SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – After Ohio State’s season comes to an end, whether that be in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl or in the College Football Playoff national championship game, Jeff Hafley will leave the Buckeyes to become the new head coach at Boston College.
Until that time comes, though, Hafley’s focus will be squarely upon doing his current job as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
“I have not missed a meeting, I have not missed a practice,” Hafley said at Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl media day. “When I took the job interview (at Boston College), I said ‘Hey guys, if you give me this job you got to respect this.’ I flew out to my press conference, I flew back and ran onto the practice field and coached. So I’ve hit every meeting the same. Ask the players. I’m just as demanding. I’m just the same guy at practice.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me, for these players, for my family. And I can assure everybody that I am all in on this thing, and will be till the ball’s kicked off, through the game and then hopefully for another two weeks.”
Matt Barnes, Ohio State’s assistant secondary coach and special teams coordinator, said Hafley “really hasn’t missed a beat.”
“Jeff’s done an unbelievable job of wearing both hats, and when you get to know Jeff, he’s as organized a guy as there is,” Barnes said. “He’s been in every meeting but for maybe one, and all the game planning, all the player meetings, practices, things like that, we’ve really kinda just been operating as we have all year.”
Hafley didn’t expect to be in this position after just one season at Ohio State. But when the opportunity arose to become the head coach at Boston College, he felt he just couldn’t pass it up.
“I had no intention of leaving after one year. Never. You can ask my wife,” Hafley said.
“That’s the truth, and I’ve been honest with you guys since day one. For me to leave, it had to be the perfect opportunity. It had to be a school that I felt really good about, with people that I felt really good about, with a chance to win that I felt really good about, with the support from the athletic director and the whole community that I felt good about, and then it had to be in a location where I felt I fit. And everything kept checking off yes, yes, yes, yes.
“I just felt the opportunity was too good for me and for my family, and it just felt too perfect, and I just felt like I clicked with those people, and I took the job,” Hafley added. “I never planned on leaving, it just kind of worked out … I’m pretty thorough in how I look at things and detailed in how I look at things, and that’s just the truth. It checked off all the boxes for me.”
As of now, Hafley is the only one of Ohio State’s 10 assistant coaches who is set to leave the staff after this season, but that could change. Multiple reports have indicated that passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich is the frontrunner to become the offensive coordinator at Texas. Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported Thursday that Yurcich is expected to be named to that position next week.
Yurcich did not want to discuss those reports on Thursday, but also said he has not interviewed for the job at Texas. When asked whether he was interested in becoming an offensive coordinator, he said “not right now” and was adamant that his sole focus this week is on preparing Ohio State for Saturday’s game.
“Our focus is on beating Clemson,” Yurcich said. “That’s the most important thing right now, and that’s where our focus is right now.”
Several other Ohio State assistant coaches have pursued head coaching opportunities over the past couple years, including running backs coach Tony Alford, who confirmed Thursday that he was interested in the head coaching job at Colorado State before CSU chose to hire Steve Addazio instead.
“That’s where I played. That’s home. That’s where I’m from,” Alford said. “But again, they had to do what they had to do, and they found a really good hire in Steve Addazio, who I have a lot of respect for as a person and as a coach, and yeah, it is what it is.”
Alford has repeated on multiple occasions that becoming a head coach is one of his career goals, so he could still pursue other opportunities in the future, but for now, his sights are firmly on Ohio State and preparing for this week’s game.
“Right now, my sole focus is here on this football team and the rest of this season and if those things present themselves, then they will,” Alford said. “But I love where I’m at. And I’ve got the best job in the country.”
Will Alford be back with Ohio State in 2020?
“If Ryan Day will have me, I’ll be here,” Alford said.
Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, who interviewed for the head coaching vacancy at Bowling Green after last season, replied similarly when asked Thursday about his interest in other coaching opportunities.
“I love that place, and it would've been a wonderful opportunity,” Studrawa said of his interest in Bowling Green. “But how is an assistant coach or where is an assistant coach that’s better than here? There is nowhere. I've been around a lot of places, I've coached a lot of places. I've been fortunate. But to be here, I don't think there's anywhere better. And you know what, there's a lot of jobs I would've not even looked at. Bowling Green was my home, it's my alma mater. So that happened, that went down. But I couldn't be happier to be here. The transition with (Day) has been just absolutely awesome.”
Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who also interviewed for the Colorado State job before Addazio was hired, expressed during his Fiesta Bowl interview session on Tuesday that he expects to continue on as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator and tight ends coach for 2020.
Speculation has also surrounded Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington as a potential candidate to join Hafley’s staff at Boston College, but Day said earlier this month that he would be “very, very surprised” if Washington chose to leave the Buckeyes after this season, and Washington said Thursday that he is grateful to be at Ohio State.
“You definitely look back at your experiences, man, and you appreciate where you are,” Washington said. “I've grown from the amount of great coaches I’ve been around, just on this staff. I’ve been around so many great coaches. It’s been incredible. The guys to my left and my right (Hafley and co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison), right now, both are at the top of the food chain. You are who you’re around in a lot of ways. I’m fortunate in that way.”