Photo courtesy of Boston College athletics
Boston College certainly exceeded national expectations in its first season under Jeff Hafley. The Eagles were picked 13th in the preseason ACC media poll, but ended up finishing 6-5.
Led by the Notre Dame quarterback transfer Phil Jurkovec, Boston College got off to a 3-1 start. The lone loss was a one-possession game to a ranked North Carolina team. The Eagles dropped a few key games down the stretch, including a 40-14 beatdown by Virginia Tech but flashed their potential by playing competitive games against Clemson and Notre Dame.
Here is a breakdown of the Boston College 2020 football season:
Biggest Positive Takeaway
Hafley is most known for his development of defensive backs but his offensive system allowed Jurkovec to thrive. This Boston College passing game was third in the ACC with 284.2 yards per game.
Jurkovec himself ranked in the top five in the conference in adjusted quarterback rating and threw just five interceptions — tied for the second fewest in the ACC.
The Eagles also broke out a major receiving threat to complement the production of Hunter Long. Zay Flowers caught 55 passes for 892 yards and nine touchdowns this year.
He can function out of the slot or the outside and creates separation from defenders with his route tree. Flowers also finished in the top five in the ACC in yards after catch.
Biggest Negative Takeaway
The bread and butter for Boston College has been the power rushing game for the last several years. The downside to the focus on the passing attack has been the lack of production in this respect.
In 2020, the Eagles’ ball carriers finished with just 3.1 yards per rushing attempt — last in the ACC. David Bailey even took a major step back from what he did in his backup role to AJ Dillon in 2019.
Especially with a team built around the offensive line, Boston College needs to improve the ground attack in the future.
Other Key Performers
OT Zion Johnson
Johnson finished yet another solid season as in all facets of the game. On 473 pass blocking snaps, he was responsible for just two sacks allowed. This is especially impressive, considering he directly faced the premier pass rushers in the ACC at the left tackle spot. Johnson also was the only offensive lineman for Boston College to finish with a run blocking grade of 75 or higher, according to Pro Football Focus.
CB Josh DeBerry
DeBerry broke out as one of the better young cornerbacks in the country this year. When targeted, he allowed just a 76.6 quarterback rating on the NFL scale. DeBerry was especially impressive against Notre Dame where he was responsible for just two catches allowed for 14 yards against a plethora of quality receivers.
DE Marcus Valdez
This conference is known for its edge rushers but Valdez may have slid under the radar. Although he finished with just two total sacks, he was tied for fourth in the conference with 26 quarterback hurries. He also had an 80.9 run stopping grade, which was by far the best on the team.
Notable True Freshman: OG Christian Mahogany
The three-star from New Jersey stepped right into a stacked offensive line and started in year one at left guard. While he had rough performances early against Duke and Texas State, his play improved drastically as the season progressed. In the final eight games of the season, he allowed just one sack. Against Clemson, Mahogany did not allow Jurkovec to face pressure a single time.
Looking at the Future
The Eagles will face some key losses along the offensive line, but their quarterback and leading receiver are returning. Even more importantly, Hafley will continue to build this program to a higher caliber.
His modern NFL mind was critical for the transformation from an outdated Boston College offense. Hafley also put a heavier emphasis on pass coverage, which allowed several defensive backs on the team to break out.
While Boston College is expected to produce multiple NFL draft picks this season, it has a ton of talent coming back and is recruiting at a high level. As long as the Eagles can keep Hafley around, their long-term future looks very promising.