Three practices into the 2023 spring season, Boston College football is ready to move on from its 3–9 2022 season.
But it’s a slow ramp up process until the first game of the season on Sept. 2, according to BC head coach Jeff Hafley. The Eagles, who practiced on Tuesday and Thursday this week, are currently playing with just helmets—no pads—through a procedure of tagging players instead of tackling. Once shoulder pads come on, BC will start to “thud,” which is when players wrap each other up.
“We didn’t run very much,” Hafley said of this week’s practices. “It’s more about fundamentals and techniques. So we’ll build scheme. We’ll build through the physicality. And that will culminate with the Spring Game and we’ll see how healthy we are and go from there.”
There are new and old faces on BC’s roster—from players on the field to members of the coaching staff. Here’s a look at a few units of BC’s 2023 squad and how the Eagles have transitioned to a fresh spring season.
Kicker Connor Lytton underwent a sophomore slump last season, converting on only 9 of 17 field goals that includes going 1 of 5 on field goals between 40 and 49 yards. Liam Connor replaced Lytton on kickoffs during the season, and BC started to move away from attempting field goals as the season went on. It’s no secret Lytton has to be better, according to Hafley.
“He was 10 of 11 in the first practice,” Hafley said of BC’s practice on March 3. “He didn’t miss one today [Tuesday]. It’s a new year. We’ve stressed a bunch of different things to him. We’ve gotten some guys to help him. But I have confidence in him. He had a great first year. We’ll consider last year a bad inning and we’ll move on.”
And while Lytton went 11 of 12 on field goals as a freshman in 2021, he is not a lock to start in 2023, Hafley said.
“Liam [Connor] will compete with him,” Hafley said. “So there’s definitely some competition. And just like at any other position we’re gonna play the guy that gives us the best chance to win. So whoever is most consistent with the field goals and extra point will be our field goal kicker.”
The Eagles have two transfers joining the trenches for this upcoming season—graduate Kyle Hergel and redshirt sophomore Logan Taylor, who transferred from Texas State and Virginia, respectively. After allowing 46 sacks for an average of 3.83 sacks per game in 2022, good for 129th in the FBS, the two of them will bring much needed size—Hergel stands at 6-foot-2 while Taylor is 6-foot-7—and depth to BC’s front line that was depleted last season with injuries.
“The biggest thing is, it creates competition, and depth,” Hafley said. “Both Kyle and Logan have done a really good job. We’ll see how they progress. … The best five will play.”
Hergel and Taylor each received regular reps at practice this week that featured a starting group of, from left-to-right, Ozzy Trapilo, Jack Conley, Drew Kendall, Hergel, and Jude Bowry. Trapilo got reps at left tackle, with Taylor and redshirt sophomore Nick Thomas filling in with the starting unit.
“The energy out there is way different,” Kendall said. They’re fitting right in, doing great, fitting right in with the scheme. It’s gonna be a whole new mentality. … No more sitting back.”
Offensive line coach Matt Applebaum returned to the Heights after previously serving as BC’s offensive line coach during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, and he’ll look to revamp the group as a whole.
“The nice thing is, Matt knows a lot of these guys. Matt recruited most of these guys,” Hafley said. “Matt’s got a really good eye on the run game. You know, with the protection stuff. They’re piecing it all together. … He’s excited about the group.”
Redshirt junior Kevin Cline, who tore his ACL against Virginia Tech on Sept. 10, 2022, has not yet returned to practice. Christian Mahogany, who tore his ACL prior to the start of the 2022 season, says he’s 100 percent but has been easing his way back into practice.
“We just gotta stay healthy,” Hafley said.
Defense and the New Staff
The Eagles are sporting co-defensive coordinators in Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and Sean Duggan this season after former defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu left for the Carolina Panthers this offseason. With Abdul-Rahim and Duggan both being in-house hires, BC isn’t changing much on defense, and has seen that unit thrive in practice thus far, according to Hafley.
“Defense, no—not at all,” Hafley said regarding if there’s been an adjustment period. “The scheme’s not changing. The position coach haven’t changed. We’ve added some stuff. We’re going to continue to build and be multiple. But no … we haven’t skipped a beat there.”
Abdul-Rahim said he is excited to split duties with Duggan, and that the two have been working great together.
“I think we have a very good relationship off the field, which kind of has spilled on on the field, you know, as staff members,” Abdul-Rahim said.
Abdul-Rahim emphasized that in terms of BC’s defense, it’s not just the coordinators taking the charge, it’s also outside linebackers coach Paul Rhoads, safeties coach Matt Thurin, and even Hafley—defensive specialist—getting heavily involved.
“It’s a collective, inclusive environment where everyone is spitting out ideas,” Abdul-Rahim said.
“It’s not just myself and coach Duggan.”
In terms of what Abdul-Rahim and Duggan will bring that’s different from Lukabu, Abdul-Rahim and Hafley both mentioned Abdul-Rahim’s fierce presence and coaching style.
“I bring a lot of emotion, a lot of fire, which I think is important on the defensive side of the football,” Abdul-Rahim said. “I’m big on just believing in yourself and really just being fearless. And I think Sean [Duggan], we totally are in the same alignment.”
While it has not been determined who will call plays yet—Abdul-Rahim reiterated the inclusive environment when asked who would—Abdul Rahim will coach the defensive backs while Duggan will handle the linebackers.
And Hafley—a former co-defensive coordinator himself at Ohio State in 2019—will be extremely involved, according to Abdul-Rahim.
“He’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve been around as a coach,” Abdul-Rahim said. “So he should definitely have, you know, tons and tons of involvement. We encourage the involvement.”