Boston College Football: Who’s ready to replace A.J. Dillon in 2020?

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

With A.J. Dillon declaring for the draft, attention turns to who will replace his production in the Boston College football backfield. Enter, David Bailey.

In three seasons on Chestnut Hill, A.J. Dillon broke the rushing yards and rushing touchdown record for Boston College football. After another successful season in 2019, Dillon decided in December to forego his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft.

Thankfully for Boston College football, the Eagles already have a replacement in waiting. Although Dillon has dominated the stat sheets with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, he’s been terrorizing defenses in tandem in 2019 as one half of “The Buffalo Boys”.

David Bailey is the other half.

Although he has yet to create a nickname for the 2020 Boston College football running back room, he’s more than ready to lead it.

"“I’m always ready for anything. It’s always the next man up mentality. Throughout the season I’ve been prepared for anything that happens. I’m always ready, every time. I was born to be ready.”"

Bailey was talking during media availability ahead of Boston College’s Birmingham Bowl game with Cincinnati. In the first game of the post-Dillon era it was inevitable he would be asked about the challenge of leading the offense that has become so dependent on No. 2.

He is, however, no stranger to leadership.

Bailey was a team captain at North Caroline High School. During his time there, he led the Bulldogs to a state championship semi-final and picked up the award for Bayside Conference Player of the Year for his efforts. A two time All-State first-team player, he scored 35 touchdowns in his senior year, dominating so heavily that he often sat the second half of games.

Noticeably bigger, stronger, and faster than those playing around him, Bailey was the number one running back prospect in Maryland. As a three-star prospect he garnered interest from multiple FBS colleges but despite offers from Rutgers and Virginia, chose Boston College as his home.

Dillon was coming off a 1,000-yard season as a freshman in the summer of 2018, but Bailey made himself right at home on Chestnut Hill. Making his debut in the season opener against UMass, Bailey rushed for 24 yards on five carries and scored his first career touchdown on an 8-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

It’s one thing racking up yards against UMass and Holy Cross (11/80/7.3 YPC), but the first true test of Bailey’s young career would come in mid-October with Louisville the visitors to BC.

With Dillon sidelined with an ankle injury, Bailey embraced the opportunity to soar in the Eagles rushing offense. Although the expectation was for Ben Glines and Travis Levy to lead the way, Bailey rushed for a career high 28 carries and his first 100-yard rushing game. He added a second career touchdown to put the game beyond reach of the Cardinals in the fourth quarter.

It seems fitting that Bailey’s breakout game for Boston College was against Louisville. Just one year previous, Dillon’s dominant performance against the Cardinals had catapulted him in to the national conscious. The image of him shaking off Jaire Alexander and another Cardinal on his way to a 75-yard touchdown will be etched in the mind of Eagles fans forever more.

The parallels between Bailey and Dillon go far deeper than a breakout game against Louisville.

Although Bailey is slightly lighter but also slightly taller, they both have very similar physiques.

They fit the mould of the power running back perfectly.

Bailey’s ability to churn his legs and grind out yardage was evidenced with a game-killing touchdown in the 2019 season opener against Virginia Tech. Despite meeting strong opposition at the 1-yard line, Bailey used his leg strength to force his way into the end zone.

He’s not afraid of contact, often lowering his shoulder to initiate contact and leaning forward to gain that extra yard when the defense finally have him bottled up.

However, there is more to both their games than just getting behind the fabled Boston College football offensive line and bulldozing through the middle of the field.

In an early season trip to the birthplace of college football, Bailey showcased his long speed and elusiveness on a 42-yard touchdown to open the scoring against Rutgers.

One week later, with an unbeaten Wake Forest as the visitors, Bailey proved how valuable he is to Boston College. Although he accounted for just 44 rushing yards on nine carries, he secured his first receiving touchdown as quarterback Anthony Brown rolled out to his right and found Bailey alone in the end zone to tie the game at the half.

Running back turned receiver then turned quarterback as Bailey took the hand off from Brown, rushed to his right as if to burst around the edge, but lofted a pass to a wide-open Chris Harrison.

Despite the wonders against Wake Forest, the win over North Carolina State was the standout performance of an impressive sophomore campaign.

At a phenomenal 11.3 yards per carry, Bailey rushed for 181 yards on just 16 carries and two touchdowns against the No. 1-ranked rushing defense in the ACC. He showed the strength, the elusiveness, the awareness, all the things that have been attributed to Dillon during his three years at Boston College.

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Dillon’s time may have come to an end, but Bailey’s is just about to truly begin.

You can be sure that he’s ready to be the next man up.