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Which Recruits Have the Best Chance at Being Stars?

On Wednesday, BC Football head coach Jeff Hafley announced the 2021 Recruiting Class for next season. In total, Hafley recruited 25 student-athletes across ten states and Washington D.C., as well as one from Serbia. 

When it was all said and done, ESPN ranked BC’s 2021 class at No. 38 overall, their highest-ranked recruiting class since 2006. 247 Sports had the Eagles at No. 39, while Rivals had them at No. 34. 

Recruiting as a first year head coach can be difficult, but securing commitments under a global pandemic, when NCAA and school regulations  prevented recruits from stepping foot on campus, is a whole other ball game. 

It wasn’t just Hafley guiding the recruiting process; the Eagles have some elite recruiters under defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and linebackers coach Sean Duggan, to name a few. 

Hafley proved that he can also become an elite recruiter, acquiring some high profile recruits and some under-the-radar talents that can quickly become contributors on the Heights for years to come. 

Let’s take a look at which recruits may have the biggest impact on the field:

Defensive Back Clinton Burton Jr. 

The highest-rated recruit out of the bunch, Burton Jr. has the chance to be an absolute stud for BC, thanks to his natural quickness and size that will shutdown the best of receivers in the ACC. He is the No. 74 best prospect overall in the class and the No. 3 cornerback in the country, by ESPN’s standards. 

Burton Jr., a four-star recruit, was originally committed to Florida before the Eagles flipped him ahead of some elite schools. That says a lot about both Hafley and Abdul-Rahim’s recruiting abilities to convince a prospect of his caliber to leave a perennially ranked SEC powerhouse to come to BC.

DBs Brandon Sebastian and Josh DeBerry both had solid seasons for the Eagles this past year and will likely return to those starting roles next season. However, I think it will be hard for Hafley or DC Tem Lukabu to ignore Burton Jr.’s immense talent, likely incorporating him into the defensive scheme in some way.

Offensive Lineman  Illija Krajnovic 

Krajnovic, standing at a towering 6-8, 325 lbs, played his ball at the famous high school powerhouse IMG Academy in Florida, but he originally hails from Zrenjanin, Serbia. 

Krajnovic only recently got into football and is more of a project than any other recruit on this list.  However, he has a really high upside with that size and willingness to learn; offensive line coach Matt Applebaum says Krajnovic, “has improved his football skills quickly since coming to the U.S.” and will continue to get better by fully throwing himself into the game.

With last year’s highly rated offensive line recruiting class and his lack of experience with playing football, it’s unlikely Krajnovic factors into the mix next season. He will continue to learn the game more through his teammates and Applebaum, but once he’s ready, BC should have themselves a big addition to an already-stellar o-line. 

Linebacker Owen McGowan 

One of two players from Massachusetts, McGowan has had a fantastic past two seasons playing his ball in Canton, recording Catholic League MVP in 2019, helping him jump up to the No. 4 rated recruit in the state. 

Tackling has been an issue for the Eagles in the past, but it doesn’t seem to be one with McGowan who surpassed 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons. He is a big hitter who will pursue the ball at all costs and play the game at “100 mph.” The Eagles sorely need this kind of motor on the defense.

Linebacker is an area of weakness for the Eagles right now. Though Isaiah McDuffie and Max Richardson can return to the defense thanks to the newly-revised NCAA policy, they won’t be here for much longer and there’s not much depth behind them. I can see McGowan becoming a key starter after next year and developing his skills to become a force on the field.

Safety Bryce Steele 

Steele has been on Hafley’s radar for quite some time, after surprising the coach with his blazing speed at an Ohio State football camp, allegedly running a 4.55 40-yard dash. After decommitting from South Carolina, Steele was up-for-grabs and Hafley and co. swooped in to secure the commitment. 

Throw in some physicality and competitiveness and Steele is everything you’re looking for in a defensive back. While he did spend some time as a linebacker, I think he projects more as a safety in the future. Currently, BC has Jahmin Muse and Deon Jones manning the safety position as well as recent Florida State transfer Jaiden Lars-Woodley, but Steele has the potential to develop in a lockdown back after learning from these vets. 

DE Quintayvious Hutchins 

Hutchins doesn’t have the profile as some other recruits on this list, with only one Power 5 offer to his name from the Eagles.  But, that doesn’t mean anything once you’re on the field. He’s characterized as a, “versatile edge rusher,” who could become, “one of the best defensive ends in the ACC.” That’s some really high praise for Hutchins and could be the start towards developing a formidable defensive line to stop the premier offenses in the conference. 

BC lacks much explosiveness and depth on the defensive line, so the starting roles are pretty much up for grabs. I still think Hutchins will need a season or two to develop, but if he makes some noise during spring ball, who knows? We could see him in the rotation as early as September 2021. 

Be sure to follow @BCGavelSports for all of the latest updates on Boston College athletics. 

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