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Midseason State of the Boston College Defense

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NCAA Football: Virginia at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Six games in and six more to go (at minimum). After a relatively positive review of the offense the other day, we move on to the defense. There’s no way of really sugarcoating it, Jeff Hafley’s defense has left a lot to be desired.

Opponents are scoring 31.7 points per game against. Passing, running it really hasn’t mattered. Opponents are scoring at will with explosive play after explosive play, BC is rated 98th with a 56.1% stop rate, a measurement indicating well, the collective stops defenses make, about on par with last season. Not good.

Pass Defense

Let’s start with the passing defense. We’ve seen opposing wideouts wide open deep down the field week in and week out. Total passing volume isn’t terrible (because of a few run heavy opponents), but the Eagles are among the worst in defensive passing success rate. QB’s are throwing for 9.7 yards per attempt, well outside the top 100. When they want to pass, it’s too easy. Even when it’s a Hail Mary...

Veteran corner Elijah Jones has the team’s only interception on the season. Jones has been playing pretty excellent coverage throughout as well. He leads the team with four pass break-ups as well. Nickel Jalen Cheek is next up with two. True sophomore corner Amari Jackson has had a tough go of it this season. Most notably getting beat constantly against Louisville without the proper help over the top. The coverage choice has put a lot of stress on Cole Batson as the only real help over the top. John Pupel has had a few impact plays and is second on the team with 38 tackles, but has largely been picked on as well.

Front Seven

It’s easy to pick apart a team’s secondary when your pass rush can’t get home, and that’s been another part of the problem. Again, in the last two games where the BC front started showing more signs of life. The unit has stayed largely the same this season. George Rooks and Cam Horsley have occupied the tackle spots, while Donovan Ezeiruaku and Neto Okpala/Shitta Sillah have operated on the ends.

Okpala has popped more recently, leading the team with four tackles for loss. Sillah and Ezeiruaku have three apiece and the trio have each have two sacks, with the team totaling 10 (5 of which came against UVA). Simply put, these aren’t gaudy numbers. The Eagles are one of the worst in the country at getting opponents down early.

Vinny DePalma of course leads the team with 49 tackles. The super senior has played hard alongside Kam Arnold, but the gaps have been too easy to find. The 162.7 rushing yards per game allowed is 93rd in the country. Even with two run heavy opponents, it’s clear improvement is needed.


With all this, BC’s defense is 96th in the country getting off the field on third down (42.65%). And some of this has been very self-inflicted. While we’ve seen improvement these past two games, opponents have picked up 13 first downs by penalty. Yes, some were in the heat of the moment, but we’ve seen so much undisciplined play at the most critical of times. This is like beating a dead horse, but we’re just going to have to hope the record setting penalty day was the outlier and not these past two games.

Red Zone Woes

Opponents have had the luxury of short fields against BC, putting more stress on the defense. Gone are the days of bend don’t break. Aside from all those explosive plays, the Eagles are breaking when it matters most. 23 red zone trips have yielded 20 touchdowns (13 rush, 7 pass) and 2 field goals. That percentage is bottom 10 in the country.


As mentioned earlier, that one interception isn’t going to do the job. On the bright side, 7 players have forced 7 fumbles, five of which were recovered.

I’ll say it again, there’s been signs of life these past two outings. It hasn’t been throughout the entirety of either game, but we’ll take what we can get for even a sliver a silver lining. There’s no need to beat around the bush. Hafley has to create significant improvement on this side of the ball.