October 25, 2006

Defense is top rate

As we mentioned in the offensive grades article, defenses win championships and this defense has the ability to do just that. Right now the defense is getting contributions from all areas and from all classes.

B.J. Raji is having a standout year at defensive tackle. Austin Giles, Nick Larkin, Brady Smith and Alex Albright are brilliant at defensive end. JoLonn Dunbar is living up to his potential and more, Brian Toal is more than living up to his hype and Mark Herzlich and Kevin Akins have the Eagles fans gushing about the future. In the defensive backfield, Jamie Silva is having a quiet year, which is what you want from your free safety while Wes Davis, Dejuan Tribble and Roderick Rollins are making a case that this may be the best defensive backfield BC has had since the days of Tony Thurman.

Yes folks, defenses win banners and this defense is good enough to win one for the Eagle Nation faithful. There are still some mental lapses and fundamental mistakes but overall this defense has come a long way from the beginning of the year when it was ranked dead last in the nation.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the defensive grades for this past weekend's game against the Florida State Seminoles.

Defensive Line: B+

B.J. Raji can and will play on Sundays and he continues to prove that. One reason the defensive ends are as effective as they are is that no one can run between the tackles on the Eagles. As bad as BC's running game was, Raji and the gang almost pitched a shut out allowing only 1.3 yards per carry for a net of 28 yards on the day!

With Ron Brace, Justin Bell and Keith Willis in the rotation for the interior line, this has to be considered one of the best defensive lines in the conference. Funny considering the defensive line was viewed as the weakness coming in to the season.

At the defensive end position, BC is young and small but good. Nick Larkin has matured in to a solid contributor and Austin Giles has proven to be a real play maker. True freshman Alex Albright, all 220 pounds of him, has proven that he can play at this level even at his age and size.

Linebackers: A-

Akins, Dunbar, Toal, Herzlich, Pruitt, Francois, McLaughlin. Nuff said.

This is, without question, the best linebacking corps BC has ever had. Top to bottom BC can rotate a full two deep with one that is as good as the other. Brian Toal is finally taking over the corps and putting his stamp on it with fast aggressive plays and a great nose for the ball.

There we some mental mistakes on Saturday such as missing the running back slipping in to the flat and some missed coverages on inside routes and a few missed tackles but overall a stella performance.

Defensive Backs: B

Tom O'Brien has moved well beyond his comfort zone in terms of playing experienced players and done it with one of the most complicated positions on the field. He has gone to youth (Roderick Rollins and Wes Davis) and to a senior walk on that had never played a game in his life (sound familiar?) in Sulaiman Sanni and they have all performed.

Dejuan Tribble's interception at the end of the first half highlighted how far this defensive backfield has come since being ranked dead last in the entire nation three games in to the season. It was his discipline and the wide receiver's lack of that made that play. In the past, the roles would have been reversed but this defense has grown up and is making plays good, mature, experience defenses make.

And it can only get better.

Coaching: B+

Going from ranked dead last in the nation to where the defense is today is a cause for celebration. Coaches Spaz and TOB believed in their younger players and it has paid off for them. With as many as 9 players playing defense that have never seen a college game before, there was a lot on the line but at the beginning of the season Coach O'Brien said he had something special in his youngsters and he was right.

The only hiccup came in the form of the FSU running backs continually slipping out of the backfield for big gainers. The Eagles were quick enough to prevent huge gains but the plays hurt the defense. In the scheme the Eagles were running, that is most likely the responsibility of the defensive end but it's hard to tell. If a defense is going to either blitz linebackers or drop them in to zone coverage, the defensive ends own the flat.

Fix that and you have a masterpiece.

Special Teams: A

Bobby Bowden said BC's long snaps took a long time to get back to the kickers but from a BC fan point of view, they can take all day if they want to if Johnny Ayers keeps dropping punts inside the ten yard line and SuperFan Steve stays golden.

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