Mike's Mailbag: Hafley, Jurkovec, Hoops & More
Photo courtesy of BCEagles.com
Jeff Hafley was hired on December 14th and it's been over a month since I've been able to actually write an article here at BC Maven. Sure, I've shared a bunch of tweets on everything going at BC but nothing long-form. Thank god for AJ who has covered an incredibly busy month - I seriously don't know how he does it. So yes, a lot of what I'll be writing about has been already reported and analyzed by AJ, I'm here to give a quick recap by answering questions from some #SOAR Scoopers who emailed me over the weekend. With that, let's take it away... and guess what, most people want to hear about what's been going on with our new head coach.
All Things Hafley & Staff
Walter G asks - What’s the status of Jeff Hafley’s coaching staff? Any initial thoughts?
The coaching staff is complete. Here it is:
Head Coach: Jeff Hafley
Offensive Coordinator: Frank Cignetti Jr.
Defensive Coordinator: Tem Lukabu
Linebackers Coach: Sean Duggan
Running Backs Coach: Richie Gunnell
Wide Receivers Coach: Joe Dailey
Defensive Back Coach: Aazar Abdul Rahim
Defensive Line Coach: Vince Oghobaase
Offensive Line Coach: Matt Applebaum
Special Teams Coordinator: Matt Thurin
Tight Ends Coach: Steve Shimko
It's young, diverse and has plenty of college & NFL experience. The average age on the staff is 37.5 years old (last year's staff was 48) and six of eleven coaches have coached in the pros. There's some really well-regarded recruiters (Abdul Rahim in particular is known as an ace, especially in the DC/MD/VA area) as well as a couple of BC alums (Gunnell and Duggan).
I'll be honest - I don't really know much at all except from what I read but... I like what I read. The majority of the staff has coached at multiple P5 programs, some are widely regarded as young up-and-comers, and our OC Frank Cignetti Jr.- arguably the most important hire - has been an OC at multiple stops and proven more than capable of installing a productive offense. And maybe best of all - they're all already out on the recruiting trail.
Mike H asks - Based on conversations you've had with people close to the BC football operation, what are the big, fundamental differences between the Hafley regime and Addazio regime so far?
I don't want to get too caught up in the honeymoon phase of a new coaching hire. After all, I was buying the Addazio Kool-Aid after he was hired (anyone with a pulse would have brought excitement after Spaziani). I also know plenty of the dirty laundry that came out post-Addazio, and it would easy to just dump on the former Head Dude. So I'll try and just judge the differences on what we have seen. Hafley has only been on the job for a month, so it's hard to discern too much. But there have been a couple things I've noticed.
First, let's talk about just early trends in recruiting. Addazio rarely went after big fish. The 4 and 5 star prospects. Yes, he had some commitments over the years but he usually only got the ones that had a clear lean/connection to BC before he even met the prospect. For any other big-time prospect, Addazio would typically not bother and just move on to more "gettable" recruits. In just one week, we've seen Hafley isn't taking the same approach. They offered four 4-star prospects in one trip to Baltimore power St. Frances Academy, each with a plethora of other ACC, SEC and Big Ten offers. This is just one recruiting trip but we've there have been other reports that mimic the same sentiment: Hafley and company aren't backing down from a little recruiting competition. Sure, they could swing and miss on the majority of these prospects, but even if they land one or two more of these types of recruits, it'd be a big win and hopefully a sign of things to come. And frankly from a mentality standpoint, it's hands down an approach I'd rather my head coach have.
The second one is a bit odd but I thought the way Addazio and Hafley represented themselves on the College Football Playoff Coaches' Room broadcasts to be eye-opening. Addazio's personality was always solid on the show - he's good at yapping it up on TV with his cliches - and he knew offensive line play. But he always seemed to struggle to keep up with the pace of the game and making quick decision-making and game/clock management. And mind you - he wasn't even coaching! Remember, he famously thought Clemson could run the clock out on an untimed down during the 2017 CFP Title Game and had to be corrected by Syracuse head coach Dino Babers. Meanwhile, Hafley seemed to always be thinking clock and game situation - often times one or two plays ahead. In terms of picking up and explaining things, it's no surprise Hafley was incredibly insightful with his defensive Xs and Os, especially with defensive back play.
I know that probably wasn't the type of answer you were looking for but think we'll need more information before really telling the difference between the way Addazio and Hafley run their programs. All signs are positive so far from Hafley - hopefully spring practice will tell us more.
Michael M asks - What players (offense and defense) do you think can benefit the most from playing in the new systems the coordinators will implement?
Well, I think I'll lead with the most obvious one: our entire secondary. It's Hafley's specialty after all. Brandon Sebastian, Jason Maitre, Jahmin Muse, Tate Haynes, Elijah Jones and plenty others I'd expect to get a serious crash course in secondary play.
