A Little More than You Expected: Stock Report 11/9

Friend or foe, you have to appreciate that Youngman Field skyline. It never gets old. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)
Friend or foe, you have to appreciate that Youngman Field skyline. It never gets old. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Saturday represented the last home Middlebury football game that I will watch as a student at this College. It was probably the 10th or so such game that I’ve seen (I know I missed one this year and I probably missed one in my first two years, and I missed them all when I was off campus as a junior) and I’ve gone through a transformation with regards to my feelings towards football at Middlebury.

It started out as resentment because I was cut quicker than you can say “Good bye” when I tried out as a freshman (fairly, I should add). It turned into anger that first year and sadness as the friends I made during preseason turned into strangers that I barely said hello to walking around campus. It became jealousy the next year as I watched the football team take home a shared NESCAC title. As we started up Nothing but NESCAC in the spring of my sophomore season, and as I began to mature (though not that much), my feelings became more analytical and critical, and I started keeping my ear to the ground as any good journalist ought to do. However, being on the other side of the planet in Australia during the 2014 season, I was so far removed from the actual games that my feelings were fairly indifferent. Then I returned to campus this fall and everything felt different. Not only were the players aware of our writing here on this blog, which I thought was very cool, but I also found myself deeply invested in the team for the first time since Coach Ritter laid the axe on me in The Grille freshman year. The boys that I had tried out alongside and felt comparable to three years ago have become grown men – at least physically (we’re all still college kids at some level) – and color me proud of the way these guys have played – any disappointment over the 5-2 record as we stand today be damned – and the way they’ve grown up.

There are a lot of reasons not to play football in college, especially at the D-III level. There is no scholarship money, no fans watching on TV, no promise of a future career. And then there are the reasons to play. A cool, autumn day, just your closest friends and your parents (and maybe your dog) in the stands, the smell of the charcoal grill wafting over from the now deserted tailgate, and a tight-knit group of brothers laying their bodies on the line just because they love to play the game.

Forgive the soliloquy, and allow me to proceed to the usual stock report.

Stock Up

Hamilton Line Play

Both sides of the ball for Hamilton were impressive against Middlebury. In the first quarter alone LaShawn Ware ’18 had 74 yards rushing on 12 carries. The Continentals defensive line had three sacks and put heavy pressure on all of the Middlebury quarterbacks all day long while also keeping the Panthers to 2.6 yards per rush. Now, it’s all relative of course. Ware ended up with 77 yards on 21 carries (you can do the math but that’s only three more yards on quite a few carries after the first quarter), and nobody else could get going running the ball, either. I thought the O-line did a good job of protecting Cole Freeman ’19, though. Middlebury racked up three sacks of its own, but otherwise Freeman had enough time to take a lot of shots deep down the field. That didn’t really pay off, as Freeman threw four picks (right after we had highlighted how well he had been taking care of the football), but nonetheless you love the gutsy calls from an up-and-coming team that just got its first win in a long time, and Freeman couldn’t have thrown those balls without time to step up.

Wesleyan QB Mark Piccirillo ’19

With starting QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 battling with an injury the past two weeks, Piccirillo has started to weasel his way into the lineup. Who knows how much of this timeshare is a result of the ailment to Hawkins and how much is a result of their respective plays. Hawkins is very physically gifted, but he hasn’t completed a high percentage of his passes and Coach Dan DiCenzo appears to be shying away from letting him throw the ball. Hawkins had only 13 attempts in Week 6 and 12 this past week, but he ran the ball 12 times against Williams. Meanwhile, Piccirillo has gone 27-35 (77.1 percent) for 269 yards, one touchdown and no picks the past two weeks, while also rushing for 54 yards on 15 attempts. This looks like a situation that will provide a great QB battle in camp next year.

Bates CB Trevor Lyons ’17

The first five weeks of the season were a struggle for the Bobcats, but it’s all worth it because Bates took home the CBB title yet again by beating up the Polar Bears 31-0 on Saturday. Lyons had maybe his best two games of the season the past two weeks, taking back a pick six in each game and breaking up two passes against Bowdoin. Against Colby, Lyons interception return for a TD came in the third quarter with Bates down 3-0. The Bobcats went on to win 10-9. Last week Lyons once again returned an interception early in the third quarter, this time 50 yards for a score that put the game out of reach. Lyons also does double duty as the team’s punt returner.

Colby WR Sebastian Ferrell ’19

In case you couldn’t tell from the intro to today’s stock report, I’m waxing a bit nostalgic and so I decided to look on the bright side of things and go for an extra stock up and one less stock down. So this brings us to first-year wideout Sebastian Ferrell, who had just four career catches before breaking out with eight grabs and 110 yards in a loss to Tufts. With that performance, Ferrell leapt to fourth on the Mules with 12 receptions on the season. His breakout has coincided with a reduced role for Mbasa Mayikana ’18. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues in Week 8.

Stock Down

Williams’ Resolve

I’m not at Williams, I don’t know this for a fact, and I haven’t heard this from any players – but from the outside it looks like this team is falling apart. This is how the last four weeks have gone for Williams: Week 4, outscored 27-7 in the second half at Middlebury in a 36-14 loss; Week 5, go down 13-0 and then 30-7 in an eventual 30-15 loss at home against Tufts; Week 6, get beat by Hamilton, a team that hadn’t won in three years, hadn’t beaten Williams in 19 years and hadn’t won in Williamstown in 29 years; Week 7, narrowly avoid a shutout by scoring a touchdown with 1:11 left in the game in a 27-7 loss to Wesleyan. We’ll leave it at that.


Sorry, folks, but the cat’s out of the bag. Amherst is the 2015 NESCAC Football Champion, barring a massive upset at the hands of Williams this week and a Trinity victory. It’s a shame that there’s no playoff in the NESCAC and that teams are not eligible for the D-III playoffs. There’s no point in whining about the structure of the NESCAC playoff system, though, so instead we’ll just whine about the fact that the league is severely lacking parity these days. Dating back to 2011, Amherst, Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan are a combined 124-32 (79.5 percent). The only other teams to have a winning season are Williams in 2011 (5-3), Bates in 2012 (5-3) and Tufts this year (5-2).

No Tricks Here: Weekend Preview 10/31

The Trinity O-line hopes to enforce its will against Middlebury on Halloween Saturday. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
The Trinity O-line hopes to enforce its will against Middlebury on Halloween Saturday. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

This is a week full of intrigue for NESCAC teams and loyal ‘CAC fans alike. There’s something for everyone in Week 6. For the championship hopefuls, two games have major implications. The Game of the Week features Amherst traveling to Tufts and trying to extend the 16-game winning streak. Up in Middlebury, the undefeated Bantams will fight to avoid another late-season slide like the one suffered years ago. For other teams not fighting for a title there is still plenty to play for. Bates and Colby open up CBB play this weekend, always a point of pride for these football programs. Elsewhere in Maine, Wesleyan still has a lot to prove. They’ve played to the level of their competition all season long, and the Cards would like to do some damage against what should be a weaker team in Bowdoin. Bowdoin will also be dealing with a question mark at quarterback, as Tim Drakeley ’17 is expected to be healthy, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll take the reins from impressive first-year Noah Nelson ’19. Hamilton heads to Williamstown for the final game of the weekend. Hamilton is, yet again, trying to get off the schneid and get its first win since 2012. The streak has stretched to 25 games now, and is coming up on the Tufts’ record of 31 straight losses. Meanwhile, the home team might be playing to save the boss’ job. There is widespread discontent over a program that has gone from an 8-0 season in 2010 to 5-3 in 2011, 4-4 in 2012 and 2-6 the past two seasons. It’s hard to say which team needs this win more.

Players to Watch

Middlebury RB Diego Meritus ’19

The Panthers are rushing for 2.1 yards per carry. Not good. It’s not all Meritus’ fault, of course. He’s actually a good runner, and has shown his ability to make guys miss in the screen game. He’s a big body and fast, so it’s surprising that Middlebury hasn’t had more success on the ground. Head Coach Bob Ritter seems committed to the first-year, though, and no one else has gotten significant carries since Week 1. Especially with WR Conrado Banky ’19 out now, the rushing game will take on more importance for Middlebury.

Bowdoin TE Bryan Porter ’18

With the first-year Nelson under QB, Porter needs to play a big role to help out the youngster. Two weeks ago, when Nelson had a phenomenal debut, Porter caught five balls and a touchdown, and last week his one catch was a 37-yard TD. Don’t expect there to be a lot of room downfield for the Bowdoin wideouts, meaning that Nelson is going to have to rely on Porter. It’s going to be huge for Bowdoin to convert on third downs in order to keep the ball out of the Cardinals’ hands. If Wesleyan is able to milk the clock with the running game, this will be over early.

