Boston College football lost a host of talent on the defensive side of the ball, including three starting defensive backs and its two best pass rushers, to the NFL following the 2018 season. The Eagles also saw major changes on the coaching staff, with defensive backs coach Anthony Campanile departing for Michigan and Bill Sheridan stepping into the defensive coordinator role. What’s left is a unit with many question marks, and the opportunity for younger players to step up. Here’s how BC lines up two-deep ahead of its Week 1 clash with Virginia Tech.
Defensive End (1)
BC has question marks all along the defensive line, and it starts at edge. At one end position, the starting role belongs to Richard Yeargin, a graduate transfer from Clemson who has been out of football since the 2016 season due to a neck injury. Yeargin is a former four-star recruit that certainly has talent, but a lack of recent game experience means that no one really knows what kind of production he will be able to provide. The other option is Joey Luchetti, who played tight end in high school before converting to defensive line when he arrived at BC. He only appeared in one game in 2018 before redshirting.
Tanner Karafa is the one proven commodity along the line for the Eagles. He has appeared in every game the past two seasons and recorded four sacks to go along with 47 tackles for BC in 2018. He has also been named one of the two team captains for the 2019 season. Backing him up is redshirt freshman Ryan Betro. The Walpole, Mass., native was rated the top defensive tackle in the state of Massachusetts by Rivals, but he redshirted the 2018 campaign and has yet to see game time for the Eagles.
T.J. Rayam, a true junior, earned playing time in both his freshman and sophomore campaigns, racking up a total of nine tackles across 16 games. However, he is listed as the backup on BC’s Week 1 depth chart behind redshirt freshman Kyiev Bennermon, who also has yet to appear in a game for the Eagles. A graduate of Spackenkill High School in New York, Bennermon also played tight end in high school.
Defensive End (2)
Brandon Barlow and Marcus Valdez should both be relatively familiar names to BC fans. Both started in the Eagles’ 2018 loss to Syracuse, as injuries to both Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray forced the pair into action. Barlow—who posted 1.5 tackles for loss against the Orange and 10 tackles total—and Valdez are also listed as interchangeable on the depth chart, so expect both to get plenty of looks in Week 1 as BC looks for pass rushers that can make an impact.
Isaiah McDuffie emerged as a regular contributor in 2018, starting six games at strongside linebacker and finishing with the second-most tackles on the team. He provided a little bit of pass-rushing boost as well, with 3.5 sacks last season. An injury prevented him from getting many reps in training camp, and how many snaps he gets Week 1 is yet to be determined. If he is unable to play a significant part, then Joe Sparacio, another redshirt freshman who played in just two games in 2018, will be asked to step up.
John Lamot burst onto the scene in 2017, recording 63 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. He was a steady contributor for a deep Eagles linebacker rotation in 2018 and now slides into the middle linebacker spot left by Connor Strachan. Should he miss time, Vinny DePalma, who saw snaps in three games last season before taking a redshirt season, will be asked to lead the defense.
Max Richardson is the third piece of a linebacker unit that is definitely BC’s most experienced defensive position group. He has appeared in 27 games for the Eagles, securing the middle linebacker spot as a sophomore in 2017 before suffering a season-ending knee injury four games into the season. He bounced back in 2018 and played in all 12 games, saving the best for last and recording a career-high 13 tackles against Syracuse to end the season. Paul Theobald, his backup, has yet to see game action for BC, missing the entire 2018 season due to injury after redshirting as a freshman.
The lone returning starter in the secondary, Brandon Sebastian appeared in all 12 games for the Eagles in 2018, recording seven starts opposite Hamp Cheevers. He recorded his first career interception against Virginia Tech and displayed noticeable improvement throughout his first season with BC. Jason Maitre, who Sheridan said he was excited about during training camp, backs up Sebastian. The Everett, Mass., native was formerly rated the No. 1 athlete in the state. He and Josh DeBerry, a freshman from Grosse Pointe Park, Mi., are listed as interchangeable on the depth chart.
Tate Haynes is a converted quarterback who impressed during training camp, winning the spot vacated by Cheevers. He did play four games in 2018 at defensive back, recording tackles against Massachusetts and Holy Cross. Elijah Jones, the second-string corner, was rated the top overall cornerback in his class in New York, but redshirted as a freshman last season after logging four pass breakups and six tackles in four games.
Mehdi El Attrach has been with the program for some time, and nabbed his first career interception against Holy Cross as a junior, but hasn’t seen consistent playing time. Nevertheless, he’ll get the nod as the starting strong safety for the Eagles in 2019, replacing third-round NFL draft pick Will Harris. A versatile player in Jahmin Muse—who played wide receiver, linebacker, and safety in high school—backs him up.
Injuries to Harris and Denis gave Mike Palmer an opportunity to play in 2018, and the then-redshirt sophomore filled in well. Against North Carolina State, he tallied 10 tackles and also blocked a punt that was recovered for a touchdown. Now, as the elder statesman of the secondary, he takes over patrolling the deep middle. Nolan Borgersen, a graduate student, also blocked a punt last season but has mainly played on special teams during his career in Chestnut Hill. He’ll fill in as Palmer’s backup.
Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor