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BC football notebook: Jeff Hafley meets with media; news on Elijah Jones, CJ Clinkscales

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Boston College has had some big news leading up to the bowl game, while Jeff Hafley has met with the media twice since the announcement of the Fenway Bowl. Here’s all the latest on BC football as they prepare for SMU.

Jones declares for NFL Draft

Elijah Jones announced his decision to declare for the NFL Draft Friday. Jones finished his six-year career at Boston College with 60 games under his belt.

Jones finished as a first-team All-ACC selection this season and finished his collegiate career with seven interceptions and 156 tackles, including five from this season (two against both Syracuse and Georgia Tech). The Harlem-born defensive back was one of two six-year players on BC, with him and Vinny DePalma being the two leaders of the BC defense. With a big year for Jones he’s now entered himself as a potential Day 2 or Day 3 draft pick.

Clinkscales enters portal

CJ Clinkscales has entered the transfer portal, he announced Friday. The redshirt freshman started four games this season while playing in eight total, grabbing one interception and 10 tackles. Depth for the bowl game might be lacking for the Eagles.

Full list of transfers: CB CJ Clinkscales, WR Jaden Williams, QB Emmett Morehead, RB Pat Garwo, RB Xavier Coleman, RB Cam’ron Barfield, DL Josh Hardy, CB Jason Scott, DL Shitta Sillah, CB Alex Washington

Hafley quotables

Hafley has had a pair of pressers in the past week, here are some notable quotes from the head coach.

~ (Monday) How the recruiting game has changed since he’s got to BC: “I think it’s shifted a ton. When I took over here I wanted this to be a developmental program. There was really minimal transfer portal. We really hadn’t entered the transfer world. I wanted to be able to go out and bring 25 – which is what you’re allowed to bring in – 25 high school players, develop them, coach them, and by the time they’re seniors, you’re rolling, right? That’s where our senior class kind of is, but that’s shifted man. The world we’re in right now, some people are going 100% in the transfer portal, some are going 50/50. It’s shifted in my mind as well. For this class specifically – which is why you’re seeing way less high school players – yeah, we’re going to attack the portal hard. I don’t know if I can put a percentage on it, but…we’re going to wind up with a really good class, it’s just the high school aspect of it for this class is not going to be high. That’s not the direction I’m going in with this class at this moment.”

~ (Monday) How he’s developed the program: “Well, I think we’ve brought in a lot of talent. Certainly we’ve had some ups and downs. I think the process is…you know, had some moments where it’s looked really good and there’s been some challenging times. But, where we’re at right now, I think we’re moving forward in a really positive direction. I know everybody wants to focus on the negative when it gets negative and then everybody throughout those five wins wanted to focus on the positive. There’s ups, there’s downs, there’s ebbs and flows, it’s about becoming a more consistent team and that’s what we’re striving to be. Players we have right now, that’s where we’re headed. This is the first time we have a senior-heavy class since we’ve been here and I think that really helps when you’re looking to build consistency, when you’re looking to build depth. That’s what we need to understand is, this group that’s going to be seniors next year, this is the first group, senior-heavy class that we’ve had. In a world where people are playing with fifth and sixth-year players, we’re going to have more depth. We’re going to have more guys with experience, which is what we needed. I think we’ve got some really key pieces to do some great things and I’m really excited for that.

~ (Monday) On 2024 recruiting class being so small: “We’re graduating minimal players. I think we’re losing maybe three to five guys. This will be the smallest class that we have. Recruiting rankings…you bring in 25-30 players, you get high rankings. It is what it is. We’ve had really high rankings, we’ve had a lot of people in classes. So, this will be the smallest class we’ve had. We’ve made some decisions with some recruits. We’re continuing to go after the ones we want because numbers are going to be very small. Then, I want to go in the transfer portal…116, 117, I don’t care what our rating is. If you have seven players committed you’re not going to have a very high ranking. Our staff right now is on the road looking for guys to help us win games and that’s what we’re going to do. I love the high school players we have committed, but no, there’s zero concern for me there because of the philosophical approach that we’re taking with this year’s class…I think it’s important for people to understand that very much. With the combination of transfers we’re aggressively going to go get and the committed kids we want to keep with us, this is going to be an awesome class and I’m fired up about it and they’re going to help us win a lot of games next year. That’s what everybody to understand.”

~ (Monday) On where the program is: “Yeah. We’re going to a bowl game trying to get our seventh win. We’ve got a lot of young players, we don’t graduate many. I think we’ve got a quarterback of the future. I think we’ve got some key players who are going to take huge steps as we continue to go forward. We’re going to bring in some key pieces here to help us win soon and I’m really looking forward to that, to getting better, showing improvement. I think we have some great pieces, some great people as we continue to move forward.”

