It’s about time for everyone to get on board with Boston College football, and a sold-out Conte Forum of Eagles fans would agree.
“The ACC is gonna start to have a lot more rivalries than they think they do,” BC head football coach Jeff Hafley said at Saturday’s men’s hockey game. “But, to do all that, I’m gonna say the same thing I said in my press conference. … I’m gonna ask you guys again to get in.”
In his short time on the Heights, the former Ohio State defensive coordinator has already made a great impact on not only BC’s football program, but the entire school. Hafley has made an effort to attend numerous games in support of other BC sports. First, he attended BC men’s basketball’s stunning upset over the reigning national champions, Virginia. And more recently, Hafley made an appearance at Conte Forum for BC men’s hockey’s victory over rival Boston University.
Before the game had even started, Hafley was making connections with people. With 10 minutes remaining before puck drop, Hafley made an appearance at each of the two main student sections, tossing personal pizzas to awaiting fans. Then, during the first intermission of the Eagles’ eventual 4-3 win over the Terriers, Hafley made a compelling speech, inspiring each and every member of the BC community to “get in.”
Hafley’s message—one dating back to his first press conference in Chestnut Hill—has become a motto of the football program. With the announcement of each new coach added to Hafley’s growing staff came the message “get in.” The new members of the program all come bearing the same excitement that the BC community had first seen from Hafley.
“I’m gonna try to get around to all the games and all the teams that I can,” Hafley said in an interview to NESN during Saturday’s game. “I want [the BC community] to feel like they’re a part of it.”
With the Heights brimming with excitement for the new faces of the football program to get started, Hafley confidently declared in front of the sold out crowd that the Eagles would become more competitive within the ACC than they have been in previous seasons.
And Hafley’s assertive statement was not without merit—he has proven his ability to refine a program in a short period of time. In just one year with the Buckeyes, Hafley built the best defensive squad in the nation, according to an article by Max Olson of The Athletic.
Ohio State ended its season with an 82.5 percent stop rate on all drives, earning the top placement in that category and just barely edging out both Clemson and Georgia, who ended their seasons with an 82.4 percent stop rate. The Buckeyes had the fourth best improvement rate in the nation, increasing their stop rate by 12.2 percent from their 70.3 percent stop rate in 2018.
BC, on the other hand, had the largest decline in stop rate, with an 18.3 percent decline from 2018 to 2019. On a list that ranked the top 130 defenses, Boston College fell at 119th with an overall stop rate of 55.8 percent. While BC does not have the same starting point as Ohio State had, Hafley is still optimistic that the team can vastly improve its contention status at least in the ACC, if not nationally.
“We’ll take a strong look at what we have [defensively] … but we’re going to be aggressive,” Hafley said to NESN. “For me, defense is built on fundamentals and technique. … I don’t want to overcomplicate it on defense. It’s very similar to what I did when I was at Ohio State last year.”
With former Cincinnati Bengals’ linebacker coach Tem Lukabu taking over for Bill Sheridan as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Hafley has high hopes for BC’s defensive side. Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, defensive backs coach, and Vince Oghobaase, defensive line coach, make up the rest of BC’s defensive coaching unit alongside Lukabu.
All of these hirings are part of Hafley’s determination to leave the defensive woes of the Eagles’ 2019 season in the past. Lukabu has been cited as being one of the sport’s bright defensive minds, and his experience in coaching at both the college and professional level will help in aiding the Eagles to a new level of defensive maturity.
Abdul-Rahim, on the other hand, gained his prior coaching experience solely through the college sphere, most recently as the defensive coordinator at Massachusetts. He is known for his ability to find and recruit top college prospects that have the potential to have a positive impact.
Oghobaase completes the trio of defensive coaches as the youngest, at only 32 years old. Similarly to Lukabu, Oghobaase has served as a coach at both the collegiate and professional level, coming most recently from UCLA as the team’s defensive line coach. Prior to joining the Bruins in 2018, Oghobaase had worked as the assistant defensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers for two seasons.
With this much experience joining the Eagles’ coaching staff, it’s hard to ignore Hafley’s bold claim. If he believes that the ACC will have more rivalries come the 2020 season and BC’s new coaching staff ameliorates each of the Eagles’ deep-rooted issues, there’s a good chance that his assertions will come to fruition.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor