Boston College wrapped up their summer practices this week. With students entering campus they now have to switch modes and limit practices to the NCAA required twenty hours per week. With the first camp finished, we wanted to take a look at some of the takeaways we were able to pull from camp.
The media were not able to attend or watch practices due to COVID19 precautions, these observations are all based on the conversations with the coaching staff and players and reports from the school.
5. The wide receivers, and Hunter Long are going to be exciting in 2020.
Frank Cignetti's NFL pro style offense will be turning the page from the ground and pound attack that was the trademark of Steve Addazio. In order to do that, this team needs weapons, and incredibly enough the former head coach left the cupboard stacked with options. Sophomore Zay Flowers was a name that popped up daily on the practice reports, ripping off huge catches daily. Tight end Hunter Long sounds like he is ready to contend as one of the best pass catching tight ends in the ACC. While freshman Taji Johnson and sophomore Ethon Williams both stepped up and should be factors immediately.
Ohio State transfer Jaelen Gill was quiet to start the camp, but by the end his name popped up frequently. Expect him to be a real x-factor on this team this year. Kobay White missed most camp due to a knee injury, one that Jeff Hafley said shouldn't be long term.
4. Secondary is going to improve this year
BC's secondary was woeful in 2019, finishing 122nd in yards allowed. As the defense fell apart, it was hard to see but there was a lot of talent in that group. Brandon Sebastian, Jason Maitre, Mike Palmer, Josh DeBerry and Elijah Jones all have some real strengths that with the right coaching and philosophy, should put them in better positions to improve. Add in transfer safety Deon Jones, who should also bring some veteran leadership and talent in the secondary.
The first reason they should improve is the scheme. This coaching staff has a lot of talent in coaching up defensive backs. Everyone knows Hafley story, as a coach who has experience coaching Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis and 2020 first round pick Jeff Okudah. He knows how to coach the position, and talking to the players they are learning new techniques from him everyday. One of the biggest issues he has already addressed is third down defense, Hafley looks to be installing a linebacker/safety hybrid to prevent pure linebackers from covering speedier wide outs. This should help immensley.
The talent is there as well. These are players who with the right coaching should play markedly better. Sebastian should up his game, DeBerry and Maitre are more seasoned and have the skillset to flourish with Hafley's coaching and scheme, while Mike Palmer should be put in a position that will help him progress and won't expose his weaknesses.
Finally, better play around them should help the secondary. The defensive line and linebacker should get a better push up front should prevent quarterbacks from sitting back, stepping up and picking them apart.
While I don't expect BC to become the "no fly zone", they should play markedly better in the secondary.
3. There are freshmen ready to contribute on both sides of the ball
Hafley spoke about this at camp last week. There are freshmen who are going to need to step up and play this season. Some names to watch out for:
* Running back Andre Hines: Eagles need depth at running back and he should be there to provide it
* Defensive back Kam Arnold: Saw his name pop up a few times, looks to be more of a safety.
* Offensive lineman Ozzy Trapilo: At 6'9 over 300 pounds, and with freak talent he could be on two deep sooner rather than later
* Wide receiver Taji Johnson: Incredible camp, making highlight reel catches.
* Tight end Charlie Gordinier: BC looks rather thin at tight end behind Hunter Long, Gordinier could jump up and play this year
2. Jurkovec is going to be ready to start
Look, we have seen the articles talking about a battle for the starting quarterback position. Be realistic here, there isn't a battle. While Dennis Grosel has had a very strong camp, this is Phil Jurkovec's job. From all reports he has worked exclusively with the starters, and after talking with Hafley/Cignetti and Jurkovec himself it sounds like he has taken some huge jumps this camp. The Notre Dame transfer has ability that Boston College hasn't seen in a decade, and will make BC's offense multi dimensional and versatile.
Hafley has yet to name Jurkovec the starter, but it's coming.
1. Jeff Hafley is building a culture at Boston College
While seeing progress on both sides of the ball, and having a quarterback are all hugely important takeaways, what new head coach Jeff Hafley is doing to create a program can not be understated.
The first year head coach was thrown into a chaotic situation, and with grace, humility and unwavering leadership has steered his group of young men forward. Look at what Hafley has had to handle: spring practice cancelled, recruiting and coaching goes all online, safely bringing his players back on campus, and most recently handling discussions and action on racial injustice in the USA and making sure his players felt supported and heard.
This has been a challenging situation and Hafley has continued to impress in the manner he has handled it. By doing so, the players are incredibly invested, recruits are watching, and his program is bonding and looks ready to go to war together. How he coaches on the field remains to be seen, but Hafley has been the leader this program needs during a tumultuous time.
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