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Grading the 2021 Eagles: Defensive Line

A look at the Boston College defensive line, and giving out our grades for the past season

AJ: Since taking over, head coach Jeff Hafley has stressed the importance of getting pressure on the quarterback. Preferably Boston College would like to get more pressure from the front line to disrupt the passing game, but they haven’t been able to do that. The team finished 98th in the country in sacks, dropping from 31st in 2020. Marcus Valdez missed the start of the season, but finished with five sacks, leading the team. While he is a good complimentary defensive end, he isn’t what many would consider explosive. The other end was a constant cycle of players, including true freshman Donovan Ezeiraku, Brandon Barlow, and Shitta Sillah. The trio struggled especially as ACC play began. The rest of the line struggled to get pressure on the quarterback. Minus Valdez, all other defensive ends and defensive tackles totaled four sacks in ACC play, certainly not a number Tem Lukabu or Jeff Hafley would want to see. Against the run the line was hit or miss as well, Brandon Barlow scored the highest on PFF against the run, but there were issues, especially on the interior.

Grade C

Mitch: Since Zach Allen headed off to the NFL, the Eagles have lacked a premier player along the defensive line. That trend continued in 2021. With Marcus Valdez out of the lineup for the first few games and Chibueze Onwuka out for the year due to an Achilles injury, some of the younger players on the depth chart had to step up. Shitta Sillah had a big game in the opener, while some of the younger players made impacts against Temple.

Nevertheless, once the schedule got more difficult, the pass rush from the defensive line began to subside. They also struggled somewhat against the run, as the interior defenders allowed blockers to the second level with relative ease and take out the linebackers. While Marcus Valdez put together arguably his best season as an Eagle, few other linemen were able to consistently put pressure on and and finish at the quarterback. Mobile QBs neutered BC’s pass rush in their games against Louisville, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Wake Forest.

Like the next position group, the defensive line suffered because of the amount of time they had to be on the field. With the offense struggling to maintain drives, opponents’ offensive lines eventually wore down Boston College. In certain games, they would cycle entirely different groups of d-linemen on and off the field like they were hockey lines. Even with this added context, the defensive line struggled to make a consistent impact on games.


Grade: C+

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