Boston College receiver Kobay White had no idea what to expect out of the Eagles’ first spring practice. The schedule was new, the meeting times were different, the lifting days were still being set.
The only thing he knew for sure was that it would be different from the last four springs at the Heights.
BC had a fresh face as its head coach in Jeff Hafley and brought with him a much-needed buzz that permeated Fish Field House as the Eagles moved into a new era.
“At first, I wasn’t sure how the transition was going to go,” White said. “But today, for being our first practice, it went really smoothly. Everybody was running around, moving fast, competing, having a lot of fun.”
The first difference was noticeable from the bass rumbling from the practice field. As the Eagles went through their pre-practice stretches, Pop Smoke’s “Welcome to the Party” was the soundtrack. Music was sparse in Eagles’ practice before, but it was boomed for all two hours of the Eagle’s first session with Hafley.
Players flew from drill to drill with football operations assistant Brendan Bishop shooting stations and drills like an in-house DJ.
“It was definitely cool having that,” White said. “He called me Zay at one point [mixing up his name with speedy sophomore receiver Zay Flowers]. I’m going to take that as a compliment. He’s probably one of the fastest wide receivers.”
It was the kind of energy Hafley wanted to see as he starts to establish his own culture with the Eagles.
“That’s really important to me,” Hafley said. “I want to get them in and out. I want everything to be fast-paced. I want to get a good practice, get them off their feet and get it going again.”
Hafley bounded from one side of the field to the other, eager to get a glimpse of the roster he was inheriting.
“It was fun, it was exciting,” Hafley said. “I think everyone was excited to get out here and start it up and I couldn’t wait for it. I haven’t really slept the last couple nights looking forward to it. I wish we could keep going.”
Mistakes were welcome. Effort was the only requirement.
“We want the guys to have fun out here. We want energy, we want them to have fun, we want them to feel comfortable. I said to them today, go out there and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just go play, have fun, that’s why we’re here and then we’ll correct it and hopefully, we won’t make the same mistakes again. That’s the atmosphere we want to build: Go out and do the best you can and let it rip.
“It’s the first time we’ve done football work live and we actually get a chance to see what we have. So as soon as we leave here, I can’t wait to get up and watch the film because it’s going so fast out there, and especially my first time out here, I’m trying to see so much. I’m excited to go up and watch both sides and just take a look at it.”
Redshirt senior linebacker Max Richardson has been through enough spring practices to know the energy is always high on the first day, but diving in headfirst with a new coaching staff brought extra juice.
“The first day’s always energetic, everyone’s excited to get back on the field, strap on the helmet and get to work,” Richardson said. “With the new coaching staff, it was kind of a breath of fresh air today, a new vibe, a new energy and we’re hoping to keep it going.”
For the first time in Richardson’s career, he’ll have to learn a new system under defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu.
“I’ve been here four years now, so you have one system and it just modifies a little bit year to year,” Richardson said. “But a whole new defensive staff comes in and they put in a whole new system and it is a learning curve, but it’s good. You’re able to develop yourself, personally, learn a new style of defense, maybe mold some of your tools that you were not molding before.”
Defensive back Brandon Sebastian is in the same boat as a redshirt junior who spent four years in Steve Addazio’s system.
“The first day we went over install, I felt like a freshman again trying to get all the knowledge possible, trying to learn everything,” Sebastian said. “Because my old system, I just kind of knew like the back of my hand. So when this new system came in, I had to just be like a sponge and take in everything.”
White got a sense of how steep the learning curve would be for him during the offensive install.
“I know for the receivers for sure, our minds were definitely spinning out there,” White said. “It’s tough because you’ve got to build the mental toughness because you’re going to mess up. It’s the first day. You’re going to drop a pass because you’re thinking about the play, what routes you’re running. I think that our job — and our coaches have been helping us — is really to be mentally tough.
Hafley was hands-on throughout the session, and Richardson immediately noticed Hafley’s football smarts.
“I’ve never had a defensive-minded head coach in the past here,” Richardson said. “So he’s able to talk schematics with us, offer some coaching and it’s good to have that head-coaching presence down on the defensive side to offer some wisdom to us. Schematic-wise, he’s given me a lot of insight. He’s a brilliant-minded head coach. I had a coach in the past who called him a rock star of the coaching world, so it’s good to have him.”
Hafley and the Eagles are still very much in the honeymoon phase, but the hope is that the infusion of energy sustains through the rest of spring ball.
“I kind of got this from Coach Addazio,” White said. “Sometimes change is good. I can’t speak for the whole team, but I could see people got some juice coming in. But it’s the first day, everybody’s going to have that juice. You’ll kind of see when we’re in mid-spring ball what the vibes are like.”Julian Benbow can be reached at [email protected].