Friday, March 03, 2023

Hafley makes Staff official. Now what?


Jeff Hafley spoke to the media Friday with the start of Spring Practice and made his rumored staff official. He will now have two new first-time play callers, Duggan and Shimko supervised by two veterans in Hafley and Rob Chudzinski, respectively. Applebaum returns to Oline. Azaar gets a Co-Coodinator title and veteran Paul Rhoads joins the staff as a OLB coach. On paper it can work. There is a lot to like. Hafley said all the right things and seems to have the right energy and outlook coming off of a rough season. Will it work though?

I like the defensive moves. Hafley admitted the system is not changing much. He will be more involved and he thinks he has better depth. This is where I have faith. The unit was the least of our issues last year. I don't think we have enough elite talent yet and I think the scheme was a bit passive, but just an across the board, general improvement the changes should be enough to keep us in most games. Plus he added Rhoads, who should be a good sounding board and steadying hand. 

The offense requires a much bigger leap of faith. QB, OL and OC were issues last year. The QB position should be improved. The OLine should be better. We have depth, much more experience and a known entity for he position coach. I didn't think much of Applebaum but he was well liked at BC and while his two seasons at BC didn't produce dominant units, they weren't a mess either. That is a basic improvement. The biggest issue will be scheme and play calling. The best college offenses are not particularly complex. They out execute, they put very specific pressure on the opponents and they leverage their talent. BC didn't do any of that well. Chud knows how to run a good offense. Shimko shows promise. But will they get this team executing in an effective way by Game 1? I hope so. But both were part of last year's disaster (albeit in different roles). If they had he answers, why couldn't we save the sinking ship last year?

Despite coming off a terrible year, Hafley doesn't seem beaten. He seemed to use the offseason to assess everything and make the necessary changes (including adjusting his position on the portal). He has the right energy. I still believe. Let's hope he made the right moves and it all comes together. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

BC-Syracuse preview

Judging a team's mood on TV is admittedly some subjective B.S. but lots of people (including me) thought the BC team checked out and quit last week. It happens. This has been a long, frustrating and disappointing season. The final game won't erase the pain of the season but a win can smooth the edge a bit and give us all some hope heading into the offseason. We could really use a win Saturday.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
I don't know where Jeff Hafley is going to start with his offseason changes. It would seem that offense would be Step 1, but I think the injuries raise questions about Strength & Conditioning and the defense is not beyond reproach. But making wholesale changes becomes tricky when half your roster could easily transfer if the mood strikes them. It is so hard to make hires when the perception is that you are a sinking ship. Your choices are often unproven guys or ones that no one wants. I hope whatever he does, the hires are better than the changes he made last offseason.

Three Simple Keys
1. Win the first quarter. Every game we are seemingly in a double digit hole. We need to come out and start the game with some defensive stops.
2. Get Zay 10 touches.
The Jet Sweeps and end arounds weren't great but let's try it early. The threat of it should open things up elsewhere on the field. 
3. Run the ball somehow. As much as I believe in Morehead, when we beat Dino's Syracuse teams, it is usually on the ground.

Gambling notes
-- Syracuse is 6-5 against the spread this year 
-- BC is 3-7 against the spread
-- Syracuse leads the series 32-22
The current line is BC+10.5

Our last losing regular season also concluded with a game against Syracuse. Of course BC lost that one too. 

Scoreboard Watching
Michigan-Ohio State. I know I often talk about what could have been with regards to Ryan Day, but both Harbaughs had interest in BC when TOB left. A big West Coast booster pushed Gene to interview Jim (he didn't). But Gene did talk to John. 

I hope to see...
The Offensive Line look much better. It has been a well documented mess all year. They now have experience under fire. A solid effort on Saturday would be a small payoff for the misery we all endured this fall watching them look so lost all year.

BC is in trouble if...
Morehead struggles. Assuming we make offensive coaching changes, we will need a solid QB to build around. If things don't go well for Morehead Saturday, who knows what BC will do with the QB position and who knows if Morehead will stick around.

