The defensive secondary is Jeff Hafley’s bread and butter. But the Boston College head coach hasn’t dealt with turnover like this yet in his time in Chestnut Hill. Today we take a look at the 2023 BC defensive backfield, which has a ton of new faces and potential struggles as those new faces try to emerge as leaders.
Boston College lost some of its best veterans in the defensive backfield this offseason. Longtime DBs Jaiden Woodbey, Josh DeBerry, and Jason Maitre all found homes elsewhere in college football or the NFL. Those three were the only defensive backs to start in all 12 games last season. They also lost DBs Steve Lubischer and Clinton Burton Jr., each of whom played limited roles in the defense in 2022. Elijah Jones is the major name still left on the defense after he earned an All-ACC honorable mention last season, playing 11 games for the Eagles and recording 2 INTs. Look to Jones as a likely defensive captain of the team and as the guy who will be covering each opponent’s top WR target. He has the talent and experience to be the top dog in this pass defense.
Despite all of these changes, Jeff Hafley is a secondary specialist and there are some big things in store for the defense this year. These departures will allow his recruits to filter through the system and start to show off what they can do. Players like Jalen Cheek and Sione Hala were well-regarded recruits coming into BC and have been on the roster with very limited actual playing time due to redshirts. Amari Jackson made a very impressive showing in the 2023 Spring Game, nabbing 2 INTs and even caught a deep pass on offense. Now that all of these minutes have opened up, expect them to make a big impact in 2023. Hala especially is a heralded recruit and could play big minutes for this defense.
Hafley clearly knows he’s losing a lot of talent, so he went hard for defensive backs in the transfer portal. Namely, Arkansas transfer Khari Johnson is a guy to watch. He’s a Boston native who elected to come home after spending his first three seasons down in the SEC. Originally a 3-star recruit, Johnson worked his way into a large role in 2022 and played in 10 games last season for the Razorbacks after playing in just 3 and 4 games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
The other defensive backs Hafley brought in include Alex Washington from Harvard and Victor Nelson Jr. from LIU. Both players will be depth adds with plenty of playing experience, something that will be needed as some of the young guys get up to speed. Hafley has found a good balance of young talent coming up through the ranks and experienced leadership through the transfer portal.
All in all, this is an unpredictable group. With so many new faces and promising prospects thrust into starting roles, it could take them a while to mesh together.