This is the easiest section of the recap/previews to write because it should be the strength of the team this season.
Superstar Brian Toal earned Big East Rookie honors and adjusted to the speed of the college game quickly in his first season. His brother got better each year while at BC, so there is optimism that he’ll be even better this season. If his learning curve accelerates, there is no reason to think he can’t make 90 tackles next season. Toal and the other returning starters, Ray Henderson and Ricky Brown, combined for 233 tackles last season.
Ray Henderson had a nice season and made a few big interceptions last year, but he is not a dominant player. He can pick his moments and seems to read opposing QBs well (it doesn’t hurt that he was a former QB). He also comes off as one of those screamer/emotional leader types. I usually want those guys to zip it, but it may be needed given TOB’s stoic nature.
Brown had the most unassuming 80 tackle season you could imagine. He is finally getting a chance to play to his potential. Hopefully he’ll have another strong year.
With the front four applying a lot of pressure last season, these three were able to drop back and wait for action to come to them. They probably won’t have that same luxury this year. Our opponents will probably pass more and our defensive line is not as experienced.
For years, BC fans bemoaned the state of our LB corp. In addition to talent, this season brings depth as both Jolonn Dunbar and Tryonne Pruitt showed ability and aggressiveness in spot duty last year.
Overall I expect these guys to hold the defense together. Spaz plays a frustrating bend but don’t break style and will rarely blitz the LBs. I just hope they can keep up with the more talented playmakers in the ACC and don’t freelance too much.