Bottom Line
This is probably more a wish than a prediction. There is very little to base this on. Call it a hunch. I think BC comes out fired up for the first time all year and takes advantage of some Cuse mistakes.
Final Score: BC 28, Syracuse 21

Friday, November 18, 2022

BC-Notre Dame preview

Younger BC fans have no idea what this game once met. Right or wrong, it was the biggest game of the season. Should it have been? I don't want to quibble. It doesn't really matter now. Two decades ago that passion and focus was a great tool for TOB. With the ACC move and the Irish moving off our annual schedule, the Notre Dame game doesn't mean as much. But I can tell you one thing: if we win, it will be huge...especially to the people who used to care so much about beating the Irish. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)

A lot of BC fans are done with Hafley. That became pretty evident after the win last week. I don't begrudge those who lost faith. We've looked really bad throughout the year. I still believe, but it takes a lot of rationalizing. But what will it take for Hafley to win back our most passionate fans? I think Addazio showed it can't just be .500 football. If Hafley wants to show he learned and this year was just bad luck, he is going to need to have some big seasons in the next few years.

Three Simple Keys
1. Spread it around.
We got multiple guys catching passes last weekend. We need to keep it up. Even throw it to the RBs if you can. It opens things up for big plays to Zay.
2. Protect the ball. BC overcame mistakes last week. Let's not have to overcome the same sorts of turnover issues this week.
3. Control the line on D. I don't expect us to do anything in the trenches on offense, however, we are to the point where the DLine is playing well enough (at times). If we are going to do it this weekend, we need to penetrate and contain. 

Gambling Notes
-- The Irish are 5-5 against the spread
-- BC is 3-7 against the spread
-- ND leads the series 16-9
The current line is BC+20.5

We played this game the Saturday before Thanksgiving in 1993.

Scoreboard Watching
It is not a great weekend for ACC Football. The most relevant game for us is Syracuse-Wake. Root for Wake so that Syracuse enters our game shaken and discouraged. 

What I hope to see...
Another solid performance from Morehead. I don't like moral victories but do think building towards something next year is a positive way to end this season.

BC is in trouble if...
Morehead makes too many mistakes. Obviously it would be hard to beat the Irish, but a Morehead meltdown also puts a damper on my "building for next year" narrative.

Bottom Line
I think we will score on the Irish, but I don't know if we will get enough stops. I see us getting in a hole early...again. Battling back...again. But this time we don't do enough late.
Final Score:
BC 21, Notre Dame 28

Friday, November 11, 2022

BC-NC State preview

The remainder of the season is all about Morehead. The kid looked good last week and we need him to continue to look good this week. Win or lose, Hafley needs a narrative to change the momentum around the fan base and with recruits. A win this weekend would be huge, but another solid Morehead performance would be a nice building block regardless of the final score. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game) 
Did you hear the student section reaction to any BC touchdown in the Beacon St. endzone? Or the passion the students showed during the Basketball opener? It is nice to see a spark. They have every reason to be apathetic. Many of the current students had a disrupted BC experience due to COVID. I hope they get a few memorable moments before the year is over. Like the Morehead discussion, it is no longer about this season. It is about building a better fan culture and experience long term.

Three Simple Keys
1. Air it out. Don't go too conservative.
Let Morehead throw often and aggressively. Who cares if we are one-dimensional. We just need to score.
2. Change field positioning when you punt. If you keep giving the other team short fields, you have to question if punting is ever worth it.
3. Force turnover. NC State protects the ball. We have to change that and get a little lucky.

Gambling Notes
-- BC is 2-7 against the spread
-- NC State is 3-6 against the spread
-- BC leads the series 10-8
The current line is BC+19.5

TOB was 3-5 in this series.

Scoreboard Watching
Clemson probably blew their shot at the playoff last week. Their only chance and the ACC's only hope is if they kill Louisville tomorrow, finish strong and a couple of other teams lose. 

What I hope to see...
Better tackling. We have many issues, but the missed tackles on key drives have been killer.

BC is trouble if...
If we allow a touchdown on the opening drive. We can't come out flat and uninterested again. 

