Today was ACC Media Day, also known as ACC Kickoff, and Boston College had representatives in town to talk about the upcoming season. Here’s what head coach Jeff Hafley had to say. Transcript provided by Boston College Athletics.
Q. Your offense obviously is different. What would be the ideal run-pass balance?
JEFF HAFLEY: I don’t know if there’s any balance. Going into each game you have to look at it, see who you’re playing against, what their scheme, who are their DBs, how good is their front seven. I don’t think we need to put a number on that.
When I was in the National Football League, one of the biggest things for me was the NFL pass game was really hard to defend, really hard to defend. That’s what I wanted our offense to look like. Now, I want to run the ball. I think you have to run the ball. But I think you have to throw the ball to score points.
Frank Cignetti and our offensive staff have done a really good job doing that. I think we have a quarterback that can throw the ball. But we’re also going to run. We’ve got a really good O-line, a lot of experience coming back. We’ve got some good running backs. To put a number on that’s hard. I think you’ll see us run the ball a little bit more. We’re going to throw the ball down the field. We’re definitely going to get better at doing that, as well.
Q. Your first year at BC, pandemic year. A very unique experience for you to say the least. What can you take away from last year and how do you assess a year that was so unique and so different as you’re trying to build a new era at Boston College?
JEFF HAFLEY: Yeah, good question. Really unique. I basically get the job and all of a sudden we’re all sent home, you don’t really get to know your football team, you don’t really get to meet them, spend time with them. You get to know them on Zoom, and you do the best you can. You don’t know if you’re going to play a real football game, you don’t have a team meeting room. First time in front of media like this since I’ve been a head coach. So it was different.
Here’s what I took away. We got a bunch of guys who came together and they didn’t make excuses. We had over 8,000 tests, and up until the last week of the season, we didn’t have one kid test positive. We had a bunch of guys who were told they wouldn’t be able to do something, and they proved that they could. When you coach football or you play football, you deal with adversity. Usually it doesn’t come right away.
For our guys, it came right away. For our staff, it came right away. Our guys decided to get together and sacrifice. We didn’t miss a game, we didn’t miss a practice. We were competitive. Our guys started to love each other and believe in each other. That’s what I take out of the pandemic.
So it was hard. It was really hard, guys. Like I said, I barely met the team and we were getting ready to play a game. But we didn’t make excuses. We got some great men and we got some great coaches. I learned more about myself and more about our football team going forward because of the pandemic than I probably would have in four or five years being the head coach at Boston College.
So I’m grateful for the men, I’m grateful for the leadership, Father Leahy, Pat Kraft, our coaching staff for what they were able to do in year one. There’s a lot of excitement right now about Boston College because we got some special, special players that you’re going to hear from in a little bit.
Q. Scoring totals last year, BC was bested on average for the year by only six points. BC allowed 312 points, BC scored 306 points. How do you flip those numbers?
JEFF HAFLEY: On defense we got to get off the field on third down. I think that was the biggest takeaway looking back at our film. We didn’t give up a lot of explosive plays, which is a good thing. I’m a defensive guy, I think you have to eliminate the explosive plays. We have to play better in the red zone. I think those are going to be keys.
I think what you’re going to see from us is with really a limited spring football and limited training camp, we’re really vanilla. I think Coach Lukabu is a really good defensive coach and a great coordinator, and we got a great staff. I think you’re going to see some new things on defense that are going to help us do that.
But we’re going to eliminate explosives, we’re going to play better on third down, we’re going to get better in the red zone, especially in that low red zone area.
Q. You mentioned third down. Offensively you converted 44% on third down. Was that a good number last year? How did 44% feel with third town conversions on offense?
JEFF HAFLEY: Good starting point. But we’ll get better. I think we found ourselves behind the sticks a little too much, meaning there’s too many third-and-seven, eight, nine ten. We’re going to run the ball better this year. I think we’ll have more of an identity, who we are running the football. I think that’s what spring ball was all about.
Being able to run the football is going to get us into or manageable situations, third-and-two, third-and-three, third-and-four. Then you have a quarterback who can throw the ball down the field, make the throws, stay in the pocket. What you’re also going to see is a quarterback, 225 pounds that can run the ball. When you can do that on third down, it’s hard to stop when you get into those third-and-short or third-and-medium situations.
Q. Place kicking has been kind of a spotty thing at Boston College. This year you have one of the ACC’s most accurate kickers in Aaron Boumerhi. Talk about Aaron, what he means to your team, offense.
JEFF HAFLEY: I’m glad you brought up Boum. I appreciate you asking that question. A lot of times it’s about the quarterback, the guys who protect the quarterback or about the guys who sack the quarterback. To bring up a kicker in Boum, I appreciate that.
I’m really grateful he came back. I wasn’t sure if he was going to. He had a game-winning kick for us last year, had some big ones in some really big games. I think he only missed two. Truthfully, I think I put him in bad positions on those kicks. I’ll take the blame for those. I told him that.
Boum is a guy I trust. Boum is a guy that I’m going to be able to go to this year and say: Hey, what do you think, man? Ball is on the 36, third-and-nine, want to go for it?
Because I trust him and I believe in him. I’m really excited that he’s back. I’ll tell you this much. I’ve been a defensive guy my whole life, so usually I didn’t pay much attention to the kickers. You don’t pay much attention to the kickers until you become a head coach and you realize how important that kicker is. Now that guy’s one of the my best friends on the team. I’m going to make sure I treat him well.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Phil’s development and comfortability in your system. Touch on one aspect of his game that you’re looking for him to improve on this season.
JEFF HAFLEY: Confidence. He’s so talented. He can throw the ball all over the field. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s hard to sack. He sees it, he can process. Here is what I saw of him in spring this year. All right? You can ask him, because obviously he’s here. He’ll probably do a better job answering this question than I will.
I saw confidence and I saw leadership coming in and out of the huddle as each practice went on. I told him. I mean, there were some days I was like, Man. I was like, This guy is getting better every day.
Just by the way he called the plays in the huddle. Because we still huddle. We’re kind of different. We don’t sit there and signal everything. We actually get in the huddle. The way this guy breaks the huddle and walks through the line and approaches it, you can see the confidence building, the leadership coming out of him, which is what excites me.
Then the other thing with Phil, think about this. The guy hadn’t played since his senior year in high school. He comes to a new team, doesn’t know the team — harder than me, guys, and I’m the head coach trying to figure this out. Imagine you’re the guy playing quarterback, guys from Clemson are trying to knock you out. I didn’t have to get hit.
Here this guy comes in really without a spring ball, training camp was kind of every other day we were practicing. So does he know the offense well enough to do it in his sleep? Probably not. He goes out and plays the way he did. I mean, that’s why I’m so excited about him, how hard he works, the leadership, the confidence. But confidence and leadership is what I see. I’m really excited about it.
Q. You’ve obviously coached with crowds. You have now coached without crowds. Is coaching affected whether or not you have a crowd?
JEFF HAFLEY: Well, I’ve never been a head coach with really a crowd before. So that will be interesting (smiling).
I’ll tell you, every game, this is where my mind would kind of play tricks on me. Every game I’ve run out of the tunnel, right, I’d get so worked up, so excited. The smoke would clear, my mind would play tricks on me. I would look for people. There were the damn cardboard fans every single time. I swear, the smoke would be there, here they are. Then it was the cardboard again.
I don’t know. When you put on the headsets, you kind of forget. The only part that was weird is after the game, there’s no traffic on the way home. So it will probably be a lot more fun knowing that my wife and kids and family and parents, all their parents, can come to the games. I’m excited about that again.
But once the helmet is on, it’s football. But for the fans, for the families, I can’t wait. I honestly can’t wait to run out of the tunnel, whether I’m getting booed by another crowd or applauded by ours, it’s one of the reasons I want to come back to college football, just the atmosphere. I’m really excited to be a part of again.
Q. Boston College women’s lacrosse won their first national title earlier this year. What does that national championship do not athletics department and the side benefits for football?
JEFF HAFLEY: I think it means so much to the university, what Acacia was able to do. I found myself going to a lot of those games, bringing my kids and wife to a lot of those games, seeing Charlotte North just tear it up. Want to see maybe if she has any interest in playing for us. She’s incredible.
But it means so much. It shows what we can accomplish at such a great university. So congratulations to them, all that they’ve done, all the notoriety they brought. I think our guys got behind them. The cool thing about Boston College is this: it’s such a good community feel. All the teams kind of get together, coaches go to games, the players go to the games. It was a lot of fun for me to get to experience and be part of that.
So congrats to them.