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BC football notebook: Fenway Bowl Media Day, Jeff Hafley, Vinny DePalma

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BOSTON, Ma. — Boston College and No. 17 SMU had their Wasabi Fenway Bowl Media Day on the top floor of the Boston Museum of Science Wednesday morning, as the two sides prepare for the final matchup of the season at Fenway Park.

Finally getting to play in a bowl game, BC hasn’t played a bowl game under Hafley — and BC itself hasn’t played a bowl game under normal circumstances since 2017.

Under Steve Addazio in 2018, the Cotton Bowl against Boise State was abruptly canceled halfway through the first quarter due to weather/lightning concerns. The following year in 2019, Addazio was fired ahead of the bowl game and they got blown out of the water without a head coach. In 2020 they opted out of the bowl game, and in 2021, 40 players tested positive for Covid just days before the Military Bowl against East Carolina. Last year, they had just three wins.

“This means we’re close,” Hafley said while chuckling on media day Wednesday. “I’m going to maybe just go lock myself in the hotel room so nothing happens and I get a chance to coach in the game tomorrow, and these guys get a chance to play.” (Editor’s note: he did not, I happened to see him in the concierge lounge of the Copley Marriott shortly after)

On SMU joining ACC and playing BC next year

One could think of this as a home-and-home between SMU and BC — the two sides play each other next season in Dallas with the Mustangs joining the ACC next season along with Cal and Stanford. And while it’s obviously a bowl game and it’s not at Alumni Stadium, it’s still in Boston.

“Normally in bowl games, you don’t play conference foes. And while we’re not yet, we basically are now,” Mustangs head coach Rhett Lashlee.

SMU comes in 11-2 and riding a nine-game winning streak, taking down No. 17 Tulane in the AAC Championship despite quarterback Preston Stone breaking his leg in the matchup leading up to it. Tulane just lost 41-20 in the Military Bowl to Virginia Tech.

SMU had hopes of a New Year’s Eve bowl after winning the American but as one reporter pointed out, being disrespected by the selection committee likely because of an injured starting quarterback is the perfect way to enter the ACC.

“We’re trying to set a tone for the ACC. It just really is showing a sense that we belong,” said SMU quarterback Kevin Jennings, who is Stone’s backup and made his first career start in their AAC championship win.

DePalma prepares for final BC game

Vinny DePalma will finish his six-year Eagles career Thursday against SMU, as it’ll put a wrap on a very respectable tenure with BC. Redshirting his freshman year in 2018 after three games and suffering an achilles injury that forced him to miss all of 2020, DePalma finishes with over 40 career games played at Boston College.

He had been getting playing time as soon as he got to Chestnut Hill in his freshman year, but he got his first start in 2021 after some injuries in the linebacker room. He started from there on out for the Eagles and was an All-ACC Honorable Mention in 2022 before earning Third Team honors this season.

After ACC media day Wednesday, members of the media were able to speak 1-on-1 with the four representatives at media day from each school (Hafley, DePalma, Donovan Ezeiruaku, Drew Kendall). We spoke with DePalma shortly afterward.

Asked about why he’s stayed at BC all this time, especially with a coaching transition amid his tenure, DePalma responded by talking very positively of Hafley.

“When a new coach comes in, the roster usually turns over a bit,” Depalma said. “Coach Hafley is a defensive guy so he spent a lot of time with the defensive guys. He’s a (New) Jersey guy, I’m a Jersey guy so I think we connected in that sense off the field … We’ve had the same defensive staff for four years and the coaches have been awesome.

“(Hafley) is such a great coach but also such a great person. He’s one of the more genuine guys in the business,” he continued. “He goes out of his way to talk, care about you, I wanna coach one day so we’ve been able to talk about that, and he’s really, really involved in the players’ lives. That is invaluable — not only to have a coach that wants to see you perform well but also cares about you and wants you to see you do well off the field as well. It goes a long way.”

And as for what’s next in store for DePalma, that’s still being figured out — though as mentioned in the previous quote, coaching is something the 5-foot-11 linebacker plans on doing.

“I’m not sure yet, I gotta figure that out. I’ll be in football in some way, playing or coaching,” DePalma said. “I’ll sit down after the game and try to figure it out. Pro Day, whatever it is, and I’ll go from there.”

Going for it on fourth

Going for it on fourth down has been a common theme for Boston Colege this season. It arguably put them back into the oh-so-close loss against Florida State while also giving BC memorable moments such as Sam Candotti’s fake punt, but has also obviously given teams the ball back in less-than-ideal moments — but not nearly as much as other teams have on fourth down.

BC is 28-of-37 (75%) on fourth down this season, which is actually very good — like, best in the country good. No other team in the country with 30 or more attempts surpassed 70%, and Temple was the only team in the top 10 of fourth down attempts to surpass 50%. Quite impressive from Hafley and his staff.

“It’s just been our style of play this year,” said Hafley. “I try to be very calculated on first down. I usually make the decision on first down — if you get me to such and such we’re gonna go for it … It’s really how I’ve tried to play the game for most of the year which has been different than in my past. It’s just based on who we have up front, my belief in those guys, and how I feel we need to steal some possessions and use some clock to find out the best ways to win games.

“I think sometimes I’ve been a little too risky looking back. You have to be careful because if you don’t want to turn over and if you turn the ball over your territory is points. So you can’t be reckless,” Hafley added. “I studied it a lot once the season ended.”

Game notes

  • Christian Mahogany won’t be playing, read more about that here
  • BC is wearing maroon-on-maroon for the first time in the Adidas era
  • 11am kickoff on ESPN, we’ll have live on-site coverage as always
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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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