After two weeks, a bowl announcement, and several rumors, the wait is finally over for Boston College football. Rece Davis announced on ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday morning that BC has hired Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley.
Hafley, 40, is the youngest Eagles head coach since Ed Chlebek (1978-80). He will replace Steve Addazio, who posted a 44-44 record with BC and guided the Eagles to the postseason in six of his seven years with the program, but lost 17 of his 18 games against ranked opponents and was just 22-34 in the ACC. Hafley was a finalist for the Broyles Award this year, an honor given to the top assistant in college football, and oversaw a Buckeyes defense that made the jump from 72nd to second nationally in total defense.
BC was the last of the Power Five programs to fill its head coaching vacancy this year. Following Addazio’s dismissal, Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond announced that BC wide receivers coach Rich Gunnell would serve as the Eagles’ interim head coach but would not interview for the full-time job. Jarmond stated that he was looking for a candidate that could make BC more competitive, both in the ACC and on the national stage. BC conducted a national search and targeted Hafley early on in the process.
BC officials flew out to Columbus, Ohio last week to meet with the Montvale, N.J., native for a Thursday night meeting, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports. One week later, Hafley came to Boston for a follow-up interview, Thamel reported.
Hafley is still expected to coach Ohio State during the College Football Playoff. Along with co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Hafley has spearheaded a unit that has only allowed 247.6 yards (No. 2 nationally) and 12.5 points (tied for second) per game this season. Hafley, who the Buckeyes hired last January after he spent seven years as an assistant in the NFL, has helped Ohio State rank inside the top five in scoring defense for the first time since 2016.
Before joining Ryan Day at OSU, Hafley served as the San Francisco 49ers secondary coach from 2016 to 2018. Hafley and Day overlapped in 2016, when Day was San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach. While with the 49ers, he worked with defensive backs like Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid, and Richard Sherman.
“His preparation is some of the best I’ve seen,” Sherman said, per Ohio State Athletics. “I’ve had some great defensive back coaches, some great defensive coaches and defensive minds. He is right up there with his preparation and how he breaks down film … how easy and simple he makes the game plan sound and how easy he makes it for guys to understand.”
Prior to his three-year stay in San Francisco, Hafley was the Cleveland Browns’ secondary coach from 2014 to 2015. Before that, he spent two years with Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a defensive backs assistant and then a secondary/safeties coach. Hafley’s jump to the NFL came with Schiano after Hafley served as Schiano’s secondary coach at Rutgers in 2011.
While an assistant at Rutgers and, in the preceding years, Pittsburgh—where he also coached defensive backs from 2006 to 2010—Hafley established himself as one of the best recruiters in the Big East. What’s more, Rivals.com named him one of the country’s top recruiters in both 2011 and 2012. He’s maintained that standard, even after spending the greater portion of the 2010s in the professional league. In fact, 247Sports ranked him as the third-best recruiter in the nation for the Class of 2020.
Hafley’s recruiting prowess impressed BC officials, according to Thamel. The Eagles could use some help in that department, especially on the defensive side of the ball. BC is currently on pace to concede the most points per game in program history (31.7) and has already reset the school record for most yards allowed in a single game twice: at Louisville (664) and Clemson (674).
There are a few question marks surrounding the Eagles’ offense as well, after three-year starting quarterback Anthony Brown entered the transfer portal on Monday, star running back AJ Dillon declared for the 2020 NFL Draft on Tuesday, and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian was officially hired away by Northwestern on Wednesday.
BC hasn’t had a top-50 recruiting class since 2011. Approaching the Dec. 18 early signing period, the Eagles’ 2020 recruiting class ranks 52nd in the nation, with a pair of four-star offensive tackles.
Hafley has a lot to sort out in these next few weeks, but in the meantime he’ll get an early taste of the ACC, when No. 2 Ohio State plays No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28—the kind of opponent that Jarmond hopes BC will finally be able to compete with in the coming years.
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