For the 2015 Boston College Eagles, an opening game against an FCS level team may seem like it has little to no value over simply getting players reps against an opponent. After three scrimmages and weeks of practice, it'll provide the first glimpses into just how the Eagles will run their offense and defense. With 12 games on the schedule, it'll provide the first tangible evidence of how BC will play the game in 2015.
If there's something to watch from a Boston College standpoint, it'll almost assuredly be the defense. We've well broken down the offense at this point, especially with its changing parts. But the defense is just assumed to be dominant, especially in the front seven. We seldom talk about the secondary, which will be breaking in newer players in their first significant snaps against the Maine Black Bears.
BC released that the starting cornerbacks are true sophomores Kamrin Moore and Isaac Yiadom. Moore was a two-way player at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. While there, he displayed incredible speed and closing ability:
If you watch Moore, you'll see how he reads the play. Playing a roverback style, he fades back into deep coverage to his own 45 yard line. At the same time, the opposing quarterback is being chased out of the pocket, backpedaling to about his own 30 yard line. Moore, seeing this, realizes the quarterback only has one play to make - an off-balance throw to whichever receiver is in front of him.
He doesn't even stop to pivot, instead taking a rounded path to the football. But he's at top speed when he hits the play, and the dying quail of a pass winds up in his hands. He makes the interception because the second DB already has the coverage.
That kind of closing speed is something that will allow primary wide receivers to get by him or even slant or pivot away from him to appear open. But if the quarterback is under duress, the pass is going to hang just enough to let him get close to the receiver. That's going to result in a deflection, a blown pass, or an interception. Even if the receiver appears open, he's not.
On the other side for BC stands Isaac Yiadom. A local product out of Massachusetts, Yiadom played some last season but stands as one of the top Eagle products this year. Where Moore excelled in closing on pass coverage, I'm getting the drift that Yiadom will bring a little bit of a different style, a hard-hitting type of corner that will play more on the edge and be used to bring the pain on slot style receivers.
In this play, watch Yiadom (#1) on the goal line. After the snap, he actually doesn't move. He waits for the play to come to him. Lining up on the goal line, he knows that as long as he's parallel with the end zone, the ball carrier essentially has to get through him to score. Therefore, he doesn't have to over-commit to the play. He knows that the linemen are going to open up the hole, which gives him an unimpeded path to the ball carrier. From there, it's as simple as lining up and putting the shoulder pads right into the numbers.
How does that help the Eagles? Well it gives a target right on those guys who are in the slot or the #2 receiver. If Moore can go downfield, Yiadom is going to be able to line up guys lacking the breakaway speed. Where Moore can play off, Yiadom can jam them at the line. And as we get closer to the goal line, he's the guy who is going after contact.
If there's other guys to look at in coverage, we all know how high I am on Lukas Denis. Denis, a true freshman out of Everett High School (what amounts in Massachusetts to a dynasty). Denis is the type of player who's going to hurt you on the field, the type of steamroller hitter who should be able to fit into a slot DB or safety type player without any hesitation whatsoever.
Rather than cut out one highlight, here's the whole reel:
The first thing that jumps off the table is the way he hits. There's one highlight about 30 seconds into the reel where Denis is playing speed rush off the edge. He destroys the first blocker, and as he's falling back, he arm tackles the running back.
His hits in there are all big ones. He is able to come up with some of his interceptions in there as well, but I'm focusing on his ability to just hit anything that moves. From his position deep in the field, the defensive line is able to hold up a ball carrier enough so Denis, at top speed, can collide with the play.
A running back is capable of seeing that come at him. If there's one thing I know from talking to coaches and former players, when you see someone coming at you TOP SPEED, you typically know you're going to hit a solid couple of seconds before it happens. It just gives you enough time to say, "Oh man this is gonna hu--" before you get crushed.
If there's a concern about Denis, it's this - he goes for the big hit too often. In Massachusetts high school games, it's probably easy to just seek and destroy. The trick for him is going to be to form tackle, get guys wrapped up, and drag them to the ground. At the very least, he's going to need to hold them up for others to join in the fray. In a bigger, faster college game, hitting someone and expecting them to go down is usually replaced with getting pancaked as the guy runs by.
With these three youngsters, I think Boston College is forming the core of one of its most physical and athletically gifted defensive units in years. Knowing the strength of the front seven, these individuals playing deep and covering wideouts will have plenty of opportunities to shine within their skill set as long as the pressure on the running and passing game happens. If the QB has time, there's the potential these guys get burned. But if they can get to that QB, this defense has the potential to be REALLY scary.