Bottom Line
I am not feeling it. Last week had promising moments but still enough mistakes and questionable play to give me doubt that we've turned the corner. I expect this week to be the same. BC competes but ultimately loses.
Finale Score: NC State 30, BC 20

Friday, November 04, 2022

BC-Duke preview

You can debate where the UConn loss ranks among bad moments in BC Football, but it doesn’t really matter in a larger sense. Hafley will either bounce back from this and we will remember the game as a low-point, or we will keep losing for the next year and a half and just group this loss with a string of frustrating and embarrassing “L”s.

After every loss I get asked if I have officially lost faith in Hafley. I keep hedging a bit because I like the guy and there are aspects of his approach which I respect and support. But each loss makes the hole that much deeper. Hafley will get another year to fix things, but who knows if he can. He can go a long way towards building trust and faith with his boss, his recruits and BC fans by starting to compete and win now.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game) Nearly every time things go bad during a game the same litany of complaints kicks in about BC. I don’t need to rehash them or add new ones. I don’t think BC is perfect and do think there are plenty of flaws and problems. But what frustrates me is when complaints or problems in one area are cited as the source in another area. For example: when BC loses to UConn it is not due to Addazio or injuries or budgets or even Father Leahy. We had more talent and were favored and played like crap. That’s on the current coaches and players. I also don’t think our history limits our long-term potential. Nor does it guarantee that we won’t be terrible for decades. But as the churn at places like Nebraska or Texas or Miami shows, having the best recruiting or most money or best history doesn’t guarantee anything. You have to find the right coach for your program and then empower that coach to get the most out of his program. BC is clearly not doing that now, but we will have moments where it all comes together again. Will that be under Hafley? It is not looking like it, but someone will figure it out.

Three Simple Keys
1. Keep Leonard in the pocket. If he starts running, Duke’s offense starts rolling.
2. Protect the ball. If we are more careful with the ball we have wins over UConn and Rutgers.
3. Keep going deep to Zay. I can’t believe we don’t do it more. It is our only game changing option.

Gambling Notes -- BC is 1-7 against the spread
-- BC leads the series 5-3
-- Duke is 2-2 as favorites this season
The current line is BC+10

Jeff Hafley’s first game and win was against Duke.

Scoreboard Watching
Wake-NC State could be telling. Wake fell apart last week and NC State has been typical NC State – good but not great. It is probably best for us if Wake comes out and kills the Wolfpack and sets their confidence back a bit.

What I hope to see…
Morehead play and play well. The QB situation is a mess. At this point why send Jurk out there less than 100%? Time off to heal his knee and confidence might help. Plus this gives the staff a little more time to see what they have in Morehead

BC is in trouble if…
They get down early. I have no faith in this team to fight through adversity.

Bottom Line Do you think we will win? I can’t talk myself into it. The level of play on Offense is so incompetent that I don’t know how we haven’t fired the entire offensive staff. I hope that they put things together this week and keep it close, but all the signs point towards another blowout.
Final Score: BC 10, Duke 27

Friday, October 28, 2022

BC-UConn preview

Go back to August when we were all doing our annual look ahead. Is there anyone who would have predicted that UConn would enter this game with more wins than BC? Yet here we are. An apologist could spin this a lot of ways. UConn's fight, after years of futility, is admirable. But let's be honest: BC can't lose this game. Even with our flaws, we have a significant talent advantage. If we can't bring this one home, then we have the wrong people in place. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Even though we've witnessed mediocre to bad football the past decade, it has all been relatively better than BC Basketball. Given how things are looking right now, it is probably safe to say basketball is going to have a better season than football. At a minimum it should be more fun than this year's football season. I don't know if the BC and Boston community will ever care about BC Basketball like they once did, but I encourage people to get on board. Grant is a likeable guy and his team last year played with an intensity that has been missing since the Skinner days. The expectations are growing and may be a bit premature, but I think we can expect this team to play competitive basketball all season and give us hope into March.

