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Bill O’Brien hiring official: 3 thoughts

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O'Brien introduced at the BC hockey game Friday | Brody Hannon Photography

Boston College made the Bill O’Brien signing official Friday after a lengthy wait, as it was revealed very early in the process that he was the clear favorite for the job and officially landed it at 11am Friday. He was introduced at the BC hockey game as the Eagles took down UNH 4-1.

In a statement, it reads, “Boston College’s William V. Campbell Director of Athletics Blake James has named Bill O’Brien as the Gregory P. Barber ’69 and Family Head Coach of the BC football program. O’Brien, a former head coach of Penn State and the Houston Texans, will be introduced to the media and campus community on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. inside the Barber Room on the second floor of the Yawkey Athletics Center.

“O’Brien becomes the 37th head coach in Boston College history. He arrives at the Heights from Ohio State, where he was recently named the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.”

Here are three talking points on the matter as BC looks ahead to the future under their new leader of the program.

Things seem intact

As far as we know, 92-of-92 active rostered players have been attending workouts and team events as scheduled. Thomas Castellanos returns after an electric year along with fellow 2023 breakout names in Kye Robichaux and Lewis Bond. Names like Treshaun Ward, Kamari Morales, Bryquice Brown, and Jerand Bradley also look to have a huge impact from the portal — Jeff Hafley left O’Brien with a top-10 transfer portal class and a quarterback on the rise.

Players are given a 30-day slot to transfer when a head coach leaves, but as of right now, not one name has announced their name to the portal. Given how late in the offseason Hafley’s move to the Packers was it seems pretty evident that the roster will look almost identical to what it looks like right now come September. O’Brien pretty much has his work cut out for him.

Neutral, fitting for BC

Hafley leaving put BC in one of the more interesting spots you’ll find a program when a head coach leaves. It’s oftentimes a concrete example of a program that was evidently on the rise in which the coach leaves for a bigger opportunity, or a program on the decline in which the coach was fired. It’s usually one or the other, but this is a bit different: BC finds itself once again in its usual state of .500, which is the exact state they fired Steve Addazio at. To some, arguably many, Hafley may have viewed winning at BC as too tall of a task especially with the new aspect of NIL, and having an opportunity available, Hafley jumped at the gun.

One could make the argument that the Eagles were already on the rise before Hafley left — they rebounded from an ugly 3-9 2022 season with a 7-6 2023 campaign to see on top of an eye-opening transfer class that O’Brien was left with (as mentioned above), but Hafley looked as if he was heading into the trap that Steve Addazio couldn’t get out of: winning more seven games. Five of Addazio’s six full seasons as head coach of BC included exactly seven wins, and the program has not had more than seven wins since 2009.

Simply put, despite the known positives there’s no getting around the fact that this is a program that’s approaching the halfway point to a two-decade mark of not having an eight-win season. It hasn’t been Vanderbilt bad — again, it’s mainly been .500 seasons throughout, but mediocre is still mediocre. There were and obviously still are promising things in place but objectively speaking, given what’s happened to BC in previous years under Addazio and Hafley when any noise surrounds the program — on top of a rather tough schedule this season — it’s hard to imagine 2024 being the year that Hafley would have broke through.

And, with O’Brien at the helm, he hopes to be the one to finally break through to an eight-win year on top of many more things he surely hopes to accomplish. Hafley wasn’t able to accomplish what he sought, but there’s a reasonable chance O’Brien can do it.

It was never going to be

As touched on before, as much as the state of the program felt as if it was pointing forward under Hafley, it’s just hard for one to imagine a reality that Hafley does get over the hump — and stay hovering over it.

Hafley is more than smart enough to look at the situation head-on and know that winning at BC was always going to be an uphill battle. They can produce NFL-level players and produce noise around the program for various reasons, but as elaborated on before it’s going to take an inexplicable shift in things to get over the hump.

The challenge appeared to Hafley as an exciting endeavor that he wanted to take on head first when hired — and he surely did, the Phil Jurkovec injury in Week 2 of 2021 dramatically shifted the rest of his tenure — but quickly turned into an uphill battle that the average coach doesn’t want to face.

