College Sports

Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Boston College football coach Jeff Hafley will lead a restocked roster of players onto the field at Alumni Stadium in 2023. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Jeff Hafley knows that many Boston College commits heard from other schools during the 2022 college football season as the Eagles sputtered to a 3-9 record.

The BC coach understands those players had options to play elsewhere and people in their ear asking if they were sure they wanted to stay committed to the Eagles. Hafley, entering his fourth year in charge of the program, is incredibly grateful that the vast majority of those players trust him and had enough faith in the program to keep their commitments firm.

“Part of going through something hard like that is you find out how much conviction they have, how loyal they are, and how much they really want to be here,” Hafley said. “Most of them didn’t waver. I think that says a lot about them.”

The Eagles officially signed 17 players from the Class of 2023 on Wednesday, including five Massachusetts products, an intriguing quarterback from Texas, and the No. 1 player in Montana. Rivals ranks the recruiting class — which Hafley clarified isn’t close to being finished — tied with Tulane at 64th in the nation and 13th in the 14-team Atlantic Coast Conference.

The current 2023 class is smaller than Hafley’s first two, which he believes is a reason for the lower ranking. He has a point, as the Eagles currently have fewer recruits than all but three ACC schools and are ninth when it comes to average stars (2.88).

“I think it may be the most talented group (yet),” Hafley said. “We’ll find out. It’s kind of like in the NFL Draft. Everybody thinks they have a good draft on draft day. Then you find out two years later.”

Here’s a closer look at the class, which has five defensive backs and many athletes capable of playing multiple positions. Every player is a 3-star recruit via one or more outlets.

⋅ Kahlil Ali, DB — 6-foot-1-inch, 190 pounds, Pennsauken, N.J.; ESPN’s No. 33 safety.

⋅ Shawn Battle, DB — 5-11, 175, Philadelphia (Saints Neumann Goretti); 247Sports’ No. 8 player in Pennsylvania.

⋅ Michael Crounse OL — 6-5, 310, Schnecksville, Pa. (DeMatha Catholic); Rivals’ No. 12 player in Maryland.

⋅ Eryx Daugherty, DL — 6-4, 295, Troy, Mich. (Brother Rice); 247′s No. 84 DL in the class.

⋅ Carter Davis, DB — 6-2, 170, Baltimore (Mount Saint Joseph); Rivals’ No. 13 player in Maryland.

⋅ Palaie Faoa, LB — 6-1, 215, Ewa Beach, Hawaii (Bishop Gorman); All-Nevada first-team as a junior and senior.

⋅ Josiah Griffin, DL — 6-4, 235, Springfield (Springfield Central); two-time football state champion and also a basketball state champion; BC wide receiver Joe Griffin Jr.’s brother. Hafley: “We didn’t recruit him because of Joe. We recruited him because he’s a big, long athlete.”

⋅ Reed Harris, ATH — 6-5, 210; Great Falls, Mont.; No. 1 player in Montana; father was a Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick.

⋅ Nate Johnson, WR — 5-10, 170; St. Petersburg, Fla. (Central Catholic, Fla.); Totaled 24 touchdowns and on defense recorded 10 interceptions.

⋅ Datrell Jones, RB — 5-10, 185, Hyde Park (Catholic Memorial); 4 stars via 247Sports; finished career with 5,210 yards and 52 touchdowns.

⋅ Ryan Mickow, OL — 6-6, 300, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas); two-time state champion.

⋅ KP Price, DB — 6-2, 185, Baltimore; (St. Frances Academy); Rivals’ No. 22 player in Maryland.

⋅ Jacobe Robinson, QB — 6-4, 225; Henderson, Texas; 4 stars via ESPN; threw for 36 touchdowns, compared to just five interceptions, over the past two seasons. Hafley: “When you see him, you’ll understand how big this kid’s going to be.”

⋅ Jaedn Skeete, WR — 6-1, 180; Hyde Park (Catholic Memorial); Rivals’ No. 6 player in Massachusetts. Hafley: “I think he’s the best player in the state.”

⋅ Holden Symonds, TE — 6-6, 245, Melrose (Governor’s Academy); Rivals’ No. 11 player in Massachusetts.

⋅ Max Tucker, CB — 6-0, 188, Hyde Park (Catholic Memorial); originally committed to Akron; decommitted and verbally committed to BC on Tuesday before signing Wednesday; only allowed 10 catches over three years. Hafley: “It was a no-brainer at the end to offer him.”

⋅ Montrell Wade, WR — 6-1, 180, Tyler, Texas; finished career with 20 touchdown receptions.

From the start, Hafley has noted that he hopes to build the program organically, by recruiting high school players and having them stay all four-plus years. At the same time, he understands the landscape of college football is ever-changing and adding transfers is part of the process.

Hafley couldn’t officially comment on the transfers as of Wednesday, but the Eagles have landed the following verbal commitments:

⋅ Khari Johnson, Arkansas DB — 6-0, 192, originally from Boston.

⋅ Kyle Hergel, Texas State OL — 6-2, 305, Sun Belt third-team selection.

⋅ Victor Nelson Jr., Long Island DB — 6-3, 209, sophomore All-American.

⋅ Ryan O’Keefe, Central Florida WR — 5-10, 175, over 2,000 receiving yards.

⋅ George Rooks, Michigan DL — 6-5, 278, former No. 2 player out of New Jersey.

In addition to the commitments, the Eagles welcomed back guard Christian Mahogany, who missed the 2022 season with an ACL injury.

“I’m sure Christian received phone calls like (wide receiver) Zay (Flowers) received phone calls,” Hafley said. “The fact that Christian wants to finish his degree and finish playing here says a lot about him. I think we have one of the best guards in all of college football coming back.”

Former BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec transferred to Pittsburgh. Hafley said he has a great relationship with Jurkovec and a ton of respect for him. At the same time, he knows his game plan when the Eagles face the Panthers.

“I’ll root for Phil, obviously other than one week, when I’m constantly going to blitz him,” Hafley said with a grin. “I 100 percent told him that. That’s the relationship I have with Phil. I told him he was going to see more zero blitzes in that game than he’s ever seen in his life. He better keep his head on a swivel.”

Former 4-star defensive back CJ Burton, who appeared in 15 games with the Eagles over two seasons, has entered the transfer portal along with defensive back Jason Maitre, who grew up in Everett and appeared in 44 games with the Eagles over five years.


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