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September 1, 2013For about a quarter and a half against Villanova, the Boston College defense didn't just look as bad as it did last year. It looked worse. There were missed assignments, players lined up out of position, and head-scratching decision-making.
The Eagles started to pull it together heading into halftime, and then forced a second half shutout of the Wildcats after settling down and playing more relaxed football. It's a difficult balance-running defensive coordinator Don Brown's multiple-look, blitzing scheme while staying poised.
"In the first half we just started off a little slow," Manny Asprilla said. "When we came into the locker room before the second half we just told each other to calm down and relax and we'll get things rolling, we'll get it together. So when we came out in the second half we just had the mindset that we were going to come out and play as hard as we could, and we did."
That discipline throughout the season will be integral to this unit's success.
There was definitely improvement from last season, especially in the fourth quarter when the Eagles prevented a few Villanova comeback attempts. Kasim Edebali had the best day of any player on the line, forcing the interception that Villanova quarterback John Robertson threw to Manny Asprilla and scooping up the fumble Josh Keyes forced.
The Wildcats give a difficult read of how effective this unit will be against traditional rushing teams, since Robertson ran all over the field and the entire BC defense played a role in allowing that. But, for the most part, the defensive line handled the traditional runs well. The pass rush from the lineman themselves, outside of Edebali, wasn't outstanding, but the linebackers and corners did start getting to the quarterback, and the only thing that matters for BC is that someone does it. It doesn't matter who it is.
It was surprising how much time Steven Daniels continued to get in the second half after plenty of very bad decisions in the first. Sean Duggan seemed like a likely substitute, but Daniels still saw plenty of action throughout the final two quarters. It looked like he was either trying to do too much at times, or he couldn't decide what exactly he should be doing.
Junior Josh Keyes stepped up, though, and built off his impressive play in training camp. Brown might have found another linebacker, along with Kevin Pierre-Louis, who can become a playmaker in this system. The fumble-forcing play on Robertson was the highlight, but Keyes also flashed a few other instances of effective play in the attacking defense.
Pierre-Louis led the team with 10 tackles, more importantly 2.5 of which were for loss. Teams will likely start honing in on him down the road, knowing that he is the best pass rusher BC has. Steele Divitto had a solid day as well. He won't consistently break big plays, but he provides good run support and can be counted on to make the proper reads.
The secondary without a doubt had the best day against Villanova. Some of the big plays given up early probably had shared blame between the secondary and the linebackers, but around the middle of the second quarter this unit really put it together.
Asprilla looked like a serious liability at times in Frank Spaziani's system last year, but he is thriving under Brown so far. His coverage was very good, he picked up two tackles for loss, and that diving interception showed great body control and skill. Sean Sylvia picked off a Robertson pass after dropping an easy one earlier, and Spenser Rositano was second on the team in tackles.
Brown has his secondary all over the field, rushing into the backfield, dropping into coverage, moving over into the flat. He's asking a lot of them, but they impressed in the opener.
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