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Syracuse vs. Boston College: Breaking down the Orange defense

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SU followed up their stellar performance against Virginia Tech with another strong effort Saturday vs. Boston College.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday, the Syracuse Orange defense allowed just 13 points and 287 of total offense. We knew Boston College wasn’t much of an offensive threat coming into the game, but it was good to see the boys build off of last week’s effort with another dominant outing. All three levels were in sync and BC never found the rhythm they needed to swing the game in their favor.

Boston College is a run-heavy, pro-style offense that utilizes a lot of 21 (2 backs, 1 tight end) and 22 (2 backs, 2 tight ends) personnel to pound the rock, but mixes some spread elements into their attack. As expected, Syracuse regularly loaded the box with eight and nine men to combat those big personnel sets. In these types of games, the linebackers and safeties are getting the majority of the work and whenever this SU defense can rely on Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett, that’s a huge bonus for them.

I loved the way every level of the defense was up to task and this week I took particular look at how each group worked together to keep the game in front of them.

Secondary

Starting on the back-end, the secondary probably had the easiest job on Saturday: protect against the play-action pass and contain the run. I always hated these kinds of games because I knew there wouldn’t be many passes, and I would probably be more involved taking on pulling linemen and tight-ends against the run. In these situations, cornerbacks are tasked with keeping their outside arm and leg free and setting a hard edge up the field to contain an perimeter plays.

There weren’t many opportunities downfield and the near-interception by freshman Scoop Bradshaw was just another example of how solid coverage was all day. On the long TD run in the third quarter, Chris Frederick had bad eyes and poor technique, causing him to lose focus on his assignment. These are the small details this secondary has to keep working on, otherwise teams like Clemson and Florida State will exploit them with ease. Overall, the effort was solid but we’ll really see where this group is in a couple weeks when the Orange head down to Death Valley.

Linebackers

Games against run-first teams like BC are real grinders that require smart and tough LBs to read the run. BC managed a couple chunk plays on the perimeter and up the middle, but their offense was largely contained most of the game. Individually, Franklin is putting on a show this season. Some of the plays he’s making this year are incredible, and I’m really proud to see him improve his game year to year. The entire group is doing a great job shedding blocks and getting in on tackles, and the total tackle competition between Franklin and Bennett is an interesting one (Bennett currently leads 55 to 53). My money is on Zaire but at this point it’s still very up in the air.

Defensive Line

This group doesn’t get enough credit. Chris Slayton and the gang kept pressure on Patrick Towles all game and never let him get comfortable in the pocket, regularly forcing him to use his legs to make a play. Josh Black’s second down sack on BC’s final drive of the fourth quarter was a game-changing play and anytime you can get pressure on the quarterback with just a four-man rush, it’s a huge plus for any defense. Against run heavy teams, having the ability to close gaps and take up space makes life so much easier on your linebackers and safeties, and this weekend I think the D-Line made a real impact on the game. With so much youth along the line, this group has immense potential.

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With two weeks to prepare, I think this group will ready to play when the Orange match up with the Clemson Tigers on October 5. If they can continue to create turnovers and be as effective on third down as they have been these past two weeks (BC and Virginia Tech combined to go 8-for-26 on third), this defense will give the Orange a real chance to make it a fourth quarter game.

What are your thoughts on the Orange’s defensive performance this week?