Spring practice begins shortly for the BC Eagles, and with it comes a new season and loads of questions about the future of the program. Earlier in the week we examined the offense, and checked out the ten biggest questions facing the team. The defense is in even more transition than the offense. Today let's look at that defense, who lost three major contributors, and suffered major depth attrition this offseason.
1. Who will be the leaders on defense now that Kevin Pierre Louis, Kasim Edebali and Steele Divitto have graduated? Not only were those three the leaders last year, but they were three of the best players BC had on defense. Someone is going to have to step and fill that leadership void, whether it be linebacker Sean Duggan or Steven Daniels, safety Sean Sylvia, or possibly a defensive linemen like Brian Mihalik.
2. How in the world are they going to find serviceable depth at almost every position. BC lost a ton of dudes this offeseason, whether it be from graduation, or guys just leaving the team. Almost every position is razor thin, which is a bit scary on one hand, but on the other Addazio will get to start more of "his" guys whenever he wants. Someone out there is going to have to step up this spring, whether it's Kevin Kavalec on the defensive end, Justin Simmons in the secondary, or someone we haven't seen or heard of like Atem Ntangang or Marquis Little.
3. Who is going to play defensive tackle? With Dominic Appiah and Tevin Montgomery leaving the team, and Jaryd Rudolph graduating, BC is going to be down to three serviceable defensive tackles for spring ball. Don Brown is going to have to be creative and either change the scheme to a 3-4, or consider switching someone on the offensive line or defensive end to tackle. Either way it's not going to be pretty.
4. Will Steven Daniels continue to progress? Near the beginning of last season I was one of the first guys last year to get on Daniels. He looked out of shape, lost, and struggled to do almost the most basic thing on defense. Let me just say that by the end of the year, I became a Steven Daniels fan. Was he perfect? Absolutely not, but then again he was only a sophomore, there is still room to grow, and if he can build on what he did last year, he will be a good linebacker.
5. Is anyone going to fix the DB's form? I really hope Don Brown and Kevin Lempa spend a huge portion of time during the spring teaching these guys to turn around and look for the freaking football. I know they aren't the most talented group, but that should be something they can fix because if I have to watch another season of the cornerbacks stumbling all over themselves and faceguarding a wide receiver, I'm going to scream.
6. Injury updates? There are some major injury updates that are going to need to be watched this spring. True freshman and hopeful starter Harold Landry is rehabbing right now, and it is doubtful if he'll be ready to play this spring. Steve Addazio already said that Mehdi Abdesmad will not be ready to return this spring. Huge upside defensive end, Sophomore (thanks for burning his redshirt Spaz) Malachi Moore is set to come back soon as well. Will they play this spring, we shall see.
7. Is Isaac Yiadom good enough to play right away? Based on what we saw last year, no spot in the secondary should be considered a lock. Yiadom is green shirting, and is at practice already, so he should get a leg up on learning the defense quickly. Given the Keystone Cops moments we saw last season from the returning crew, Yiadom could be an immediate contributor if he impresses this spring.
8. A change in philosophy? I'm curious to see if Don Brown learned anything about the personnel he had last season. BC had their sacks like he wanted, but the lack of quality DB's and a mediocre DL left them vulnerable against potent offenses. With a lot of BC's talent gone, will Don Brown continue to go blitz happy and leave the secondary alone? Probably won't change, and we probably won't see if this changes in the spring. But still, will be interesting to watch.
9. What will BC do to fix their 3rd down woes? If working with the secondary on their form is priority #1, this has to be priority #2. BC was 88th in the country in 3rd down conversions, which was beyond frustrating to watch last year. With a thin line of depth this year, BC can't afford to make these mistakes again. Don Brown has been a notoriously poor 3rd down coach, but can he figure out some wrinkles to help get his defense off the field?
10. Who will continue the legacy of talented BC linebackers? For the past 10 years BC has produced some of the finest linebackers in college football. Kiwanuka, Kuechly, Herzlich, Toal, McLaughlin, Kevin Pierre Louis, the list goes on and on. This has to be the first year where I look at the linebacking group and am not sure who will be the next All-ACC linebacker. Steven Daniels could be it, but he has a long way to go. Sean Duggan didn't seem to be a big factor last year. Tim Joy, Mike Strizak? Neither seem to be a superstar. The answer may have to wait until the fall, Connor Stratchan won't be here this spring.