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How Jeff Hafley and Boston College are Adapting to Coronavirus

Corona Fun Time with Jeff Hafley

BC Football Spring Drills Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Boston College put together a teleconference with Coach Jeff Hafley yesterday afternoon to discuss how the team was preparing and moving forward while the world has been set aflame. First and foremost, it was all about the players and everyone’s safety, and making sure everyone understood the gravitas of the situation at hand.

With spring ball effectively over, Coach Hafley spoke about how he believes the players and staff were able to get the most out of the time they had together. Only five practices in, he says that the short time was enough to begin really connecting with players and start touching on field and meeting work. If you’re following the BC Football folks on social media, it’s easy to see how everyone was having good fun and really starting out strong.

With the team having been sent home earlier this week, Hafley noted how they were coming up with creative ways to stay connected with each other and in shape, while acknowledging the realities and difficulties of the situation. The strength and conditioning staff has put together workout routines for everyone at home. He feels fortunate that our guys are actually going to be working. At the same time, he knows it’s never going to be the same as being in person. They’re not going to be as in shape, or eating the same as they would be on campus.

Position meetings are virtual, and blocked out for each day. Every coach has a set time to keep everyone on a good schedule. There is time set to watch film with players. It’s not the same as working, making mistakes, and learning from them, but it will have to do for now. When asked about how the players reacted to the news, Hafley mentioned how anxious they were to get back, as you’d expect (and as you probably feel in your own life), and how many didn’t even want to leave. His goal was to make sure everyone understood why this was happening. He stressed the importance of staying in touch with everyone, making sure they’re talking as much as possible.

But these meetings are not just football. Since this is only Year One, there’s a lot of ground building to do. Hafley wants to be sure to get involved with player’s lives, asking if anybody needs anything, how they are doing, and about their family. “I want that to be face-to-face over the computer and not on the phone because it’s hard and we have to be sensitive to the fact that these players will need other people to talk to.” It’s all about building a good connection for him.

Logistics are surely going to be an issue. No one really knows when all of this is going to settle down, and a lot will depend on the NCAA. With 10 practices off the table now, everyone is in a bit of a bind. There’s so much to do before training camp, and if things get better, Hafley even suggested maybe getting an extra mini camp of sorts, something like the NFL. All in all, he’s just hoping for the best right now.

The timeline of events for the team was very all of a sudden, just as it was many of us. After returning from spring break following the first week of March, the team had practice on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday when the news started coming in. From a recruiting perspective, the first move made was to cancel the visits for the upcoming weekend. Once things started getting worse and keeping safety for all in mind, all of the players were sent home over the weekend in a decision made alongside Martin Jarmond.

For the staff, everyone was sent home right after. They met on Monday and began their own work from home. Hafley talked about how it was hard to even think about it, “It was all just go and making fast decisions”. In fact, some of the staff, including Matt Thurin and Frank Cignetti actually haven’t even made their move yet, and so Hafley wanted to make sure they were with their families. “Is it going to be harder? Are there going to be some things that don’t work perfect? There are. But we’re going to do the best we can. Hopefully, we’ll get better at it every day.”

For how things were going when they departed, defensively, Hafley was able to comment more closely. He says they really weren’t able to install a lot, barely touching on third down and not getting to red zone at all. He feels good about their base defense install and believed the buy-in was good. Most importantly, they began to build a culture, build toughness, and hammered home running through and finishing. Great to hear that last part after . . . well you know. He also mentioned transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec. No one word on the waiver, but Jurkovec has looked much different from the first practice to the fifth. Hafley said his leadership has popped and and he’s earning the respect of the team. Most notably, he was having a lot more fun by the end of it, and looked significantly more confident. While it would have been great to have all 15 practices, he’s confident in his progression.

When asked how much time he think the team would need to be ready for an opener, Hafley acknowledged it would be real hard for everyone, but they’ll get it done. They are preparing for the worst case scenario, and in the end, you just have to go.

The official recruiting period begins on April 15th. Obviously, this isn’t going to be the same. With no actual visits, Hafley and the staff are scheduling who’s FaceTiming who and are building plans. The goal is to get in front of recruits, and develop a relationship. They have to find creative ways to put themselves face to face all the while preparing as though they will not be on the road.

It’s challenging to organize so much on the fly, Hafley told everyone. There’s not a lot you can control, but the team is putting together a detailed schedule. All you can ask for is to get a little bit better each day.