Sports, Football

Eagles Focus On Speed, Versatility In Revamp of Linebackers Corps

With last season’s linebacking corps cleaned out due to the departure of Max Richardson, Isaiah McDuffie, and John Lamot, Boston College football has had to turn to a host of new faces in the second level.

Head coach Jeff Hafley and his staff pulled in a promising pair of transfers in former Florida State safety and linebacker hybrid Jaiden Lars-Woodbey and graduate linebacker transfer Isaiah Graham-Mobley from Temple. BC also secured near-consensus four-star linebacker recruit Bryce Steele, who enrolled early and has participated in spring practice with 11 of his counterparts in the 2021 recruiting class.

The Eagles have also looked internally to fill the void. Kam Arnold appeared sparingly in all 11 games last season at safety, but he has moved to linebacker this spring.

“He feels pretty natural, it’s a natural progression for him, he’s been doing a great job so far,” BC linebacker coach Sean Duggan said during Thursday’s weekly press conference. “He comes in, gets to work, always asked really good questions, so he’s been a really pleasant surprise this spring.” 

Arnold notched 15 tackles and one tackle for loss as a freshman last season. He was one of the first commitments Hafley secured after the new head coach’s arrival on the Heights.

“I felt this year was going to be a big year for me,” Arnold said. “I think I was going to grow, and I think I could really take on a bigger role. I felt that I could give more to the team, so [linebacker] was a great opportunity. It was a perfect time, too, in the spring.”

College football defenses have utilized more fast, versatile players in recent years as defensive coordinators work to keep up with the pace and wide-open play that has become the go-to for many offenses. Linebackers have become a key area in this transition, with big, north-south style run stoppers being phased out in favor of quicker athletes with better coverage abilities. 

The Eagles have largely stayed apart from this trend in the linebacking corps so far. While McDuffie was a top-notch athlete, he often struggled in pass coverage, and neither Lamot nor Richardson had the speed to reliably track slot receivers. 

Arnold’s position change, as well as the addition of Lars-Woodbey and Steele, prove that Hafley and his staff are looking to bring more speed and versatility to the defense. Steele was classified as an athlete out of high school, and Hafley raved about his size and speed in his signing day press conference. Scouts praised his ability to line up at either safety or linebacker. 

Lars-Woodbey demonstrated similarly flexible abilities during his career at Florida State. He lined up at the safety and linebacker hybrid position in the Seminoles’ defense known as the “star” that required him to both drop deep into coverage and line up in the box. 

Size and speed were two of the main attributes Hafley said he looked at when evaluating recruits, which he addressed in his signing day press conference, and that philosophy seems pervasive throughout the program. 

“We’ll figure out where they’re best to play, but these are athletes with size [and] length that can run, and that’s really important,” Hafley said in December.

While it is unknown whether Arnold’s switch to linebacker will help the Eagles this fall, he said that it has changed his life in at least one way already.

“It changed my diet a little bit, you know, last year I was playing safety, I had to be a little lighter,” he said. “So my proportions would be lighter, everything but now I can, you know, relax a little bit, have a little bit here and there.”

Featured Image by Anthony Garro Courtesy of BC Athletics

April 16, 2021