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Everything Jeff Hafley Said During Wednesday's ACC Kickoff Press Conference

A look at the head coach's comments during the conference's big event.
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Q. We know that this is the last season in the ACC of divisions, and then we'll switch to that 3-5-5 model. Having those permanent opponents, just what that means for you? I know historically, going back to the old Big East it makes a lot of sense what Boston College has now with Miami, Pitt, and Syracuse. So speak to that last year of divisions and then looking forward to what the 3-5-5 will do for Boston College.

JEFF HAFLEY: First, I'm excited for this year. I think the Atlantic is going to be as good as it's been in a really long time. Very competitive. Very well-coached. Good quarterbacks. I'm excited about that. I'm excited about the division change. Get a chance to play some different teams. You get a chance to play Pittsburgh, who we're all the way up here, and we're constantly playing teams not around us, but to play Pitt every year when we were playing them once every six years. Same thing with Syracuse. We're playing them because they're in our division, but we should be playing Syracuse. To get a chance to go to Miami, we have some kids like Zay. Zay, have you even played at Miami in that stadium, right? You get a chance to get down south a little bit and play a team that will be on the rise and compete down there. I'm excited. I'm not one big on why are we -- let's just go play football. Whoever they put on our schedule, let's play. If we get to mix it up and play some different teams, even better. Right? Let's bring Miami on a night game. Hopefully late in December when it's cold. Let's bring them to Boston and get our fans a chance to see some other schools. I'm all for the change. I'm really excited about it. We have to play this year first.

Q. For as long as I can remember, I've looked at Boston College rosters and seen big, experienced offensive lines. This year you look at the roster, just two returning starters, and one is Joey, your tight end. Are you at a point where you could reload in the offensive line or realistically is there going to be a little bit of a learning curve replacing those four really experienced guys that left?

JEFF HAFLEY: Well, one, they're still going to be big. We have some big guys up front, but there will definitely be some inexperience. We lose all our starters. It's unfortunate. Christian Mahogany, our right guard, who we believe could have been the first guard picked and a first round pick if he played up to what we thought he could, tore his ACL. He is doing well, and we'll be excited to have him back. But we'll be young. We got a bunch of guys competing for jobs that have a chip on her shoulder, have learned from some really good players like Zion Johnson and those guys. I think they're going to play with an edge. Are they going to have some growing pains? Yeah, they probably will. We won't make that an excuse. We have to coach them well. We have to figure out quickly what they do well and let them do it and let them play fast and physical. I'm excited about that group. Then I'm really excited about the future of that group because next year at this time we're going to have a really experienced line. Hopefully Christian Mahogany is back feeling great.

THE MODERATOR: From the podium, while B.C. outscored its opponents in the fourth quarter last year, it seemed too much of a hole of dug in the third quarter throughout the season? How do you correct that moving forward?

JEFF HAFLEY: That's a good question. That's one thing we looked at a little bit. We've got to come out at halftime and figure things out a little bit quicker. We have to find a way to get our guys out of the locker room quicker, more ready to play. I'm not going to make that bigger than it is, to be very honest with you. Hopefully that answers your question.

Q. Having the new offensive coordinator, John McNulty, just what you can say about what he brings and what you saw in him and his vision for the offense that made sense for what you want to do at BC?

JEFF HAFLEY: John and I were together when I was with the Bucs. John was the quarterback coach, I was the DB coach. I know what type of person he is, what type of man he is, and that's really important to me. I've also coached against him when I was at Pitt, and he was in the Big East at the same time. What was important for me is what I have learned as a head coach is I have a vision of what I want the offense to look like. I feel like in my first two years, to be very honest with you, I focused too much on the defense. I think I failed as a head coach to make sure that my vision on what I want the offense to look like stays that way. I interviewed a lot of guys, and John's vision and my vision, they really matched up. Without getting into too much detail of what it's going to look like, there will be some similarities of what we did in the past, but then we have to find out what guys like this can do very well, and we have to get guys like Zay the ball. We have to make sure that Phil is protected. We have to make sure that Phil is doing what he does best. I'm really excited about John being here and seeing where we can take the offense. Again, do I think we played well enough on offense last year? We don't. That's my fault. I need to do a better job as head coach and making sure my vision stays intact throughout the year.

Q. Coach Clawson said this morning he doesn't ever remember a time when every single team in the division returned its quarterback. I want to ask you about your guy. Of course, you lost Phil very early to an injury last year. What does he bring? What mix him special? Let's expand to include Zay. What about the two of them really stretch a defense?

JEFF HAFLEY: Let's talk about Phil first, and I've gotten a lot of questions on Phil today, which he deserves to be asked a lot of questions for. He is a great player and a great person. Last year at this time everybody was talking about Phil in year two and all the things that he can accomplish. Being one of the top guys in college football, one of the top players in the country. Phil played one game healthy, one, against Colgate. He didn't have to do too much. No disrespect to Colgate, but the game got out of hand, and we didn't throw it around like we were throwing it 50 times a game like his first year when we lit it up. Phil goes down with a freak hand injury, falling on the sideline in Week 2, and I was told Phil was out for the year. Everybody understands what type of person he is, what type of quarterback he is. He got cleared by the doctor to play physically. 

