Football, Sports

A Look Into The First Week of Spring Football Practice Under New Head Coach Bill O’Brien

Boston College football held its first three spring practices of the 2024 season over the past week, revealing a flurry of new faces in the Fish Field House practice facility. 

These first three practices were also the first practices under the command of head coach Bill O’Brien, who replaced Jeff Hafley as the Eagles’ head coach in February.

A week into practice, O’Brien says he has nothing to complain about. 

“I really like this team,” O’Brien said. “They come to work everyday, they pay attention in the meetings, they got energy at practice. You know, the key is to keep it going, we gotta keep it going next week. We gotta string some practices together, but, you know, I cant really complain about anything that’s gone on so far.”

The Eagles need to be prepared for a lofty set of changes in 2024 as they attempt to build on a 7–6 2023 season capped off by a Fenway Bowl win over No. 17 SMU.

“Offense, defense, totally new systems, so there’s things that they have to do to stay ahead of the information,” O’Brien said. “If they fall behind then it becomes an avalanche, so they need to do a good job of staying ahead.”  

A New Offensive Approach

Given his extensive experience working with quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Bryce Young, O’Brien’s pairing with BC’s starting quarterback Thomas Castellanos holds significant potential. 

One week in, the early foundations of this partnership are already beginning to show. 

“With all the guys that I’ve worked with, the most successful guys are the ones that had anticipation, had the ability to get it out quick,” O’Brien said. “We need to make quick decisions. I think Tommy tried to do that today.”

While Castellanos’ ground game helped him earn the starting job, O’Brien is seeking to further utilize his arm in the upcoming season. The Central Florida transfer recorded 2,248 yards in the air during the 2023 campaign. 

“A lot of passing the ball,” Castellanos said of his first spring practice. “Lot of trying to get explosive plays, throwing the ball downfield.”

After praising Castellanos’ adjustment to his offensive vision, O’Brien expressed hope for the signal-caller’s fit in their new system.

“It’s a quarterback-centered system around who the quarterback is and what that guy can do,” O’Brien said. “And he can do a lot, so it’s good.”

Fresh Faces 

From the team’s first practice session, Secondary Coach Ray Brown made it clear his energetic presence isn’t reserved only for social media. The former Washington State cornerbacks coach provided BC’s practices with an infectious jolt of energy, often bursting off the sidelines to offer both encouragement and constructive criticism.

Brown is one of many new additions to BC’s coaching staff—a unit O’Brien praised effusively. 

“I think that’s got to help us in recruiting,” O’Brien said. “People talk about developing players, and I would put our staff up against any staff in the country as far as developing players.”

Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis, the former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants defensive coordinator, spoke highly of the existing talent the Eagles are bringing to the table.

“I’m really encouraged by what I’ve seen,” said Lewis, who last coached at the collegiate level in 1992 with SMU. “The cupboard is not bare. It’s really exciting to be around the guys.”

While Offensive Coordinator Will Lawing lacks Lewis’ decades of experience, he brings years of firsthand experience working with O’Brien for Alabama, the Houston Texans, and the New England Patriots. 

“Coach O’Brien has been extremely important in my growth as a coach and a person, not just as a coach,” Lawing said. “He’s helped me a ton along the way. [I] learned so much from him and the other coaches that he’s put around myself on staffs that we’ve worked on.”

Citing last season’s successes, Lawing said he is excited to begin his new role in Chestnut Hill. 

“You look at BC, and we can build off what they did last year,” Lawing said. “That excites me and, you know, this is a great city..”

Castellanos’ New Targets

Castellanos’ options for the 2024 season have already grown, thanks to a slew of transfers that have made their way to Chestnut Hill. 

Tight end Kamari Morales, a North Carolina transfer, and wide receiver Jayden McGowan, a Vanderbilt transfer, are two of Castellanos’ newest options.

“I think we got some guys with different capabilities that do different things, and I think it’ll be really special,” Castellanos said.

One transfer literally stands taller than the rest, though. Jerand Bradley—a 6-foot-5, 220-lb wide receiver from Texas Tech—has also shipped up to Boston and will serve as a receiver for Castellanos.

“It’s really good,” Castellanos said about having Bradley as a new option. “If I missed and I’m terrible, he’s a really big target.”

Although O’Brien did not recruit these players, he noted the different strengths they bring toBC’s new offense.  

“I like those guys, I think they bring different qualities,” O’Brien said. “Good route-runners in that group, good hands, instinctive guys. I really like the group and I like the way they work.”

March 17, 2024

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