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DiMauro: O’Brien delivers instant cachet for BC football

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There are few other endeavors that cause the malarkey-o-meter to tilt with greater intensity than your basic introductory press conference.

Often, the participants employ those plastic smiles people wear when they’d rather be elsewhere. They offer more opinions than facts. Meanwhile, gullible members of the gallery, eager for change, will let their agenda overshadow their critical eye.

And then there’s what happened Thursday at Boston College. Not saying bits of the aforementioned paragraph didn’t apply. But there was Bill O’Brien at the podium, wearing his BC tie, talking about his new BC football program and it hit you: This is what instant cachet looks, sounds and acts like.

Instant cachet: A man with the extensive background, but with local ties. A man who alluded to Ryan Day, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft in his opening remarks. A man who won at Penn State. Coached under Nick Saban. The man who coached Tom Brady for heaven’s sake. And yet the St. John’s Prep man with Colleen, his wife, the magna cum laude BC grad of 1992.

Seriously. You couldn’t have locked Fr. Monan, Bill Flynn, Jack Bicknell, Doug Flutie and Tom Coughlin in a room with the metaphorical genie and his three wishes and engineered a better fit for BC football.

And now he’s here.

“I grew up outside of Boston (Andover) with my family, as a lifelong BC fan,” O’Brien said. “A lot of us went to Brown, but we were secret Boston College fans. I promise you when I went into coaching in 1993, I always dreamed about being the head coach at Boston College. My career has taken some twists and turns and has taken me down roads I never could have imagined. But as I stand here today, I couldn’t be more grateful that the road has finally taken me back home to Boston College.”

Now for some full disclosure: Cachet notwithstanding, I was most interested in O’Brien’s responses to transfer portal and Name-Image-Likeness questions. Like it or not, the marriage of those entities has created new rules regarding player procurement and retention – rules with which many coaches have grown uncomfortable. Translation: You better embrace the portal and your NIL collective, because their influence on your talent base will be significant.

Among Jeff Hafley’s best parting gifts to BC was developing a solid relationship with Tom Devitt, the director of “Friends of the Heights,” BC’s growing NIL collective. Hafley did well in the transfer portal before leaving for the NFL. “Friends of the Heights” contributed mightily to that.

“I’m excited to work with the Friends of the Heights group to keep building on what they have already started,” O’Brien said. “Tom Levitt and I had a good meeting yesterday.”

You’ll note O’Brien got the name wrong, calling him “Levitt” and not “Devitt.” He gets a mulligan. O’Brien rallied later when asked directly about NIL and the portal.

“You need to embrace it. And we need to work. It’s called work,” O’Brien said. “You’d have to organize your time, budget your time properly. 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 and you have great people around you. We have great people here.”

Otherwise, I believed O’Brien more when he said BC will be a good situational team (a Belichick staple) more than I did when he said this was his “destination” job. He incurred a wry grin when he was asked if you can win a national championship at BC, delivering a diplomatic answer:

“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 said. “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.”

And then his last words may have resounded the loudest. Bill O’Brien talked about closing the borders. Many coaches say that. But O’Brien can. Know why? He coached Tom Brady. He knows the NFL. Kids who are offered a competitive NIL deal will be drawn to BC more than ever. Instant cachet.

“I can honestly tell you that high school coaches, especially when I talked to some of the guys that had coached here in the past,” O’Brien said, “one thing that’s very, very important is that we do as good a job as we can of putting a wall up around New England and keeping these best players in New England, coming to Boston College. 

“Players that embrace what Boston College is all about. Good football players who care about academics and care about getting a great education. Not letting them go to Clemson or Miami. Let’s keep them at home where their parents can drive 20 minutes 30 minutes to come watch and play right here in this beautiful stadium.”

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 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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