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Boston College Football: 2021 DT & DE Preview

The trenches have a lot of experience behind them, now Hafley & crew need to coach them up

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 14 Notre Dame at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Head coach Jeff Hafley may be known for his schemes that emphasize the work of the defensive backfield, but up front he has a defensive line group that could be poised for a solid season after an extra year of development and not losing too many players.

Lost talent

DE Max Roberts: Boston College’s 2020 leader in sacks on the team has found a new home in 2021 with the Los Angeles Rams. Roberts had 4.5 sacks, a QB hurry, and forced a fumble last season and saw plenty of playing time. He also made 22 tackles, which was good enough for 3rd place in this position group despite only appearing in 9 games, 2 less than most of the team. His hole will be the biggest to fill this next season.

DT Luc Bequette: Bequette announced he was entering the transfer portal and hasn’t yet determined his next destination, though many at Cal are saying he is expected to return there after playing for them for 4 seasons before transferring to Boston College last year. Bequette put up decent numbers for a depth DT, recording a sack, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and 18 total tackles.

Returning production

Junior DE Shitta Sillah: Sillah led DEs in sacks last year with 2.5 and, along with 22 total tackles and an INT, has started to prove himself as a force on the Boston College defensive line. He was listed as a linebacker under Steve Addazio, but Hafley moved him to the DE position in his scheme that often involves 4 men at the defensive line, and Sillah has reaped the benefits in a big increase in playing time and numbers. If that positive trend continues, he’s a promising player for the Eagles.

RS Senior DE Marcus Valdez: Valdez proved himself to be the best run-stuffing DE on the team last season after recording 37 tackles, way more than Sillah’s and Roberts’s 2nd place numbers of 22 each. He also proved himself to be of high value in pressuring the backfield as he recorded 2 sacks on the year and 5.5 tackles for loss. Expect Valdez to continue to perform and get a lot of time on the field, especially if he continues to improve like he has each year he’s been playing.

RS Senior DT Brandon Barlow: Expect Barlow to be the leading DT in the 2021 season, though he has plenty of support around him. He led DTs in tackles last season with 34 total, had 1.5 sacks, and had a recovered fumble after playing in all 11 games. There will be plenty of opportunities for others to earn some playing time in this somewhat deep position group, but Barlow could be the leader for this crew.

RS Senior DT Chibueze Onwuka: Onwuka had been mostly a depth player for the Eagles in this past season after transferring from Buffalo, but he did an admirable job of recording 20 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, in the 10 games he appeared in. Onwuka isn’t a world-beater and you shouldn’t expect someone in their 5th year to suddenly make huge leaps of improvement, but he’s a solid player to give BC depth at the position.

Sophomore DT Cam Horsley: Horsley is the younger star in this DT group and may see the biggest jump in production as he develops as a player. More snaps are opening up for him to compete for, and this is Horsley’s first chance to play in a fully-operational season not marred by COVID. This is the recipe for a big jump in performance.

RS Senior DT TJ Rayam: Rayam had a stellar 2019 season in which he recorded 43 tackles and started all 13 games in the season for Boston College where he earned a PFF ACC defensive line-up of the week nod, but he didn’t show up much in 2020. He only recorded stats in 7 games and appeared in all 11, regressing back down to just 16 total tackles and less playing time. He’s a good piece who has shown sparks of high performance, but may be outshined by the roster’s other players under Hafley’s scheme.

New faces

Freshman DE Donovan Ezeiruaku: As a 3-star recruit coming out of high school this year, Ezeiruaku is the young talent that could be poised to make an impact on the roster. He’s a mobile DE at 6’2” and 210 lbs and was even listed as an LB in high school, though BC’s roster has him pegged as a DE. He may receive a redshirt depending on how the position shakes out and having multiple players sit ahead of him, however.

RS Junior DL Khris Banks: Banks transferred from Temple this offseason and has 3 years eligibility remaining. He had limited playing time over there in Philly and didn’t get much of a chance to make an impact, but he still put some decent numbers on the stat sheet. At 6’4” and 290lbs, he should add nicely to this deep group of formidable defensive linemen BC is rolling out.

RS Sophomore DL Izaiah Henderson: Henderson isn’t technically a new face as he’s been on Boston College’s roster for the past 2 years, but he’s missed a whole lot of time due to injury and finally may be able to make an impact this season. He was a 3-star recruit coming out of high school and is another big guy at 6’2” and 289 lbs. BC has the depth at these positions clearly, it’s just up to the staff to coach them up.