SU all but eliminated themselves from bowl contention with last week’s blowout loss to Louisville, but there’s still something to play for this weekend versus Boston College. With a win, SU can improve to 5-7, which would be a one-win improvement from last season. The victory would also mark the third straight win over the Eagles, something Syracuse hasn’t been able to do since 1998. It’s not going to be an easy W for SU though. BC comes into the game winners of four of its last five and has beaten the likes of Florida State and Louisville so far this season. With that being said, next up in our three players to watch series, let’s take a look into the eye of the Eagles and meet three Boston College players to watch on Saturday.
Normally, this is the spot where I’d tell you about the outstanding quarterback that’s going to be lining up against the Syracuse defense. Well, not this week. BC’s starting quarterback, Anthony Brown, is out for the rest of the season after injuring himself versus NC State two weeks ago. Also, Brown wasn’t even the best player on the offensive side for the Eagles. AJ Dillon is. A true freshman, Dillon is the lead back for an Eagles attack that is predicated on grounding and pounding you with their talented backs and offensive line. A few years ago Andre Williams was a Heisman candidate for BC, then it was Jon Hilliman. Now it’s Dillon and boy has he been impressive. The #1 recruit in Massachusetts last year and the #20 running back in the country, Dillon has rushed for over 1,200 yards so far this season, averaging just under 113 yards per game. A big reason he’s put up fantastic numbers this season is that his style is so different from most other running backs in the ACC. While other backs use their agility and quickness to gash opposing defenses, Dillon simply runs you over. The dude is massive at 6 feet, 240 pounds and will ground and pound you into submission. But don’t let his size fool you. Once he’s lulled you to sleep with the power run game, he’ll turn on the afterburners and run right by you. Case and point? His 75-yard touchdown run (part of a 272-yard, four-touchdown game). With that combination of power and speed, Dillon is one of the most dangerous backs in the country and shouldn’t be overlooked this weekend.
The Boston College offensive line is a force to be reckoned with, but they also aren’t the only guys that are blocking for the superstar that AJ Dillon has become. Tommy Sweeney is the top tight end for this Boston College offense and his blocking ability outside the tackles has been crucial for the run-heavy attack that BC operates out of. Standing at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds he’s got the perfect size to operate as a block-first tight end in BC’s scheme. However, that’s not the only thing he can do. His 350 receiving yards are ranked second on the team and his three touchdowns lead the team. With those receptions come a big-play ability that you don’t usually see out of a block-first tight end. The junior averages nearly 13 yards per reception, the best mark on the team for anybody that has caught more than one pass. His best asset for catching passes lies in the deception that the BC offense can use at times. Just when the Eagles have the opposing defense thinking run, they’ll hit them with a play-action pass and leak Sweeney off the line and into space where he can get big chunks of plays without being touched. BC won’t pass the ball very much on Saturday, but look for Sweeney to make a difference both through the air and on the ground.
With Dontae Strickland once again questionable heading into the game this weekend, SU is probably going to have to rely on the aerial attack to take down a stout BC defense, even if it is without Eric Dungey. Because of that reason, Lukas Denis is one of the guys to watch on the defensive side of the ball. The junior free safety ranks third on the team with 74 tackles on the season, using his speed and quick-twitch athleticism to make sound tackles on opponents in the open field. While that tackling ability is impressive, it’s not Denis’s best asset. The Everett, Massachusetts native leads the Eagles with six interceptions and nine pass breakups on the season. The six picks are ranked second in the entire country and make him one of the most prolific ballhawks in the nation. He has an innate ability to make breaks on the ball and contest passes using his above average height and length for the safety position (5-foot-11). Year in and year out BC has one of the best defenses in the country and Denis is one of the leaders to watch out for the unit this coming Saturday.
There’s one other player we should probably mention here. Harold Landry is possibly the top edge rusher in the country and plays at an elite level every single week for Boston College. He leads the Eagles with 5 sacks on the season (in just 8 games) and has been rated by some evaluators as the top edge rushing prospect in this April’s 2018 draft. The only reason I didn’t make him an official part of this week’s three players to watch is because of his injury status. He has missed the last three games with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable for the game versus Syracuse on Saturday. However, if he is healthy and ready to go, watch for defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni (yes, the former SU head man) to employ Landry’s abilities early and often to disrupt whoever comes out under center for the Orange.