As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will open its 2020 season on September 4th against Boston College, one of only two teams who have worse odds to win the ACC than the Orange.
NEW ERA AT BOSTON COLLEGE
Boston College shut the door on the Steve Addazio era following the 2019 football season. Sure, Addazio led the Eagles to five bowl games in his seven years at Chestnut Hill, but it was clear that the Eagles would continue to be mired in mediocrity as long as he was the head coach.
He never won more than seven games in any season, and his tenure concluded with a listless 38-6 demolition at the hands of Cincinnati in the Birmingham Bowl.
The Eagles are pinning their hops on replacement head coach Jeff Hafley to change their fortunes and to seize momentum in an ACC Atlantic Division that has been pedestrian outside of perennial powerhouse Clemson.
While Hafley has never been a head coach before, he can draw plenty from his collegiate and professional stops, all of which have produced impressive results. The 40 year old has had college assistant coaching positions at Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Ohio State, and in the pros with Tampa Bay, Cleveland and San Francisco.
It was his most recent stop with the Buckeyes that catapulted him to be one of college football’s most prized head coaching prospects. In his one season at Ohio State, he turned a program that finished 72nd nationally in defense in 2018 in yards per play, and shot them up to No. 1 in 2019.
He also co-coordinated a defense that didn’t allow more than 27 points in a game, while ranking as the ninth best recruiter in the class of 2020 by 247Sports.com.
“Jeff Hafley was someone we targeted from the outset and we could not be happier to welcome Jeff, Gina, Hope and Leah to Boston College,” Boston College Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “Jeff’s shown throughout his coaching career he is a tremendous leader with high integrity and a gift for teaching. His passion, leadership and ability to recruit and develop student-athletes make him the right fit to lead Boston College to greater heights on and off the field.”
BOSTON COLLEGE NEEDS AN OFFENSIVE RELOAD
Hafley will need to work with an offense that loses two of its key position players from the 2019 season.
Three time First-Team All ACC running back AJ Dillon announced he was skipping his final year at school and bolting to the NFL draft. In his three years, he rushed for 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Life without Dillon proved foreboding, as the Eagles could only muster 164 total offensive yards in the Birmingham Bowl. The hope is that junior David Bailey can fill Dillon’s spot, as he rushed for 844 yards and seven touchdowns as his understudy.
The Eagles also lost their starting quarterback, Anthony Brown, who opted to enter the transfer portal and ultimately ended up at Oregon. He started 28 games, but left after a season-ending knee injury.
In his place, Dennis Grosel struggled, completing just 48.4 percent of his passes for 983 yards. While Grosel is the incumbent, he is by no means the favorite.
Phil Jurkovec, a former four-star recruit and Notre Dame transfer, played sparingly for the Fighting Irish, but is the early favorite to start. The junior is a dual-threat QB who threw for 222 yards and rushed for another 130 in spot duty last year.
A TURNAROUND IS NEEDED ON DEFENSE
If Hafley wants to push the Eagles past the seven-win mark in his first season, he’ll need to mold Boston College much in the same way he did with the Buckeyes last year.
The Eagles finished 125th overall in defense, allowing 478.7 yards per game. But BC also returns a wealth of experience from last year’s squad, including six of its top nine tacklers from last year.
That group is headlined by linebacker Max Richardson, who led Boston College in total tackles (108), tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (3.5).
The last category is an area that badly needs improvement. Even with Richardson’s sack totals, the Eagles as a whole only recorded 19 last season, which ranked dropped them all the way down to 106th in the country.