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BC football notebook: Bill O’Brien with a great start to his Eagles career — ‘You can win at a place like this’

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On Thursday afternoon, Boston College introduced Bill O’Brien as their new head coach of the football team. Athletic Director Blake James opened with remarks detailing the search, and what the team was looking for in a new coach.

“We talked to our players, and the players gave us the input they wanted and they wanted a winner,” James said. “They wanted someone who’s passionate. They wanted a motivator.”

With previous head coach Jeff Hafley up and leaving BC so late into the offseason, it was a concern that the candidate pool would not be as robust as one would prefer. As it turned out, not only was there a high level of candidates available, but options the likes BC has not seen before in previous searches.

“I talked with Father Jack as we interview candidates in person,” James explained. “And he grabbed me and said Blake, this is the strongest pool of candidates we’ve ever had for the football head coaching positions here at Boston College. But one candidate stood out from the rest. Who’s the best fit for Boston College.”

Boston College is a unique place. The challenge that is ever present for BC is the academic standards that the university upholds. O’Brien quickly made note of the rigorous schedule his players have with early morning workouts before attending class for the day.

“I don’t know if everybody knows this about the Boston College program right now, is that this is a morning program. So these are young men who get up at 5:30 every morning, and they work out with us. They meet on football. That’s how they practice in the spring. That’s how they practice in the in the fall, and then they go to class. And as the leader of the Boston College football program, that’s something that’s one of the main reasons why I want the job, you can win at a place like this.”

The education portion of BC has always been part of the package. O’Brien embraces that.

“This is a place where young men can come and play good football, get a great education, and give back to the community. And I think that’s what Boston College is all about,” he said. “And so I just want you to know that this is an outstanding group of young men who will proudly represent Boston College both on and off the field.”

As someone who had close ties to the university, it was the values in the university mission that aligned with the new head coach, who plans to continue instilling them in the team.

“We had great discussions about the values of Boston College, faith, education, and service to others. Commitment, integrity, respect, and loyalty. Those are the things that make Boston College such an incredible place and really why I wanted the job. I will do my best every single day to instill these values in our players, our student-athletes, every day that I’m here as that football coach.

“As I already mentioned, my responsibility to this program is to instill in our student-athletes the values of Boston College, character, hard work, respect, and integrity, in everything that we do. We will strive for success on the field and in the classroom will cultivate our minds and our talents and use those in service to others.”

Along with the values of BC, O’Brien outlined what the DNA of his team will be.

“We can win with guys who want to get a great education and play good football in the ACC. In keeping with the great tradition of Boston College, we’re going to be a smart, tough physical football team. We’ve already talked about that for five days. We might not win every game, but we will not be out tough. We will not be out competed, we will be a tough, smart physical football team.” O’Brien continued, “We’ll be a good situational team. And we’ll be a team that plays complementary football in all three phases.”

O’Brien’s next remarks were directed at the school’s former players and alum, and of great value. Last spring, The Heights released a piece highlighting the disconnect between the current program and their alumnus. O’Brien made a vow, and a plan, to earn their trust and support. It’s evident that he hopes they can be actively involved with the current team.

“I want to extend a message to the BC football family for coaches, but especially with players, I have tremendous respect for the history of this program. The great admiration for your loyalty. We respectfully request the chance to earn your trust and support through communication and a tremendous work ethic. You will always be welcome in this program. And we hope you will be a big part of our program.”

The speech concluded with a nice anecdote that had a ‘homecoming’ feel to it. As a local guy who grew up in the Boston area, O’Brien touched on the fulfillment that becoming the BC head coach meant to him.

“As a lifelong BC fan, a lot of us went to Brown, but we were secret Boston College fans, I promise you. I went into coaching. In 1993, I went into coaching at Brown. I always dreamed about being the head coach at Boston College. My career has taken some twists and turns taking me down roads, I never could have imagined that as I stand here today, I couldn’t be more grateful that the road has finally taken me back home to Boston College.”

Boston College has the reputation of being a ‘stepping stone’ school. In short, being a ‘Power 5’ school in FBS makes it an attractive position alone, but the issue BC has had in the past is candidates use their success here to move onto more attractive blue blood schools. O’Brien has the resume and pedigree to follow suit.

