Boston College’s football season is finally over after the Eagles’ loss to Syracuse cut them to 3-9 on the season. Jeff Hafley’s third season as BC head coach ended with Boston College’s worst record since 2015 and left him wondering, What happened? Our writers teamed up to answer some of the year’s biggest questions.
Boston College football finished 3-9 and was a long way from being bowled. No one on BCI’s staff made such a bad prediction in the preseason. Should we have seen it coming?
curtis: The problems with the offensive line were absolutely predictable and some of us (myself included) didn’t quite understand its impact. Otherwise? Many of the issues with this team were quite new and they had a lot of regression. Even if you had told me the offensive line would always be bad, I wouldn’t have predicted this bad season.
Scholarship: I don’t know if we should have seen it coming, and 3-9 is well below even the most pessimistic of predictions, but I think this tells us to take we lost hey like our whole OL much more seriously next time.
Curran: No one could have predicted what went wrong this year. I mean, yes, we knew the whole offensive line was being replaced, but beyond that, who could have foreseen how much Phil Jurkovec was going down, the team’s injury count, the special teams falling off a cliff, etc. etc. You understand what I mean pretty much everything that could have gone wrong for the Eagles went wrong for the Eagles.
Niraj: I will stand, no, we shouldn’t have to save face for the most part, but at least not to this extreme degree. I mean, Vegas had it at 6.5 wins. Obviously I’m a dork and have taken the helm (again). But given how the team has performed since Hafley took over, little hinted at this level of decline. The number of injuries, especially in the offensive line, was well above average. I clearly had too much faith in the coaching staff, especially with some new faces on board, to coach the talent or whether they would determine the quality of the depth (as there was no activity on the transfer portal). Phil’s staggering drop-off left even the forecasters scratching their heads. And then there’s the whole point of the team not playing hard for large parts of the season. That just wasn’t something we were used to with Hafley or even Addazio.
What is the biggest reason you attribute this season’s failures?
curtis: Bad guidance. The line of attack was exhausted, but still had several good recruits and should have been prepared much more effectively. Phil Jurkovec regressed at quarterback, and Emmett Morehead’s arm talent wasn’t enough to overcome poor prep. The defense was unprepared from week to week and especially at the start of games. And the team was just generally unmotivated. It’s all from the staff.
Scholarship: No line of attack. I’m not as down on Jurkovec as everyone else was. We didn’t have an OL to run with and we didn’t have an OL to give the QB time to function. Everything falls from there.
Curran: The offensive line must be the answer. Admittedly Jurkovec took a step back this year, but the offensive line paralyzed the entire offense. It was a huge reason behind BC’s terrible rush attack, and it certainly didn’t help Jurkovec or Morehead. Despite Garwo returning, despite Jurkovec being healthy, despite the dominance of Zay Flowers, the frontline issues doomed the offense and were the biggest reason behind this season’s failures.
Niraj: Coach number one. Like I said, the team just didn’t play hard or execute in almost every game. Constant punishments, no attention to detail and blunt mistakes. Hafley misjudged his own team’s talent and failed to bring in the right people. I credit him for making the necessary changes in that department, but his Rolodex didn’t give him many options to count on. This team had many of the same issues we’ve seen on its run: poor tackling, little to no adjustments, and played with no physicality.
Which secondary reasons also played an important role?
curtis: Injuries and turnovers in the offensive line ended what was an effective rush attack just 1 year ago. QB protection also suffered, albeit not to the same degree.
Scholarship: I don’t really have a secondary reason. The defense was mostly passable. And like I said before, I’m not really putting this on the quarterbacks. It all comes down to the line play. Maybe then I’ll cheat and say OL coaching.
Curran: I mentioned injury issues above, so I’m going with the defense regression. Hafley, as we all know, is a defensive coach. He was a defensive back man and the strength of his defense was his calling card for the first few seasons at the Heights. Still, his high school took a big step backwards this year. They showed what they could do in spurts, namely the first half against Clemson, or the second half against NC state but they were far too inconsistent. The team came flat way too many times, most notably against Duke and UConnand it was not a good sight to behold.
Niraj: The secondary fault must lie with Jurkovec. He was a shell of himself and looked awkward almost every game. Emmett Moreheads performance over the past few weeks was a good example of this. Even though he was nowhere near great, he exuded a lot more confidence and BC was more in the game. He’s not the same level of athlete, but he fought to make more plays, critically saw more of the field, and didn’t look shaken. Phil got pretty beat up there, but he just couldn’t bounce back. What he does now is the question.
