Boston College's defense struggled all over the field in 2019, giving up 32.2 points per game. Analysts can point fingers at almost every unit for different deficiencies that hurt the team at various points of the year. But one of the biggest critiques was the play of the defensive line, a group that not only was substandard in the pass rush, but also was ineffective against the run.
Since taking over in January, Boston College coach Jeff Hafley has worked to improve the output of this group. In late March he added Chibueze "Boozie" Onwuka, a defensive tackle out of Buffalo. The graduate transfer had 43 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in the 2019 season on way to being named Third Team All-MAC. Then on Tuesday it was reported that Cal defensive lineman Luc Bequette would be transferring to the Eagles as well (pending getting through admissions), who had 52 tackles and four tackles for loss in '19. A three year starter for the Bears, the grad student would be immediately eligible to play as well. Add in freshman DT Cameron Horsley, who stuck with Hafley after Steve Addazio was fired, and that gives the new staff three new names to work with up front.
Getting Bequette and Onwuka should not mean that players like Brandon Barlow, Marcus Valdez, Shittah Sillah and TJ Rayam will be benched, or moved down the depth chart. In fact getting more depth could up the game of the returning Eagles defensive linemen. For instance, Rayam could have some of his snaps cut, and be more situational, but that may increase his effectiveness by keeping him fresh and less gassed as the game progresses. Depending on how Hafley sees Rayam, he could stay in for passing downs, or come in on third downs or short distance situations. This gives the staff an opportunity to tinker and add to their defense and personnel, and bring it back to a pre-2019 level.
Good defenses are at least two players deep at each position that could start, and Boston College is in that position now, something that couldn't be said in 2019.
Adding Bequette in particular gives Hafley a lot of flexibility. The Cal transfer can play both inside and outside, meaning he could line up anywhere which could help to confuse opposing offenses. He can pass rush (5 sacks in 2018), or be a stout run defender. Even if he isn't a starter day one, he will be incredibly valuable, and could be utilized all over the field.
The other piece that Onwuka and Bequette will add to the team is veteran leadership. BC has a good mix of youth and veterans on the line. Both transfers are graduate students, and have battled for years at the collegiate level. Brandon Barlow already mentioned that Onwuka is acting like a leader for the line, and it wouldn't be surprising if Bequette does the same thing.
Bequette's transfer isn't finalized yet, and the school has yet to announce it. But his addition, along with Chibueze Onwuka should be two major moves that help turn around Boston College's defense. How much will that improvement be? We shall see when the team kicks off.
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