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Virginia Tech Football: Previewing the Boston College Defense

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A struggling offensive unit for the Hokies will now have to cope with a Boston College defense that features a 6th ranked run defense.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Coordinator: Don Brown

Scoring Defense: 13th nationally (18.8 PPG)

Passing Defense: 38th nationally (208.4 YPG)

Rushing Defense: 6th nationally (91.4 YPG)

Front Seven:

The Virginia Tech running game finally showed signs of life in the second half of the Miami loss following six quarters of abysmal progress on the ground. Now the struggling unit, lead by freshman Marshawn Williams will host a top 10 run defense Saturday. Boston College ranks sixth in the defensive category nationally, surrendering a miniscule 91.4 rushing yards per game.

The Eagles front line is a mass of humanity, making life difficult for opposing running backs trying to break through their defensive wall. Senior lineman Brian Mihalik is a staggering 6'9", 295 pounds, while fellow linemen Truman Gutapfel and Connor Wujciak are both 6'3", 300 pounds. All three have registered 18 tackles this season, and the towering Mihalik has added three and a half sacks as well.

Linebacker Steven Daniels leads the Eagles defense in total tackles with 46, while also contributing a quarterback sack. Fellow linebacker Josh Keyes checks in with 42 tackles and four sacks for Boston College in eight games. The senior is also known for the intensity with which he hits opposing players. Rounding out the linebacker corps is junior Mike Strizak, who ranks third in total tackles for the Eagles with 28.

Defensive Backs:

The Boston College safety combo of junior Justin Simmons and senior Dominique Williams lead an underrated Eagles secondary. Simmons leads the secondary in both tackles with 46 and interceptions with two. Last week against Wake Forest he had a timely interception that helped preserve the Eagles 23-17 win. Williams is second in tackles for defensive backs on Boston College with 34 while also adding an interception.

Boston College has also gotten strong play from senior Manuel Asprilla and sophomore John Johnson with 31 and 25 tackles respectively. Junior Bryce Jones has also added 20 tackles and an interception for a pass defense that plays a solid, but not spectacular brand of defense.

Special Teams:

The place kicking game has been an area of concern for Boston College, and consistency has eluded the team thus far. The Eagles have used three players on kicking duties, and have missed a combined five field goals and five extra points. Senior punter Alex Howell converted the team's only field goal against Wake Forest and added two extra points. In 2014 he has only converted half of his field goal attempts, and is eight of nine on PAT attempts. Howell has been better at his native punting position with an average of 43.61 yards on 38 punts.

Punt returns have been handled by wide receiver Sherman Alston, who has turned eight returns into a meager 72 yards this season. Running back Myles Willis has returned the bulk of kickoffs for Boston College, collecting 451 return yards on 19 attempts.

Outlook:

Injuries and questionable play calling have halted the Virginia Tech running attack in recent weeks. A returning Marshawn Williams had a quiet first half against Miami, but finished with 100 yards albeit with a costly fumble. To find success against Boston College, Williams and the Hokies need to find an answer to the big front four of the Eagles, a unit allowing under 100 yards per game this season. The Virginia Tech play calling has also underutilized receiver Isaiah Ford, and the tight end combination of Bucky Hodges and Ryan Malleck. Being able to stretch the field through the air will be a key for the Hokie offense.