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Boston College Facing Questions on Defense

By Dave Holcomb
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In order to take another step and win eight games for the first time since 2009, Boston College will be counting on a new defensive coordinator replacing multiple stars with a very inexperienced group of players.

In 2019, Boston College will be one of four programs that return a quarterback with at least 20 passing touchdowns and a running back with at least 10 rushing scores. Signal caller Anthony Brown and running back A.J. Dillon are poised to take the Eagles to their fourth straight bowl game.

But this program is thirsting for more than just seven wins. In five of six seasons under Steve Addazio, Boston College has finished with seven victories -- the other was a disappointing 3-9 campaign. Overall, it’s led to an astonishingly average 38-38 record with Addazio at the helm.

Admittedly, that’s better than where the program stood just before Addazio arrived. During the final three seasons under Frank Spaziani from 2010-12, Boston College went 13-24.

In order to take another step, though, and win eight games for the first time since 2009, Boston College will be counting on a new defensive coordinator replacing multiple stars with a very inexperienced group of players.

Perhaps recognizing that keeping the status quo wouldn’t help get over the hump, Addazio made a change at defensive coordinator this offseason, demoting Jim Reid to defensive ends coach and promoting Bill Sheridan from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator.

Sheridan has been in coaching for more than 35 years, but he’s never served as defensive coordinator at the college level. While he has held that position in the NFL twice, neither tenure was met with much success.

The 60-year-old coach lasted just one year as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants in 2009. Then, he served in the same role for two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2012-13.

None of his defenses ever ranked in the Top 12 in yards allowed or the Top 20 in points yielded. Under his tutelage, the Giants finished 30th in points allowed in 2009, and the Buccaneers ended 2012 at 29th in yards yielded.

Despite a coaching resume that stretches into the mid-1980’s, his lack of defensive coordinator experience at the college level, and his failure as a coordinator in the NFL doesn’t bode well for Boston College this fall. It won’t help that he has a plethora of holes to fill.

Defensive end Zach Allen and defensive back Will Harris both departed and became third-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. Linebacker Connor Strachan, safety Lukas Denis, defensive back Hamp Cheevers and defensive end Wyatt Ray are also gone.

In total, Boston College will only return five defensive players who have at least one college start, and Athlon Sports projects just four of them will be starters this fall.

That’s a lot of questions to answer. Then after the starting lineup is filled out, Boston College’s defensive depth will be tested.

The Athletic projects Joey Luchetti and Brandon Barlow to replace Allen and Ray, but the pair combined for 15.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss last year. It’s going to be very difficult to replicate that production.

Defensive tackle Tanner Karafa is the only returning starter for the line. He finished third on the team with 4.0 sacks and fourth with 8.5 tackles for loss, but unless he takes a major step forward, Boston College’s pass rush will likely take a significant step backwards in 2019.

Boston College was tied for the ACC lead with 18 interceptions in 2018, but Cheevers and Taj-Amir Torres, who graduated, combined for 10 of them. It could be even more difficult replacing that production, especially Cheevers, who was tied for first in the country with seven interceptions last fall.

Even if Addazio’s decision to promote Sheridan proves to be right, it will probably take him at least a year to be fully comfortable in his new role. For 2019, Boston College doesn’t have the defensive firepower to make his transition a seamless one.

The Eagles are going to be an exciting team to watch offensively this season, but they could be equally frustrating defensively.