College Sports

Jeff Hafley describes how Drew Kendall and Jaiden Lars-Woodbey fit into BC football’s big-picture plans

"We've talked about recruiting local guys," Hafley said of Kendall. "He's the definition of that."

Jeff Hafley is entering year two with the Eagles. Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP, Pool

When Jeff Hafley arrived in Massachusetts, Drew Kendall was one of the first people he carved out time to see.

“We’ve talked about recruiting local guys,” Hafley said. “He’s the definition of that.”

The Norwell resident Kendall, a standout four-star offensive guard for Noble and Greenough School, is the top-ranked player from Massachusetts in the Class of 2021. He fielded many other offers, including from schools such as Michigan and Penn State, but elected to play for Hafley and Co.

Hafley, who spoke about one of the Eagles’ most prized recruits for the first time Wednesday on National Signing Day, said that staying home can oftentimes be a hard decision. He credited Kendall – the son of BC Hall of Famer Pete Kendall – for having the courage to do so. Hafley also praised his staff, including offensive line coach Matt Applebaum, for getting to know Kendall and his family and developing mutual trust along the way.

“We need to keep the best players in the state home,” Hafley said. “Some people said we couldn’t do it, and we proved that we could. I appreciate Drew for giving us the opportunity to recruit him and showing him what we had to offer. I think it’s a sign to the recruits in the 2022 and 2023 and 2024, the local guys, that the best kid in the state stayed home.”

Hafley called Kendall “a phenomenal human being” and someone who is very intelligent and has a captivating personality. He acknowledged it was a tough recruitment, noting that it wasn’t until the Friday after National Signing Day in late December that the Eagles got the final phone call from Kendall.

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While Hafley believes landing local talent is a key ingredient in organically building a perennially strong program, he also knows that finding gems both from around the country and via the transfer portal are part of the equation.

The Eagles, who finished 6-5 in Hafley’s first year, pieced together their highest-ranked recruiting class by ESPN in program history (38th) as of Dec. 16. More recently, they’ve turned to the portal to bring in four mid-year transfers in defensive back Jaiden Lars-Woodbey from Florida State, defensive tackle Khris Banks and linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley from Temple, and long snapper Gunner Daniel from Wagner.

Lars-Woodbey, who originally received offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, and other schools, was an ESPN freshman All-American at Florida State. He started four games as a sophomore in 2019 before suffering a season-ending knee injury, then started six more this season before transferring to BC this offseason.

Hafley made it clear the Eagles don’t want to “live in the transfer portal” but said Lars-Woodbey’s resume and potential were simply too enticing to pass up. He said Lars-Woodbey, who has two years of eligibility remaining, loves the game and can help a team in many ways with his versatility.

Special teams coordinator/defensive assistant Matt Thurin developed a relationship with Lars-Woodbey when he was at Ohio State recruiting him, and Hafley believes that connection went a long way.

“I think he’ll be a leader for us,” Hafley said. “I think he’ll fit in great with the culture that has started to be built. I can’t say enough about how excited we are that he chose to come. He had a lot of options.”

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Graham-Mobley had 26 tackles and Banks 18 last season for Temple, and Daniel was a preseason all-conference player at Wagner his redshirt sophomore year.

While Hafley has been busy looking at film and recruiting, he’s also enjoyed some downtime with his family over the past few months. He had more time than he otherwise would have because the Eagles decided to opt out of a bowl game, and Hafley said he used that period to recharge.

“I got to spend a ton of time with my kids and my wife,” he said. “I kind of got to refresh. I was tired. I didn’t realize how tired I was. I started noticing when I was home, and I was probably as tired as I’ve been, because the adrenaline stops. It did, and it hit me pretty hard. Then after about a week or so, I started to feel great again. I couldn’t wait to get back to work. I’m excited. I feel re-energized.”

Now Hafley is back at the office, watching cutups in the morning and recruiting in the afternoon. Players are back as well, going through testing protocols, getting situated academically, and lifting with strength and conditioning coach Phil Matusz.

Hafley said 12 freshmen are already on campus, and the four transfers started classes in January as well. Spring practice is set to officially begin March 20, COVID-19 permitting, and Hafley is hoping the Eagles have a full offseason this time around.

Said Hafley: “Guys have a chance to show what they can do.”

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