Eagles Look to Shore up Rushing Defense at Clemson

Boston College football head coach Steve Addazio will get his first look at Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant when the Eagles travel to the Death Valley on Saturday. But Addazio already knows what to expect. After all, he says that he’s coached a guy just like him.

During Monday morning’s press conference, Addazio said that Bryant reminds him of former BC signal caller Tyler Murphy. Like Murphy, Bryant—the heir to Deshaun Watson—didn’t play as an underclassman. But in particular, Addazio sees quite a few similarities in the way that the two dual-threat quarterbacks run the ball.

So far this season, Bryant leads the No. 2 Tigers with five rushing touchdowns. His 162 yards on the ground are just 17 yards shy of lead running back and true freshman Travis Etienne. As a team, Clemson averages 253 rushing yards per game—an 86.7 yard increase from last season—on nearly 42 carries. And considering that BC gave up 515 rushing yards to Notre Dame this past weekend, there’s a good chance that head coach Dabo Swinney will continue to pound the rock on Saturday.

Against the Irish, BC allowed six rushing plays of over 30 yards, an uncharacteristic mistake for a team that is traditionally renowned for its rushing defense. According to Addazio, it was a matter of missing gaps and tackles, not losing the battle in the trenches.

“We had a breakdown of someone not being in the right gap,” Addazio said. “Or when a play hit the second level, we didn’t tackle well in the backend. And so the 12-yard gain became a 60-yard gain.”

Part of the problem was the Eagles’ severely depleted linebacking corps. With Connor Strachan out indefinitely with a knee injury, guys like Kevin Bletzer and Jimmy Martin were forced to step up. Addazio said that he’s concerned about the group’s depth, and is trying to do whatever he can to shore up the position. He even mentioned that running back Davon Jones will try his hand at linebacker this week in practice. It will be the third different position that Jones, who was recruited at defensive back, will play at BC.  

Addazio was more complimentary of his offense. The Eagles recorded their first 400-yard performance of the season against the Irish. Once again, BC ran its up-tempo offense, and quarterback Anthony Brown showed the ability to methodically move the ball down the field. But the Eagles continued to struggle where it matters the most: the red zone.

“We’re fifth in the country with the amount of plays we run right now,” Addazio said. “We’re up in that 90-category of plays. But what we’re not doing is getting enough touchdowns out of that right now. That’s something we need to work on.”

Addazio cited a handful of pre-snap penalties and the offense’s failed fourth-down conversion inside the Notre Dame 30-yard line at the start of the second half as issues that he plans to fix in the coming weeks.

BC will have to score touchdowns if it wants to contend with Clemson. Last year, the Eagles had the ball inside of the Tigers’ 25-yard line on three separate occasions in the first half. The offense only managed three points, allowing Clemson to run away with the game. By halftime, the Tigers were already up three scores, and when all was said and done, BC walked out of Alumni with a 46-point loss hanging over its head.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

September 18, 2017