A JERSEY GUY: BC Has Found It's QB, But Will He Be Available?
Jeff Hafley has said and done almost all of the right things when discussing the direction he wanted Boston College football to follow under his reign.
The 40-year old Eagle coach again filled the room with optimism and freshness on Wednesday when he announced BC's 2020 recruiting class and the current state of BC football.
The one question Hafley, who was hired in December to replace Steve Addazio, couldn't answer was simple: Who will be the Eagles' starting QB in their season opener on Sept. 4th against Syracuse?
It's more complex than simply picking a QB off the Eagles' roster, which included a recruiting class of 15 players which was officially and finally verified on Wednesday.
If you want to read tea leaves, you might say that the Eagles' will be just fine at QB, with sophomore transfer Phil Jurkovec taking over the reigns in the spring and emerging as the BC starter for the opener against Syracuse in September.
But...and there always seems to be a but when BC football is the topic....there is one problem.
As a non-graduate transfer Jurkovec would normally have to sit out a season, unless he qualified for a waiver which the NCAA has been doling out like Halloween candy since the new concept "transfer portal'' system exploded a few years ago.
Quite simply that is a system in which college players can ask to transfer to another school which requires the player and school asking for a "waiver'' and immediate eligibility.
According to the NCAA, there are 11 different criteria in which a waiver can be granted by a committee which decides the matter.
Jurkovec, who came out of Pennsylvania two years ago as a 4-star quarterback heavily recruited by Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Penn State, was labeled the "best QB'' in country by ND coach Brian Kelly.
It should be noted that Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and Georgia and now Ohio State QB Justin Field were part of that class.
Jurkovec's high school numbers are staggering.
Coming out of Pine Richland High School in Pennsylvania in his senior season, Jurkovec guided his team to a 16-0 and 6A state title, with a career total of 8,202 yards, 71 TD passes and 43 rushing titles.
The irony is that BC had little chance to recruit Jurkovec in high school.
That changed after two years at Notre Dame when Jurkovec, for a reason which remains a mystery to Kelly and to Jurkovec himself, not only failed to produce, but couldn't move past veteran Ian Book or prove that he had the potential to get better.
That led Kelly to recruit two other QBs the past two years who immediately past Jurkovec on the ND QB depth chart.
In another ironic twist, that situation may be the key to Jurkovec being allowed to play this season.
One of the waiver criteria used by the NCAA is when "participation opportunities are not available''.
That clearly appeared to be the case with Jurkovec at Notre Dame, so much so that Kelly didn't protest the move into the transfer portal.
BC is being cautious about the process, wanting to present a strong case to the NCAA.
When Hafley was hired, he knew QB was a prime concern. Last year's starter Antonio Brown suffered a knee injury in mid season and then put himself in the transfer portal.
Back up Dennis Grosel did an adequate job in getting BC to .500 and another bowl appearance, but his limitations are clear and he is not the answer to the future for BC.
"We wanted to find a quarterback to make that room more competitive,' said Hafley. " I think we know we need that. So when he entered the portal, it was very clear to us that we were going to go full speed after Phil, and we did. I watched the high school film. I'm obviously familiar with the area, being at Pitt, so I knew Pine-Richland really, and I knew his coach. When we watched the high school film, it's one you've got to smile on when you watch it. He's big. He's athletic. He can run. He's strong. He can throw the ball. He's the type of guy that, when he walks in the room, he looks like a quarterback and he has the presence of a quarterback.
Then when we got to know his family, which is going to be so important to us, just great people, great values. They fit us. In talking to him, it became pretty clear early on in the visit that I think we both felt the same way. We felt he was the right guy for us, and I think he felt we were the right people for him, and he shortly committed. He obviously just entered class, and he's been working out, and it's been awesome to see. I think you guys will really enjoy him. Just try not to ask him too many questions about Notre Dame. But he's a great kid. I think all those guys are really good people. We're excited about him.''
BC will start spring practice in a few weeks. Jurkovec enrolled in January and can participate in drills.
That begs another question.
Which Jurkovec will BC get--the 4-star recruit who can run and throw coming out of high school or the faltering, uncertain QB who came up virtually empty at ND?
BC must first complete the process and file for the waiver, which generally gets a response from the NCAA within 21 days.
Hafley is being low-keyed about the matter.
"I know the waiver will be submitted, and at that point, my hands are kind of tied, and I'll wait, just like you will, to see what happens, and I hope we'll find out sooner than later,' said Hafley. " Yeah, we'll have a plan. If it works, we'll have a plan, and if it doesn't work, we'll have a plan. We're always going to try to think ahead, and we'll just have to see what happens on that. As soon as we do know anything and we can let you know, I promise we will let you know.'
As matter-of-fact as Hafley is about it, he knows this is a high-stakes game in his first season at The Heights. He needs a QB.
He needs Phil Jurkovec.
There really is no plan B, beyond Grosel. BC recruited another QB, Matthew Rueve, from highly prestigious St. Xavier in Cincinnati, which has been a BC pipeline for talent for years. But Rueve has only one year of experience and almost certainly will be redshirted next season.
Which brings the focus back to Jurkovec and a ruling by the NCAA which will play a significant role in BC's success ratio this season.