Wednesday, July 09, 2008

2008 Position Previews: Defensive Line

This is the fifth part of my position by position breakdown of the 2008 roster.

With so many contributors returning, you know what to expect from the defensive line. When it comes to run defense, that is a good thing. When it comes to BC pressuring the QB, that raises questions.

The defensive front only lost two significant contributors from last year (Nick Larkin and Brady Smith). Filling the void shouldn’t be a problem. The team gets a returning B.J. Raji, a maturing group of upperclassmen and some talented freshmen. With the roster solidified, the question needs to be asked: can this group create a pass rush? Outside of Alex Albright, very few of the guys upfront got to the QB. Look at some of these totals: Brace, 2.5 sacks; Ramella, 1 sack; Giles, 1 sack; A. Smith, 1.5 sacks; Scafe, 1 sack; Deska 1 sack. Collectively those guys played a ton of downs and barely even breathed on the opposing QBs. By comparison, Albright in an injury shortened year got to the QB 8.5 times by himself.

In fairness some of this was scheme related. These guys are asked to clog lanes and stop the run. But some of it is also related to skill and style. There’s not a lot of speed amongst that group and you rarely saw them blowing their blockers off the ball.

I’ve predicted greatness for this defense. For the line it starts by stopping the run and getting to the QB. No more career nights for guys like Chris Turner.

The Players
DT – BJ Raji, SR, 6’1, 325lbs
DT – Ron Brace, SR, 6’3, 325lbs
DE – Allan Smith, JR, 6’2, 237lbs
DE – Jim Ramella, JR, 6’4, 247lbs
DE – Austin Giles, JR, 6’3, 291lbs
DE – Alex Albright, JR, 6’5, 235lbs
DT – Jerry Willette, SR, 6’5, 282lbs
DT – Brendan Deska, JR, 6’5, 250lbs
DT – Damik Scafe, SO, 6’3, 305lbs
DE – Brad Newman, SO, 6’2, 250lbs
DE – Max Holloway, FR, 6’3, 230lbs
DT – Nick Halloran, FR, 6’6, 275lbs
DE – Christian Klein, FR, 6’4, 250lbs
DT – Bryan Murray, FR, 6’3, 285lbs
DT – Kaleb Ramsey, FR, 6’4, 274lbs

Raji can be dominant when the moment is right. He’s got good speed for his size and moves very well in the interior. At times, he’s taken plays off or been ineffective for stretches. The way his eligibility played out was unfortunate. I expect him to use the time away as extra motivation and have a huge year. His DT counterpart Ron Brace also enters the season with great expectations. He is a good run stopper and has improved his speed each year. Together they can be the best combo of DTs in college football. Albright started slow last year, but played very well in the middle of the season. His injury proved costly as we weren’t able to get to Sean Glennon in the ACC Championship Game. He’s the ideal of speed and strength from the End position and also has a good feel for the game. I expect another big year from him. Ramella had his moments last year, but still seemed a step slower than his freshmen year. Was he still recovering from his shoulder issues? Who knows? At this point I am expecting a more of the same from him: good fundementals, decent productivity, no game changing plays. Giles got a bit lost in the shuffle last year. He doesn’t have closing speed which can be frustrating when he just barely misses a RB or QB. Like Ramella, I hope that continued physical maturity will lead to more productivity. Allan Smith has potential but is also coming back from a serious injury. With Brady Smith gone, Willette may have an expanded role. His playing time really depends on his productivity and how ready the true freshmen are. Deska is a solid citizen who may see increased minutes this year. Scafe showed real potential as a freshmen and could be an all conference type player as an upperclassmen. Newman comes over from the offense. Hopefully he can contribute right away. Holloway is smallish, but played very well this spring. Halloran, Klein, Murray and Ramsey are all unknown. I expect two to play and two to redshirt. With the lack of depth at DT, some of these guys could see significant snaps.

The defensive line is one of the best in the country. Despite their deficiencies in the pass rush, they do a very good job controlling the run. Even the smallest of improvements in pass defense could have a huge impact on BC’s season.

1 comment:

Erik said...

All BC fans gotta be excited about this group.

I feel like Scafe can be the guy to get to the QB. He sorta plays like a nutbar out there, and that aggressiveness should lead to sacks. I am praying that both Raji & Brace stay healthy.