Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani has a name for defensive tackle B.J. Raji and linebacker Mark Herzlich: Dominators.
'Tis the season for awards and yesterday Raji, a 6-foot-1-inch, 324-pound senior, and Herzlich, the 6-4, 238-pound junior and Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year, were named third-team selections to the Associated Press's All-America Team.
"They are absolutely as dominating at their positions as anybody we've had since I've been here," said Spaziani by phone from Tampa, where he was recruiting.
Spaziani, who has been at BC since 1997, said Herzlich, who led the Eagles in tackles (105), interceptions (6), and pass breakups (7), reminded him of former Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan - who was the 2007 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons - in one sense. "[Herzlich] takes over the game the way Matt did," said Spaziani. "And B.J. is the same way on the defensive line. He just dominates the inside game."
Raji, who missed last season because of academic issues, led the Eagles with seven sacks.
"Being named an All-American is a great honor," said Raji. "There are some great players that play this game and that makes this even more special. Just to be recognized among them is a great accomplishment."
Herzlich deferred much of the praise to teammates. "I couldn't have done it without the great play of the defensive line and the guys around me," he said. "All of the linebackers really came together and stepped up this season."
Spurred by the defense, BC won the Atlantic Division for the second straight year, but lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, same as last season.
Raji will finish his BC career Dec. 31 when the Eagles face Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Herzlich is expected back for his senior season, but is exploring entering the NFL draft in April. "I want to see him back here next season," said Spaziani. "Hopefully, he will win the Butkus [best linebacker]."
The Eagles will practice tomorrow through Monday before taking a break for Christmas. They fly to Nashville Dec. 27.
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.