Following the 2018 season, it was easy to make the case that Boston College football was not only an O-Line U but also a DBU. After all, the Eagles had just watched their fifth defensive back in the past four years hear their name called in the NFL Draft.
But with the departure of defensive backs coach Anthony Campanile and the loss of the four key members of the secondary, BC’s backend took a big step back this past season. The Eagles finished the season ranked 122nd in the country and last in the ACC in pass defense (285.5 yards allowed per game). Head coach Jeff Hafley is trying to make sure that 2019 was just a blip on the radar, and he’s hiring Massachusetts defensive coordinator Aazaar Abdul-Rahim to help him rediscover BC’s success defending against the pass.
“Aazaar is one of the top recruiters in college football and will be a tremendous addition to our program,” Jeff Hafley told BCEagles.com. “Aazaar is what we are all about: he has high character and is someone who loves people. We are excited to add a great football coach like Aazaar to our BC football family.”
In addition to fulfilling the defensive coordinator duties at UMass, Abdul-Rahim was also the Minutemen’s cornerbacks coach. UMass allowed 52.7 points per game, the most in the nation, marking the third time in the last four years the Minutemen have rounded out the season in the bottom 20 in scoring defense. That said, UMass was better against the pass than the run during the 2019 campaign. The Minutemen conceded 262.1 yards per game through the air, clocking out at 109th nationally in that department—13 spots higher than BC.
It was at Maryland, though, that Abdul-Rahim made a name for himself, as both a coach and a recruiter. The Washington, D.C. native spent three years in College Park developing defensive backs, including All-Big Ten honorees Darnell Savage Jr. and Antoine Brooks Jr. (2017 and 2018), JC Jackson (2017), and Tino Ellis (2018).
In 2018, Abdul-Rahim exclusively coached the Maryland cornerbacks. He was instrumental in helping Ellis transition from playing wide receiver to becoming one of the Terrapins’ best corners. Additionally, he mentored RaVon Davis, a former walk-on, and Rayshad Lewis, who also started his college career as a wideout. Collectively, the secondary proved to be the brightest spot on a 5-7 Maryland team. In fact, the Terrapins recorded 18 interceptions on the year, the fifth most in the FBS.
The previous season, Maryland’s secondary flashed ball-hawking tendencies over the course of the year. When all was said and done, the Terrapins logged 10 interceptions in 2017, at the time the most in program history since 2003. It was that same year that Abdul-Rahim helped Maryland recruit nine of the state’s top 20 players. As a result, 247Sports ranked him as a top-25 recruiter in the nation and the fifth best Big Ten recruiter for the 2017 class. Abdul-Rahim received similar praise the next year as the conference’s seventh best recruiter.
Before joining the Maryland staff in 2016, he found himself in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Working under legendary head coach Nick Saban, Abdul-Rahim began his college coaching career as a defensive analyst in 2014. Entering the ensuing season, he was promoted and named the assistant director of player personnel.
Abdul-Rahim, a San Diego State alum, picked up the clipboard and started coaching in 2004 when he founded Friendship Collegiate Academy’s high school football program. As the head coach from 2004 to 2013, he helped more than 100 players earn scholarships and continue their football careers at the next level.
The 43-year-old is staying in Massachusetts, but his recruiting efforts in the D.C. area will surely come in handy at BC—the Eagles had six players from Maryland on their 2019 roster, including standout running back David Bailey.
Featured Image by Michael Conroy / AP Photo