AJ: This was one of the biggest question marks going into the 2021 season, and overall the results were mixed. BC had to reshuffle the linebacker group after the departures of Max Richardson, Isaiah McDuffie and John Lamot, and they did so with a grabbag of new faces, transfers, and position changes. Isaiah Graham Mobley gave BC some valuable snaps, and made some huge plays at different points during the season. Kam Arnold stepped up from safety and had a very up and down year, showing explosiveness at times, but also looking green and out of place at others. Vinny DePalma was a steady force at linebacker and did a solid job when IGM was out, and Bryce Steele showed he could be a big name moving forward. Based off of expectations this group did relatively well, but overall they still have a long way to go. They got exposed at times, and need to be more explosive, but the future is bright. Grade C
Going into the 2021 season, many expected Boston College’s linebacking corps to be the weakest link on the defense, possibly even the whole team. The Eagles lost three veteran starters there, with John Lamot graduating, and Max Richardson and Isaiah McDuffie heading to the NFL. But that group had their issues there as well so there was some hope that some new blood would invigorate the linebackers. There were several veteran players returning (Vinny DePalma, Joe Sparacio, Nick DeNucci) along with some fresh faces from various sources (Isaiah Graham-Mobley, Kam Arnold, Bryce Steele).
As with the rest of the team, the linebacker group looked very good to start the season. They validated those hopes with stellar performances against Colgate, Temple, and Missouri, repeatedly making clutch plays and big hits. IGM looked to be a perfect hybridization of Richardson and McDuffie while DePalma and Arnold were solid complementary pieces around him. However, as the offenses foundered against ACC opponents in the heart of the season, the defense found themselves in unfavorable scenarios.
Against Louisville and Syracuse, with the offense repeatedly failing to extend drives and keep games close, the defense struggled to keep pace. Mobile quarterbacks and diverse rushing attacks exposed the Eagles’ linebackers, as they frequently failed their assignments in run defense and missed tackles in the open field. Once the offense got back on track to some extent later in the season, the linebackers began to slightly improve as well, even with IGM missing time due to injuries.
In conclusion, while the expectations for this unit were relatively low, the linebacker corps still frustrated BC fans. However, there are reasons to be excited about this group moving forward. DePalma will return as the elder statesman of the group. While he is not the most impressive athlete, he’s a smart, disciplined player who will be the leader in the middle of the defense. Kam Arnold and Bryce Steele had their ups and downs in 2021 but as they get more experience, their impressive athleticism should make them key assets to this unit.
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