The Boston College secondary took a massive step up last season, a continued upward progress since Hafley’s arrival. After being ranked 122nd in pass defense before he came to the scene, 2021 resulted in the unit developing into the third best group in the nation in terms of passing yards allowed per game. Allowing only 173.5 passing yards per game, the Eagles was top in the ACC as well. They may have benefited from teams electing to run, but this unit is for real and likely (and fittingly) the best position group the Eagles boast.
Brandon Sebastian/Mike Palmer (graduated), Shawn Asbury II, Jahmin Muse, Deon Jones (transfer)
First name to call out is Josh DeBerry. Since Hafley’s arrival DeBerry has emerged as a star in the defensive backfield. Primarily loitering at nickel, DeBerry possesses incredible instincts that allow him to make plays all over. In 10 games, he totaled 53 tackles, two interceptions, and a forced fumble, all resulting in an All-ACC Second Team selection, rising from Honorable mention the year prior. The Senior from Michigan we’ll likely look to cap off a career here with a successful season and take a step up to the big leagues next.
Another veteran presence among the defensive backs, Jones enters his likely final season as a starter on the outside. In 2021, he started 11 of 12 games, and ended with 30 tackles, five pass break-ups, and two forced fumbles. The New York native has been a steady contributor since 2019. At 6-2, Jones has the ideal length and plays with a physicality fit for the modern game and match-up with the big receivers he’ll likely see on the other side. He also has been a major contributor on special teams.
One of the highest rated recruits in program history after flipping from Florida, Burton now enters his sophomore campaign likely in a starting role. In 10 games as a true freshman, Burton did see his number get called for a start once. He totaled 10 tackles and had four pass break-ups over the course of the season.
One of the most important leaders on the team, the California safety came to the Eagles and produced an All-ACC Honorable mention season. After transferring from Florida State, Woodbey started all 12 games and had 56 tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and three pass break-ups. He quickly became a standout on the team. With a linebacker’s frame, Hafley and co. can move him around like a chess piece to hang around with the best of them to produce hard-hitting plays. As a former five-star recruit and a Freshman All-American and now three years removed from a major knee injury, Woodbey could absolutely emerge as the best player in this unit.
Maitre is one of the most experienced guys in the secondary. The now graduate student has been starting games all around the field since 2019. Last year he primarily played free safety, and in eight games had 23 tackles, three pass break-ups, two tackles for loss, and a sack. A shoulder injury shortened his season, but the overall shift to safety allowed Maitre to position himself well in Lukabu’s defense. He’s a hard hitter that sets the tone and complements Woodbey so well.
Jalen Cheek, Jalon Williams, Cole Batson, Jamareeh Jones
The redshirt freshmen. Cheek, Williams, Batson, and Jones are all former three-stars all played in a couple of games last season before redshirting. Batson and Cheek have the size at 6-4, and 6-1, respectively. Batson only appeared on special teams though. Williams played against Colgate and Florida State, while Jones recorded a tackle against Wake Forest. You can expect these guys to get more into the mix this season, but we’ll have to wait and see who emerges as camp goes on.
Sione Hala, Amari Jackson
The highly touted true freshmen have arrived. The two four stars from California and Georgia, respectively are going to be the future of the Hafley’s defensive backfield. That’s not to say they won’t be sprung into action this season though, as Burton was a year ago. While there may be a bit more depth this time around, if they can contribute now, they will. Hala comes from the same high school as Jaiden Woodbey (St. John Bosco) and was rated the 26th safety in the class. He has really great size, and like Woodbey is more of a hybrid safety/linebacker. Jackson was the 47th rated corner in the class and was a standout on offense as well. Jackson enrolled mid-year and has a good chance at jumping in early.
Jirhe Love, John Pupel
Two more transfers arrive to BC with some unknowns surrounding them. Love is a 6-0, 195 corner who played at Towson. He appeared in 22 career games over three years as a reserve corner and on special teams. Pupel is 6-1, 200 and previously played at Dartmouth, originally from Michigan. He played in all three seasons and made 59 tackles last year.