Boston College football allowed 32.2 points per game this season—the most in school history—and reset the single-game program record for most yards allowed twice. It’s head coach Jeff Hafley’s job to pick up the pieces, and on Monday afternoon he announced who will help him try to restore BC’s defensive identity.
Tem Lukabu, 38, was named as the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator, hours after offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. joined the staff.
“Tem is a tremendous coach with experience both in the NFL and on the collegiate level,” Hafley told BCEagles.com. “I have had the opportunity to work with him and have seen how bright of a defensive mind he is. He is a great person who is smart, intelligent and relates to players extremely well.”
Lukabu will replace Bill Sheridan, who saw BC’s defense take a huge step back in 2019 after losing eight starters from the previous season. The Eagles ranked 125th in total defense this year, allowing the sixth most yards per game (478.7) in the country.
Lukabu spent this past year as the Cincinnati Bengals’ linebacker coach. The Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo native worked with the likes of Nick Vigil and Germaine Pratt, both of whom recorded 70-plus tackles this season, on a unit that ranked 25th in scoring defense and 29th in total defense. The 2019 season marked Lukabu’s fifth year as an NFL coach.
Before joining Zac Taylor’s staff, he served as an assistant at Mississippi State for one year. He coached the linebackers, including NFL prospects Erroll Thompson and Willie Gay Jr. The Bulldogs finished 2018 third in total defense (268 yards per game allowed) and first in scoring defense (11.1 points per game allowed). Mississippi State’s 144 points allowed were not only the fewest in the country that season, but they were also the third fewest in the FBS over the course of the past 10 years.
Lukabu made his second of three NFL stops in San Francisco, where he took on the role of defensive quality control coach from 2016 to 2017. It was there that he reunited with Hafley, who was coaching the 49ers’ secondary at the time—the two first worked together at Rutgers in 2011. During the 2016 season, he mostly coached the linebackers, but the following year he was alongside Hafley, helping out with the defensive backs.
Prior to arriving in San Francisco, Lukabu was the defensive line coach at Florida International. Perhaps most notably, he oversaw defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine. The duo combined for 12 of the Panthers’ 22 sacks in 2015, en route to All-Conference USA honors.
Lukabu spent 2014 with Colgate—where he played and won back-to-back Patriot League titles and conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2002 and 2003—as an outside linebackers coach. Before returning to his alma mater, he got his first NFL gig. From 2012 to 2013, he was a defensive assistant on Greg Schiano’s staff in Tampa Bay. Like Hafley, who worked with the Buccaneers’ secondary during those two years, Lukabu had formed a previous relationship with Schiano at Rutgers. Lukabu and Hafley contributed to a staff that coached All-Pro defensive playmakers, such as linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
Schiano first brought Lukabu on at Rutgers as an outside linebackers coach in 2010. In his two-year stint with the Scarlet Knights, Lukabu overlapped with Hafley, who was Rutgers’ secondary coach in 2011. It was that second season in Piscataway, N.J. that Lukabu coached Khaseem Greene amid a breakthrough campaign. Greene racked up 144 tackles and became the first-ever Scarlet Knight to earn a conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year award.
Lukabu’s first go-around at Rutgers actually started in 2006. Prior to serving as Rhode Island’s linebackers coach from 2008 to 2009, he began his long journey up the coaching ladder with the Scarlet Knights, where he worked in player development for three years.
Hafley has been at the helm for less than a week, but it’s already clear that he’s building his staff around former connections—coaches with college and NFL experience that he’s directly worked with on his way up the ranks.
Featured Image by Michael Dwyer / AP Photo