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Notebook: Ryan O’Keefe, Army, Jeff Hafley on resiliency

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Ryan O’Keefe is back on campus as reported Sunday after being stretchered off the field Saturday and being transported off to Mass General Hospital. Jeff Hafley and others spoke on the matter in the Monday presser.

“I didn’t know what it was at first,” Hafley explained. “I saw the collision, and I saw him down on the ground. He was kind of moving at the time. Listening to some of the things he was saying, and then listening to the trainers and the doctors, then it started to get real. It was emotional. Like I said, I’m sure he was scared. He was thinking about his teammates. He kept telling me to make sure the team knew he wanted us to go out and win the game. He was talking about his family, to make sure they knew he was OK. He was thinking of other people, not himself. It was a scary moment.

“I don’t want to go into detail, medically, what was said or what he was saying,” he went on to say. “I don’t think that’s fair to him. But once we saw him moving, and he had feeling in his arm and his legs and his hands, those were good signs. Obviously they brought him out and wanted to make sure he was OK, so they got him on the stretcher and took him away. Scary moment, but just really glad he’s back. It was awesome seeing him yesterday. Really good to see him.”

Offensive lineman Kyle Hergel, O’Keefe’s roommate, went to visit him at the hospital along with associate athletic director Reggie Terry and Father Jack — Hergel and others then took O’Keefe out to dinner Sunday.

“That’s my guy … We were kind of the original two transfers and we kind of went through the whole process together,” Hergel said. “I made sure to go see my guy. He’s well taken care of, he’s happy, he’s back home.

“He was in goood spirits the whole time,” Hergel added. “It’s scary though, you never know when it’s your last play but at the same time he had a good mentality about it. He wanted us to go finish the job, get the win, and that was one of the first things he asked me in the hospital — like, he knew we won, but he just asked me how it all went. So, it was good to see him.”

Lott decommitting on decommitting?

Cedric Lott Jr. announced his decommitment from BC last night, but he later took down the post.

Other snippets from Monday presser

~ Running back Pat Garwo on offensive line, who gave him space to rush for 87 yards on 23 carries with Kye Robichaux out: “You’re always confident with them, no matter what’s going on. It doesn’t matter if you have three bad plays. We’re going to find a way.”

~ George Rooks on BC’s six sacks — they’ve lacked pressure from the defensive line all season: “It was awesome. I think we were all feeding off each other. After (Donovan Ezeiruaku’s) first sack, we were all competing: Who’s going to get the next one?”

~ Hafley on six sacks: “I think it started up front. I think it’s the most physical, the most violent, our defensive line has been. I think that’s a combination of coaching and playing. I think we cut them loose, and I think we need to do that more.”

~ Hafley on Army: “This is going to be a very, very physical game. It’s going to be a very tough game. This team plays very hard, they’re very physical, and the style of game that it’s going to be, it might be the most physical one we have all year.”

Emptying out Hafley’s Saturday postgame quotes

Faced with a two-touchdown deficit heading into the half, Boston College found a way to nab their first ACC and FBS win of the season. But in all four FBS contests so far the Eagles have found themselves in a 14-point deficit. This has become an alarming trend, and Saturday against Virginia it was an all-too-familiar scenario.

“We have a resilient team, we really do,” Hafley said following the win Saturday. “Do we need to play better in scenarios? Sure. Do I need to coach better? Sure. We have a resilient group that could’ve laid down and didn’t. multiple times in the game I thought they showed that, I love em.

“Speeches only go so far,” he continued. “So what you’re saying to there to get them fired up to run out of the tunnel, it doesn’t last. It’s who they are in here, and how resilient and how much they believe in their team.”

Although The Eagles were able to climb out of a large hole, back-to-back weeks of starting slow is something Hafley does not want his group to fall into a habit of.

“We look to address it every week,” he said. “Maybe call it a different way instead of calls that are more aggressive, maybe you get into some tempo, and our players have to start fast. That was our whole message to them this week. Each guy needed to not wait around for the next to get em going, and that was our message all week.”

Penalties and turnovers have notably plagued this team all season. They were cleaned up on Saturday as the Eagles were only flagged five times – their lowest mark of the season to date. The latter, turnovers, became the front and center issue. Thomas Castellanos was intercepted twice on back-to-back drives in the first quarter and seemed to be heading to an afternoon of struggling. But, as Castellanos found his stride, the rest of the team seemed to.

The final quarter then gave the Eagles more adversity offensively as back-to-back drives ended in fumbles.

“I just went up to those guys individually, and just let them know we needed them, and they needed to hold onto the ball,” Hafley said. “It cost us right, we were driving both times. We haven’t really fumbled there ball much. Especially our backs. That’s no time to start yelling and screaming at a kid to fix it.”

“You can’t do that. We haven’t been like that,” he added. “We’ve got to win the turnover battle. So that’s disappointing. I just was more encouraging than just go yell at a kid so he’s scared to do it again. I mean, he better not do it again, he knows it. He cares – and he cares about his teammates. I’m sure he’s thinking about it right now.”

Due to the last turnovers, Virginia was given short fields, but the BC defense held the Cavaliers to just 39 yards of offense in the second half.

“Resilient. we went down fast, we gave up 39 yards in the second half,” Hafley remarked. “I thought the way they strained, laid out and tackled. There was multiple people around the ball. Running backs were going backward, which was good to see and then the pressure on the quarterback even a few times when it looked like he was breaking out, guys running to the ball and laying out.

“I thought they played really well besides the Hail Mary besides their first two scores.”

Hafley admitted he needed to rewatch the tape on the Hail Mary play, but noted that this was something they repeatedly have gone over in practice. He explains how it should properly be defended in the future.

“You want to be chest to chest with the guy,” he explained. “So if I’m covering the receiver and he’s going downfield, you don’t want to box out like basketball because if you box out like basketball, what happens? You get pushed in the back and then he goes up and takes the ball. You want to be chest-to-chest with the guy, then you can go up through his hands and try to make a play. So I’d be very curious to see if we were chest the chest or if we were in a box opposition which is what we talked about every week because we actually we actually said pressure on the way to make the play and there’s a jumper who shall violently went up on every single person is accounted for chest, the chest, you should have went up and batted the ball. And that didn’t happen. Very hard ceiling practice because you don’t do it live all the time. But disappointing.”

The resilient nature of the Eagles Saturday was a a mentality of confidence instilled in the players that resulted in a win. What can the team do to improve, and where do they go from here?

“You watch the film you look at what you did,” Hafley said. “Could you look at what you did bad and move on and put everything you have into the next game. I told the team last night we weren’t gonna lose this game. I needed the guys to really believe it and they needed to do it for me. I told them in the hotel that there was no way we weren’t going to be standing on a 20-yard line or 10-yard line singing at the end – it wasn’t going to happen. And they just refuse to lose this game that has to be your mentality. We got to get better. We have to clean some things up but we found a way to win. I don’t care how it looks. We also need to feel some success because we get beat up and punches thrown out of left and right from all over the place. And believe it or not in some of these kids probably have a tough time with it at times too.

“So good, get your success, now we can get over here and show them what we can do better, and then we move on,” he continued. “Then we play Army and give them everything we have then we can take a deep breathe and take a bye week.”

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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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