Defensive tackle is an recruiting area of major need for Boston College.
CHESTNUT HILL – Two months ago, defensive tackle was not an area of dire need for Boston College in recruiting, but it looks like that has changed quickly.
Starting defensive tackle Mehdi Abdesmad went down with a season-ending injury in October, and his status is uncertain for the start of 2014. Then, defensive tackle Tevin Montgomery decided to leave the team in December and will most likely enroll at a new school.
Montgomery was one of the highest ranked recruits in BC’s 2013 recruiting class. The defensive tackle was the 40th-ranked defensive tackle in the country and the third-ranked prospect in the state of Massachusetts.
Montgomery came to BC a little behind in his development since he didn’t start playing football until he was a junior. However, his measurables were certainly impressive and led many to believe he would be a stud once he got some coaching. The 300-pound tackle was said to have a “28-inch vertical and a sub-5 second 40,” according to his high school coach when he spoke with Rivals.com.
Since Montgomery still had a lot to work on with his technique, he was not able to crack the BC lineup during his first season. In October, Steve Addazio was asked if Montgomery would get a crack at replacing the injured Abdesmad in the lineup.
“He could possibly get in there,” Addazio said. “He’s a developmental guy, but who knows?”
That statement didn’t seem to be a ringing endorsement for Montgomery.
The BC coaching staff is working hard to find recruits at defensive tackle. Three-star defensive tackle Zeek Rodney is the only recruit that BC is currently linked to. With such big holes on the depth chart, Rodney would have an immediate opportunity to come in and grab some playing time right away, and he is one of BC’s top priorities at the moment.
Defense Has Turned Beat Around
If you turned on the Worldwide Leader recently, you would be quite familiar with what BC’s star running back Andre Williams looks and sounds like with his pads off.
Williams recently concluded a world wind tour in Bristol during which he appeared on flagship shows such as SportsCenter and First Take in what was a brilliantly organized idea by the school to promote its star running back as a Heisman contender.
Right now, Williams is the poster child of BC’s impressive turnaround from 2-10 to 7-5 this year, and rightfully so. The running back leads the nation in rushing yards, and was the main reason that the BC offense had its highest scoring point total in over 10 years, which includes the time that Matt Ryan was the signal-caller at the Heights.
While Williams deserves all of the accolades he is getting, the BC defense is flying under the radar for the work it did this year. Even though defensive coordinator Don Brown was one of 40 nominees for the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach, he is getting no attention in Boston.
What Brown did in one year is nothing short of miraculous. He took a defense that played off-and-soft coverage and generated no pressure on opposing quarterbacks and turned it into one of the most feared pass rushing groups in the conference.
Brown pumped some blood into the BC defense, creating big play off sacks and pressures. Last year, the Eagles were dead last in the ACC in sacks, accumulating only six in the entire season, and this year, with the same cast of characters, BC ranked third in the ACC in sacks with 35. Kasim Edebali and Kevin Pierre-Louis each had more sacks than the entire defense did last year.
BC head coach Steve Addazio is quick to give Brown complete credit for the turnaround.
“I think that he did a great job of bringing in a great scheme, and we created explosives on defense through turnovers, through sacks, through stripping the ball or what we call peanuts,” Addazio said. “ I thought that was fantastic. Obviously, what we need to do is become more experienced through recruiting and get better in the back end, but I just think the demeanor and the direction of the defense is outstanding, and I’m excited about the future.
“We wanted to be able to create explosives, and we got that done. The things that we set out to do, we got done. I call that the footprint. I thought we established a good footprint: toughness, passion, ability to run the football, create explosives on defense, make plays on special teams, get bowl eligible.”
Brown didn’t have the luxury of having any new four-star or five-star players to work with in the front seven. He was essentially given the same exact lineup from the year before that had the 120th lowest sack total in the country.
So how did Brown change the defense so quickly?
One way was with a more modern defensive scheme. It was quickly determined that certain players had values in certain types of packages, even if they weren’t every-down type of players. In particular, Brown found that some of the players on the roster had legitimate pass rushing skills but weren’t being given an opportunity to use them. One of those players was undersized linebacker Josh Keyes. Brown immediately found a role for Keyes in blitz packages, which led to sacks by Keyes and other players on the defense.
The other key to Brown turning around the defense was his new blitz packages. Whereas BC rarely blitzed under Frank Spaziani, Brown was not afraid to bring heat with linebackers or cornerbacks. The result was 17.5 sacks registered by players other than defensive linemen, almost more than triple the number of team sacks in 2012.
The Eagles will lose leading sack men Edebali and KPL to graduation, which means Brown will need to find a way to replace more than 40 percent of the team sack total. But if this year is any indication, Brown will find a way to keep making the defense a fearsome pass rushing unit.