When the Boston College defense took the field at the start of the 2018 season, all eyes were on defensive end Zach Allen. After flirting with entering the NFL Draft last season, Allen returned to the Heights to improve his draft stock.
Early in the season, other talent in the front seven such as Wyatt Ray began to make a case for the NFL Draft.
We should have realized, though, that their secondary would be rich with talent yet again.
During the 2015 season, Don Brown was the defensive coordinator for Boston College. Consistently in contention for the Broyles Award for best coordinator in the FBS, Brown coached the Boston College defense to a #1 ranking in the country.
The best player on that defense was safety Justin Simmons, a third round pick of the Broncos. He’s become one of the best safeties in the NFL, racking up 97 tackles and 3 interceptions this season.
Don Brown would leave after the 2015 season, but that’s when the Eagles hired defensive backs coach Anthony Campanile away from Rutgers.
In 2016, Campanile would coach up strong safety John Johnson. Johnson would be drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, and this season he would post 119 tackles and 4 interceptions. In the NFC Chamoionship game, it was Johnson who intercepted future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees in overtime, positioning the Rams to kick the game-winning field goal and earn a berth in the Super Bowl.
This trend of defensive back talent would continue during the 2017 season, as Campanile would mentor two cornerbacks; third-round pick Isaac Yiadom and sixth-rounder Kamrin Moore.
Yiadom appeared in 13 games in a rotational role as a rookie, with 1 interception and 3 passes defended. Denver will be looking at him to start next season as Tramaine Brock enters free agency.
Naturally, this season, Boston College has three draftable players in the secondary in Will Harris, Lukas Denis and Hamp Cheevers.
Harris competed at the Senior Bowl, having one of the best performances of all defensive backs. As a three-years starter at Boston College, Harris posted 225 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, 7 passes defended, and 6 fumble recoveries.
During Senior Bowl practices, Harris would have an interception in 1 on 1 periods while covering electric slot receiver Andy Isabella. During the Senior Bowl game, he would have a pass breakup on wide receiver Travis Fulgham.
At 6’1 and 207 pounds, Harris projects into a 2-high role who can cover tight ends, running backs, and play near the box. After the Senior Bowl, it’s reasonable to suggest that he’s the best prospect from the Boston College defense.
Cornerback Hamp Cheevers declared early for the NFL Draft after leading the country with 7 interceptions this season. Undersized at 5’10 and 180 pounds, he has the change of direction and ball skills to project into a nickel role at the next level.
Free safety Lukas Denis was more productive as a junior in 2017, a year that he had 7 interceptions, 10 passes defended and 83 total tackles. There are concerns over his open-field tackling, but his range on the backend is undeniable. There’s always a role for that type of player in a pass-happy league.
Coach Campanile is headed to Michigan to fill the role of defensive assistant, so there’s no telling if the string of NFL-level defensive backs from Boston College will continue.
Regardless, it’s trending as though Boston College will have seven defensive backs drafted over a four year span. For a school that isn’t exactly known for producing NFL players at an elite rate, that is an impressive feat.
While the “DBU” argument usually centers around schools such as Alabama, LSU, Florida State and Ohio State (and rightfully so), dont overlook Boston College’s candidacy with the volume they’ve produced over the last 4 years.