With his extensive experience, he views this as a final destination, something Eagles fans should rejoice at the notion.

“When I had the honor of meeting Father Leahy, about being committed to this program, you know, this is a program that does that will do things the right way,” Obrien continued, “Jeff Hafley did a really good job. You know, he did he did a good job here. We need to build on that. And we also need to build on what’s been done in the past year, you know, over time, obviously, you know, having connections to coach Bucknell and Coach Coughlin and Coach O’Brien, you know, no one the success that they have here in the formula that they did, but that’s something that I really believe in. And I can’t wait to get that goal.”

Previous successful Boston College football programs all had similar characteristics. Tough, hard-nosed teams. O’Brien is not looking to change the blueprint, his vision is seemingly to get back to those roots.

“This will be a team that will that on the football field will play smart, will be tough,” he said. “We will be a physical team will be a team that does the simple things. Well, we have to we have to be the team that wins the penalty battles and wins the turnover battle that plays the best on third down and plays the best in the right area. We have to play this situational football off the field. You know, this is a place where I believe that we all in the football program have to embrace what Boston College is and you can do both.

“Boston College is a place where you can do a lot of great things. I am not into the prediction thing. What I will promise you is that we will field a very, very competitive football team with a bunch of guys that will play hard and that will be tough,” O’Brien added. “Will we win the national championship every year? Who knows? I don’t know. I’m not a predictor. I’m not a genie. I’m just telling you that we will show up every Saturday and we will play to the best of our ability.”

He then touched on NIL, and how they’ll embrace it.

“We need to work. It’s called work, you have to organize your time, you have to budget your time properly. And you got to work. And so we’re gonna put the work in. You know, some things won’t happen overnight. Some things will take time, some things will happen quicker, but it’s all about work. I think you can balance it, when you organize it. You have great people around you with great people here.”

Coaching staff

BC made a Valentine’s Day splash on Wednesday, hiring two more defensive staff members. They reportedly picked up Washington State’s DBs coach Ray Brown for the same position and Maine defensive coordinator Jeff Commissiong as the defensive line coach.

Brown spent two years with the Cougars, though before that was with Abilene Christian, Utah State, and Troy.

For Commissiong, it’s a bit different. He was with BC from 2007-2013 in the defensive line role before spending a number of years with Old Dominion and a brief stint with Cornell, which led to his coordinator role at Maine.

HC: Bill O’Brien
OC: Will Lawing
DC: Tim Lewis

QB: Jonathan DiBiaso
RB: Savon Huggins
WR: Darrell Wyatt
OL: Matt Applebaum

DL: Jeff Comissiong
ILB: Paul Rhoads**
OLB: Sean Duggan**
CB: Ray Brown

ST: Matt Thurin**

* * = not clear if O’Brien is bringing back or not

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Football

Boston College Football Recruiting Board: Class of 2026

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Welcome to our Class of 2026 recruiting board for Boston College football.

Every player is a 3-star unless stated otherwise.

June 24 (2024): QB Corin Berry
The Eagles picked up their quarterback for the Class of ’26, as BC picks up a massive recruit out of California — also the Eagles’ second quarterback commit in the past week. Berry stands at an athletic 6-foot-3 frame with a powerful arm and he chose the Eagles over an offer from Arkansas. Berry threw for over 2,000 yards as a sophomore starter this season for Charter Oak High in California.

March 3 (2024): OL Marcelino Antunes Jr.
Antunes Jr. out of Catholic Memorial is the first commit in the Class of ’26, as the 6-foot-7, 285-pound offensive lineman ranked as a top-50 ’26 lineman in the country committed to the Eagles before his sophomore year concluded. He’s ranked as the No. 2 ’26 player in Mass.

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Football

Boston College Football Recruiting Board: Class of 2025

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Welcome to our Class of 2025 recruiting board for Boston College. Every player is a 3-star unless stated otherwise.

The Eagles currently rank as the 38th best recruiting class in the country.

June 24: WR Dawson Pough
The Eagles land their third wide receiver of the class, as Pough plays both sides of the ball but is recruited as a wideout. The 6-foot-1 wideout had offers from several Power-4s and a number of G5s. He’s a top-30 rated recruit in teh state of Virginia out of Leesburg.

