With Boston College approaching the spring game this week, we are taking a look at players to keep an eye on, both in the spring game and for next season. While Curtis and Niraj have taken a look at the offense and the defense as units, I want to highlight one player in particular who I think is primed for a major year for the Eagles. That guy is Donovan Ezeiruaku.
Ezeiruaku broke out last year in his sophomore campaign, dominating off the edge to lead the ACC in sacks with 8.5 while also forcing 3 fumbles and totaling 60 tackles. He came up huge in the Eagles’ big win over NC State with multiple QB pressures and sack, and he is now the presumed leader of the defensive line. With the departures of longtime stalwart DE Marcus Valdez and DT Chibueze Onwuka, Ezeiruaku is now the focus of this defensive line. Hafley has lauded him as a leader and potential captain, and the time is now for him to step up for this defense. Co-Defensive Coordinator Sean Duggan said last week that the Eagles’ defense is predicated on the ability to get to the quarterback and make life difficult for him; the D-line’s effectiveness will be under even more scrutiny after an offseason that saw much of the starting secondary depart.
Outside of Ezeiruaku, no returning D-lineman had more than 2 sacks last season. Edwin Kolenge has reportedly taken a major step forward, Neto Okpala should look to build on his sophomore year, and veteran Shitta Sillah can hopefully remain healthy for this season. All of these players will complement Ezeiruaku on the other edge. Until one of them emerges as a serious sack threat, however, Ezeiruaku is by far and away the most dangerous pass rusher on the roster. His dropstep move is filthy, and he is quick enough to burn slower tackles. Moreover, Hafley said a few weeks ago that Ezeiruaku is up to 250 pounds after adding 15 to his 6’2” frame. Much of the Eagles’ D-line struggles last year stemmed from their lack of size, so Ezeiruaku bulking up can only improve this line. As he goes, this defense will go, and it will be exciting to see what he does in his junior season.