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BCI Debates: How do you solve a problem like Jeff Hafley?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Boston College at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Curtis: Folks, oof. Despite high preseason expectations, a weak ACC, and plenty of senior playmakers, Boston College football regressed in 2022 to a horrid 3-9 in Jeff Hafley’s 3rd year as head coach. All we’re left to do is pick up the pieces. How are we feeling about his leadership of the program?

Laura: We all know I watch this team the least out of all of you so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but it definitely seems like if they’re going to keep Hafley, BC at least needs to replace some of the other coaches on his staff.

Curtis: I would have to agree. Blake James already made supportive comments of Hafley in the midst of this season and I don’t see an administration like BC’s abandoning him after just 3 seasons. Whether or not it’s justified, I think he’ll be retained for next season. The offensive line coaching, and potentially the whole offensive coaching staff, needs to be revamped as a result.

Bailin: Hi, greetings from a town off I-81 in Virginia, the world’s worst highway. I feel like BC is tied to Hafley for another year so I expect him to be back. However, no one on the coaching staff should be safe. The defense seems safer but it’s worth drilling down on why at times it was so disorganized. Offensively it was a clown show and there need to be wholesale changes.

Curran: I agree, Hafley is safe for the season. Beyond that, changes are necessary. I’d be shocked if BC keeps O-Line coach Dave DeGuglielmo for obvious reasons, and I don’t think McNulty is the man for the job as OC. Hafley proved this year he simply is out of his depth as a head coach on the offensive side of the ball, and the best way to remedy that is to hire a coordinator with a ton of experience who can essentially run the offense as Hafley develops as a head coach.

Laura: It also seems like they need to review strength and conditioning - all the injuries this year have me wondering what’s going on there…

Curtis: Yes definitely. There’s something to be said for bad injury luck, but what we saw this season was on another level. Almost every week we got new injury news from Pete Thamel that another starter was hurt and out for the game/season. Especially on the offensive line. There needs to be a change there.

Grant: Do we need new turf? I say this as a Giants fan. They are replacing the turf at Metlife this summer because there are so many injuries.

Curtis: BC has been playing on turf for years and this injury issue hasn’t been nearly as prevalent as this year. Though never count out Father Leahy on planting new grass somewhere…

Curran: Most of the injuries (from what I gather) were contact which means that the turf likely isn’t the sole reason (though it likely does not help).

Curtis: I think we’re probably all in agreement that OL Coach Guge needs to go. Do we think OC John McNulty deserves another shot after only being at the helm for 1 season?

Bailin: Nope. The offense looked absolutely lost all year, there needs to be a change. Not to mention Jurk appeared to have some pretty massive regression.

Curran: Yea, I think McNulty needs to go. Clearly he doesn’t have the experience or coaching skills to adequately covet Hafley. I don’t see how keeping him around for another year would help the program.

Curtis: I’d have to push back on that a little myself. I think a lot of the problems with the offense are a result of long-term development issues with players and weren’t necessarily schematic issues. The offensive line was poorly prepared and injured, Jurkovec had individual decision-making problems, and Morehead had his own issues but could be improved with a bit more experience and an offseason spent practicing with the starters. McNulty did a better job than Cignetti of getting Zay Flowers involved and creating cohesive game plans from week to week. I think firing him may be premature and I’d be interested to see how he does with more focus on the OL and a QB with a better handle on the offense.

Bailin: I do think you touch upon a good reason for him staying, and that’s continuity for Morehead. Having multiple OC’s can’t be good for his development. That said, if he isn’t fired, I need to see a cohesive game plan for the offense moving forward to get better. This year was not acceptable. I’ll also give him a pass on the OL, seems to have been a problem he inherited, which falls back on Hafley. Man, it really all comes back to him doesn’t it?

Curtis: It really does. Hafley has bungled his staff hirings and roster construction, two of the most important aspects of being a college head coach. Is there anything else we’d like to see from him moving forward besides staff changes?

Bailin: I’d love to see him be active on the transfer portal, particularly for OL’s. I think there are some decent pieces in place, although losing Zay will hurt tremendously, but if the OL doesn’t get better we’re setting ourselves up for failure. I’m not sold that this OL will mature into something stronger.

Niraj: If I recall correctly, McNulty was a very late cycle hire after Cignetti took the Pitt job. But with a shiny piece like Zay gone, wonder who (someone that can really take the reins) even wants the job? Agreed on the transfer portal — he has to be proactive. And there’s still the concern over who’s going to transfer out, as the Mahogany rumors are still out there.
Possible elephant in the room, but Hafley’s going to have to make ‘a decision’ on Jurkovec too. He’s got another year and he sure as heck ain’t going pro right now. One would think he looks for another fresh start, but he does seem to like it in Boston. Hafley talked a lot in the offseason about balancing rosters with old guys and new since players were granted Covid years. You could tell some guys were shown the door last season, but he needs to make that call

Curtis: We’ll probably be having a lot of discussions on the Jurkovec “decision” in the coming weeks and months. It’s the kind of move that could make or break Hafley’s attempt at redemption next season. If he decides to run it back with Jurk… well let’s just say that he better have a plan for drastic improvement.
I agree with you all that they need to be aggressive in the transfer portal. Hafley’s staff utilized the portal well in his first season or two at BC, but they were more relaxed about it in year 3 and it clearly hurt them.

Bailin: I think Hafley would be hard pressed to bring back Jurk. He’s going to be a project wherever he goes, whether it’s mechanical or something else, and with one year left and a blossoming understudy, it’s hard to justify keeping Jurk around. I’m fine with him in the program, but let’s be clear, it’d need to be as Morehead’s backup.

Curran: Yea, I agree. Morehead came in with less experience and without the number of first-team reps as Jurkovec and still managed to outperform him. I don’t understand how Jurkovec could return as BC’s starter next year.

Niraj: Not to mention he may want to get Delaportas in the mix more too. The transfer portal will be big. I saw a good post about how that 2021 recruiting class can finally be properly assessed after having either no season or not being able to visit and all of that from Covid. There are going to be players that are much better than the school they’re currently at and vice versa. The staff has plenty of time now to dive in head first. And if there are changes, he needs to make them sooner rather than later

Arthur: Yeah, it’ll be easier to recruit if you can show the transfers what they’re getting. The thing about making those changes is that it oozes instability, so getting stabilized quickly is the move.