What do you think of Jeff Hafley as head coach? How long should his belt go forward?
curtis: I’m 95% sure he won’t be fired this off-season, so that’s not really worth discussing. The OL coach needs to be fired yesterday, the strength and conditioning staff needs to be overhauled and they need to seriously consider the whole offense. If that happens and the team’s performance starts to improve, maybe Hafley should stay and see his recruiting classes fully develop. After all, his recruits were only sophomores and freshmen in 2022. Maybe he can prove something when they become the squad leaders.
Scholarship: Not closing the OL holes falls on him as the person in charge of recruiting and using the transfer portal. So it is ultimately his responsibility. He is a new head coach, hopefully this is a learning experience. That was a bad year and it’s on him, but I’m not ready to cut bait just yet. The team didn’t seem to give up on him, so that’s a big advantage in his favour.
Curran: Hafley proved this season that he’s not the complete head coach this season. So much of what went wrong this season can be traced back to poor player development, from the deficiencies of the offensive line to the poor secondary line to the ruthless blunders of special teams. He needs more help from his coordinators, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now BC knew they were taking on a long term project as Hafley had no head coaching experience prior to BC. I don’t think anyone expected such severe growing pains as all of last season, but I do think Hafley has a season to turn it around. He’s a likeable man and I don’t think he ever lost the dressing room. He just has to perform on the field.
Niraj: He’s hanging by a thread. For every good moment, there were five bad ones. I always agreed with what he said, but the rose colored glasses are shattered. I thank him for bringing in a highly regarded recruiting class, but I need to see more in terms of development. As far as I can see they don’t fall like flies any more than is normal despite the season’s performance. But back to development, I feel like more players have gone backwards in his tenure. You’ve had a lot of young players come in and play this season, so there’s some optimism. But is it sustainable? Can he complete the team? Can he honestly assess his team and do what needs to be done (i.e. transfer portal). That all remains to be seen. His contract and the fact that it’s only three years away means he’s staying. If things go bad outside the gate next season, we have to move on.
What were some of your positive takeaways from this season?
curtis: Zay Flowers came to Boston College, dominated and exemplified everything that was great about this college and football program. One day his jersey will hang in Alumni Stadium, and they can’t take that away from us.
Scholarship: Zay Flowers is so good. Can’t wait to see him on Sunday. Other positive takeaways: Coming out of contention so quickly meant that late-season losses hurt less. Yayyyy.
Curran: After the Duke’s loss, I wrote an article highlighting the promising play of several underclassmen. Sophomore DE Donovan Ezeiruaku, freshman CB Amari Jackson, freshman RB Alex Broome, redshirt freshman Emmett Morehead and freshman Joe Griffin Jr. are a promising squad on both sides of the ball. Hopefully they all stay, because they will determine the program in the future.
Niraj: Zay is the obvious shining light on chestnut hill (we’re not worth it), but I’ll point out that many younger players came into action and played well! Amari Jackson, Cole Batson, Alex Broome, Joe Griffin Jr. are some names that come to mind. They brought juice and made plays. They’ve grown over the season and it doesn’t hurt to get those snaps under their belts.
It’s very early, but what would this team’s success look like in 2023? Assuming Hafley is still the head coach.
curtis: The schedule is one of the easiest BC has had in years. Outside of the conference (Northern Illinois, UConn, Holy Cross, @Army) they must go 3-1 at least. Then just 2 or 3 ACC wins to qualify for the bowl? I would call that a success after what we saw in 2022.
Scholarship: Unfortunately, we were back to baby steps. Anything that falls under bowl eligibility becomes a fail in any season. Let’s start with that.
Curran: Boston College will have a much weaker schedule next season than last season. Hafley needs at least a bowl game. No excuses.
Niraj: I watch college football and see teams that had no expectations show up and compete. UConn, Duke, Kansas, Illinois, TCU?!? Vanderbilt, even Syracuse all crushed their season wins. It may be simplistic, but just beat the win total that the world has put in front of you. Play hard and maybe let’s go (and actually play) in a bowl game.
Any additional thoughts, feelings, tirades?
curtis: The overall gameday experience this year has also been absolutely awful from what I’ve heard from several fans/friends. Long concession and bathroom lines, running out of food, no cell service or wifi connectivity, and dirty facilities just to name the major ones. Underperformance on the football field can be explained away, but the state of the Alumni Stadium is repairable and unforgivable.
Scholarship: That was a miserable season. We need to refocus on putting together the best offensive line possible. We just win with that.
Curran: Please, please, find a way to fix the O line. I can’t experience another season like this last season.
Niraj: I’m just glad it’s over
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