Just hearing stories of Hafley walking into the mods and having to awkwardly omit anti-Hafley signs, flags, etc. scattered throughout, again, he’s not oblivious to the backlash he receives for just 21 wins over four seasons when so much seemed achievable in the beginning stages of his tenure. Hype-me-up locker room speeches and motivating press conferences can only take you so far.

It’s time for a new guy to fight the uphill battle, and this one appears to have a bit more firepower than the past two. As site columnist Mike DiMauro wrote, O’Brien has to be willing to embrace the game of NIL and the transfer portal, something that reportedly also played a role in Hafley leaving.

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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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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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DiMauro: The buzzkillers who run Boston College

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My favorite English professor at Boston College, the late, great Dr. John J. Fitzgerald, loved the writings of Alexander Pope, poet and satirist during the Enlightenment Era. I shall now take pleasure in taking what I learned in class at BC to deliver an overdue lecture to university leadership, badly in need of its own Enlightenment Era.

What transpired this past Saturday, during an otherwise anticipated and eventful day on campus, illustrated BC leadership’s dizzying levels of obtuseness. Instead of celebrating the spring football game (with actual buzz because of new coach Bill O’Brien), baseball game against a nationally ranked opponent, national championship hockey game and the ALC Showdown, celebrating BC’s 17 different dance teams, BC students were issued a missive:

“Good evening Mod residents,” wrote Mike Sanzio, Interim Resident Director of the Mods, “as you saw earlier today from the Dean of Students Office, our men’s ice hockey team will be competing in the national championship game Saturday night. 

“This will be a busy weekend, filled with events such as the ALC showdown and spring football game. This is an exciting time for your community and I wanted to remind you of Mod-specific policies so we can appropriately celebrate these occasions. No outside gatherings are permitted in the Mods. Alcohol is not permitted outside your Mod.”

Some attendees of the spring game saw several “alcohol compliance supervisor” jackets from the commandos hired to patrol the parking lots. 

Sanzio got thrown down a flight of stairs by BC loyalists on X (formerly known as Twitter). I’m guessing Sanzio was just doing his job, carrying out orders from above. You’ve heard the “towers on the Heights reach the Heav’ns own blue?” This was from the ivory towers on the Heights. 

BC’s buzzkill rules and regulations hearken a line once written by Raymond Chandler: “The tragedy of life is not that things die. The tragedy is that they grow old and mean.” That’s the tenor of BC right now: old and mean. 

Can someone explain why Mods dwellers – most of whom are 21, by the way – were issued something so puritanical on what should have been a fun day? Do the people who run BC understand the power of sports on campus? This just in: Kids derive strength and appreciation for their school through campus events designed to cultivate pride and senses of “we” and “us.” It’s more important than ever today in a society too busy texting to notice anything or anyone else.

The Mods are a campus institution. The last time ESPN’s College GameDay was on campus, Lee Corso uttered the now classic, “party in the Modes!” line, mistaking “Mods” for “Modes.” It’s unlikely he came with that on his own. Somebody probably whispered in his ear at some point that the Mods are central to the BC student experience.

And then we get “no outside gatherings” and “alcohol compliance supervisors.” Overkill, anyone? If a kid gets caught hiding a Heineken, what’s the penalty these days? Firing squad at dawn?

And to think that O’Brien spent ample time last week trying to fire up the students to attend the spring game. Then the administration betrays him by issuing antisocial missives during what should be the most social day of the year on campus.

Is there a good reason – Puritanism aside – that tailgating isn’t allowed for the spring game? Someone tell the BC administration that Ohio State drew 80,000 for its spring game. Imagine passing the edict out there that Buckeye fans couldn’t tailgate?

I get that the missions of BC and Ohio State aren’t the same. But then, they are both in power conferences. It’s just that only one acts that way.

The worst thing that happened Saturday at BC was not that the hockey team lost. The worst thing was O’Brien learning what life is really like at The University of Austerity: A spring game with buzz. A national championship game at night. And an administration petrified of its own success.

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 on X.

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