Hopefully, everyone had a chance to take a look at this morning’s introductory press conference for new head football coach, Jeff Hafley. In case you missed it, here’s the link to rewatch.
But now, we ask for some perspective and insights into Coach Hafley from the Ohio State community, by way of Matt Tamanini from Land-Grant Holy Land. Be sure to check out his work on our fellow SB Nation site with the lead-up to the College Football Playoff.
1. Are Ohio State fans mad online? I know you’re still THE Ohio State University, but how big of a loss is this? Rumors are circulating that Al Washington may also be joining Hafley’s staff at his Alma mater.
I don’t think so. Obviously the timing isn’t ideal, but Hafley is a guy who was going to be a head coach sooner or later. I think people are more surprised that he’s leaving after just one year and that he’s leaving for Boston College. He had talked about wanting to stay in one place for a few years after moving around a lot recently and having two young children, but obviously he thought BC was the right fit for him and his family, and I don’t think anyone really faults him for that.
However, most OSU media thought that he would likely leave after 2020 for a top-25 job that opened up for one reason or another; something in the Big Ten, SEC, or maybe even USC. So, him leaving for Boston College, who has to contend with Clemson every year, was a bit surprising. Although, with all due respect to the Eagles, I would not bet on Hafley being there for too long. If he has some success in his first handful of seasons, I would imagine that he would move on if a bigger opportunity presents itself.
I could definitely see Washington joining Hafley if he is given coordinator responsibilities. Washington is very much like Hafley in that they are excellent teachers and player-first coaches. So, I think that they would make an excellent start to a coaching staff. However, while Washington played at BC, he is a Columbus native (his dad played at Ohio State) and his family is still in Central Ohio. So, if he is offered a job at his alma mater, it would be a decision between one of his homes and another.
2. What’s your general opinion of Jeff Hafley? What kind of leader and culture builder does he seem to be?
He’s fantastic, you’re going to love him. He’s an incredibly charismatic and personable guy with an incredibly proficient mind for the technical side of the game. He is someone who it is very easy to see why players love him. He is passionate about football and about his players, and he is able to get his players in the best position to succeed.
His speech at the Broyles Award ceremony earlier this month tells you everything that you need to know about the type of guy he is.
3. This is a fun little BC-OSU connection going on these past few seasons. Ryan Day, Jeff Hafley, Martin Jarmond, Al Washington. I don’t really have a question, just wanted to make the comment. Sorry we have no insights into Clemson.
4. What’s the biggest change Hafley made schematically this season that made the defense so much better than last season?
It’s tough to diagnose exactly what Hafley was responsible for and what the more senior co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was responsible for, but together they simplified OSU’s defense, from the complex, press-man scheme that Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch ran in 2018. This was really the only thing that Day told the defensive staff when they were hired, you can run whatever you want, but just simplify the scheme and let the athletes make plays.
They’ve definitely done this, and the tackling has improved dramatically since last season as well. I wouldn’t imagine that Hafley would do anything different when he’s completely in charge.
5. What does Hafley bring on the recruiting front?
Like I said before, he’s got a magnetic personality, and comes across as extremely genuine, and that’s been borne out in how well he’s done in his 11 months with the Buckeyes. He seems to be the type of coach who parents would trust with their sons’ futures, both on and off the field. He’s not a used-car salesman type of guy, and it is very apparent that he’s got the best interest of his players at heart.
He also has a lot of roots in the northeast, so I would imagine that will certainly help as well as he starts to reestablish connections with high school coaches.
6. OSU safety Brendon White entered the transfer portal recently. Do you think BC could be a potential destination for him or any other players on the roster and is there ANY chance even ONE recruit follows Hafley to BC?
Stranger things have happened, and obviously we don’t know the inner workings of White’s decision to transfer, but I would be a little surprised if he joined Hafley. White came into the season as the Rose Bowl Defensive MVP and looked to be the next great Ohio State DB. However, he is essentially a casualty of the coaching change; now, this is likely more on Mattison than Hafley, but they are still both responsible.
Mattison brought with him the idea of a hybrid safety/linebacker that he called a bullet. Because of his size and speed, White was immediately identified as the guy to play that role. So, throughout the offseason, he worked on attacking the ball in the run game, rather than dropping back in coverage. And then, for whatever reason, OSU essentially never ran the bullet package, leaving White without a position.
He’s played a bit in mop-up duty, but nothing of substance. So, I wouldn’t put money on him following the coach that kept him off the field, but there might have been more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. I will say this though, whatever school gets White will have a really talented player with a lot to prove.
7. Which head-coaching outcome do you think is more likely, Chris Ash or Luke Fickell?
8. Luckily, Hafley will be staying on to coach through the Playoff. I think it’s the right decision, but are people happy about that? Are you going to beat Clemson? LSU?
I mean, it’s certainly better than the alternative. While Hafley is just a co-defensive coordinator, he is responsible for the secondary, a unit that will be tested against Clemson’s impressive wide receivers. Obviously any time a coach has to split his focus between his current job and his next job, it means that he’s not giving 100 percent of his attention to the bowl game, so I’m sure fans would prefer that he was singularly focused on Clemson.
But, Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott is doing the same thing since he was named head coach of South Florida as well.
And I have no idea who is going to win the game. I think that OSU and Clemson are the two most well-rounded teams in the country, so it should be a great game. I do think that whichever team wins will be the prohibitive favorite in the national championship game though.
Special thanks to Matt for sharing his thoughts on Boston College Head Football Coach Jeff Hafley. I can’t stop saying that. Again, be sure to check out their site to stay up-to-date on all things Buckeye and catch up with our old pal, Ryan Day.