June 23: CB Charleston Coldon
The 6-foot-1 defensive back out of Belleville, Illinois had several other Power-4 offers and visited just two days ago. His brother, CJ Coldon, played at Wyoming as well as Oklahoma as this is the seventh defensive back in this class.

June 19: CB Ashton Cunningham
A smaller-sized — 5-foot-11, 155-pounder, Cunningham is a top-100 corner out of Oklahoma. He’s teammates with Shaker Reisig, who flipped from Utah to BC the day prior.

June 18: QB Shaker Reisig
Some big news came out of Oklahoma this week as Reisig, a top-50 QB in the country flipped his commitment from Utah to the Eagles. Reisig is a 6-foot, 200-pound passer who is regarded as an accurate passer who threw for 2,366 yards along with a completion percentage above 75% in his junior season — and is overall a good get for the Eagles.

June 16: LB Zacari Thomas
Thomas is a 6-foot-2 linebacker from Gray, Georgia. He had a couple of Power-4 offers but after visiting BC the week prior Thomas announced his commitment.

June 16: CB Njita Sinkala
The 5-foot-11 corner in Sinkala is a top-15 player from Connecticut and held offers from schools mainly on the East Coast, but committed to BC just two days after his visit.

June 15: EDGE Israel Oladipupo
Oladipupo is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound edge rusher from Indiana that had interest largely from the MAC as well as a few other Power-4 schools — totaling 16 offers. It’s BC’s first edge rusher in the 2025 high school class, and he ranks in the top-75 in the country at his position.

June 13: OL Robert Smith
A 6-foot-4, 290-pound inside offensive lineman out of Cleveland, Smith was one of several to commit after their June 7 visit to the Eagles. Cincinnati was his only other Power-4 offer.

June 11: S Rae Sykes Jr.
A 6-foot-2 safety out of Rome, Georgia, Sykes visited BC four days prior to his commitment. He had Power-4 interest as well as in-state interest at Georgia State, but ended up choosing the Eagles.

June 11: S Omarion Davis
One of two safeties to commit on June 11th, Davis is a top-25 recruit in the state of South Carolina and just outside of a top-100 country-wide safety ranking. Georgia Tech was his only other Power-4 offer.

June 9: WR Semaj Fleming
Fleming is a speedy 5-foot-10 receiver that has had a good ordeal of success in track and field. Out of Orlando, Florida, Fleming is BC’s second recruit out of Florida and held several SEC offers.

June 3: S Marcelous Townsend
A 5-foot-11 athlete out of Georgia, BC was Townsend’s only Power-4 offer despite going on a visit to Michigan as the Eagles have picked up two players from Roswell on the same day.

June 3: ATH Bryce Lewis
A 6-foot-6 athlete out of Roswell, Georgia, the two-way player in Lewis is a top-100 player in the state of Georgia and is the son of Boston College defensive coordinator Tim Lewis. Lewis had several Power-4 offers though committed four days after his visit to Boston College.

May 3: RB Mekhi Dodd
The Eagles retain a tailback from the state of Mass., Dodd is another top-5 player from Massachussetts and a top-100 runningback in the country. The 6-foot tailback out of Catholic Memorial missed part of the 2023 season but is ranked well despite only having one other offer from UMass.

April 15: DL Micah Amedee
Amedee attends Xaverian Brothers and is a top-5 player from the state of MA, though BC being his only Power-4 offer. He committed over a month before his visit as the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder is ranked as a top-100 defensive lineman in the country.

April 15: ATH TJ Green
The 5-foot-11 receiver out of Ohio had over 1,000 yards last season in his junior campaign as well as some solid numbers defensively. He’s a speedy asset that has potential to play on either side of the ball.

March 12: WR Nedrick Boldin
The 5-foot-11 receiver is one of the Eagles’ earlier commitments in the class and had plenty of Power-4 interest out of Palm Beach, FL. He is a quick runner that also cometes in track & field.

March 11: ATH Griffin Collins

A top-5 player out of MA, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound athlete commits out of Worcester Academy as he’s the second player in the class to commit. Collins plays both tight end and linebacker.

