It’s important for Boston College’s defensive backs that they look good

As simple as it seems for a defensive back to keep his eyes trained on the receiver he’s guarding, it’s easy for the eyes to wander.

“You do not want to be a violator,” said Eagles strong safety Jahmin Muse. “You do not want to come in Sunday to be known as an eye violator. It’s not a good look.”

But it happens.

“It’s definitely happened to me,” Muse said.

To improve a pass defense that gave up the most yards in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season, the Eagles had to start with discipline. Last year, opponents threw for 3,711 yards against the Eagles. This season, BC is giving up just 234.2 yards per game.

“Eye discipline is one of the most important things in defensive football,” coach Jeff Hafley said in the run-up to Saturday night’s game at Virginia Tech. “Sometimes guys see too much, and they don’t see anything. If you really focus in and you see what you’re supposed to see, you wind up seeing so much more. A lot of guys say, ‘See a little, see a lot. See a lot, see little.’ And that’s so true.”

Many times, defensive backs pay the price for peeking at the quarterback.

“That’s usually when you get beat,” Hafley said. “And it’s hard. You have to be really disciplined with your eyes. And we constantly preach about it.”

The Eagles worked around injuries in the secondary. Safety Deon Jones was expected to return after missing last week’s game against Pitt with an elbow injury.

Muse said the group is more tightly knit than a year ago.

“The leadership has been completely different,” Muse said. “All the guys are taking accountability. A lot of guys are just open, not afraid to make mistakes. So that’s one big change from last year. A lot of guys aren’t tense and nervous. Guys are just playing football now.”

Working the clock

Building some sort of game-day routine hasn’t come easy for the Eagles. They’ve played five games at five different start times.

The 8 p.m. kickoff at Lane Stadium was the latest so far for the Eagles. Hafley said he’s still trying to get into a regular pattern before games.

“I think I’m getting better at it,” he said. “I try and loosen up with the same guy and throw the ball around a bit with the same guy. I know what time I talk to the refs before the game now.

“It’s still weird for me, not coaching a position in pregame. I usually have a ball in my hand to keep myself busy, and I’ll throw the ball to the DBs and wideouts. I’m getting a hang of it, but we haven’t had a game at the same time yet. I probably still have to get better at it, I’m working on it.”

The trip to Blacksburg was the Eagles’ second road trip of the season. They were able to test the ACC protocols and get a feel for how travel would work when they went to Durham, N.C,. for their season opener against Duke in September. Hafley downplayed how much that experience helped the second time around.

“We’re not going to make a big deal out of it,” Hafley said. “We look back at the Duke game, it was the first time we had an away game, this will be our second. We’ll keep looking at it every week and keep tweaking it to get it how we like it, but we’ll get our guys prepared this week, get them on the plane and to the hotel, hang out, enjoy each other, and prepare for the game and do the best we can.

“It’s different, you can’t eat on the plane, you have your mask on, and there’s some little things that go into it, but it is what it is and our guys will push through.”

Getting the call

After throwing for two touchdowns and running for another last week against North Carolina, Virginia Tech quarterback Herndon Hooker made his first start of the season … Since the start of the season, the Hokies have been playing with a depleted roster due to COVID-19-related reasons. Twenty-three players missed the season opener against North Carolina State. The following week, 21 players were held out against Duke. Last week, 15 players missed their game against North Carolina.


Julian Benbow can be reached at [email protected]

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