Defensive assistant Jeff Hafley to leave Ohio State football to coach Boston College

Joey Kaufman
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley walks off the field following the Buckeyes’ 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Boston College hired Ohio State defensive co-coordinator Jeff Hafley as its next coach.

Hafley will leave the Buckeyes after one season in which he was an architect of a defensive turnaround that helped them return to the College Football Playoff.

“Jeff’s shown throughout his coaching career he is a tremendous leader with high integrity and a gift for teaching,” Boston College athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement released Saturday. “His passion, leadership and ability to recruit and develop student-athletes make him the right fit to lead Boston College to greater heights on and off the field.”

The hire appeared imminent late Friday when Jarmond tweeted a six-second video clip that showed a building emitting white smoke from its smokestack, a sign the school had settled on a new coach, followed by other media reports that said a deal with Hafley was being finalized.

After Ohio State allowed a school-worst 25.5 points per game in 2018, first-year coach Ryan Day was prompted to hire Hafley and Greg Mattison, who became another defensive co-coordinator, to usher a makeover.

Under their watch, the Buckeyes surrendered 12.5 points per game this season and ranked No. 2 in the nation in total defense. They were No. 71 last season.

Day previously coached with Hafley while they were assistants together in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, forming a friendship. Both are 40 and Northeast natives.

"He's somebody I had a connection with right away, had a lot of respect for," Day said in October. “I think he's a tremendous coach, relates well with players and he's a great recruiter, and that was somebody I always wanted to be around.

“I knew I'd coach with him again; I just didn't know where."

Hafley, a rising star within the coaching industry, also coached the secondary for the Buckeyes and is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award as the nation’s best assistant coach.

His departure will prompt Day to make his first major hire since forming his original coaching staff last January.

Hafley will remain with the Buckeyes for the playoff, as former offensive coordinator Tom Herman did in 2014 when he was hired as Houston’s coach, and Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott will after he was named South Florida’s coach this month.

Hafley will be introduced at a news conference in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, on Monday.

The Buckeyes hold practices for their playoff semifinal next week, and the early signing period begins Wednesday and runs through Friday. As recently as Friday, Hafley appeared to be recruiting for Ohio State when Lathan Ransom, a committed safety prospect from Tucson, Arizona, tweeted a photo of himself and Hafley from an in-home visit.

At Boston College, Hafley will replace Steve Adazzio, who was fired earlier this month after he went 44-44 in seven seasons, including 6-6 this fall. Day was Adazzio’s offensive coordinator for his first two seasons.

In a statement, Jarmond said he “targeted” Hafley from the beginning of the coaching search.

Jarmond was previously Ohio State’s deputy athletic director until 2017.

It will be Hafley’s first head-coaching opportunity.

Before arriving in Columbus, he had been an NFL assistant for seven seasons. In previous stops in college, he had been an assistant at Pittsburgh and Rutgers.

Hafley is from New Jersey and was a wide receiver at Siena College in New York before injuries ended his playing career.


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