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Boston College hires Ohio State assistant Jeff Hafley as head coach

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley speaks to the media during an Ohio State Buckeyes news conference on Aug. 27. (Adam Lacy/Getty Images)

Boston College made it official on Saturday as it hired Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley as its next football coach.

Hafley, 40, revived Ohio State’s defense in his first season in Columbus, as the Buckeyes finished No. 2 nationally in total defense a year after they finished No. 72.

Hafley was a finalist for the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach this season. He spent the seven years prior to Ohio State in the NFL coaching defensive backs. He came up in the Northeast as a college assistant, developing a reputation as an elite recruiter at stops that included Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Albany and Worcester (Massachusetts) Polytechnic Institute.

Hafley spoke to BC officials in Boston on Thursday morning, according to a source. The trip to Boston was Hafley’s second interview, as BC officials traveled to Columbus last week for the initial meeting on Thursday night.

Hafley returned to Columbus on Friday morning from a recruiting trip and coached Buckeyes practice. Hafley is expected to stay with Ohio State through the College Football Playoff.

Hafley’s recruiting experience in the Northeast resonated with Boston College officials. Hafley is a New Jersey native who recruited so well under Dave Wannstedt at Pittsburgh that he drew the attention of then-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who hired him at Rutgers. (NFL veteran Dion Lewis is among the New Jersey players he lured to Pittsburgh from New Jersey.)

He replaces Steve Addazio, who went 44-44 in his tenure and reached bowl games in six of seven seasons.

BC ultimately parted ways with Addazio because they envisioned a higher ceiling for the program. BC has backed that up with promises of improvements within the program, including a significantly increased salary pool for assistant coaches.

Hafley’s recruiting honors from his stint as an assistant include being named one of the country’s top recruiters by Rivals.com in both 2011 and 2012.

That’s continued at Ohio State, where one recruiting service has him ranked as the No. 3 recruiter in the country for 2020.

Boston College has 17 players on its roster from New Jersey, and the ability to win that state in recruiting will remain a key building block for Boston College. BC needs immediate help on defense, as the unit finished No. 125 of 130 in total defense, yielding 480.3 yards per game.  

At Ohio State, Hafley is the co-coordinator of a defense — along with veteran assistant Greg Mattison — that’s allowing just 12.5 points per game. No. 2 Ohio State plays No. 3 Clemson on Dec. 28 in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Boston College’s roster could look much different next season. Star tailback A.J. Dillon has declared for the NFL draft. Quarterback Anthony Brown, who started until a knee injury ended his season in the sixth game, is in the NCAA transfer portal.

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