College Sports

4 takeaways as BC football caps spring, looks ahead to season

A healthy Phil Jurkovec is poised for a big year.

Phil Jurkovec is back for another season with the Eagles. Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

Coming off a disappointing 6-6 season marred by injuries and filled with “what-ifs,” the Boston College football team is still on the hunt for its first eight-win campaign since 2009. 

The Eagles are the first to admit last year didn’t go as planned. With much of their core back, including standout quarterback Phil Jurkovec and elite wide receiver Zay Flowers, they hope to finally make the leap they’ve collectively coveted for quite some time.

“The year didn’t go how we wanted it to last year, and everyone knows that,” tight end Joey Luchetti said. “Everyone knows we have a lot more talent than our record showed. It’s never a confidence issue. We’re all really confident around here.”

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BC held 14 spring practices and capped the action with the Jay McGillis Memorial Spring Game on Saturday at Alumni Stadium. For those keeping score at home, Team Boston beat Team Eagles, 22-10, in a game that provided a small window into what this team could look like next season. 

Here’s a closer look at how the spring unfolded and what to expect going forward:

Phil Jurkovec looks healthy.

Jurkovec, who broke a bone in his throwing hand in the second game of the season against UMass, ended up appearing in just six of 12 games and never totally regained his momentum from 2020.

“Last year was a lost season,” Jurkovec said. “That’s how I look at it. I came back for the final few games, but I really wasn’t 100 percent. I’m looking forward to this year and finding success again.”

He looked smooth and comfortable in the Spring Game, scrambling and finding Xavier Coleman for a 47-yard touchdown in the first quarter and making several other strong throws as well. All Spring Game performances should be taken lightly, but the showing was largely encouraging. If he stays healthy, Jurkovec has a chance to be one of the better quarterbacks in the country.

Head coach Jeff Hafley credited the redshirt senior for blossoming into even more of a leader this season. Jurkovec said he knew he would have a chance to be drafted, but he wanted to come back for one more year to get better, gain more experience, and leave on a high note after a disappointing stretch.

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“I think it motivates him,” Hafley said. “I would hope it does. In the first quarter of that second game, when he got hurt, he wasn’t 100 percent for the rest of the season. To get another fresh start and be healthy, I think he should be excited.”

He has many elite weapons around him.

Jurkovec has many weapons to throw to, including Flowers, who racked up 44 catches for 746 yards and five touchdowns a season ago. Hafley, new offensive coordinator John McNulty, Jurkovec, and of course Flowers himself all believe those numbers can be even higher. 

McNulty has made it clear players are more important than scheme, and he wants to do everything in his power to get Flowers the ball and let him run wild. 

Jaelen Gill, Jaden Williams, Taji Johnson, Lewis Bond, Dante Reynolds, and Dino Tomlin (yes, Mike Tomlin’s son), among others, will also be in the mix at wide receiver. Luchetti, Notre Dame transfer George Takacs, and Spencer Witter should contribute at tight end.  

Pat Garwo, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year, returns as one of the best backs in the ACC, and Alec Sinkfield and Coleman will chip in as well. The Eagles, who finished last in the ACC in yards per game (350) and 11th in points per game (24.7) have a chance to prove that was a fluke and injury-based.

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“I feel like me and Phil, and the whole offense, didn’t get to show what we really can do,” Flowers said on the ACC Network broadcast of the Spring Game. “That made us even hungrier to come out this year and put on a show for everybody and show that we’re more than just an average team.”

The offensive line is eager to prove it belongs.

One area to monitor for the Eagles is their offensive line, as they lose potential first-rounder Zion Johnson plus extremely reliable starters Alec Lindstrom, Ben Petrula, and Tyler Vrabel. 

The only returning full-time starter is Christian Mahogany, who is gladly embracing a leadership role on a relatively inexperienced unit eager to earn respect. Fellow lineman Jack Conley said he’s confident Mahogany is the best guard in the country and that “you’d think he’s an alien” based on how well he moves from point A to point B.

Don’t expect him to score a touchdown and unleash a keg stand celebration every game – that was likely a one-time deal in the Spring Game – but do expect him to make life extremely difficult for other teams. 

“I think Christian will be one of the best offensive linemen in the entire country next year,” Hafley said. “I’m really excited for that. He’s kind of taken over some leadership roles, which is cool to see. A lot of the older guys in that room who left were leaders, and now it’s his turn.”

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With enthusiastic first-year offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo leading the way, the Eagles will rely on redshirt sophomore Ozzy Trapilo, redshirt senior Finn Dirstine, redshirt freshman Drew Kendall, redshirt junior Mahogany, and redshirt junior Jack Conley. 

“A lot of people doubt us as a group of five,” Conley said. “They say we’re not going to be the same. We think we’re going to be better. There’s no reason why we can’t be the best O-line in America. There’s none. We have all the pieces.”

The defense returns plenty of playmakers.

The Eagles, who allowed by far the fewest passing yards (173.5) and the third-fewest points (22.2) in the ACC last season, have many key returners on the defensive side of the ball.

Hafley, a secondary specialist, has helped the Eagles blossom into one of the best in the country in that area. Defensive backs Josh DeBerry, Jaiden Woodbey, CJ Burton, Jason Maitre, and Elijah Jones all have plenty of experience and should be one of the better groups in the nation. They proudly refer to the secondary as “the jungle.”

“It gets dangerous in the jungle,” Woodbey said Saturday. “You got to be cautious where you go in the jungle. There’s a lot of animals. We all just got to be animals on the field. And I feel like, that jungle, I feel like we embody that.”

With defensive end Marcus Valdez, defensive tackle Chibueze Onwuka, defensive tackle Cam Horsley, defensive end Shitta Sillah, linebacker Kam Arnold, linebacker Vinny DePalma, and linebacker Bryce Steele all part of the equation, the Eagles have experience all over. Other names to know include Donovan Ezeiruaku, Izaiah Henderson, Khris Banks, Ty Clemons, Neto Okpala, Jaylen Blackwell, and Amari Jackson.

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They’ll miss Brandon Sebastian, Mike Palmer, Isaiah Graham-Mobley, and Brandon Barlow, among others, but are confident they have the pieces to fill the void. 

“A lot of the guys who are turning ourselves into vets are younger guys,” Ezeiruaku said. “It’s happening.”

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