The start of the 2020 Boston College football season was full of unknowns: Jeff Hafley was BC’s first new head coach in seven years, Phil Jurkovec had never played a snap as an Eagle or as a starter, and because of COVID-19, even games scheduled long in advance were subject to last-minute cancelations. This year, however, the Eagles return with most of their starting lineup along with their coaching staff and a highly ranked class of recruits and transfers in the hopes of building on last season’s success.
The Eagles kicked off their spring practices last week in preparation for the 2021 season. Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, Jurkovec, and Jaiden Lars-Woodbey sat down after practice on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming year and offseason.
“It’s great to have the continuity of the staff together again for year two,” Cignetti said. “The roster really hasn’t changed. Having that continuity between the coaches and players—it has been awesome.”
For BC, continuity means that the players already know their roles and how to operate in them. Eagles that were forced to spend the last offseason learning a new playbook are now ready to build on it and help lead a group of new players.
“[The returning players] understand the terminology, the run game system, the protection system, the passing game system, the fundamentals and techniques that we’re teaching as coaches so it’s certainly easier,” Cignetti said. “By no means is football an easy game. What we ask these guys to do—it’s hard. You’re out there competing every snap against other really good players but you can certainly see that our experience in the system has carried over.”
Jurkovec is the main beneficiary from the ease of this year’s offseason as compared to last year’s. At this time last year, he was unsure if the NCAA would grant him the ability to play during the 2020 season. Now, he has a year with Hafley and most of the BC offense under his belt.
“It’s definitely a different field going into spring ball this year,” Jurkovec said. “We have a whole offense installed. We got a lot of reps at it. So although we might have some wrinkles in the offense … there’s a lot more of a comfort level with it.”
Part of that comfort comes with the return of offensive linemen Ben Petrula and Zion Johnson, who both announced that they would be returning for the 2021 season.
“We’re very fortunate that the guys came back and we’re excited,” Cignetti said. “After two practices this spring, the offensive line has done an outstanding job.”
Jurkovec echoed his excitement.
“I was back home whenever [Petrula and Johnson] officially said that they were coming back,” Jurkovec said. “That was a big relief. Those guys are … really good up front and … knowing you’re protected is huge for a quarterback.”
Although the Eagles are grateful for a semblance of continuity, the 2021 team is not identical to the 2020 squad. In fact, BC will welcome its highest-ranked recruiting class since 2011 as well as a group of transfers, Lars-Woodbey said.
“I just hope to bring my leadership and help build the group you know, just help them be more of a unit,” Lars-Woodbey said. “I just want to bring my talents and everything to the already talented group.”
Lars-Woodbey, a four-star recruit defensive back, transferred to BC from Florida State.
“I feel like they embraced me as soon as I got here,” Lars-Woodbey said of his teammates. “That was something that was much needed on my end. I got to be myself a lot more. … I’m grateful that they gave me a chance to come up here and show my athleticism and help the team win.”
Another change this season is the return of Kobay White, who was sidelined for the entirety of last season with an ACL injury.
“[I] can’t wait to see Kobay get back on the field,” Cignetti said. “He’s a smart player. He’s a tough player. He’s a very good route runner. We’ll get him acclimated into the offense. … Hopefully you’ll see in the fall that a healthy Kobay makes some big plays for us.”
Featured Image by Anthony Garro Courtesy of BC Athletics