Oftentimes when a school hires a new head football coach, the immediate reaction from the fan base tends to be mixed. Some like the choice, others question it, and the debate about the long-term ramifications lingers for quite some time.
When Boston College announced Saturday morning that it had hired Jeff Hafley to replace Steve Addazio, internet trolls were sparse and subdued. Of course, there are always a few contrarians, but the response was overwhelmingly and unrelentingly positive.
Time will tell how Hafley fares with the Eagles, but it’s clear this move resonated with BC’s fans. It also resonated with interim head coach Rich Gunnell, and players Alec Lindstrom, Jason Maitre, Brandon Sebastian, and Dennis Grosel, and they gushed about Hafley.
It’s been an eventful few weeks for the Eagles, as they lost their head coach and star running back and tried to brush aside the inevitable chatter about the next head coach. When addressing the hire later that morning, they appeared to be intrigued, relieved, and, most of all, enthusiastic.
“I’m really excited to meet this guy,” Sebastian said.
Here’s a closer look at how they reacted to the news:
What better way but to let @CollegeGameDay announce the news?!
— BC Football 🏈 (@BCFootball) December 14, 2019
The defensive backs have a lot of respect for him.
Hafley has helped Ohio State’s defense allow the fewest yards per play and second fewest passing yards per game in the nation this season.
Of course, Ohio State attracts some of the top recruits in the country and is a perennial national title contender, but it’s clear he’s made a tangible difference in his lone season in Columbus. Last year, OSU’s defense finished 72nd in yards per play, and this year the Buckeyes top the list and haven’t allowed more than 27 points in a game.
Congrats to Jeff Hafley on the BC job. Once upon a time he was my DB coach at Pitt!!!
— Darrelle Revis (@Revis24) December 14, 2019
BC’s defense, meanwhile, allowed more than 27 points in half its regular-season games, and its pass defense was the fifth worst in the nation at 300 yards per contest.
The secondary made small but significant strides as the season progressed, and now it has a chance to improve considerably with much of its core back and a new head coach who specializes in the area the Eagles can grow the most.
“I can’t wait to get to work,” redshirt freshman Jason Maitre said. “I love working on my craft, and a guy who specializes in the secondary, that’s what we need, that’s what we want. I think the DBs will be happy about that.”
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) December 14, 2019
NFL star Richard Sherman, who played for Hafley with the 49ers, called Hafley’s preparation “some of the best I’ve eve seen” earlier this year. He praised Hafley for his ability to make the game simple and “paint a very vivid picture.”
Hafley has also coached Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan, and Darrelle Revis, all of whom have played for the Patriots, and his resume speaks for itself. The Eagles have the athleticism and the potential, and this could be the boost the unit needs.
Dennis Grosel has heard nothing but praise.
Grosel is an Ohio guy, and Ohio guys talk to other Ohio guys.
“I talked to a few of my buddies at Ohio State,” Grosel said. “They all had positive things to say, no negative things. An exciting, energetic guy that I’m looking forward to, and they all love him. There were some pretty positive things to hear.”
The redshirt sophomore quarterback said his focus as a team leader is on connecting all the players and coaches and ensuring everyone is on the same page. He’s expecting a significant amount of change, and he wants to make life easier for everyone and see that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Grosel has heard about Ohio State’s success his whole life, and he made it clear he’s glad to have a new coach who has played a part in preserving that tradition. The Eagles haven’t been bashful in admitting they’re not where they want to be big picture, and they’re optimistic that Hafley can help put them in the right direction.
“We’re hoping to bring the winning culture here,” Grosel said. “so it’s something we’re looking forward to.”
Rich Gunnell doesn’t know him well, but they have a connection.
Gunnell said he’s only met Hafley once, briefly, a year ago on a recruiting trip. They don’t really know each other, but Gunnell pointed out that they both know Ohio State head coach Ryan Day well.
— BC Football 🏈 (@BCFootball) December 14, 2019
Day was the wide receivers coach at BC from 2007-2011, and he coached Gunnell during that stretch. He’s now responsible for leading the Buckeyes into the College Football Playoff semifinal with Hafley by his side.
Gunnell said he’s looking forward to properly meeting Hafley soon and welcoming him to BC.
“I’ve heard great things about him,” Gunnell said. “I know a lot of guys that he’s developed that have moved onto the next level. He’s coached a lot of great defensive backs.”
They acknowledged this stretch has been “all over the place.”
Maitre didn’t hesitate when asked if this has been a particularly chaotic stretch for the Eagles.
“It’s been all over the place, but we come out here with the same energy every day,” Maitre said. “We like to fight.”
— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) December 14, 2019
The players acknowledged it was hard to avoid the rumors, but some of them tried to stay off social media as much as possible to drown out the noise. BC heads into its bowl game against Cincinnati on Thursday, Jan. 2, at 3 p.m. with a chance to keep the newfound momentum rolling heading into spring ball.
The program has gotten a burst of energy, and now is the time to capitalize as the Eagles enter a new era. Combine a new coach and a bowl win, and suddenly there’s plenty of reason for optimism in Chestnut Hill.
“I’m excited to see what he’s like and see his personality and meet him,” Lindstrom said. “I think the team would say the same, We’re excited to see what happens.”