During Wednesday afternoon’s Boston College spring football preview press conference, head coach Steve Addazio announced that linebackers coach Bill Sheridan will take over for Jim Reid as the team’s defensive coordinator. Reid—who occupied the position from 2016 to 2018—will remain on staff as BC’s defensive ends coach.
“Bill has got a great background, tremendous background as a coordinator in the NFL, been in every major college program, but has coordinated at the Tampa Bay Bucs, coordinated at the New York Giants, and he’s going to do a fantastic job here with our defense,” Addazio said, per BCEagles.com.
When Reid was hired back in 2016, he had some pretty big shoes to fill. Although the Eagles finished 3-9 and, infamously, 0-8 in ACC play the previous season, the vacant defensive coordinator position wasn’t a byproduct of poor performance. In fact, Don Brown—hired away to be Michigan’s defensive coordinator—had just led a BC defense that ranked first in total defense (254.6 yards per game) and fourth in points allowed (15.2). But, over the course of the last three years, Reid has struggled to maintain the unit’s prestige.
Since the 68-year-old, who also served as BC’s defensive coordinator in 1994, has returned to Chestnut Hill, the Eagles’ defense has only regressed: BC conceded 314.2 yards per game in 2016, 382.8 yards per game in 2017, and 402.3 yards per game in 2018. Of course, that’s not to say that Reid’s defenses haven’t had talent. While defensive coordinator, the Medford, Mass. native saw five of his players selected in the NFL Draft—and five more could very well hear their names called this April. As a whole, though, the unit was hardly consistent.
In what’s likely a make-or-break year, Addazio decided to make a change. That’s where Sheridan comes in. Prior to arriving at BC last spring, the longtime NFL assistant spent 13 straight years in the pros, coaching for an array of teams. After a lengthy collegiate career—one that started and ended at Michigan but included a total of six stops—Sheridan was hired as the New York Giants’ linebackers coach. It was there that he had his most success. After four seasons and a Super Bowl XLII victory, Sheridan was hand picked by Tom Coughlin to replace Steve Spagnuolo as the team’s defensive coordinator. The promotion was short-lived, however. Sheridan was fired the ensuing January after the Giants lost eight of their last 11 games, a stretch in which they gave up 40-plus points five times.
It wasn’t long before Sheridan got another gig in the NFL, as the Miami Dolphins brought him in to coach inside linebackers prior to the start of the 2010 season. Two years later, he earned another shot at a defensive coordinator job, this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Once again, though, Sheridan failed to make his mark. In his two seasons with the team, Tampa Bay ranked 11th or worse in scoring defense, reason for owner Malcolm Glazer to can the defensive coordinator, along with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and head coach Greg Schiano.
Before heading back to the college ranks, Sheridan spent three years as the linebackers coach of the Detroit Lions, making two trips to the postseason in the process. Having experienced plenty of turnover himself, the defensive specialist isn’t fazed by the Eagles’ depleted roster.
“We’ve got seven positions wide open,” Sheridan told reporters during the presser. “I’m encouraging all of our positions coaches, when we start practicing on Saturday, to get everybody in—rotate guys through. We don’t have to play Virginia Tech at the end of the month. We’re not getting ready for them. We want to see who can play football.”
BC rounded out 2018 with a school-record 13 All-ACC selections, but only two are returning for next season and neither are on the defensive side of the ball. There are five players on the Eagles’ defense that have started at least one collegiate game, but Sheridan only sees four of them—Tanner Karafa, Brandon Sebastian, Isaiah McDuffie (out for the spring with knee injury), and Max Richardson—as guaranteed starters. That said, he stressed that the depth chart is practically interchangeable, at least throughout the duration of spring ball.
Not only will Sheridan be working with a host of first-time starters, but he’ll also be joined by Eric Lewis, the Eagles’ new defensive backs coach, who is replacing Anthony Campanile. While everyone works out the offseason kinks, Sheridan emphasized the importance of daily improvement. As far as Xs and Os are concerned, he spoke of the Eagles’ weakness on third down this past season. In 2018, BC’s opponents converted on 37.4 percent of their third downs (49th in the nation). With no telling how the Eagles will fare in the turnover department, Sheridan believes getting off the field early and often is a must.
Sheridan’s defensive scheme has yet to be revealed. One thing’s for certain: he isn’t picking favorites—position battles will be settled nowhere but the field.
“The stuff about having a voice and being a leader and all that,” he said. “You know what’s the most important thing?” That they are absolutely lining up and kicking the crap out out the people they are playing on the field, not how cool they talk when everybody huddles up at the end of practice.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Senior Staff