August 11, 2017
2017 BC Football Camp Insider: The Secondary
Notes from Friday’s workout as the team preps for Saturday’s scrimmage
Every football camp play tends to begin at the point of attack – where the pre-snap read dictates, who motions into a particular position and when or where the ball is snapped. On both sides of the ball, it’s a chess match, one that begins in the film room more than it does in the weight room. On any given play, every player focuses somewhere different, each with an assignment unique to their role within the scheme.
For a defensive back, everything happens that much faster. Because of their position’s nature, preparation requires its own unique speed and athleticism. Players have to know where to look and how to identify downfield coverage before the ball is ever snapped. At Boston College, it’s something baked directly into their system.
“There’s a lot that goes into what we do,” defensive coordinator Jim Reid said. “A ton goes into what we do. Unless you’re totally focused and highly energized, it’s hard to get into the right position all the time. The other guys, they’re getting coached too. They’re good players too. They have scholarships too.”
The Boston College defense is built on the strength of its whole, with the sum of individual parts working together. It’s a system responsible for one of college football’s best units in each of the past two years. That’s due in no small part to a defensive backfield coached to know every assignment by position coach Anthony Campanile.
“All of our cornerbacks know the defense really well,” senior Isaac Yiadom said. “All of our guys know how to play every position (in the backfield), which is something that Coach Campanile really brought to us in the offseason. Everyone can play a lot faster because they know what everyone’s job is supposed to be. It’s a great advantage.”
Yiadom is one of the star attractions on a secondary competing head-to-head against some of college football’s best offenses. As a starting left cornerback, he led the team in 2016 with 10 pass breakups, adding 17 unassisted tackles and two tackles for losses. He particularly shined in the Quick Lane Bowl, where he recorded three tackles in the victory over Maryland.
Yiadom’s athleticism contrasts with his counterpart at right corner, Kamrin Moore. Moore posted 43 tackles last year, including 33 unassisted stops, defending seven passes and recording the first two interceptions of his career. Of those picks, the first sealed BC’s victory against NC State, a watershed victory en route to bowl eligibility. A big, physical presence, he enters his senior year with 90 career tackles.
When different packages call for different defensive backs, the Eagles have depth. Taj-Amir Torres played in all 13 games last year and recorded 13 tackles, including four against Syracuse. Lukas Denis played in 11 games and recorded the interception to end BC’s bowl-clinching victory against Wake Forest. Will Harris started every game at strong safety, posting six pass deflections to go along with two interceptions and 47 tackles. Gabriel McClary recorded 21 tackles, including 16 solo, making four starts in all 13 games played.
But statistics only reveal so much. If a defensive back is padding statistics, it’s because an opposing offense is targeting a particular area instead of a particular mismatch or blown assignment. Through their communication, one player’s pass defense becomes the result of setting up a receiver for a different assignment even if it doesn’t look that way before the snap.
“There’s a lot of stuff you can study, game-plan wise, based on alignments and splits,” senior linebacker Connor Strachan said of the defensive mindset. “In our coverage, it works as a unit. In man coverage, you’re playing man-to-man, so there’s times where you’ve got one guy and it’s just a question of who’s better. Then there’s times where you have an idea of what kind of route they’re running and you have help over here or behind you so you kind of reroute them and force them (to an area).”
For the defensive backs, that type of preparation and communication helps them attack each week. Five of their ACC Atlantic Division opponents rated in the top 40 nationally in passing offense last year, including two (Clemson and Syracuse) in the top 15. Despite that, the Eagles still finished ninth nationally in total defense, ranking 28th against the pass.
“Awareness helps you play a lot faster,” Yiadom said. “You need to know where your help is. Before the snap, you see a certain formation and see a certain receiver. You know that if the play reads a certain way, you can ask a linebacker who is in a deep hole for help, and they can help you. It helps you play so much faster.
“When you make a great play, it feels good to make that play,” he continued. “You feel good because of how everything – preparation, awareness, being in the right spot – came together to let you execute.”
Practice Notes: The Boston College football team went through a non-contact practice Friday as the team put in the final prep work prior to Saturday’s scrimmage … the Eagles wore just spiders (no shoulder pads) and helmets as they focused on the fundamentals during the two-hour practice … Scouts from the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers attended Friday’s practice … BC has its second scrimmage of the preseason Saturday morning.