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2021 Boston College football preview: The Hafley Era soars into Year Two

The foundation was laid and first-year head coach Jeff Hafley’s Eagles were a tough out in 2020. What will 2021 bring for the burgeoning program?

NCAA Football: Louisville at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hafley took over the Boston College Eagles’ program last season and while various factors like COVID-19 and the usual first-year head coach growing pains limited BC from being spectacular at first glance, if you looked close enough, you could see the foundations of something substantive being built.

The Eagled duplicated their six-win total of the previous season in 2020 but there were noticeable differences in how they played. For starters, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti flipped the offense to a more pass-friendly attack from the previous regime, passing 55.7 percent of the time. On the other side, defensive coordinator’s Tom Lukabu’s defense game up 61.9 fewer yards per game compared to 2019, the 11th biggest jump in the country. Finally, BC proved competitive in games where they were outmatched talent-wise, losing to North Carolina, Clemson, and Notre Dame by only a combined 24 points.

There is positive momentum for a program that previously stalled out under former head coach Steve Addazio and the hope is that Hafley and company can build upon year one to produce a stronger year two this fall.

2020 Season Review

  • 6-5, 5-5 ACC, 6th in ACC
  • Boston College was 4-2 in games decided by 10 points or less in 2020.
  • The over hit in five of BC’s final six games.

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 37
ESPN Returning Production: 75% overall (47th): 84% offense (22nd), 66% defense (79th)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 9th in ACC
Returning starters: 9/11 offense, 9/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Phil Jurkovec (Junior)

While fellow ACC quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Sam Howell, and D’Eriq King commanded national attention, Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec operated under the radar and excelled in his first season as a starter.

A Notre Dame transfer, Jurkovec benefitted from Cignetti’s pass-friendly offense by completing 61 percent of his throws for 2,558 yards, 17 touchdowns, and just five picks in 10 games. His 255.8 yards per game were second in school history to Matt Ryan’s mark of 321.9 a game in 2007.

Offense (non-QB): WR Zay Flowers (Junior)

Jurkovec will have the benefit of All-ACC wide receiver Zay Flowers returning to the Eagles in 2021. The Fort Lauderdale native caught a hefty 56 passes for 892 yards and nine touchdowns last season and was explosive in the field, ranking fifth in the nation in receptions of 40 yards or more with seven.

Defense: LB Jaiden Lars-Woodbey (Junior)

The humongous transfer portal get for Hafley and stuff this offseason came from within their own division when Florida State linebacker Jaiden Lars-Woodbey announced his transfer to BC this past February. A former blue-chip prospect from Fontana, CA, JLB started 22 games for the Seminoles and came away with 106 tackles, seven TFLs, and 1.5 sacks during his time with Tallahassee.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 79th overall: 48th offense, 98th defense, 28th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 62nd overall: 37th offense, 95th defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +75000
To win ACC: +5000
Win total: 7 (Over -139, Under +110)

2020 Against The Spread: 6-5
2020 Point Total: Over 6-5

2021 Boston College Schedule

2021 Boston College Eagles schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 vs. Colgate 12:00 p.m./ABC
Saturday, Sep. 11 at UMass TBA
Saturday, Sep. 18 at Temple 12:00 p.m./ESPN2 or U
Saturday, Sep. 25 vs. Mizzou TBA
Saturday, Oct. 2 at Clemson TBA
Saturday, Oct. 9 Open TBA
Saturday, Oct. 16 vs. NC State TBA
Saturday, Oct. 23 at Louisville TBA
Saturday, Oct. 30 at Syracuse TBA
Friday, Nov. 5 vs. Virginia Tech 7:30 p.m./ESPN2
Saturday, Nov. 13 at Georgia Tech TBA
Saturday, Nov. 20 vs. Florida State TBA
Saturday. Nov. 27 vs. Wake Forest TBA