December 2 (2023): RB Nolan James

James had plenty of Power-4 interest but the DePaul Catholic (NJ) tailback chose to be the Eagles’ first member of the Class of ’25. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound tailback ran for over 1400 yards in his junior season.

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Basketball

DiMauro: All in all, a solid year for BC sports

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If you are reading this, chances are your primary means of remaining connected to Boston College runs through athletics.

Oh, and we’ve been tortured souls, too, especially in recent years. We are idealists and fatalists, demanding yet forgiving, loyal and resilient, even if sometimes it feels as though we make the long trek up the cliff to Lovers Leap … only to get shoved.

All of which makes the sports year of 2023-24 a time to celebrate. Boston College did itself proud, no small occurrence given that in this unsteady (perverse?) time of expansion and realignment, schools like BC must always look their Sunday best, with no overt warts or love handles.

Women’s lacrosse, BC’s working definition of pride and joy, capped the sports season with the national championship Memorial Day weekend in Cary, NC. It was the program’s second natty in four years, a three-hour infomercial for the entire institution and more proof that, yes, it can be done at BC with the right coach.

Acacia Walker-Weinstein – you’ll note that only the letter “W” separates her from “Einstein” – not only hung a banner, but helped BC earn a distinction few other athletic programs in the country could trumpet. How many other schools made national championship games (both televised by ESPN) in two different sports fewer than two months apart?

Think about that one: Men’s hockey, during an otherwise memorable season, fell short in the national championship game. But the Sons of Greg Brown did the school proud all season. Not a bad accomplishment to see “BC in the national finals” on the ESPN scroll in mid-April (hockey) and late May (lacrosse). It’s hard to buy that kind of advertising, particularly when and if realignment and expansion happen again.

Football won a bowl game over a ranked team at Fenway Park, returns a dynamo in Thomas Castellanos and then made the splash of a cannonball, hiring Bill O’Brien as head coach. Three other women’s sports showed promise as well: field hockey (11-7, made the ACC Tournament); softball (30-24, made the ACC Tournament) and volleyball, which continues to improve steadily under coach Jason Kennedy, finished 19-13 and made the ACC Tournament.

Otherwise, baseball gets a pass as new coach Todd Interdonato assimilates to the ACC and establishes his culture; the soccer programs (3-9-5 and 3-9-6) were lousy; and I remain concerned about men’s and women’s basketball. Put it this way: Sure feels as though better players are leaving than are entering.

Off the field, “Friends Of The Heights,” BC’s Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) collective, grew massively, keeping BC competitive in a cutthroat environment. Friends Of The Heights also homered into the upper deck, hiring veteran athletic administrator Jim Paquette as its new Chief Development Officer. Paquette will advise the Board on overall development strategies, using his 16 years as an administrator at BC that specialized in fundraising.

BC’s overall cachet also made a splash on social media when Forbes Magazine named it one of the country’s “New Ivies.”

Based on its researchForbes, the century-old national business magazine, reported that American companies are souring on hiring Ivy League graduates, instead preferring high achievers from 20 other prominent universities – “Private and Public New Ivies.”

BC joins private school “New Ivies” Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Rice, Notre Dame, Southern California and Vanderbilt. Ah, to be judged by the company one keeps.

One school year hasn’t produced this much for BC in years. And it’s significant. The idea now is to build, not regress.

Full disclosure: There are many things I still don’t like. I’m told Father Leahy neither attended the Frozen Four nor the lacrosse Final Four. It is disrespectful to the players, coaches and alumni to have a leader who acts as if so much about what makes BC great is beneath him. And we still seem to have these spasms of tone deafness, such as patrolling the parking lots like stormtroopers the day of the spring football game.

But 2023-24 was an encouraging year for BC in many ways. Yes, we always want more. But we were getting less for a long time. Not this year. A tip of the cap to athletic director Blake James, his staff, the coaches and the kids.

We pause now to enjoy summer and await Labor Day night in Tallahassee. Here’s to 2024-25, hollering “Mr. Brightside” again with the kids from the crowded bleachers.

Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s Class of 1990. He may be reached at m.dimauro@theday.com or @BCgenius 

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