There's a case to be made that the best combination of Boston College football players is more than just two guys. It seems like every scheme involves multiple players, and the Eagles are one of the best case studies in the exact science of team building. When you talk about the defense or the offense, it's about who did what job to set up the play by what other position.
But you'd be hard pressed to find a number of different players who don't make larger impacts. In a world exemplified by the phrase "Do Your Job," the Eagles have a number of players who simply punch the clock and go to work in a manner that is better than anyone else on the field. On their titan front seven, that duo is on the defensive line.
Truman Gutapfel and Kevin Kavalec are both juniors on the BC defensive line. They often line up next to each other in some capacity, with Kavalec playing defensive end and Gutapfel either lining up on the interior line or as the opposing defensive end, depending on the scheme. Watching them play off each other has become arguably one of my favorite parts of observing the BC defense.
It's not so much what they do as it is what they do away from the ball. Gutapfel, is reminiscent of those mamma jamma defensive lines with BJ Raji and Ron Brace, standing 6'3" and 281 pounds - guys who it took two players to block. Kavalec has the speed to get around the edge, which makes him able to break up the pocket with ease.
Because they're so huge, offensive lines have to take note of where they are at all times. Last week against Howard, Gutapfel lined up against an offensive lineman who was roughly the same size he was. Unsurprisingly, he wound up with a nine-yard loss of a sack on the opposing quarterback. Kavalec, meanwhile, would record a sack of his own, lighting up the Bison backfield for an 11-yard loss.
Against Maine, the statistics were a little more subdued, but there's no question that they open up areas for the defense to go to work. Players like Mehdi Abdesmad and Harold Landry earn more flashy statistics because of the overall strength of the unit. But Abdesmad's battled injury woes and is only now starting his way back, while Landry is still very raw as a true sophomore. While he's developing into a beast, the stalwarts on the defensive line make it easier to refine skillsets.
The Don Brown Defense is predicated on havoc and chaos. It needs to get to the quarterback and stuff the backfield. It does that while linebackers are occasionally in coverage and blitz schemes are disguised. It uses the right deception to get the correct guy to the backfield. The only thing that's for certain is that the defensive line, on every play, is coming.
While offenses know that about the defensive line, they also find it incredibly hard to block them. That's because each man is able to rely on his skills to help out the man next to him. In talking it over with AJ Black, we figured out that players like Abdesmad and Landry get more tackles because of what happens elsewhere. When Gutapfel and Kavalec are able to occupy the interior offensive line, it allows someone to either rush around the edge for a tackle or allow a linebacker not in coverage to step up and make the play. By taking away the first option, they force teams to rely on secondary and tertiary ideas - none of which are usually well executed because it's the unexpected.
This weekend, the defensive unit will get its finest test when the high-powered Florida State Seminoles are in town. They'll face an offense with more firepower than any of the cream puff FCS teams in the first two weeks. At the same time, however, they'll be facing an offensive line that needs work. As Steve Addazio says, at this point in the year, the defense is always a little bit ahead of the offense. For that reason, keep an eye on the two linemen who will unquestionably create plays and make life tough on Dalvin Cook and Everett Golson.