Colby DE Ryan Ruiz ’16

When playing the triple-option, it’s imperative for the defense to keep to its assignments and not fly up field. Therefore, the impetus is on Ruiz, the Mules’ best defensive lineman, to lead the charge. He needs to keep the Bates slot backs from breaking out wide by getting outside leverage on the guy blocking him and allowing his teammates to make plays. If Colby can get a sizeable lead, though, then Ruiz will have a chance to pressure Pat Dugan ’16 and improve on his team-leading 2.5 sacks.

Hamilton RB LaShawn Ware ’18

I could essentially copy and paste the summary for Meritus from above, except that Hamilton Head Coach Dave Murray has shown a willingness to give some carries to Jason Nastovski ’18. Any time a team is having as much trouble running the ball as Middlebury and Hamilton are, a lot of that comes down to offensive line play. Running backs need holes to run through. The problem is exaggerated for Hamilton, though, because they aren’t having much success in the passing game, either. Ware averaged 3.9 yards per carry a year ago with 3/5 of the same offensive line. Things won’t change around for the Conts until Hamilton can get the ground game going.

Game Previews

Wesleyan at Bowdoin, 12:30 PM, Brunswick, ME

Live Stats  Video

Five weeks ago, we had no idea what to think about the Wesleyan Cardinals. A year removed from a senior class that brought the program back to relevance and competed for a championship three years in a row – earning a shared title in 2013 – Wesleyan had a plethora of questions coming into 2015. They’ve performed admirably, scaring Middlebury at home in Week 1 and putting up a good fight and outplaying the Lord Jeffs in every aspect but points scored a week ago in Amherst. Now the Cardinals are 3-2 and if they want to even have a minuscule shot at sharing a NESCAC title this year – and they’ll need a lot of help – they can’t lose again. I think this is a case of an inexperienced team coming into its own, and things are just looking up for them.

As for Bowdoin, the 30-20 win two weeks ago over Hamilton and the debut of Nelson gave hope to Polar Bear fans, but it now appears that it was false hope. No first-year should be expected to put up the kind of eye-popping numbers every week that Nelson posted against Hamilton, but without that kind of play Bowdoin doesn’t have enough fire power to topple the Cardinals. Losing their top two running backs has really hurt Bowdoin, which has only 58.4 rushing yards per game this season.

With that in mind, Bowdoin is forced to drop back and throw the football more often than not, which has to have Wesleyan DE Jordan Stone ’17 salivating as he wakes up this morning. Stone is one of the most physically-talented defensive players in this league and doesn’t get talked about too much on this blog, but that’s not because of his play, and more so because we just don’t talk about line play a ton. But Stone has 4.5 sacks, which is tied for second in the NESCAC with Micah Adickes ’18 of Tufts. Tufts teammate Zach Thomas ’18 leads the NESCAC with 5.5 sacks. Here’s the kicker, though. The Wesleyan defense has faced 150 pass plays. Tufts? 188 pass plays.

With the Cardinals starting to figure things out as a team and still a bevy of concerns for the Polar Bears, it’s going to be a frightful Halloween for Bowdoin.

Prediction: Wesleyan 35 – Bowdoin 14

Trinity at Middlebury, 12:30 PM, Middlebury, VT

Live Stats  Video

A year ago this week the championship-hopeful Bantams were stunned in the Coop by Middlebury, breaking a more than decade-old home winning streak of 53 games. That loss sent the Bantams spiraling to three losses to end the year. Once again, these teams meet with Trinity undefeated and Middlebury with an outside shot at a shared title. The ramifications will be large no matter which way the result ends up.

This matchup bodes well for the Bantams. The Middlebury run defense, expected to be stout this season, has bent pretty considerably against some top rushing attacks. The Panthers allowed 5.1 yards per carry to Wesleyan in Week 1 and 3.9 per carry to Amherst in Week 3. They’ve effectively shut down the rushing games of Colby, Williams and Bates, but Trinity’s freshman tailback Max Chipouras ’19 will provide a stiff challenge. What’s more, the Panthers have to be prepared for the dual-threat at QB that Sonny Puzzo ’18 provides.

