Hafley breathing new life into BC football

Mark Blaudschun

He is two games into his career as a head football coach at Boston College which isn't a true indicator of anything other than it is better to be 2-0 rather than 0-2.

Yet things are different at The Heights.

They have been that way for almost 10 months now, dating back to when then BC athletic director Martin Jarmond dipped into his Ohio State file and asked 41 year old Buckeye defensive coordinator Jeff Halfey to say Good Bye to Columbus and come back home to the Northeast.

Hafley's credentials then and (until his BC file has more data) now were based not so much on what he had done, but what he was and where he wanted to bring with him to his next job.

What Hafley brought to BC as the replacement for Steve Addazio was a burst of fresh air that swept through the Eagle athletic department and across the campus. 

After seven seasons of staleness, boorishness and, at times paranoia, under Addazio, Hafley's arrival on campus changed the atmosphere.

You could feel it, even through the remoteness of the Zoom world of communication created by the COVID-19 pandemic, when Hafley was hired

You could get a sense of it through the long spring and summer or cancellations, quarantines, testing an preparation for a college football season which seemed to have only the slightest chance of being played.

And you could feel it again this week when Hafley talked about the ACC meeting on Saturday at Alumni Stadium with unbeaten and No. 12 ranked North Carolina, a match up which should be BC's severest test to date after opening week victories over Duke and Texas State.

One of Hafley's strengths as a blue-chip assistant coach and as a new generation of CFB coaches was in his lineage.

He is  Jersey Guy, which is hard to define in words, but almost immediately recognizable in actions.

""We listen to Bruce Springsteen and we like bagels and pizza,'' Hafley told Letterman Row a few years ago when asked for a self analysis. "I know a lot of the guys in the area. I know a lot of those guys that are coaches now and were coaches when I played in high school.

"New Jersey people stick together and we all kind of understand each other.   I know it sounds cliche, but if you're not from there, you may not understand. It's more than where we are from, it's who we are.''

What Hafley did when building a staff was bringing in guys with Jersey roots around him. 

The staff then started spreading the attitude in the locker room.

Dealing with the restrictions of the pandemic has increased the difficulty of the task of instilling confidence in a program which was mired in mediocrity.

The Eagles took advantage of turnovers in rolling to what looked like a relatively easy win over Duke, although it took a second half surge to establish a 26-6 victory.

They had to overcome a two touchdown second half deficit to pull out a final minute 24-21 victory over Texas State.

Hafley said BC's biggest challenge will be in achieving their own expectations. 

"I'm not going to make it about the opponent this year,'' Hafley said. ""We have to get better. We just need to focus on ourselves and get better and that's how we are going to approach it. But our players understand what's ahead and so does our staff. I need to focus on our football team right now.''

The next three weeks will bring North Carolina, Pitt and Virginia Tech, all who look measurably better than Duke and Texas State and are, for now, arguably better than the Eagles.

BC, led by transfer QB Phil Jurkovec, showed its poise in putting together game tying and game winning  drives in the final two minutes against Texas State. 

It is a trait which has been missing from BC teams for more than a decade-learning how to win games.

Hafley has yet to create any coaching footprints--at least as a head coach.

He is defense and detailed oriented. 

This season has added a new challenge for any coach, much less a first-year head coach. 

Each week two game plans must be put together--the opponents on the field and the constant presence and threat of COVID-19.

Thus far, BC has been a poster board for the way to conduct business during a pandemic.

NO positive cases since June.

Hafley, as he should be, is proud of that. 

""These kids have done an unbelievable job,'' said Hafley. ""Since June, 3,500 straight tests and we haven't had a positive, knock on wood. They've done everything we've asked.''

He also should take pride in what BC has shown during the first two weeks, especially the 2-0 start.

Hafley knows that the real season will begin on Saturday.

He knows that the Eagles can not afford to make the mistakes they made in the wins over Duke and Texas State--and still win.

""We learned that we need to b e more consistent,'' he said. ""If you look back to the Duke game, there were times we e really looked good. Then there were times when we made mistakes. The same thing in the Texas State game, there were times where  we looked really good and there were drives where we just had lapses and we weren't consistent and we didn't do our job and we didn't look that good.

"We can't afford to have these lapses and to to make mistakes if we are going to win games, especially against a Top 10 opponent like we are going to be more consistent.''

It's all there in front of BC.

It could all disappear in the next few weeks, but that seems more and more unlikely the longer Jeff Hafley continues to install his system and instill confidence in a program which desperately needed a booster shot.

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Mark Blaudschun

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