Just a few more days until the start of spring practices, and Jeff Hafley couldn’t be more excited. It’s his first somewhat real offseason, so he still doesn’t know what to expect, but the bottom line is he’s happy to be here and in-person. Although he’s yet to have a staff meeting face-to-face, he’s pumped to get everyone together this Saturday.
At yesterday’s media conference, Hafley gave an inside peak at what the couple of months off have been like and what to expect moving forward. It’s going to be a different training camp, they’ll be diving into schemes and already knowing who they are and who they have, as opposed to trying to remember everyone’s name.
The Gang Stays Together
A key theme Hafley harped on was the importance of continuity. “The most important thing is to win with people.” The BC staff remained intact after successful season. That’s not to say some coaches were deservedly offered other gigs. Defensive backs coach and ace recruiter, Aazaar Abdul-Rahim was offered a Power 5 defensive coordinator role, while offensive line coach Matt Applebaum had the opportunity to jump to the NFL. Both elected to stay, and Coach Aazaar was rewarded with a promotion to Associate Head Coach. Hafley commented on how he has an excellent grasp of the team and is excited for the future. He knows the talk of the town is his recruiting skills, but Hafley was quick to emphasiz how much more he does for the team on the field.
The BC brass also had the fortune of returning some key cogs with six grad students. Zion Johnson in particular has already showed how much more of a leader he is since deciding to return. With the entire offensive line returning, another year now more comfortable in the system, along with wide receiver Kobay White to go with an already dynamic wide receiving corps, Hafley’s very optimistic about the offense. That being said, he hopes we don’t count out his defense just yet. He anticipates some competitive periods in the spring.
“I want the spring to be about competition,” Hafley explained. He discussed the open competitions all over the field. While he’s very excited for the new guys on the field, he wants everyone to be pushed. They intend to split up reps as much as possible to see everyone on the field. It’s important to see how players progress start to finish. His expectation is to have everyone go out and compete, no matter the experience because it’s a “culture built on competition.”
Sean Duggan’s linebacking corps is entirely an open competition. With the losses of near all of the production in Isaiah McDuffie and Max Richardson, transfers, freshman, and the current players will each have a chance to compete for starting roles. Hafley has been impressed at how the early enrollees and transfers have acclimated saying how “the culture consumed those guys, and the older guys took them under their wings.”
One place there won’t be any competition however, is quarterback. At this point last year, Phil Jurkovec wasn’t even on the team. This time around, he’s here and the pressure is off. “He knows the scheme . . . and he can just play football.”
The end of last year has been well reported as being quite exhausting. Fittingly, Hafley commented on how rejuvenated the team looks. The team stayed home late into January, and was able to refresh more and get their minds right. The physical and mental toll was a lot. Hafley himself admittedly relaxed and stayed in-state with his family.
Hafley lauded strength and conditioning coach Phil Matusz on several occasions. He was able to keep everyone in shape instead of having to just start things up when the team returned. “Phil really got creative to keep everyone in shape,” explaining how easy it was to reacclimate everyone. Still, the team decided to push back the start of spring ball a couple of weeks just to take care of bodies.
It’s all going to start with fundamentals and scheme. “This isn’t going to be a reboot. The foundation is set, and now we just are trying to find out what we do well.”
On the Horizon
While the team is able to meet this spring, we’re still fighting COVID. Players will expect to be tested about three times a week. Hafley credited the players and staff again with the sacrifices they are making during this session. He said he gave a similar speech to before. “15 practices. Dig deep and find how you did this in the fall.” He’s beyond appreciative.
NFL Pro Days are in about a week, and Hafley and his staff have had to help navigate for the future Eagles in the NFL. They’ve helped prepare them with interviews and all the mental preparation that goes with the process. They’ve received plenty of calls and expect good results.
Since they Eagles staff were unable to attend any high school games, if a season was held at all, BC coaches have put on a weekly clinic to help build those relationships. They’ve cranked up the evaluation process, especially for the local recruits. He even caught a New Hampshire HS game on TV that left him impressed at the kids playing in near-freezing conditions.
And lastly, basketball news is buzzing around the Heights, so Hafley started his presser shouting out new men’s basketball coach Earl Grant. He had a chance speak with Coach Grant and welcome his family. When asked how important the support he received coming in and getting off to a successful start, Hafley described how necessary it was. He hopes it can drive Earl too, as we show the same love and support. The support the alumni, students, and even other coaches give is something he finds so special about Boston College.