Two weeks out from its spring game, Boston College football is going back to basics. After not having a true “spring ball” schedule last spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eagles are in full refinement and perfection mode.
“Really for the offense, this spring has been a review—kind of going back over everything but in more detail, trying to master these plays,” quarterback Phil Jurkovec said in Friday’s weekly press conference. “They’re plays that we’ve run last camp and last fall, but now in the spring we’re trying to make them kind of get them to another level.”
The Eagles return a host of experience this season, which allows them to focus even more on honing their fundamental skills. According to head coach Jeff Hafley, graduate defensive ends Brandon Barlow and Marcus Valdez are working to take their edge rush to the next level by focusing on the basics.
The same holds true for graduate defensive back Mike Palmer, who will take on an essential role in the Eagles’ secondary this season.
“Mike [Palmer] will have roles on first, second, third down, redzone. … Mike’s played a lot of football,” Hafley said. “He has a lot of experience, and he’s a very smart football player. And in his position, that’s very important because that guy has to get us lined up, he has to put us in the right positions. And if he makes a mistake, it can be an explosive play very quickly. So Mike’s the guy we trust back there.”
Palmer opted to return for next season despite being a graduate student in search of greater competition. The defensive back played just seven of the Eagles’ 11 games last season with a hamstring injury.
“I look at myself as an extremely competitive person, and I did not want my college career to end that way, missing the last four or five games of the season, and it just didn’t sit right with me,” Palmer said on his decision to return.
Palmer said he has put on weight this offseason, which he hopes will help prevent injury and keep him on the field. He described his field presence as “a little reckless at times” and said he hopes the added body mass will keep him healthier for longer.
What sets Palmer apart in the secondary, other than his experience, is a knack for forcing turnovers. He recorded a 70-yard interception and a 34-yard scoop and score across just seven games last season. He chalked his turnover ability up to learning from his predecessors, and with a pretty young defensive backs room this season, Palmer is set up to serve the same role.
Similarly to Palmer, Jurkovec expressed his desire for competition in his preparation for next season.
“It’s important for us to realize that we were only 6-5 last year, and we’re trying to be a lot better,” Jurkovec said.
Jurkovec will feel the added benefit of the return of veteran wide receiver Kobay White, who was out for the entirety of the 2020 season with a knee injury.
“It’s been huge because Kobay [White] knows, he’s played at the highest level, and he recognizes what needs to be done and the work that needs to be put in,” Jurkovec said.
In order to earn that improvement, Hafley said the team’s preparation is a matter of building on past experiences. With the truncated spring practice season last year, the Eagles faced stunted growth under a new coaching staff and a new signal caller. This year, it’s all about continuity.
“I think we’re continuing to build our culture and learning how to do things our way,” Hafley said. “These next few practices will be very, very important just for us to continue to get better in the key areas on the field. … But the guys have done a really good job. I’m really excited for where we’re at. And I’m just excited to see if we can take, you know, another few steps.”
Featured Image by Anthony Garro Courtesy of BC Athletics