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Boston College Football 2022: Breakout Players Defense)

Three Eagles on defense that could take major steps forward in 2022

Perhaps the truest aphorism in college football is "expect the unexpected." This may not apply to who will appear in or win the national championship, but it applies to almost everything else. Every season, unexpected players make their mark on a season for every team. In 2020, Josh DeBerry established himself as a major player for the Eagles' defense, even when some outlets questioned what he brought to the team. In 2021, Pat Garwo seized the lead running back job and never let go. Listed below are three players that could be the next breakout players for Boston College. 

Ty Clemons, DE

One of the major goals for Boston College’s defense this season is to get more pressure on the quarterback. Ty Clemons should be a major piece of that mission. Clemons was one of several true freshman defensive ends to get some playing time early in the season. He eventually redshirted after appearing in only four games on defense. But he recorded a sack in only 29 pass rushing snaps. He also had an incredible spring game, recording several sacks albeit mostly against the second-unit offense.

At this point, Clemons is still somewhat buried on the depth chart. There are the assumed upperclassman starters, Marcus Valdez and Shitta Sillah, along with two sophomores that played more last season, Donovan Ezeiraku and Neto Okpala. However, I think Clemons could overtake both of those players and maybe even Sillah. One of the reasons why is that he is actually build like a real defensive end. Clemons is listed at 6’2” and 259 pounds; Ezeiraku and Okpala are both listed at sub-240 pounds. Therefore, Clemons should be able to be a three-down defender, unlike Ezeiraku and Okpala. Nevertheless, his best trait is rushing the passer and he should be able to make significant contributions there as well.

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Bryce Steele represents the future on the linebacker position for Boston College and perhaps for college football at large. Steele came to BC as an extremely highly-rated yet undersized recruit. Many expected him to redshirt after playing in the first few games to put on the necessary weight to play linebacker. But injuries forced him into the lineup late in the year. He even started one game against Virginia Tech and played most of the snaps against Wake Forest.

This year, Steele figures to be one of the starting outside linebackers. He will most likely be a more modern Sam linebacker, playing in the overhang area between the tight end and the slot receiver. There are plenty of similar players on other teams that racked up tons of tackles and made numerous splash plays from thay position. Steele’s incredible athleticism should allow him to take away outside runs and RPOs. Finally, he could also be the antidote to one of BC’s most consistent ailments: running quarterbacks.


Like Steele, CJ Burton was a very highly-rated recruit that earned some playing time early in the season. With Brandon Sebastian off to the NFL, Burton should be one of the starting outside cornerbacks this season. He may technically be a rotational player if Hafley and Lukabu allow Josh DeBerry to play outside and keep Elijah Jones on the field against heavier personnel. But he will certainly see an uptick in snaps this season.

Burton could experience a very volatile 2022 season. As the youngest member of the Eagles’ secondary, many offenses will test him early in the season. In the final few games of last year when Burton played me, he made some good plays but also let up some bad ones. This is perfectly reasonable for a true freshman and he’ll probably have some growing pains this year as well. But if Burton could live up to his billing as a recruit and build on his good plays from last year, he could be the final piece of a dominant secondary.