Boston College opens training camp better from the top down

5-6 minutes 8/3/2023
Boston College opened training camp on Thursday morning at the Fish Field House under a new management structure.
Eagles’ fourth-year head coach Jeff Hafley was compelled to make systemic changes to his staff in the aftermath of last season’s 3-9 finish. Hafley replaced the coordinators and coaches that underperformed, elevated several incumbents to greater positions of authority and instituted a power-sharing makeover in the hierarchy.
The Eagles’ biggest needs for improvement are on offense. BC finished 13th in the ACC in points per game (17.8) and last in yards per game (310.3). BC managed 3724 yards of offense, broken down to an anemic 759 rushing yards with a respectable 2,965 passing yards compiled by quarterbacks Phil Jurkovec and returning starter Emmett Morehead.
Departed All-ACC first team wide receiver Zay Flowers, the most productive pass catcher in program history and a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens, accounted for 1,077 of those passing yards on 78 catches.
Hafley brought in veteran NFL playcaller Rob Chudzinski and gave him the title of associate head coach for offense and offense development. Quarterbacks coach Steve Shimko was made offensive coordinator, but he works in conjunction with Chudzinski in a coaches’ booth/sidelines tandem.
“I think it is a really good combination,” said Hafley. “You’ve got a guy (Chudzinski) with a ton of knowledge who is like another head coach in the front of the room.
“He has coached at the highest levels and I think the world of Steve. He is bright and has really great ideas and he is really good with players. He processes it at a very high level the way he sees the game.
“I think it is a good combination and they have a prior relationship that goes back to a really good working environment. They are in football for all the right reasons and we are so fortunate.”
BC did slightly better on defense, finishing 10th overall. The Eagles gave up 4,543 yards, 378.6 yards per game and 30.3 points per game. Hafley made his bones in the NFL and FBS on defense and that’s where he made inhouse changes.
Linebackers coach Sean Duggan and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim were named co-defensive coordinators while staying within their areas of expertise.
“They both have their strengths and then I’m very involved piecing it together with them and making sure that our vision is all the same,” said Hafley. “Those two are extremely close and they work very well together.
“I think Aazaar is a future head coach and Sean is one of the smartest coaches I’ve been around. I think it is a great combination and there are no egos. There are clearly defined leadership roles and they respect and follow that but there are no egos.”
Hafley brought back offensive line coach Matt Applebaum after a one-year stint with the Miami Dolphins. The OL was the Eagles’ biggest problem area last season. He also hired former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads to work with the outside linebackers.
Sixth man
Middle linebacker Vinny DePalma, a veteran of 20 starts and 40 games, begins his sixth season with the program and fifth on the field. DePalma arrived at BC in 2018 and spent the next two seasons working his way up the depth chart.
He missed all of 2020 with an injury and assumed a starting role the subsequent two seasons. DePalma took advantage of the NCAA’s pandemic bonus season to come back for one more run.
“I still had a year of eligibility left after COVID and BC has been so special to me and to my family that I didn’t want to leave time on the table,” said DePalma. “It’s just that I’m healthy and still love the game and so passionate about playing and being in the locker room.
“I wasn’t ready to give it up. I talked to coaches and players who were mentors to me in the past and they were like ‘play as long as you can.’ ”
DePalma is more than the feel-good story of training camp. The 5-11, 226-pound graduate from Wayne, N.J., started 12 games last season and led the Eagles in total tackles (87) and unassisted tackles (49) and was third with seven tackles for a loss. As the MIKE linebacker, DePalma is responsible for setting up the defense.
“It comes from the sideline but on the field the Mike linebacker is a unique position,” said DePalma. “You have to make calls and make checks and being vocal is definitely part of your job.”
All-purpose back
Graduate tailback Pat Garwo is the most statistically proficient returning starter on offense. Garwo started 12 games last season and finished with 402 rushing yards on 132 carries with three touchdowns.
On the receiving side, Garwo led the returning pass catchers with 29 receptions and was second to tight end George Takacs (256) with 241 yards. BC backup tailback Alex Broome was tied with Takacs for second with 26 receptions.
“The scheme has been pretty good in trying to marry us to the best of our abilities,” said Garwo.

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