The coaching carousel was a slow-moving, high volume ride for the Boston College Eagles football program this offseason. One piece staying put is head coach Jeff Hafley.
Set to begin his fourth-season at the helm, Hafley could well be on the hot seat entering play in 2023.
Early success has been countered by struggles in conference play and a disappointing 2022 season. Talk of Hafley being replaced was floated but, with changes around him on his staff, Hafley is rightfully back in a make-or-break 2023.
Level-up time for Hafley, Boston College Eagles
Fast starts in each of his first two seasons had fans primed Hafley was poised for something great.
Starting a term as a head coach in the COVID-19 season of 2020 was a challenge but Hafley responded with a 3-1 start. The only loss was by four to a 12th-ranked UNC Tar Heel team and the season looked rosy.
Boston College alternated losses and wins the rest of the way, finishing 6-5, with all but one game played in conference.
The start of 2021 was even better as the Eagles raced to a 4-0 start. The drop-off, however, was even greater and Boston College finished at 6-6, going 2-6 in conference.
Heady expectations, especially with an experienced offense, never materialized in 2022. Beset by injuries and youth, Boston College Eagles struggled mightily (3-9, 2-6). The season slowly turned into an uphill climb to even try and get to six wins and it soon became clear ’22 was a season to put in the rearview.
In keeping Hafley aboard, changes were needed on the staff, especially to jumpstart an offense. The major changes are at offensive coordinator, where Steve Shimko will take over, moving up from quarterbacks coach.
But it could be the promotion of Rob Chudzinski to associate head coach of offense and offensive development. With the offense in Chudzinski’s hands, one hopes there will be a balance between the explosive downfield plays and running attack, something missing in recent seasons.
Or, more specifically, a balance of play calling and not always trying to force every pass 10-15 yards, when more slants and screens would do.
The offensive line position will also see a coaching change, with Matt Applebaum returning to a unit he previously coached with Boston College in 2020-21.
Another change will be on the defensive side, where former defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu took a position with the Carolina Panthers as outside linebackers coach. Lukabu did wonderful things with the Boston College defense and helped build one of the better units in the nation each season.
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Sharing defensive coordinator duties in 2023 will be Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and Sean Duggan.
Promoting from within is a positive step for this Boston College program and their coaching staff. It helps build continuity and trust among the players on the team. Hopefully, this will help jumpstart a program looking to keep up in the ACC arms race.
Boston College Eagles: Onward in ’23
One of the items hampering Boston College in recent seasons is coming up just short in close games. They have nailed one or two, including an upset-win over a ranked NC State team in ’22. They’ve been so close in others, like against the Clemson Tigers, and seemed to either run out of steam in the fourth quarter or failed to capitalize on mistakes with big plays.
Clemson is only one example and the Eagles have also been blown out in too many games in recent seasons. Getting over those razor-thin margin of defeats could have changed six-win seasons to possibly eight or nine. The good news? Teams like Clemson, UNC, and Wake Forest, to name a few, won’t be on Boston College’s schedule in 2023.
The upcoming season has a schedule that teeters in Boston College’s direction, including a shot a redemption against teams like Connecticut. Hafley can get Boston College to the next level, especially with key players returning on both sides of the ball. Quarterback and running back both boast experience, and the offensive line returns a key anchor in Christian Mahogany. Defense, as well, has plenty of players ready to lead.
Hafley notched 12 victories thru his first two seasons, earning bowl eligibility in each. COVID-19 ultimately played a part in both; opting out in ’20 and a Military Bowl cancelation in ’21.
This fourth season for Hafley will have to be special. Or, at the very least reaching an eight-win mark.
Six and seven-win seasons are exactly why the program moved on from the last regime. With a fresh outlook and an innovative coaching staff, come December fans will be talking about Hafley leading this Boston College Eagles program for years to come.