Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's the defense's share of the blame?

Boston College's football team is bad -- very bad.  That doesn't just happen by accident, and seeing as how we're on an express train to an 8-10 loss season, there is plenty of blame to go around.  For the most part, I've spent a number of articles piling on the offense (which is legitimately one of the worst in the country), but when you've got a team spiraling out of control like the Eagles, you have to look elsewhere as well.  I've been wondering: what has the BC defense contributed to this unfolding disastrous season?

Certainly, the defense isn't as bad as the offense (because that would be pretty damn hard to do), but lately they've been folding up.  For starters, there's a cushion and a mighty big one.  This, of course, is a staple of a Spaziani defense and the hallmark of the "bend but don't break" team.  Our corners play way, way, way off the receivers at times and allow big chunks of yardage.  Weber State exposed BC right in Week 1, and pretty much every team since then has stuck to the gameplan of going right at BC's weakness.  Second, the pass rush is just not very good.  BC is doing ever so slightly better in the sack department this year, but BC is not the kind of defense to continually dial up the heat on the opposing QB.

My third point, which ties back to the first two, is that the coaches have overall made few adjustments (or such ineffective ones that one wouldn't even notice while watching the game).  BC tried to do that on defense this past weekend, at least I think they did, but the net result was still sub-par.  In any event, they appear to have one game plan every week, and it's conservative.  I'm sure it has occurred to you BC folk that every game now goes exactly the same -- the same mistakes happen repeatedly every Saturday (on both sides of the ball).  That, of course, all funnels back to what I think the most major problem with this team is: the coaching staff.

Now I'd like you to take a look at these defensive statistics compared with last year:

Total defense
2009: 327.62 (26th in FBS, 4th in ACC)
2010: 333.2 (39th in FBS, 5th in ACC)

Scoring defense
2009: 19.77 (T-19th in FBS, 3rd in ACC)
2010: 25.4 (66th in FBS, 10th in ACC)

Rushing defense
2009: 103.15 (14th in FBS, 2nd in ACC)
2010: 80.2 (5th in FBS, 1st in ACC)

Passing defense
2009: 224.46 (71st in FBS, 10th in ACC)
2010: 253 (T-101st in FBS, 12th in ACC)

Turnovers gained
2009: 23 (T-50th in FBS, 6th in ACC)
2010: 14 (12th in FBS, 1st in ACC)

Sacks per game
2009: 1.38 (103rd in FBS, 12th in ACC)
2010: 2 (T-58th in FBS, 8th in ACC)

In some respects, the 2010 defense is better, and in some respects, it's worse.  One note I will make about the rushing defense, however, is this: why would teams even bother to run on BC anymore?  There are plenty of yards to be had by carving up this soft cushion (as evidenced by BC's 100s ranking in that category).  NC State star QB Russell Wilson was the latest to pick BC apart.

Overall, looking at the body of work they've put together so far this year, I see an average defense; sometimes they look better than average, sometimes they look worse.  Some exceptional individual talent there, but as a unit, nothing to write home about.  One could blame the offense in part, as the time of possession stat gets more lopsided against BC each week.  I mean, if I had to keep going out there every two minutes following a BC 3-and-out, I'd probably be gassed after a while, too.  I think the coaching staff and their lousy schemes, however, bear significant responsibility for what we see out there.  That's not to say, of course, that the players aren't to blame, because they surely are, but only to the extent that they're being coached properly (and that is not a safe bet).

I'll tell you one person who ISN'T to blame, and that's Luke Kuechly.  As of today, he is #1 in the nation in tackles and solo tackles.  I maintain that he will win an ACC DPOY award before his time is through.

Nevertheless, when we consider the overall question of "how much of this team's struggles can we pin on the defense?," I think it's a minority share.  By no means are they an elite unit in college football, but they're in a tough spot with an offense that basically refuses to score and Charmin-soft pass coverage schemes.  In my view, however, when you're this bad, there's a little blame to go around to everyone, and right now, there are issues all around, including on the BC defense.  Some fans are quick to absolve them of any negative part in this miserable season, and since there are no points being scored anyway they're in a lose-lose situation, but in reality, no part of this team is completely blameless, including our once-vaunted D.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are overly generous in calling BC's defense average -- they are way below average. You are right that our rush defense is essentially irrelevant becaus no one is going to run when a) BC's run defense is good and b) our pass defense is horrible.

    If you include Wilson's scrambles with passing instead of rushing, NCSU threw/attempted to throw 70 times and ran (with backs other than Wilson) 14 times. In other words 83% of their offensive plays were pass plays.

    FSU will have a field day using the same M.O.

    The soft cushion is a joke. It is a defense that can work if you also have a high-powered offense, which we obviously lack, to score points or if you know the other team is a run-first team that can't really pass (like BC!!!)