The Boston College football season is finally over after the Eagles’ loss to Syracuse dropped them to 3-9 on the season. Jeff Hafley’s 3rd season as BC head coach ended with Boston College’s worst record since 2015 and we’re left wondering: what happened? Our writers teamed up to try and answer some of the biggest questions of the year.
Boston College football finished 3-9 and ineligible for a bowl by a longshot. Nobody on BCI’s staff made a prediction this bad in the preseason. Should we have seen it coming?
Curtis: The offensive line problems were definitely predictable and some of us (including myself) didn’t fully understand their impact. Otherwise? A lot of the problems with this team were fairly new and they had a lot of regression. Even if you told me the offensive line was going to be all-time bad, I wouldn’t have predicted this bad of a season.
Grant: I don’t know that we should have seen it coming, and 3-9 is way below even the most pessimistic of predictions, but I think what this tells us is they we need to take “hey we lost like our entire OL” much more seriously next time.
Curran: No one could have predicted everything that went wrong this year. I mean, yes, we knew that the entire offensive line was being replaced, but beyond that — who could have foreseen how much Phil Jurkovec regressed, the amount of injuries to the team, the special teams falling off a cliff, etc. etc. You get my point — pretty much anything that could have gone wrong for the Eagles went wrong for the Eagles.
Niraj: I’ll stand by no we shouldn’t have mostly to save face, but at least not to this extreme. I mean, Vegas had it at 6.5 wins. Obviously, I’m a sucker and took the over (again). But given how the team has performed since Hafley took over, very little indicated this level of drop off. The amount of injuries was well above average (concerning), particularly on the offensive line. Clearly I put too much faith in the coaching staff, especially with some new faces on board, to coach up the talent or that they would level set the quality of depth (given there was no activity on the transfer portal). Phil’s staggering drop off had even the prognosticators scratching their heads. And then there’s the whole point of the team not playing hard for large stretches of the season. That just wasn’t something we were accustomed to with Hafley or even Addazio.
What’s the biggest reason you attribute this season’s failures to?
Curtis: Poor coaching. The offensive line was depleted, but still had multiple good recruits and should’ve been prepared much more effectively. Phil Jurkovec regressed as a quarterback and Emmett Morehead’s arm talent was not enough to overcome bad preparation. The defense was not prepared from week-to-week and especially at the beginning of games. And the team was just generally unmotivated. All of that comes from the staff.
Grant: No offensive line. I am not as down on Jurkovec as everyone else was. We didn’t have an OL that allowed us to run and we didn’t have an OL that gave the QB time to function. Everything falls from there.
Curran: The offensive line has to be the answer. Granted, Jurkovec took a step back this year, but the offensive line hamstrung the entirety of the offense. It was a huge reason behind BC’s abysmal rushing attack, and it definitely did not help Jurkovec or Morehead. Despite Garwo returning, despite Jurkovec healthy, despite Zay Flowers’ dominance, the offensive line issues doomed the offense and was the single biggest reason behind this season’s failures.
Niraj: Coaching number one. As I mentioned, the team just didn’t play hard or execute in nearly every game. Constant penalties, no attention to detail, and boneheaded errors. Hafley misevaluated his own team’s talent and didn’t bring in the right folks. I credit him for making necessary changes in that department, but his rolodex didn’t give him a lot of options that he could count on. This team had a lot of the same problems we’ve seen over his run: poor tackling, little to no adjustments, and played with no physicality.
Which secondary reasons also played a significant part?
Curtis: Injuries and turnover in the offensive line killed what was an effective rushing attack just 1 year ago. QB protection also suffered, though not to the same extent.
Grant: I don’t really have a secondary reason. The defense was passable for the most part. And like I said before, I don’t really put this on the quarterbacks. It’s all down to the line play. Maybe I’ll cheat and say OL coaching, then.
Curran: I mentioned injury issues above, so I’ll go with the defense’s regression. Hafley, as we all know, is a defensive-minded coach. He was a defensive backs guy, and the strength of his defenses has been his calling card the first few seasons on the Heights. Yet this year, his secondary took a major step backwards. They showed what they could do in spurts — i.e. the first half against Clemson, or the second half against NC State — but they were far too inconsistent. The team came out flat far too often, most noticeably against Duke and UConn, and it was not a good sight to see.
Niraj: The secondary fault has to lie with Jurkovec. He was a shell of himself and looked uncomfortable nearly every game. Emmett Morehead’s performance the last few weeks was case in point. Even though he was by no stretch amazing, he exuded much more confidence and BC was more in the game. He’s not the same level of athlete, but he fought to make more plays, critically saw more of the field, and didn’t look shell-shocked. Phil got beat up pretty bad back there, but he just wasn’t able to bounce back up. What he does now is the question.