Now, that didn't mean he was ready to play. I was told he had 50% grip strength in his throwing hand, and we're getting ready to play a night game on a short week against Virginia Tech, and he comes in my office and he tells me he wants to play. That says a lot about Phil because there's a lot of guys that, one, wouldn't want that tape to get out. Right? He is this hyped-up guy, can barely grip a ball and throw it down the field. Two, he hasn't practiced. He comes back, and he puts the team before himself with 50% grip strength, barely practicing. We beat Virginia Tech in our Red Bandana game, and then Georgia Tech, and he had 500 yards by himself and five touchdowns. Then he gets beat up in our Florida State. Not a little bit. We didn't protect him very well. Then he has the flu going into the Wake Forest game. Doesn't practice but still plays. If I'm an NFL GM or coach and have been in those meetings, that tells you everything you need to know about Phil. You can turn on the tape and watch him play, but kids aren't built like that anymore. He is tough. He cares about his team. When he gets outon the field, there's nothing that phases him.

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Zay, everybody saw the story of Zay. Zay is another story of what's right in college football right now. Everybody wants to talk about all these things that are wrong: NIL, transfer portal, conference realignment. We need good stories, stories like Phil, like I just told you. Stories like Zay who had the opportunity to go get a ton of money to leave, as he is getting phone calls from other schools, but instead calls me and decides to stay because he cares about his team, because he cares about a real degree and because he wants to finish what he started. We need to get this guy the ball more. I told him, he is not going to be able to go out after games this year he is going to be so damn tired. He is going to catch punts and return punts and touch the ball over and over again. That's my job as a head coach. I get passionate when I talk about those two guys because they are different, and there's not enough of that right now in college football.

Q. The first couple of years have been a little difficult. How much pressure are you putting on yourself this season and what have you seen from this team that gets you excited about this year?

JEFF HAFLEY: I would say the first two years have been awesome. First year we're dealing with COVID. We were picked last in the conference. We win more games in the ACC than they had since 2009. Last year we started off 4-0, beat an SEC team at home for the first time in forever. Everybody rushes. The place is going crazy. Then we're hit with adversity. We lose four in a row. No one thought we were going to a bowl game, but instead, we win the next two games. To me those are all learning experiences that you can only get by actually going out there and coaching and putting it out there on the line. Those two wins and going through that adversity, they made me a better coach, and they made us a better team. I don't feel any pressure. I go out, and I tell them the same thing. They shouldn't feel pressure on game day. The pressure is during the week. How hard am I going to work to prepare myself so when I get on the field Saturday to coach, I'm fearless. I get into a special place where nothing is going to faze me, and nothing is going to faze them no matter what happens because I know that we put in the work. That's where the pressure comes from. It comes from within because we want to win as a team, and we want to win together. I can't wait for this year. I have a couple more days on vacation, and then I'm ready to roll.

THE MODERATOR: As a follow-up to that on the podium, are you finding that you're in some type of normal rhythm given all that has happened over the last couple of years? Are you finally settling in?

JEFF HAFLEY: Yeah. You know, this year was a little strange for me because it came time to May, May, and all the coaches were going on the road. I was, like, what am I going to do? I'm not allowed to go out recruiting. This was my first real offseason. It was my first real June where we could have camps and visitors. Yeah, I feel like it is a little bit normal. There's no more cardboard cut-outs. I actually saw fans when I ran out this year. I'm excited. Hopefully it stays that way.

THE MODERATOR: Was that excitement, any of that, dampened knowing your final game of the season was a 31-point loss? Is that a pall over the program during the offseason?

JEFF HAFLEY: No. I'm never going to judge a season on one game, just like I'm never going to judge a game on one play. You look at the body of work. 6-6 is not good enough. We know that. We know we can be better. I know I can be better because it definitely all starts with me. We use that as motivation. We learn from it. We're going to play with a little bit more edge to us this year. I'm going to do a better job coaching the team.

Q. I care about what you are doing at Boston College, obviously. So when you look back on that a couple of years ago, what brought you there? What was it about this job, this opportunity, this school that made you feel like that was the right fit for you to be a leader at this time?

JEFF HAFLEY: That is a good question. I just left the 49ers and went to Ohio State, and I thought I would be there for a while. We had a really good year. Played good defense. Then I had a couple of opportunities. One was location. I wanted my family to live in a great place. Boston is a great place. My family is very important to me. Great school system. Academics. I spent a lot of time in the NFL. A lot of guys don't make it, and a lot of guys two, three years, they're not in the NFL. They don't have a good degree, and they never had internships and never had jobs. I want to change lives. Whether or not these guys wind up playing in the NFL with the degrees they get and the internships we give them, I'm going to change their life because they're going to have a great job. I wanted to go somewhere where I didn't have to cheat, I didn't have to cut corners, I didn't have to sleep by my phone and get phone calls in the middle of the night. I wanted to be around good people.

When I researched BC -- I knew about BC. I grew up in New Jersey. I felt like we could do better and recruit better and play better. That's no disrespect to anybody that coached before because they did a good job, but I came because I thought we could elevate it doing the right way with really good people. You win with good people, and that was so important to me to do things the right way. Then meeting Father Leahy, and guys like Father Jack and at the time the AD, it was a perfect fit for me and my family. I had the opportunity after both years people called, and people asked me all the time, I've only been here for every for two years. You're not -- what do you mean I'm not going to stay? We have great kids. We have an unbelievable school and unbelievable leadership. Our staff has been awesome. We've recruited well. It is an awesome place. We're going to win, but we're going to do it the right way.

Hopefully that answers your question. I probably ranted a little bit on that.