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BC football notebook: Jeff Hafley on UConn, Emmett Morehead, Syracuse

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The score for Saturday’s game against UConn looked close, but looking closer at the box score tells a different story. Boston College outproduced the Huskies in nearly every offensive category by a large margin, Jeff Hafley explains.

“They kept in it, they won in the end. I mean, if you look at the box score, right here, we had 30 first downs, they had 10. I mean we had almost 450 yards, they had 200. I thought we were sloppy today on offense and you think we would have won this game by 28 points, but we didn’t. So we have stuff to clean up. But I’m proud of them. We found a way to win, it’s four in a row, it’s a short week, and we got to turn it around. I thought UConn had a good plan, I thought they played hard. It’s a game we should win when we play and that’s exactly what I told the team.”

Although the score was closer than they would have wanted it to be, but the expectation was to beat UConn, and that’s just what they did.

“We got to clean that game up fast because there were certainly some mistakes made. But the production’s there – its just the little things. It felt like a key moment of a penalty or a key turnover. I mean, at the end of the half we should have went up at least went up with the field goal there, and then you get the ball back at halftime and then you run away with this game. We kept UConn in the game. I mean, it’s as easy as that. And that’s no disrespect. We kept UConn in the game, we made the game way closer than it should have been. Ultimately, we won the game, which is what we should do when we play UConn. And I say that with no disrespect, but when we play them, that’s the expectation.”

To date, BC has the third most fourth-down attempts in the FBS. Saturday was no different as Hafley and the Eagles had another four attempts, converting on three of them. This aggressiveness was not specific to the UConn gameplay, but a season-long philosophy.

“We’re going to be aggressive,” Hafley said. “Then we’re gonna go for it on fourth down and there’s some mistakes that are probably going to be made but there’s some key fourth downs that we’ve converted to win games and it’s kind of going to be that way. We got a really good o line, we got strong backs we have a quarterback who can keep the ball.

“We’re gonna be aggressive and we’re like over 70% on fourth down this year. So that’s not a UConn plan. I did the same thing against Florida State on the minus 35. And we’ll continue to do that.”

On Morehead coming in

Coming out of halftime, fans were alarmed to see Emmett Morehead come onto the field. Hafley explained Monday that Castellanos ‘wasn’t feeling well.’ He went on to describe the belief the team has in the backup quarterback.

“Emmett was ready to go and I’m proud of it. That’s what I said to the team. He was ready he’s practiced really hard. He’s developing, he’s turning into a better quarterback. Everybody had total trust in Him. You can see how everybody was happy in the locker room when I brought him up. I mean, he’s one of us. And he’s done a lot here and he’s in a tough situation. And he’s handled it with first class.

The Morehead situation has been largely kept under wraps. After losing the starting position in week 1, there have not been a lot of reports on the situation and just how the program still views him. Hafley provided some insight.

“I’ve never lost confidence in Emmett, neither has a team because of the way he prepares. And this could have went two ways right? He could have walked away like some kids are doing right now. And he could have said I’m not playing. I’m gonna enter the transfer portal or do whatever people were doing, but instead, he didn’t — and it was hard on them. And he’s been a great teammate and he comes to practice with energy. He gets better when he’s in in practice. We’re not going to skip a beat and we won’t skip a beat if he has to go into the game. The team has confidence in him. The coaches have confidence in him and I certainly have confidence in him and I’m proud of him.”

Bond out, Skeete in

Lewis Bond was also a little banged up, and was forced to miss some time in the second half. This opened the opportunity for Jaedn Skeete to make his debut on the field, catching four passes for 44 yards.

“Yeah, Skeete’s a guy that keeps showing up. He shows up in practice. I think he’s really really talented. And I’m glad he got his moment today. I think he has some of the best hands on his team. He’s got good length, he can accelerate. I mean he’s got a chance to be a really special player as he develops credit to coach Wyatt for getting those young guys ready. Lewis had to come out of the game with an injury and then skeet went in and I thought he played really really well.”

Coughlin speaking with team

Tom Coughlin was in the building Saturday, as the former BC coach and NFL coach was honored in-game. Hafley described the experience of having Coughlin speak with the team.

“Yeah, that was special. It was special. For me. It was special for the team. He hadn’t been back in a really long time. I’ve kept trying to get him here. And you know, they honored that ’93 team today and I think the ’83 team too. And I think that was special for him to be part of that. I mean, he’s a legend around here in my eyes. He’s one of the greatest football coaches to ever coach the game. I mean clearly — gets the job in Jacksonville. I think he still has the highest winning percentage there, goes and wins two Super Bowls for the Giants. He does great things started the Jay fund and has always given back. He’s a BC man and it was a really cool 15-20 minutes that he talked to the team and I hope the players appreciate it as much as I did. So thanks to coach Coughlin for being here. Thanks to all those alumni for coming back. We got to keep this thing going.”

