CHESTNUT HILL — In response to a question about his starting safeties, Lukas Denis and Will Harris, Boston College defensive coordinator Jim Reid's eyes lit up.
But his answer veered over to their position coach, and, as of this season, his co-defensive coordinator, Anthony Campanile.
"I'll tell you what, this is what I'm going to do, OK? From the day that this guy showed up, if anybody has ever asked me about football, coaching at Boston College, I would tell you we got a special guy by the name of (defensive backs coach) Anthony Campanile," said Reid. "After last year, what our secondary did, leadership-wise, I think we were second or third in the country in terms of pass defense and interceptions. I think we had the top interceptor in Lukas Denis (who made seven in 2017).
"Coach (Steve Addazio) called me and said, (Campanile) has some offers (to coach at other programs). What do we do? What I said (was) this, 'Make him the defensive coordinator because he is that good.' So we made him the co-defensive coordinator. A magnificent coach. We interviewed him, magnificent. I've enjoyed working with him more than anybody. I really have."
Just one drawback.
"The only bad thing about this guy, somebody said, you got like a father-son relationship," said Reid. "(Campanile) said, 'How about grandfather?' That really made me angry. If I could have taken him, I would have taken a right hand to his jaw."
That drew a laugh from the assembled media, but it would have been a similar shot to the program to lose Campanile after three seasons as the Eagles' defensive backs coach. In 2017, he oversaw a unit that was ranked third in pass efficiency defense and 12th in interceptions (18).
Like a proud papa, Reid brought Campanile to the podium.
"We announced it, but we never had this, to announce Anthony Campanile as our co-defensive coordinator," Campanile said. "I tell you, he's just terrific."
Campanile ducked his head humbly and led with a joke.
"I think coach probably overstated the case there," Campanile said. "He said when I got moved into that position, I already set a record as the ugliest defensive coordinator in the history of Boston College."
The punchline did not land as well as Reid's.
"Just kidding," Campanile offered, before his tone hardened in praise of Denis and Harris.
"I think both Lukas and Will, I've said this almost ad nauseam, but they're both really, really extremely bright guys," he said. "They have an incredibly high football IQ, as well. They've just been tremendous from a leadership perspective. I think that's kind of carried on all the way since before I was here, whether it be Justin Simmons, then John Johnson my first year here, Kamrin Moore, Isaac (Yiadom), there's been a great legacy of older players helping younger players."
Asked if he was aware that Campanile could have been swiped up by another program, cornerback Taj Amir-Torres said, "I didn't really think much about that. He's a local guy (Campanile hails from northern New Jersey). He puts his guys first. He shows us a lot of love. He pushes us to be the best we can every day. I wasn't really worried about that very much. I was just worried about the season coming up. And when he came back, I wasn't surprised, because he's a man of his word. He gives us honesty, pushes us, makes us the best men we can possibly be."
Let 'er rep
With starting quarterback Anthony Brown still recovering from his torn ACL, Addazio reiterated that Brown is the starting quarterback, but described the competition for the No. 2 spot between sophomore EJ Perry and freshman Matt McDonald as "fierce."
"The good news is we have a couple young guys that we really feel good about," Addazio said. "They're getting an awful lot of work right now. They're getting the bulk of it right now. They all continue to grow at a fast rate, which I think is very, very important, even though they don't really have significant game snaps under their belt."
But how exactly does the team keep all three players ready to go when the health of the clear-cut starter is still in limbo?
"That's a great question," offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. "The fortunate thing is we get a lot of reps in practice because of the style of play we have. We're a no-huddle team, got a lot of repetitions in practice. I don't think we're in a position — the old huddle systems, you get so many reps, have so much time. We're having the ability now to get much more practice reps. I don't think that's necessarily right now a problem."
AJ Dillon will be a much bigger part of the passing game this year, and running backs coach Brian White said the sophomore is ready for it.
"You'll see that he's really worked hard to change that perception (that Dillon is just a two-down back)," White said. "He's got very good hands, and it's evident to me that he's become a very good route-runner. And that is going to be a very big part of his development over the rest of his career here, particularly if he's going to be a high-round draft pick and play at the next level."
How much flexibility will that give Loeffler when calling plays?
"A bunch. A bunch," White said. "We're not going to have to substitute on third down based on run and pass. He played in the passing game last year on first and second down, but it was primarily play-action pass stuff where we were faking the ball to him. He wasn't tremendously involved in our drop-back passing game, particularly on third down."
White said it won't be a total makeover for Dillon, though.
"You won't see him out in the slot, running option routes and stuff like that that some of these smaller backs will do, that we might do with a Travis (Levy, Dillon's backup)," White said. "Guys are different. We're going to put him out in empties, (he's) gonna catch hitch routes, go routes, stuff like that. He'll be able to do some things split out because we're going to have a nice empty package."
Torres and Denis share a room, and sometimes their time is harmonious.
"Sometimes we'll make music on our own, any way we can," Torres said. "We'll write songs, stuff like that. We play video games, that type of stuff, and then go work out together."
The video game sessions can be as competitive as the actual games on Saturdays, though, by the sounds of it.
"I'm the best at 2k," Torres said. "He's pretty good at Madden. He's all right. He ain't better than me."
Denis disputes this.
"No. No. I've never lost a game to Taj," Denis said. "Taj really only plays NBA 2k. . . . Well I never play (2k) because I'm really bad at it. We play Madden a lot in my room. The best in Madden is another (defensive back), Mehdi El Attrach. He wins just about every other game. Taj plays 2k only. That's all he plays, but he loses every game. He claims he's the best at 2k, but he loses every game. I don't think I've ever seen him win."
Torres' goes local with his Madden team.
"Patriots, of course," the Amherst native said. "I'm a Mass. guy. I've got to take my team. . . . This guy (Denis) has like 37 teams. Sometimes he'll take the Chiefs. Sometimes he'll take the Eagles."
"I usually go with two teams," agreed Denis. "I go with Philly, or I go with Kansas City. I like speed. Kansas City has a lot of speed. I usually try to win in the return game, special teams. And when I play with Philly, I've got Carson Wentz. He's running around the field, throwing the ball. And he's got good receivers, too, so you can't lose."
You would think the Patriots would be an unfair advantage for Torres, but Denis makes a good point as for why that's not the case.
"They're a tough team to play with in Madden, though," Denis said. "They don't have the best skill players in the game, it's just really Brady's mind. His mind isn't in the game."
Denis feels he has a distinct strategic advantage over Torres.
"I like the spread offense," Denis said. "I like to get the ball out to my receivers. Taj thinks he's a defensive guru and tries to stop everything. I go over his head every play."
He has just as much confidence in his defensive acumen.
"I switch it up a lot. I disguise, because now that I know the actual game playing safety, I can switch it up at all times," Denis said. "So I'll show Cover-3 (and) run Cover-4, blitz from the boundary. You won't know what's coming. I'm decent. I've got a good mind."