Sports, Football

Receivers, Running Backs, and a Coach on the Field: A Recap of BC’s Fifth and Sixth Practices

Boston College football returned for another week of practice on Tuesday and Thursday, during which it implemented situational gameplay while utilizing its new additions and picking up its intensity from last week.

“This is the most physical spring that we’ve had,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said. “Because we have more numbers and we have more depth.” 

While the Eagles are still not participating in much live gameplay, Hafley emphasized how important it is to continue to teach different situations. 

“Hopefully in time, we’ll be able to progress, put the ball down, and just play more football, but we got to teach situations too right now,” Hafley said. 

As the competitiveness is picking up, here is a look at a few more units of the Eagles’ roster after practices five and six.

Receiving Core

While Zay Flowers is no longer on the Heights—the projected first round pick is competing at BC’s Pro Day at Fish Field House on Friday at 11:15 a.m.—the Eagles have a solid group of receivers that includes Central Florida transfer Ryan O’Keefe, Jaden Williams, Joseph Griffin Jr., and Dino Tomlin. The group will look to ease the transition away from Flowers. 

“It’s a good group,” Hafley said. “I think Darell [Wyatt’s] done a great job with them. You know, Zay’s a first rounder. So yeah, we miss him. I’d be lying to you if I said we didn’t. But I think we have a really solid group.”

O’Keefe, a 5-foot-10 graduate transfer, has lightning speed that has naturally drawn comparisons to Flowers. O’Keefe said he sees the similarities himself.  

“I feel like we are similar in certain ways, but I feel like I’m more of a downfield guy,” O’Keefe, who chose to sport Flowers’ No. 4, said. “He’s a downfield guy for sure, but he’s also really good in the intermediate short, agility stuff. We are similar, but I’m really more vertical downfield.”

O’Keefe stressed how BC’s playbook is different from Central Florida’s, but he likes how it will prepare him for the NFL throughout his learning process. 

“It’s a lot more technical for me, like more thinking,” O’Keefe said. “So, you know, I’m really just trying to slow that down, you know, just focus on small details and getting that stuff right.”

The wideout will presumably be starting quarterback Emmett Morehead’s top deep threat during Morehead’s first full year as BC’s starting quarterback, helping replace the explosiveness Flowers brought to Chestnut Hill for four years. But it won’t be a one-man show at the position, according to Griffin. 

“I feel like we’re all going to step up,” Griffin said. 

Griffin, who had a minor surgery this offseason, and O’Keefe both said they were excited about playing with Morehead. Griffin notably caught a game-winning touchdown from Morehead in BC’s upset over then-No. 17 NC State on Nov. 12, 2022.

“I call him touchdown Jesus,” Griffin said. 

Tight end George Takacs, who also had a minor procedure over the offseason, is back for a sixth year, his second at BC. The Naples, Fla. native registered seven catches for 84 yards in BC’s 2022 season opener against Rutgers, but injuries limited him to only eight games. This year, he’ll look to emerge as another consistent option for Morehead. 

“A healthy George is a really good tight end,” Hafley said. “He’s faster than we thought. He’s a great athlete. He just was hurt all year. So now, he’s got a chance—I think George could be one of the better tight ends in the ACC.” 

Running Backs 

To put it bluntly, BC’s run game was nonexistent last season and finished dead last in the nation in total rushing yards with 758 and rushing yards per game with 63.2.

And while the Eagles have inherited reinforcements on the offensive line, their running back room looks mostly the same, with returners Pat Garwo III, Alex Broome, Xavier Coleman, and Cam Barfield. Kye Robichaux, a transfer from Western Kentucky, is the lone notable addition.

The depth chart has not yet been determined, but each back has been involved thus far in practice. 

“It’s spring ball,” Hafley said. “No one’s gonna just sit here and not practice. … So they’re all doing a pretty good job. They all have their different roles. And we’ll see, again, I just think the competition is pushing all those guys.” 

Garwo began the 2022 season as BC’s starter after a 1,000-yard rushing season in 2021, but 5-foot-6 Broome slowly phased him out. In nine games, the freshman rushed for 225 yards and one touchdown, displaying a quickness that Garwo lacked. 

But Broome said he knows the whole group has to be better.

“We’ve harped on running the ball this year,” Broome said. “That’s what you have to do to win games. So, collectively, o-line, running backs, tight ends, all just buying into the schemes that we have and being attention to detail, like our tracks and on our reads.” 

Coach on the Field

Linebacker Vinny DePalma is back for his sixth season on the Heights. And throughout a multitude of coaching changes and winning and losing seasons during his college career, DePalma has supported BC’s new staff.

“They’ve been great,” DePalma said. “Coach Hafley, he’s always made an emphasis of bringing guys that are a great fit at Boston College, have a great rapport with the players, you know, care about being at Boston College, care about the mission about Boston College.”

Co-Defensive Coordinator Aazar Abdul-Rahim offered a similar sentiment toward DePalma last week, penning him as a coach on the field. 

“That’s kind of my role, you know, being able to use my mind a little bit on the field, you know, helping younger guys,” DePalma, who recorded 49 solo tackles last season, said. “I think a big part of defense is anticipation. So if you can anticipate yourself and then be able to communicate that to the other 10 guys on the field, like that’s gonna be huge.” 

DePalma described how seamless the transition has been with Abdul-Rahim and Sean Duggan at the helm of the defense—both were a part of the team’s staff last year—but also said he can sense a shift in tone within the program compared to last year’s 3–9 team. 

“What happened is behind us,” DePalma said. “I think everyone’s taken that attitude. And I think everyone’s hungry to get better. … It’s a taste in your mouth that you want to get rid of. And the only way to get rid of that is to go to work every day.”

March 23, 2023