What are your feelings on Jeff Hafley as head coach? How long should his leash be moving forward?
Curtis: I’m about 95% certain he’s not going to be fired this offseason, so that’s not really worth discussing. The OL coach needs to be fired yesterday, the strength and conditioning staff needs an overhaul, and they need to do some serious reckoning with the entire offense. If that happens and the team’s performance starts to improve, then maybe Hafley should stay and see his recruiting classes fully develop. After all, his recruits were only sophomores and freshmen in 2022. Maybe he can prove something as they become the team’s leaders.
Grant: Not plugging up the OL holes falls on him as the person tasked with recruiting and using the transfer portal. So it’s his responsibility in the end. He’s a new head coach — hopefully this is a learning experience. That was a bad year and it’s on him, but I’m not ready to cut bait yet. The team didn’t seem to quit on him, so that’s a big mark in his favor.
Curran: Hafley proved this season that he is not the complete head coach this season. So much of what went wrong this season can be traced to poor player development, from the shortfalls of the offensive line to the poor secondary to the brutal special teams blunders. He needs more help from his coordinators, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now, BC knew they were hiring a long-term project as Hafley had no head coaching experience prior to BC. I don’t think anyone expected “growing pains” as severe as the entirety of this past season, but I do think Hafley has a season to turn it around. He’s a likeable guy, and I do think that he never lost the locker room. He just has to deliver on the field.
Niraj: He’s hanging on by a thread. For every good moment, there were five bad ones. I always bought in to what he said, but the rose colored glasses have shattered. I credit him with bringing in a highly-rated recruiting class, but I need to see more in terms of development. As far as I see they aren’t dropping like flies any more than is normal despite the season’s performance. But back to the development, I feel more players have regressed in his tenure. You did have a lot of young players step in and make plays this season so there is some optimism there. But can it be sustained? Can he fill the team out? Can he assess his team honestly and do what needs to be done (i.e. transfer portal). That’s all still to be seen. His contract and it only being year three mean he’ll stay. If things are bad out of the gate next season, we should move on.
What were some of your positive takeaways from this season?
Curtis: Zay Flowers came to Boston College, dominated, and exemplified everything great about this university and football program. He’ll have his jersey hanging in Alumni Stadium one day, and that’s something they can’t take away from us.
Grant: Zay Flowers is so good. I can’t wait to watch him on Sundays. Other positive takeaways: Getting out of bowl contention so quickly meant that late season losses hurt less. Yayyyy.
Curran: After the Duke loss, I wrote an article highlighting the promising play from several underclassmen. Sophomore DE Donovan Ezeiruaku, freshman CB Amari Jackson, freshman RB Alex Broome, redshirt freshman Emmett Morehead and freshman Joe Griffin Jr. are a promising core on both sides of the ball. Hopefully all of them will stay, because they will define the program moving forward.
Niraj: Zay is the obvious shining light upon the chestnut hill (we are not worthy), but I’ll point out that a lot of younger players got action, and they played well! Amari Jackson, Cole Batson, Alex Broome, Joe Griffin Jr. are some names that come to mind. They brought juice and made plays. They grew over the season and getting those snaps under their belt can’t hurt.
It’s very early, but what would success for this team look like in 2023? Assuming Hafley is still the head coach.
Curtis: The schedule is one of the easiest BC has had in years. Out of conference (Northern Illinois, UConn, Holy Cross, @ Army) they need to go 3-1 minimum. Then just 2 or 3 ACC wins to reach bowl eligibility? I’d call that a success after what we saw in 2022.
Grant: Unfortunately we’re back to baby steps forward. Anything under bowl eligibility is going to be a failure in any season. Let’s start with that.
Curran: Boston College has a much weaker schedule next season than last. Hafley needs at the very minimum to reach a bowl game. No excuses.
Niraj: I look across college football and see teams that had no expectations show up and compete. UConn, Duke, Kansas, Illinois, TCU?!? Vanderbilt, even Syracuse all crushed their season win totals. It may be simplistic, but just beat whatever win total the world has set for you. Play hard and maybe let’s get to (and actually play) in a bowl game.
Any additional thoughts, feelings, rants?
Curtis: The general gameday experience this year has also been absolutely terrible from what I’ve heard from several fans/friends. Long concession and bathroom lines, running out of food, zero cell service or WiFi connectivity, and dirty facilities just to name the big ones. You can explain away underperformance on the football field, but the state of Alumni Stadium is fixable and inexcusable.
Grant: That was a miserable season. We need to get back to focusing on putting together the best possible offensive line we can. We will win with that just by default.
Curran: Please, please, please find a way to fix the O-line. I can’t go through another season like this past one.
Niraj: I’m just glad it’s over