Offensive line

One of the biggest storylines of this season for the Eagles has been the play of the offensive line. Going from one of the worst units in the country last year to a strength of this year’s team has been noted often. Hafley and co. deserve a lot of praise for how this unit has been constructed and executed on a week-to-week basis.

“Yeah, they’re athletic guys. We have guards that can pull like Kyle (Hergel) and Christian (Mahogany) and then when you have a Senator who can do the same thing, you got really athletic guys that can move. So it’s not just as old schemes. There were a lot of gaps came there were some plays we got on the perimeter tossing the ball out there today. Those guys work really hard. They’re gelling as a group. They continue to get better.

“I think the run game has been the main difference, I think protecting the quarterbacks has been a main difference I think our o line last year was it was a different group in there every week. There were guys that weren’t ready to play. It’s hard to it’s hard to play football when you do that but they fought we wound up winning the game down the stretch and then we got a ton of guys with experience and now I mean how many yards to be rushed for. So we rushed for over 200 yards we love for 246 yards today. We’ve rushed for over 300 yards in the last two weeks. So now we’re one of the top rushing groups in in the country.”

Castellanos’ late-half blunder

At the end of the first half, Castellanos threw an interception in the end zone that costed BC points.

” I grabbed him right after the play, that’s situational awareness. You can’t do that. You can’t throw the ball up. We’re in field goal range. It’s the red zone. We have one timeout left. Throw it out of bounds or running. You can’t throw a pick down there. That’s inexcusable. At the same time he’s a sophomore, and he hasn’t been in a lot of situations like that. So the key now is to learn from that so he doesn’t do it again, because that is points. And that’s obviously we need to coach him so he understands those situations which we work on a lot. And he’s got to execute that better and he knows it. And I was proud of the way that he fought back because I thought he played a really really good second half throwing the football. We hit some big third down conversions and then obviously finish it with his legs at the end.”

More on UConn

Was there added motivation against UConn after last years debacle? Hafley doesn’t think so.

“No, I don’t need motivation. And that’s we’re a different team this year. They’re a different team this year. Both teams showed. Did we play great? No, but we found the way to win so they’re happy and they should celebrate. They just won four games in a row.”

Monday presser

12th in the nation for rushing

BC is now the 12th best rushing team in the nation.

“I didn’t realize we were 12th in the nation…I’ve been under a rock for the last day and a half, so…no, that’s really good. We were dead last in the country last year, so we climbed 120 spots or whatever that is in one year. I think it’s a lot of things. We had a lot of guys injured. We had a lot of guys who gained experience, now we have depth. We got a lot of really good players back healthy. We went out and got some new players so we created competition.

“We’re able to rotate guys in so we’ve been playing more players. It’s a credit to the guys. It’s a credit to all those guys who played last year. It’s a credit to the new guys who came in. We got new coordinators and I know we’ve really spent a lot of time in the run game, probably more time in the run game than anything else. Shimmy and Chud have done an outstanding job there and then again, I think Coach Applebaum deserves a lot of credit. He left us for a year, he gained a lot of knowledge in the NFL. I think he became an even better coach and he’s doing a really good job with those guys. He has guys playing multiple positions. They’re very efficient and they’re good players. That’s a huge jump, a huge jump so it’s a credit to the staff and the players. I didn’t even know we were 12th in the country, but we need to keep that going because that’s how you win. That’s what we’re going to do here, we’re going to run the ball. I know it was hard last year, but going forward we’re going to be built on the O-line.”

Health of the team

Shitta Sillah went down mid-game against UConn, and Hafley gave an update Monday.

“Shitta was walking around today he’ll have a doctor’s appointment, so we’ll see where he’s at. Everything else is fairly healthy. Hopefully we’ll start to get some guys back. It’a a short week, so you really only have one padded physical practice (Tuesday) and then we’re 48 hours before the game very quickly. So, hey, whatever we have, we have. We’ve had some unfortunate injuries like everybody else in the country, but I keep telling the coaches you’ve got to get the next guy ready. I told the team you better make sure you’re prepared. Look at what Jaedn Skeete did when his number was called, right? Jack Conley all of a sudden is playing tight end for us instead of the offensive line. Jeremiah Franklin I thought has done a really good job of stepping up. There’s multiple guys I think and we need that. If we’re going to continue to win late in the season, everybody’s hurt on every team.”

ACC scheduling

BC announced their ACC schedule for the next seven seasons through 2030.

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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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