The Jay McGillis Memorial Spring Game is less than a week away, and it’s becoming a bit clearer what the annual spring game will look like this time around, although there’s still no official word about whether fans will be allowed in Alumni Stadium.
Last year’s event was canceled because of the COVID-19 shutdown. The season before that, former head coach Steve Addazio and his staff devised a non-traditional scoring system for the first time in the program’s spring game history. Teams received points for first downs, rushes of 10-plus yards, passes of 15-plus yards, touchdowns, defensive stops, three-and-outs, sacks, TFLs, and turnovers. It resulted in a score of 71-55, with the offense claiming bragging rights.
Jeff Hafley told reporters after Saturday’s practice—the 10th of the spring—that this year’s spring game will feature a traditional scoring system. He said that he and his staff will probably divide up the roster and set the stage for a realistic first half. That said, at the moment, he doesn’t anticipate having his players tackle to the ground. Meanwhile, the structure of the second half will depend on player availability and position group depth, Hafley said.
“I’d like to make it as game-like as we can and let the guys have a little fun in the stadium,” Hafley said. “They deserve it. They’ve done an awesome job.”
Hafley emphasized that he has similar goals for the final stretch of spring ball. Over the past month, the Eagles have worked on first and second down and then focused on situational football with third down and red zone packages. But now he said that he wants to get away from scripting a lot of periods, use the play clock, get everyone else on the sideline, and make practice mirror gameplay while still focusing on fundamentals and technique.
The second-year head coach noted that the defensive line had its best practice of the spring Saturday. He discussed the importance of the Eagles’ edge rush in 2021. BC finished last season tied for 10th in the ACC in sacks with 2.27 per game, however, 17 of those 25 quarterback takedowns came in four games.
BC lost its top-three sack leaders from 2020 (Max Roberts, Max Richardson, and Isaiah McDuffie), but it did return graduate defensive ends Marcus Valdez and Brandon Barlow. A potential breakout player at the position is Shitta Sillah, who registered 14 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an interception last season.
The Somerset, New Jersey, native logged a Pro Football Focus defensive grade of 66.5 or higher in five of the Eagles’ final six games of the 2020 campaign.
“I think he’s taken a step,” Hafley said. “I think he’s playing faster. I think he’s stronger. And we need him to be. ’Cause we need that edge rush this year.”
Here are some more notes from Saturday’s practice:
WR Ethon Williams is back: After missing all but one game last season with injury, the junior wideout returned to the field and, according to the team’s Thursday practice report, hauled in a toe-tapping touchdown in red zone drills. In limited snaps, Williams has proven his sure-handedness during his BC career. As a freshman in 2019, he brought in three catches for 56 yards, including a season-high 28-yard reception at Syracuse. He also nabbed two passes for 28 yards against Florida State that season. Last year, his lone catch came at Duke when he went low to scoop up a nine-yard grab.
“It’s really good to have Ethon back,” Hafley said. “And yeah, the catch he made [in practice] was awesome. This morning in the team meeting, I actually showed a clip of him blocking, which—if you guys remember last year when we started talking about him before he got injured—he was one of our more physical, tougher wideouts. He made a great block yesterday in a very tough position, and, to me, that says more about him than the catch he made.”
WR coach Joe Dailey on Jehlani Galloway: Another lesser-known but talented wideout on the Eagles’ roster is Jehlani Galloway. The slot receiver tallied 15 catches for 197 yards and two scores in 2020 after not recording any receptions in his first two seasons with the Eagles. Now a redshirt junior, Galloway is another viable weapon in an incredibly deep BC wide receiver room. He was at his best when it mattered most last year. In fact, eight of his 15 catches, and both of his touchdowns, came in the fourth quarter. Four of these receptions went for 15-plus yards, and five moved the chains.
“There were times last year when he only played four or five snaps, but those four or five snaps, those were the best snaps anyone had on the field, because he was waiting for his moment,” Dailey said.
LB coach Sean Duggan talked about Isaiah Graham-Mobley’s experience: Even though the linebacker spots are wide open, Temple grad transfer Isaiah Graham-Mobley entered the spring with a leg up, given his experience. Despite injury troubles the past two seasons, he played 43 games in his Owls career, logging a personal-best 70 total tackles in 2018.
“I think anytime you get a guy that’s played a lot of football, I think that’s definitely something that helps,” Duggan said. “Kind of understanding when things go wrong sometimes to be that calming presence on the defense.”
Special teams updates: Aaron Boumerhi is getting ready to suit up for his sixth collegiate season. And he’s following up arguably his most impressive one yet, considering that he was coming off the second right hip surgery of his career. Boumerhi made all of his extra points last year and converted 16-of-20 field goals, including a 36-yard game-winner against Texas State. Two of his four misses were from 50-plus, and one of those was at Syracuse.
“If you go back to the Syracuse game last year, I put him out there in some tough situations—in some long field goals—’cause I trust him,” Hafley said. “Well, I trust him even more now as a player and a person.
“It’s nice to know that if we’ve gotta go for a game-winner or a big field goal, then we’ve got a guy we can trust who’s done it before.”
Hafley was asked about competition at long snapper, and he maintained that Wagner transfer Gunner Daniel is certainly in contention. He said that both Daniel and two-year starter Aidan Livingston are “doing a really nice job, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
Additionally, Hafley discussed John Tessitore’s holding ability and referenced not only the Clemson game but also BC’s win over Pittsburgh when Tessitore was at his best. The 42-year-old head coach made the point that Tessitore probably doesn’t get enough credit for what he does.