As soon as Boston College wrapped up its first spring practice last Saturday, Jeff Hafley wanted to hit the film room.
There was no way the fresh-faced football coach could see everything as he buzzed from station to station, but the footage gave him a chance to get a closer look and glean as much as he could.
More than skill and execution, he pored over the film to see which players came out to compete.
“You can get a good sense,” Hafley said. “Turn on the tape and see who’s running to the ball every play and you can see who’s competing out there.”
When the Eagles regrouped Tuesday morning for their second spring session, Hafley had notes ready.
“I had a team meeting this morning and I showed them the good, the bad, and how we could improve,” Hafley said. “And I think what you’ll see from day to day if we can teach that, I think we’ll continue to get better with it.”
As Hafley continues to go through the discovery process in Boston College’s first few days of spring practices, he’s treating them as their own camp within a camp.
Players are getting a feel for what the Eagles’ new coaching staff expects as much as coaches are getting a sense of the players.
“These first three days, I just want to see how these guys practice,” Hafley said. “We want to teach them how to practice our way. So right now, I’m not going to overdo the execution. I’m going to look for the fundamentals, the technique, and then, ‘Are they running to the ball?’ ‘Are they in and out of the huddle?’ and just kind of setting a standard for the rest of the spring. I see this as kind of a minicamp with these first three days. Then after that, we’ll see where we’re at and we’ll push on it.”
With the Eagles in the early stages, first impressions are important.
“It’s like a new beginning for everybody,” said running back David Bailey. “It’s a fresh start, so if you had bad juju in the past, just come for a fresh start.”
As he makes his evaluations, Hafley said performance going forward will matter more than what any player has done in the past.
“These are the first times that I’m seeing these guys live,” Hafley said. “So they’re all kind of on a clean, blank slate for me. As I watched the film, I’m trying to evaluate what they’re doing now, what they’re doing each day and really not anything that’s happened in the past. So I think if you treat everybody like that, I think the competitions are going to be good at all the positions.”
The competition at quarterback will be closely monitored. Dennis Grosel is the incumbent after starting six games last season, stepping in after Anthony Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury. Grosel threw for 983 yards and nine touchdowns, but completed just 48.4 percent of his passes and lead the Eagles to a 3-4 record in his starts.
“I would think throughout the team, and I know personally, I hate losing — maybe more than I like winning,” Grosel said.
Last month, the Eagles landed Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec, who played in just eight games over three years in South Bend, but was touted as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country coming out of Pine-Richland (Pa.) High School. Jurkovec’s status is still uncertain as he awaits NCAA approval of his waiver to be eligible to play in the fall. In the meantime, he’s still practicing.
“The thing about quarterback is only one guy can play,” Grosel said. “So there is a level of competition, who’s going to be the guy. Phil fits in perfectly with the room. He’s a good piece.
“Obviously, we’re all competitive guys in the room and that just drives the competitive nature up a little bit whether it’s in the meeting room whiteboard or on the field throwing balls. He brings a good competitive nature and it just pushes all of us to get better.”
Hafley sees upside in both of them.
“Truthfully, I see potential growth for all the quarterbacks,” Hafley said. “I think we have one of the best quarterback coaches in all of the country in Frank Cignetti and anybody who’s in that room, I think, will grow. And I think you’ll see that from practice to practice, which I’m excited about.”
For Hafley, part of the fabric he wants to create for the program is a competitive environment.
He said, “From everything they do from the time they walk onto the field to the time they finish stretching, they should be competing against themselves every single day and trying to get better.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.