~ (Friday) Roster management: “I think roster management is the hardest thing. You really can’t plan ahead anymore. No one’s under contract, so you don’t know who’s going to be there. The hardest part is – if you want to think about it even more – so, say we get through this whole period and we get into the second semester, and we have a good feel for how many running backs we have, how many quarterbacks we have, how many O-linemen we have, in the spring it opens again. So, that’s the hard part. The portal opens again, guys can leave and then you’re really just going out and replacing with whoever is left in the portal. So, roster management is the hardest thing by far. I don’t know if anyone can say they’ve totally figured it out because no one can predict how many guys are going to stay and how many are going to leave. That’s why you’d love to have at least a year-to-year contract so you know if a guy’s going to be here throughout, but there’s none of that. I mean, a guy can enter the portal now and then he can enter in the spring. It’s hard, it’s really hard. At least right now we have kind of a good feel for what it looks like. So, when I’m on planes and traveling, I’m constantly looking at that, saying ‘alright, we need to fill this position and get three.’ Or, do we wait until after spring ball and try to go then. We’ll do the best we can, but the hardest part is, what if your team lost two QB’s after spring ball and you only have one? It’s not like another sport where you can just change positions. You can move a shortstop to second base, you can’t move a wideout to quarterback, so then you’ve got to go out and get three more? Even in basketball, you can play with however many guards, center, forwards…but, your O-line, what if like five guys leave? Then you’ve got to go in the portal in the spring and get five O-linemen? That’s hard. It’s really hard, so roster management’s really tough. Really tough.”

~ (Friday) What he’s looking for in the portal: “There are certain positions where we have specific things we’re looking for. Not to get into specifics, but take one position, we’re just looking for speed. Another position, we’re looking for size. I think overall we’re looking for experience. If you can get all of the above you get it, but it’s hard. So, you look for some traits at certain positions. I think we have a good feel for what we have and what can compliment it and that’s what we’re going out and seeing at various positions. We’ve got a big weekend this weekend. We’ll have.a big weekend next weekend, which is kind of what I told you guys when we talked Monday. You pick at the size of the high school numbers we have right now, but that’s done very intentional. This will be a lot larger class than seven people. With a philosophical change for this class and the amount of kids we’re losing, I’m very excited about these next two weekends.”

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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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Football

Boston College lineman Kyle Hergel selected 3rd overall in CFL draft

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The former Eagles guard was not selected in last week’s NFL draft, but quickly heard his name yesterday in the 2024 CFL draft, going 3rd overall to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Hergel, who spent one year at Boston College after transferring from Texas State. The guard was a huge success in helping transform the offensive line play in 2023, gaining the best PFF pass block grade at Boston College (86.6) with no sacks allowed and two quarterback hits on 402 dropbacks. This was good enough to earn All-ACC honorable mention and a trip to the East-West shrine game.

Recently signing with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent following the 2024 NFL draft, Hergel will seemingly look to catch on in the NFL this summer before trekking north of the boarder to play for the Roughriders.

John Pupel gets Patriots rookie camp invite

The former safety will travel to nearby Foxboro, Ma as an invite to Patriots rookie camp. After beginning his college career at Dartmouth, Pupel joined the Eagles in 2022. Starting 11 games last year with 81 tackles, a pack break up and a forced fumble.

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Football

Boston College’s Elijah Jones and Christian Mahogany drafted, others signed: Eagles Draft Weekend Recap

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It was a rather successful weekend for Boston College in the NFL Draft, as both Elijah Jones and Christian Mahogany were taken while guard Kyle Hergel inked a UDFA deal. In addition, longtime and former BC notables Jaelen Gill and Josh DeBerry have received UDFA deals.

Jones – The first Eagle off the board this year, Jones went 90th overall in the third round to the Arizona Cardinals. He missed the final three games of the season for undisclosed reasons but had a big year that shot up his draft stock with a conference-best five interceptions while also defending 13 passes. As a member of the 2018 recruiting class, the corner tallied 60 games at BC and racked up a First-team All-ACC selection this past year.

Jones’ 86.9 defensive PFF grade was the sixth-best in the draft class out of corners and he was the 11th cornerback off the board for the Eagles.

Mahogany – Mahogany sat out of the bowl game and had some noticeable buzz surrounding his name entering the draft, but the guard fell to the sixth round to the Detroit Lions. Mahogany missed most of the 2022 season after an ACL injury but came back fully healthy for 2023, posting the 16th-best total PFF grade out of guards in the draft class.

Mahogany fell further than many, with many projections putting him as a Day 2 pick, but given he’s 24 and his scouting reports present some clear downside, it’s not all that shocking that he fell all the way to the sixth round.

Hergel – Hergel didn’t exactly have any buzz surrounding his name but he managed to grab a UDFA deal with the Saints. He was a four-year starter between North Dakota and Texas State before he was a fifth-year transfer to BC, and he put up a solid enough season to get signed.

DeBerry – DeBerry signed on with the Cowboys, as he transferred to Texas A&M for his fifth year after four seasons with the Eagles. He was a big loss for BC’s secondary, as he started seven games this year for the Aggies and grabbed two interceptions.

Gill – Gill put up huge numbers for Fresno State this past year after three seasons with BC. After an initial start to his career at Ohio State, he transferred to the Eagles ahead of the 2020 season and through three years he put up 1,092 yards. He put up basically half of that in just one year with the Bulldogs, tallying 516 yards on 49 catches and six touchdowns.

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