Edge rushers Allen, Ray create dominant pass rush duo for Boston College

first_imgBoston College senior defensive end Zach Allen loves sacking dual threat quarterbacks like Eric Dungey. He relishes the challenge.“They’re harder to catch,” he said.Allen, a projected first round pick, returned to BC after a stellar junior campaign — he was one of two defensive linemen to record 100 or more tackles — and is leading the Eagles defense from the trenches. Allen and BC (7-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast) host the No. 20 Syracuse Orange (8-3, 5-2) on Nov. 24. It was a “risk” for Allen to return to Chestnut Hill, defensive coordinator Jim Reid said. Had he declared for the draft, Allen likely would have been picked in the early rounds. But Allen decided the “NFL will still be there next year,” he said at BC’s media day in August. He was right. CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso ranked the 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive lineman the 11th best prospect in the 2019 draft class last week. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn 11 games this season, Allen has recorded 56 tackles (14.5 for loss), 6.5 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, seven pass breakups (second on the team), two blocked field goals, two fumble recoveries and an interception. He typically lines up as an edge rusher, but plays anywhere from the “nine” (outside the tight end) to the “zero” (over center) position, he said.Allen has all the tools, his teammates and coaches said. He’s versatile, physical, fast and has good hands. His go-to move at the point of attack is to use his power, he said. Offensive lineman Aaron Monteiro, who has tried to block him in practice for the past four years, said he has no weaknesses. In last week’s 22-21 loss to Florida State, Allen made six tackles, recorded a sack, deflected a pass and used his power to bull rush the offensive line and block a field goal in the first quarter. On almost every snap, the Seminoles double teamed him, but he still disrupted the passing and running game.Reid points to Allen’s instincts as what makes him a special defensive end. “He’s got a great sense, a unique ability, to have awareness,” Reid said. “He can stop the run, he can stop the pass. He can bat the ball down and rush the passer.”Last week, the broadcasting crew of Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht compared Allen to Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt. They have almost identical builds (they’re both 6-foot-5, and Watt is listed as four pounds heavier) and have similarly brutish playing styles, while also excelling at swatting passes at the line of scrimmage. Over the summer, Allen said he studied a lot of Watt film. “He’s fast,” defensive end Wyatt Ray said. “Not just fast for a guy that size, but he’s just fast in general. He plays a really good leverage, uses his hands well. Any time you got D-linemen with size like that and who use their hands like Zach does, he’s going to be pretty darn awesome.”Ray, who was Allen’s freshman year roommate, bookends the BC defensive line opposite Allen. Ray, not Allen, leads the Eagles in sacks with nine. “Seeing him go about his craft has kind of rubbed off on me,” Ray said. “And I think, in a lot of ways, playing alongside Zach has made me a better player and the player I am today.”Last year, then-senior defensive end Harold Landry, who now plays for the Tennessee Titans, missed four games with an injury. Ray started in his place, making five tackles in three of his four starts. The two seniors present a challenge to opposing offenses: Containing two elite pass rushers.Allen and Ray have combined for 15.5 of the team’s 31 sacks, and BC has forced 25 turnovers, tied for sixth-most in the country (Syracuse is tied for third with 26). One area the Eagles defense could be vulnerable, BC head coach Steve Addazio predicted before the season, is defending third down runs. They struggled in that facet last year, Addazio said, because their pass rushers raced too far up the field in dime blitz packages, opening holes and having smaller personnel on the field.Since Addazio diagnosed the problem in the preseason, BC has improved in third down defense. This year, BC’s opponents have converted 36.2 percent of their third downs, 41st-lowest in the country. The Eagles pass rush, which starts with Allen and Ray on the edges, is a big part of that improvement.On Saturday, whether Allen is zeroing in on dual-threat quarterback Dungey or more pass-centric Tommy DeVito, he’ll make an imprint on the outcome one way or another. “Zach’s kind of maniacal about everything,” Addazio said. “I mean he wants to be the best, which is a great thing. So it’s fun to be around him and watch him.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on November 23, 2018 at 12:14 pm Contact Danny: dremerma@syr.edu | @DannyEmermanlast_img