Boston College has a new coach, Jeff Hafley, and with it comes a new offensive and defensive scheme. On top of that, having a new set of eyes on the roster could help to find novel and new ways to utilize players. Over the next two weeks BC Bulletin will unveil ten players who could be primed to have a breakout year in 2020. These players could have had solid seasons before but be on the cusp of something special, or they could be not used at all and earn a role in the new system.
Marcus Valdez, now a junior, is one of the starting defensive ends on a unit that struggled mightily to get to the quarterback in 2019. Last season the Eagles ranked 106th in the country in sacks with only 19, a precipitous drop from the 33 they had the season before. But if you dig into the numbers, you can see that the Eagles were starting to improve as the season wound down. Over the last five games BC had 11, and seven in the final two. Valdez was a big reason for this.
Even as a freshman you could see glimpses of what Valdez could bring to the table. Good move to get around the offensive lineman, and a good burst to get to the quarterback. Watch below as he sheds a block to get to Ryan Willis in 2018.
Pro Football Focus graded out returning pass rushers, and as you can see above, Valdez is ranked eighth in the entire country. As the season went on you could see Valdez's confidence, speed and power continue to improve. While he may not have the polish of a Harold Landry or Zach Allen, he was only as sophomore, and with a little progression and coaching could turn into a fierce pass rusher in the ACC.
Again, like many on the defense last year, Valdez was consistent throughout the year. But he had some big plays both against the pass and rush. In the season opener, he showed what he could do against the run on the hit below.
Hopefully a new set of eyes on defense will be able to maximize the talent the Eagles have on that side of the ball. If defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu and his staff can bring out just a bit more out of Valdez, he could be primed for a huge 2020 season.
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