As with all other collegiate football programs, Boston College’s roster underwent some turnover in the offseason, with the Eagles’ two star linebackers Isaiah McDuffie and Max Richardson departing for the NFL. Head coach Jeff Hafley reloaded the defense with key transfers, and the Eagles are primed to build off their 25-sack campaign last season, behind a combination of strong leadership and eager newcomers.
Shitta Sillah and either Marcus Valdez or Donovan Ezeiruaku will start on both ends of the defensive line to begin 2021 for the Eagles. Valdez has been a mainstay on BC’s line since his redshirt freshman season in 2018, breaking out in 2019 with 9.5 tackles for loss and continuing his ascent junior year, with a career-high 37 tackles. Sillah also returns, coming off a 22-tackle, 2.5-sack sophomore campaign. Brandon Barlow backs up Sillah and has put up two strong seasons in 2019 and in 2020, amassing 10.5 tackles for loss in that span. Ezeiruaku, a freshman and three-star recruit from New Jersey, along with Jake Byczko, a graduate transfer from UMass, back up Valdez.
On the interior, Izaiah Henderson and Cam Horsley will be starting at nose tackle and defensive tackle, respectively. Following the news of returning starting DT Chibueze Onwuka’s season-ending Achilles injury in mid-August, the Eagles will be looking to the pair of sophomores—Henderson and Horsley—to fill that production. Henderson did not play last year due to injury. Horsley played in 11 games as a freshman, totaling 13 tackles. Also in the rotation are TJ Rayam and Khris Banks. Rayam has totaled 66 tackles in his four years at BC, including an impressive 41-tackle season in 2019, and Banks is a redshirt junior transfer from Temple, who posted 33 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss in 20 games for the Owls.
Known for his leadership at Temple, Isaiah Graham-Mobley will now be manning the center of the BC defense as a graduate transfer this season. With 151 total tackles at Temple across 34 games played, look for Graham-Mobley to be a significant contributor to the Eagles’ defense. Backing him up will be Joseph Sparacio, a redshirt junior with seven tackles for loss in 20 games played at BC.
Kam Arnold, a sophomore who played in all 11 games last year and totaled 15 tackles, will start at strong-side linebacker. Backing Arnold up will be redshirt junior Nick DeNucci and freshman Jaylen Blackwell, a three-star recruit.
Vinny DePalma is the Eagles’ starting weak-side linebacker after missing his redshirt sophomore season because of injury. Look for DePalma to build on his strong 2019 performance, in which he totaled 33 tackles, five tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Bryce Steele, a freshman four-star recruit and No. 34 outside linebacker in the 2021 class according to Rivals, will back up DePalma, along with Hugh Davis, a redshirt junior who has posted 13 tackles in 19 games as an Eagle.
Elijah Jones and Brandon Sebastian will start on the corners for BC, returning from last season. Both appeared in every game and each recorded 30-plus tackles a season ago. CJ Burton, a four-star recruit, backs up Jones, and JT Thompson, a graduate transfer from Southern Illinois, is also in the rotation.
Jaiden Woodbey, a graduate transfer out of Florida State, will start at strong safety for the Eagles, while Jason Maitre, a redshirt junior, will play at free safety. Maitre, with two interceptions and 68 tackles in 24 games, will be playing at free safety after playing cornerback previously for BC. Jahmin Muse and Mike Palmer back up Woodbey and Maitre.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor