Football, Top Story

Program-Record-Breaking 13 Eagles Receive All-ACC Honors

Boston College football celebrated 21 student-athletes who were suiting up for their final game inside Alumni Stadium this past Saturday as part of the team’s annual Senior Day. Of those 21 players, 10 earned All-ACC honors on Monday afternoon. The Eagles’ senior class—a group that could easily send at least five players to the upcoming NFL Draft—made up the bulk of BC’s 13 All-ACC nominations, the second most in the conference behind three-time defending league champion Clemson.

The 13 All-ACC selections, including a school-best four First Teamers, is four more than the program has ever boasted in a single season, surpassing BC’s previous record of nine, which was set in 2007, 2008, 2013, and 2017. The batch of Eagles is headlined by A.J. Dillon, Chris Lindstrom, Tommy Sweeney, and Hamp Cheevers, all of whom earned a spot on the First Team.

For the second year in a row, Dillon was rated as one of the two best running backs in the conference by the 46 media members and the league’s 14 head coaches that participated in the voting process. The sophomore entered the 2018 campaign as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year with Heisman Trophy aspirations, but suffered an ankle injury in Week Five that sidelined him for two weeks and has since curtailed his production. Even so, Dillon racked up 1,108 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground this season, joining Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Pittsburgh’s Qadree Ollison as the only three ACC backs to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark this year.

Part of the reason why he was able to average 4.9 yards per carry and bruise past opposing defenses was because of BC’s offensive line—and it all started with Chris Lindstrom. Over the course of the past four years, the right guard has started 47 games for the Eagles, offering a kind of stability in the trenches that, at times, has been unrivaled by his fellow linemen. This year, he was the team’s highest-graded O-Lineman, having allowed zero sacks and just three quarterback hurries. Lindstrom fires out of his stance, is a powerful blocker, and has showcased the ability to pick up second-level defenders. Not to mention the fact that he’s spent time at both guard and tackle during his BC tenure, making him all the more versatile offensive lineman.

Blocking alongside Lindstrom for a great deal of the season was Sweeney—a Mackey Award semifinalist who has logged 340-plus receiving yards and three or more touchdowns for the third-consecutive year. Once again one of the Eagles’ most reliable targets, the senior stretched the field, especially down the seam, and beat even the most athletic linebackers in the ACC. He is the frontman of BC’s five tight end attack and will likely hear his name called come April.

As far as statistics go, Cheevers stole the spotlight on the other side of the ball. Like Lukas Denis in 2017, Cheevers seemed to simply be in the right place at the right time this season, intercepting seven passes—a mark that is currently tied for the nation lead. The junior cornerback isn’t just a ballhawk, though. In fact, he’s one of the best at his position as far as lockdown defense is concerned. As of Nov. 1, Cheevers had only allowed 19 receptions, 65 yards after the catch, and was posting a 90.0 PFF College rating, the fourth highest in the nation.

Perhaps the biggest First Team snub was defensive end Zach Allen, who some have pegged as as a top-10 NFL Draft pick. The senior was eight voting points shy of Brian Burns, a Florida State edge rusher that tallied 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss this season. Nevertheless, the Second-Team honor hardly diminishes Allen’s final year on the Heights. A do-it-all defensive end, the New Canaan, Conn. native stuffed the run, piled up 6.5 sacks, batted down seven passes, picked off another, and blocked two kicks, rounding out as complete of a season as it gets for a defensive lineman.

Michael Walker was BC’s only other Second Teamer. The senior—who despite coughing up the ball four times this year—finished the season ranking seventh and 22nd in punt and kick return average, respectively, even taking one back to the house against No. 2 Clemson, handing the Eagles their lone lead of the College GameDay-featured contest. Like last year, the wide receiver frequently gifted BC with good field position on a week-to-week basis, leading the nation in combined kick return yards (1,294) for the second-straight season.

Aaron Monteiro, Will Harris, Connor Strachan, Wyatt Ray, and Ray Smith all landed on the All-ACC Third Team for the first time in their careers. The past few years, Monteiro has been a mainstay at the left tackle position, coupling with Lindstrom to withstand the injury bug that plagued the unit throughout the 2017 season—against Syracuse, the senior O-Lineman made his 31st-consecutive start. There’s no denying that Harris is BC’s biggest hitter, and Strachan bounced back from a torn ACL with a team-leading, 91-tackle campaign. When it comes to Wyatt Ray and Ray Smith, the two defensive linemen have often flown on the radar, particularly the latter who—like most nose tackles—performs the brunt work in the trenches. Ray ended the year with nine sacks, 1.5 fewer than league-leading Clelin Ferrell.

Jon Baker and Ben Petrula snuck in as All-ACC honorable mentions, bolstering an already-acclaimed offensive line. When all was said and done, four of the Eagles’ five starting O-Linemen received conference honors on Monday afternoon, emerging as BC’s most highly regarded position group, at least by ACC voting metrics.

The talent is undeniable—the Eagles have more star power than just about every team in the conference, aside from Clemson. Regardless of if BC wins its bowl game and finally records an eight-win season or limps to another 7-6 finish, this iteration of Eagles will go down as the one of the most skilled groups in program history.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

November 26, 2018