As we near the start of fall camp, this series explores 11 topics and themes related to the 2011 Boston College Eagles football season. Previously in this series we covered "The Maturation of Chase Rettig."
Last season Boston College's defense received a lot of positive praise as they rightly should have. Most of the praise was heaped on the run defense -- which was #1 in the entire country -- only allowing 82 yards a game. But what about the Eagles' defense against the aerial attack?
Just looking at some straight numbers might leave you unimpressed. BC ranked 78th in the country in yards per game, allowing 226 yards through the air. But looking at the numbers more carefully you would see one of the most underrated passing defenses in the country. BC only allowed 14 passing touchdowns the entire season (good for 16th in the country). The defense was also superb in takeaways, forcing 20 INTs which placed the Eagles 8th in the country ... which we all know was so crucial, as the Eagles offense just loved to give the ball right back (113th in INT's).
Why is pass defense so important? Because for the exception of the graduation of Chris Fox and the start of Dominick LeGrande, the secondary is the same group that played so well last year. Plus BC again will have depth, which was crucial last season when they lost Wes Davis and DeLeon Gause due to season ending injuries. It comforting to know that if a starter goes down BC has solid replacements waiting in the wings. The addition of stud recruit Albert Jean Louis and rising sophomore Dominique Williams gives BC solid depth for the 2011 season.
BC's attitude of bend-but-don't-break and wait for the offense to make a mistake is going to be crucial in 2011 because of the quality of quarterbacks they will be facing. BC has a killer plate of opposing quarterbacks lined up against them this season. Whether it's proven QBs that have shown that they can put up big numbers -- Jeff Godfrey, Dan Persa, Danny O'Brien and Sean Renfree -- or younger QB's with the potential for big seasons -- Mike Glennon, Logan Thomas, E.J Manuel, and Dayne Crist -- BC is going to need to find ways to stop the pass.
If the Eagles want to win they can not afford to have games like they had against good passing teams like N.C. State last year (41-56 for 347 yards) and Duke (37-54 for 307 yards). These games were particularly frustrating because it allowed the opponent to control the game clock (N.C. State the whole game, Duke the second half), and BC struggled mightily on 3rd downs. Was it a struggling defensive line, or the secondary that could be to blame? I say the secondary, look at the games the wide receivers had in games they lost. Conner Vernon, 12 catches 134 yards; Owen Spencer 8 catches 70 yards. BC's secondary is going to need to improve in this area.
What BC is going to need to do is have more games like they did against Florida State. Even though the Seminoles weren't an elite passing team, they still had Christian Ponder who BC held to 170 yards and 3 interceptions. The defense frustrated Ponder, and kept BC in the game, even with a completely inept offense.
BC's defense should be the least of their worries going into this season. But having a good pass defense that can prevent third down conversions, and force passes underneath could easily play into the strength of the BC defense. If opposing QB's have to dink and dunk underneath, they are going to run into Luke Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis, and I promise you if that happens it will not end well for the opposition.