On the offensive side of the ball, two players stick out to me: TE Hunter Long and WR Zay Flowers. These two had 28 and 22 receptions last year respectively. That's absolutely criminal and speaks to the archaic offensive system Addazio employed. How in god's name can these two talented playmakers not get the ball more? Zay got some jet sweeps too but it still wasn't enough. Hunter Long's first red zone target of the year came in our last game of the regular season vs Pitt. With Hafley, I guarantee these two playmakers get more opportunities to make plays.
Mark M asks - What are reasonable record expectations for Year 1 and Year 2 of Hafley?
Can I wait to answer that until I know if Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurkovec's waiver clears? More on that in a second.
In year 1, the non-schedule is manageable (Holy Cross, Ohio, Kansas, Purdue) and we have 7 home games. The offense returns a good amount of talent and the defense can't be worse than last year. I know this isn't sexy but I think if we won 8 games, it'd be a great Year 1 with hopefully something to build on for Year 2. Plus, 8 wins would provide plenty of hilarious Addazio schadenfreude fodder.
The Notre Dame QB Transfer
Tony F asks - Why did Phil Jurkovec leave Notre Dame and how did he end up with the Eagles?
Pretty simple why Jurkovec left Notre Dame: He was behind Ian Book on the depth chart and wants to play. Just like Joe Burrow or Justin Fields, he was a highly touted QB recruit who was stuck behind someone and saw the writing on the wall and is moving on.
How he ended up with the Eagles? Well, there as plenty of internet speculation out there on why he chose BC but it probably came down to one thing: Hafley and staff recruited him to come to The Heights because of the glaring hole at QB with Anthony Brown in the transfer portal himself. It's that simple.
Before you ask, your guess is as good as mine if he will get a waiver and can play immediately. AJ wrote a good piece breaking down his chances.
Michael M – What are we getting in Phil Jurkovec and what’s a good player comp?
A top QB recruit coming out of high school, he was known for his strong arm and tough running ability. This mirrored what I saw on the highlight tapes from his limited time on the field this year at Notre Dame. Someone on the BC boards compared him to former Syracuse QB Eric Dungey. If that's who BC just got, I'd be thrilled.
Michael T asks - I give Jarmond tons of credit for the Hafley hire (love it, despite him still having coached no games). But WTF is his thinking on Christian? How long will this guy get to prove he can't teach a team how to play well consistently? BC basketball is lost.
As of writing this, BC basketball just lost its third consecutive game by 18+ points to drop to 9-9 on the season. Injuries haven't helped but this team was going nowhere fast under Jim Christian.
It's year six. Christian apologists can make excuses about facilities or injuries or whatever else they want but his teams consistently stink and none were close to sniffing the NCAA Tournament. Martin Jarmond made it clear he would move on when he thought we weren't getting better. That makes me think a coaching change must be coming this spring. As important as a coaching change will be for our young athletic director, addressing our horrendous basketball facilities is just as important. Boston College is the only P5 program without a basketball practice facility. Inexcusable.
To get BC basketball on track, Jarmond has to fix this. Otherwise, we'll continue to be lost.
Mark M asks - Name 1-3 collegiate athletic programs whose blueprint BC should follow on a 5-10 year plan, within reason (not Alabama). All sports/genders, all things considered.
Stanford and Virginia. Yup, two of the best overall athletic programs in the country with incredible academic reputations. They don't sacrifice their academic integrity to win championships but also don't use it as a crutch for why they can't compete. In fact, they actually use it in recruiting. They make smart coaching hires across the board and have reached incredible highs in the two major sports (football and men's basketball) because of it. Finally, they have a culture built on competitive excellence.
Seriously, why can't BC follow suit?
Nick J asks - Jeff Hafley wants to know what it’s like to be a typical BC student Thursday night thru Sunday. Where do you go, what / where do you drink / eat, who’s in the crew?
Well, a lot depends on if this is a home football weekend or not. For simplicity, I'll say no.
Thursday night - White Horse Tavern. Go to spot. Great atmosphere. Cheap. Little away from campus so I can justify to myself that "yea, I go into Boston sometimes."
Friday night - Mary Ann's seemed to be the move but now that MAs might be a weed shop, I'll say City Side. Don't even need a big crew to go to City Side. You'll run into plenty a familiar face.
Saturday night - Combo of off-campus parties and late night Mods. Make sure those parties aren't being hawked by Boston College's favorite off-campus RA/stalker.
Food - A trip to Pino's isn't a bad move ever. A Screaming Eagle Cheesesteak at least once is a must (double meat, teryaki and chipotle sauce combo). Avoid Chipotle as BC basketball has taught us.
Writing all of that made me feel old.
(Photo courtesy of Boston College Athletics)