Year two of the Hafley era should continue to build on the strides made with the defensive backfield. While the unit finished ranked 82nd nationally last season, they have a lot of potential and are primed to improve. The Eagles secondary is fairly loaded, with old faces returning and new blood swirling into the mix. Under the tutelage of Coaches Hafley and Aazaar, they figure to make another leap forward.
We’ll work with the cornerbacks on BC’s roster today. Starters Brandon Sebastian and breakout player Josh DeBerry return to continue where they left off last season. Sebastian is the veteran of the group, really responding to Hafley’s tutelage resulting in a solid campaign. He led the team with 10 pass breakups and an electric 97-yard fumble recovery touchdown against Clemson.
The Connecticut redshirt senior will hope to continue to make strides and carry on in the recent legacy of Eagle defensive backs in the NFL. DeBerry is coming off an All-ACC Honorable mention season. He notched 44 tackles, two TFLs, two forced fumbles, and an interception. The junior appeared on a number of preseason All-ACC teams and should continue his stellar play.
Jason Maitre made six starts the past two seasons. The redshirt junior was a top-ranked recruit out of Massachusetts and has taken advantage of the chances he’s received. He’s registered an interception in both seasons to go with a solid stat sheet. Maitre figures to line up in the nickel and plays with good physicality. Elijah Jones also played a consistent role last season. He appeared in each game and showed some flashes. Jalen Williams, Jason Scott, Steve Lubischer, and Tyler Days all contributed in varying degrees last season, but primarily on special teams. With such a loaded secondary, chock-full of Hafley freshmen that could get immediate playing time, it likely will be a bit more of an uphill climb for this crop to make their mark. However, the team will employ a plethora of defensive backs, and special teams contributions remain in the cards.
The incoming freshman class provides a bit more intrigue. CJ Burton will be in the mix immediately. A highly touted recruit originally from Virginia, Burton enrolled mid-year and already made a nice impression at the spring game. He has all of the skills necessary to contribute right away. Shawn Asbury II also came in early to BC. Like Burton, Asbury was part of the Eagles commitment flip coup. Asbury has good speed and instinct and could be thrown in sooner as well. Jalen Cheek was rated a top-50 corner prospect in the country. The New Jersey freshman has a clear opportunity to play as the season goes on. He has a great frame and could slide in behind DeBerry.
Other freshman include Jalon Williams out of Texas, Jamareeh Jones of Virginia, and Cole Batson from California. All three were three-star prospects with differing skillsets that could put them in the limelight at times as the develop.
JT Thompson II is the last name to note here. The graduate transfer from Southern Illinois only recently announced his commitment to the Eagles. His veteran presence and FCS history should not be discounted. The Georgia native played 10 games last season, registering 32 tackles, four pass break-ups, and an interception in an FCS playoff game. The staff must see something significant for him to join the mix. Tate Haynes and Denzel Blackwell both put their names in the transfer portal over the last month.
Hafley’s staff is not afraid to throw plenty of defensive backs out on the field and give players reps. Last season, they definitely wanted to better understand what and who they were working with. This year, with so many young faces the same could be the case even though they have been closer throughout the entire process. They’ll want to develop and get up to speed their recruiting class in order to build on the foundation. The staff is not afraid to let competition dictate the terms of who plays, and all of these players could be capable of breaking out.