Three Simple Keys
1. Continue to use Jurk in the running game. It worked for a bit...until Wake adjusted. But making him a viable threat, makes UConn a little less aggressive and gives our OLine a little more time. 
2. Stop their run game. Like us, UConn's line and backfield are banged up. We need to make them one dimensional and stop the running game.
3. Mix up coverage. It is clear other teams are expecting man coverage on nearly every play. That is our base and our philosophy, so adding more wrinkles and different looks will create a few big plays or opportunities. 

Gambling Notes
-- BC leads the series 12-0-2
-- UConn is 6-22 all time vs the ACC
-- BC is 1-5 against the spread
The current line is BC-7.5

UConn has not beaten an ACC in the 2020s. 

Scoreboard Watching
Syracuse-Notre Dame. Both are future opponents. Both would be big wins for BC. Notre Dame is trying to find itself. Syracuse is trying to bounce back from last week. This is a big game for both. 

What I hope to see...
Morehead take snaps during regulation because our lead is so big.

BC is in trouble if...
It comes down to late field goals. Our Special Teams are shaky as is. If it comes down to a late field goal, do you trust that we won't choke this game away?

Bottom Line
We will win this game. It might be a simple as we have Zay and they don't. If we are aggressive downfield and give him the ball in single coverage, we should jump start the scoring again. 
Final Score: BC 31, UConn, 13

Friday, October 21, 2022

BC-Wake Forest preview

Two steps forward, one face plant back. The first half of the Clemson game was a solid follow up to the Louisville win. But the same mistakes creeped in and we were overwhelmed again. Hafley seemingly took exception to Dabo running up the score, but at this point it is on Hafley to keep these games competitive. The season is not over, but the schedule is tough. Some of the teams we thought would be heavy favorites (NC State, ND) might not, while ‘Cuse looks to be having one of those years where it all works for them. Even UConn is showing more fight than I expected. BC remains on the tight rope. This season could still fall completely apart. Hafley’s goal should be to keep us moving and give everyone some signs of encouragement.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
In the post game discussion surrounding the Clemson game, there were plenty of Clemson critics of the BC Game Day experience. I won’t get into the alleged student harassment, but the basic complaints about our narrow public spaces, dated concessions, bad bathroom setup and staffing challenges are legitimate. Churning through Athletic Directors didn’t help since this remains a long-term project. I hope the intended stability of the Blake James hire speeds up the planned renovations to Alumni. It is well passed time to fix some of these issues.

Three Simple Keys
1. Jurk has to complete at least 55% of his passes. It is that simple. He needs to be smarter and more accurate. I keep telling myself it will click soon. The Line is only part of the issue.
2. Use an extra lineman. It worked early against Clemson but we went away from it. The extra protector gives us more time and can keep the run game relevant. What we lose in an extra skill player can be somewhat adjusted by the doubles Zay draws anyway.
3. Disrupt the mesh. Attacking the mesh is a pick your poison options, but our DBs are good enough that I have no problem being aggressive at the line to get in there before Wake can make their usual reads.

Gambling Notes
-- BC leads the series 14-12-2
-- Clawson is 4-3 vs BC
-- Wake is 5-1 against the spread
The current line is BC+20.5

BC has a winning record in Winston-Salem.

Scoreboard Watching
Syracuse-Clemson. Is 'Cuse for real? I am in general a skeptic, but a win against Clemson would launch them into the Top 10.

I hope to see…
BC generate lots of turnovers. At this point we have to take more risks and get a little lucky. We have a defensive-minded coach. You would think we would be better ball hawks.

BC is in trouble if…
Wake covers. At this point it is not about hollow moral victories. Blowouts bother me more because it shows the staff can’t control games and most likely in this case, can’t generate points against a quality teams. It speaks to bigger issues about the season and how Hafley has to adjust in the offseason.

Bottom Line
I don’t think we are winning. I don’t think the season is over by any means, but I think Wake isn’t going to implode and make the mistakes we might. I think it has a similar pattern to other games where we come out strong, but they pull away in the second half.
Final Score: BC 20, Wake 35