as running backs are concerned, Davon Jones was also added to the mix on Saturday. The redshirt junior is a two-way player, who spent his first three years at BC primarily serving as a ground-and-pound back. Addazio told reporters that Jones will play both linebacker and running back this season and could even see about 10 offensive snaps in the opener.

The Eagles’ offense clocked out with 75-80 snaps on the day, a bit more than the previous scrimmage. But just because the team increased its tempo, doesn’t mean that it played fast, at least according to Addazio.

“We’ve looked fast all camp, explosive and fast on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We looked slow and lethargic today. That’s my overall assessment, and I think there was a lack of continuity because there’s just too many people coming in and out. That’s my responsibility.”

BC cut down on the penalties, only committing seven with the ones, but Addazio still has his eyes set on the number four—an average that put the Eagles right behind Minnesota as the second-most disciplined team in college football last season.

The defense stole the show on Saturday, but if BC is to have any chance of wrestling with the big boys this year, it’ll be up to Brown and Co. to replicate the same kind of explosive scoring output that the team featured toward the end of 2017.

Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Senior Staff

Andy Backstrom
About Andy Backstrom 336 Articles
Andy is the sports editor of The Heights. He is from the suburbs of Philly, but has been an Arizona Cardinals enthusiast since the first grade. Every so often, he'll replay Super Bowl XLIII on Madden to exact revenge on his father's beloved Steelers. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyHeights.