The Eagles rank No. 68 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2020
A new era of Boston College football begins with the first year of the Jeff Hafley regime. After a solid yet underwhelming run under Steve Addazio — six bowl appearances in seven seasons and a 44–44 record — former athletic director Martin Jarmond (now at UCLA) opted to capitalize on his Buckeye connections with Hafley, Ohio State’s former co-defensive coordinator.
“The culture at Ohio State is definitely a winning tradition and one that’s had a ton of success,” Jarmond said when Hafley was hired. “So to have a guy who’s been through that and is hoping to bring the winning culture here is a good thing.Something we’re looking forward to with him is him being that defensive guy, having the attributes of being energetic and being that spark. We’re looking forward to having him and bringing some life to this program.”
Hafley inherits a team that went 6–7 last year, including a 4–4 mark in the ACC. BC has qualified for four straight bowl games but has not recorded an eight-win season since Frank Spaziani’s first season in 2009.
After significant early losses to the NFL the past two years, Hafley’s squad returns some talent but not as much as in seasons past.
Previewing Boston College's Offense for 2020
Gone is AJ Dillon, a former ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year and three-time first-team All-ACC performer who declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year. Anthony Brown, an oft-injured but talented quarterback, transferred to Oregon.
Dillon and junior David Bailey took on the moniker “Buffalo Bros,” and the latter is a candidate for a breakout season after rushing for 844 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019. His 5.7 yards per carry average was nearly half a yard per carry better than Dillon’s, and Bailey flashed lead-back potential with a 181-yard, two-touchdown performance at NC State and a 172-yard, two-touchdown effort against Syracuse.
Redshirt junior Dennis Grosel took over the starting QB job when Brown went down, starting the final seven games of the season. The former preferred walk-on threw for over 200 yards just once, but he passed for nine touchdowns to only three interceptions. The Eagles also have Phil Jurkovec, a transfer from Notre Dame who was ranked as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2018 by 247Sports. The Eagles successfully fought for immediate eligibility for Jurkovec, and the Fighting Irish transfer should get plenty of chances to be at the top of the depth chart.
Redshirt senior Kobay White is the top receiving threat after a team-high 29 catches (460 yards) and five receiving touchdowns last fall. Zay Flowers (22 catches, 341 yards) is the only other experienced wideout returning from last season. Tight end Hunter Long (team-high 509 receiving yards) is a reliable target. Along the offensive line, four of five starters return. Elijah Johnson is in line to take over the right guard spot for the graduated John Phillips.
Previewing Boston College's Defense for 2020
Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Max Richardson opted to stay at BC and play out his final year of eligibility, and he will be one of the team’s primary leaders and most talented players. Richardson compiled team-leading marks in tackles (108), tackles for a loss (14.5) and sacks (3.5). Experienced John Lamot (77 tackles), Joe Sparacio (50 tackles, six tackles for a loss) and strong-side specialist Isaiah McDuffie join Richardson in the linebacking corps.
“I’ve been here four years now, so you have one system and it just modifies a little bit year to year,” Richardson says. “But a whole new defensive staff comes in and they put in a whole new system and it is a learning curve, but it’s good. You’re able to develop yourself, personally, learn a new style of defense, maybe mold some of your tools that you were not molding before.”
Brothers Brandon and Bryce Sebastian return in the secondary. Bryce is an interesting case, as he was recruited and listed on the roster as a wide receiver before being tabbed to fill a hole in the secondary in his true freshman season.
Mike Palmer led the Eagles with two interceptions last season, and he is also back. Jason Maitre will likely line up opposite Brandon Sebastian at cornerback.
Along the defensive line, Richard Yeargin and Tanner Karafa must be replaced. Bryce Morais is a good bet to fill Yeargin’s spot after playing in all 13 games last fall.
Related: ACC Football 2020 Predictions
Previewing Boston College's Specialists for 2020
All the key special teams performers are back, including placekicker Aaron Boumerhi, punter Grant Carlson and top return man Travis Levy. Boumerhi connected on 12-of-18 field-goal attempts last year in his first season at BC. During his career at Temple, Boumerhi converted on 31-of-43 field-goal attempts. Levy had his best game vs. Kansas with 189 return yards.
Not only is it a new era in terms of the coaching staff and scheme, but the offense is also filled with plenty of mystery. An experienced defense should help keep the Eagles afloat and trending toward a record similar to their last few seasons. A lower-level bowl game is not out of the question.
National Ranking: 68
(Top photo courtesy of Boston College Athletics)