The key for Middlebury, as always, is to score early and force teams to throw the football – something that they haven’t done particularly well this year. Their halftime scores so far this season: 7-13 at Wesleyan, 21-2 vs. Colby, 7-10 at Amherst, 9-7 vs. Williams and 14-10 at Bates. In all but one game, Middlebury was within four points at halftime. When they’ve started to get the offense rolling in the second half and forced teams to throw, the Panthers defense has responded with some big takeaways and shut down the opposition. That strategy could be particularly effective this week given Puzzo’s recent struggles – he had two picks at Tufts and only completed 10 of 20 passes last week vs. Bowdoin.

Offensively for Middlebury, the rushing attack has been bad, plain and simple. Only once, in the Panthers’ blowout victory over Williams, has the running game been effective. But, frankly, Middlebury has proven that they don’t need to run the ball in order to be successful. It would be nice, but Middlebury makes up for its rushing deficiency with short passes and running back screens. With Banky apparently out for the season with an ankle injury, the impetus now falls on slot-turned wideout Ryan Rizzo ’17, slot receiver Tanner Contois ’18 and All-League player Matt Minno ’16 on the other side to make some big plays in the receiving game for Matt Milano ’16. I think they do just enough to squeak by the Bants.

Prediction: Middlebury 28 – Trinity 21

Bates at Colby, 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME


The CBB is under way, and with both of these teams populating the bottom of the standings, the Maine championship becomes the primary focus. This game turned into a high-scoring OT affair a season ago at Bates, but I don’t see the same thing happening this time around. Though RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 has really turned it on for Colby as of late, the offense still ranks last in the ‘CAC with 13.4 points per game. Gabe Harrington ’17 has really struggled with eight interceptions in five games, but he’s also been sacked 10 times and his receivers aren’t exactly running free all over the field. It’s hard to tell who’s to blame on the Colby offense because nothing is going right at the moment, but if they are going to break out – particularly throwing the ball – this could be their chance.

The Bates defense has been only slightly better than Colby, allowing 27.0 points per game, and is last in the league with 305.6 passing yards per game allowed. Wideouts Mark Snyder ’17 and Mbasa Mayikana ’18 are big targets on the Colby offense even if they haven’t been that productive so far, and could be found on a couple of deep balls for big plays.

The Bates offense, as we know, relies on misdirection and the running game. The loss of slotback Shaun Carroll ’16, who had been averaging 5.3 yards per carry, really hurts, but the Bobcats hope to offset that loss with the return of Sean Peterson ’18 to the lineup. His debut a week ago against Middlebury was not very impressive in the running game, but he caught a few passes and was able to show off his athleticism in open space. That he garnered 14 carries despite averaging just a yard per rush shows that he is expected to be a big part of the offense down the stretch. Peterson and crew will need to have a big-time day on the ground in order to get their second win. I think Colby will land the first punch in the CBB battle but hitting on a couple of deep throws and burning clock with Hurdle-Price, and as long as that defensive line stays disciplined the back seven can make enough plays to continue Bates on offense.

Prediction: Colby 21 – Bates 17

Hamilton at Williams, 1:30 PM, Williamstown, MA

Live Stats  Video

Things are not good in Clinton and Williamstown these days. For the Continentals part, there has been a lot of moral victories, including an OT loss against Tufts and two close games with Wesleyan and Colby. The defense has really stood on its head at times despite playing some younguns, and Cole Freeman ’19 stepped into the limelight two weeks ago at QB and would have lead Hamilton to a victory if not for Nelson’s Godly performance for Bowdoin. At the end of the day though, you can’t argue with the scoreboard, and Hamilton is still 0-5. The Ephs, meanwhile, amidst some rumblings of discontent from people around the program (nothing concrete), started off well with two wins sandwiched around a handy and expected beatdown against Trinity. However, the last two weeks have been disastrous for Williams, and with a roadtrip to Wesleyan in Week 7 and a rivalry game with Amherst in Week 8 looming, this might be the Ephs’ last shot at a victory to move to 3-5 and avoid a third straight 2-6 record, something that seems impossible for such a storied program.

Williams has allowed just 198.0 yards per game through the air, but they’ve also been behind for considerable amounts of a few games and have faced Bates, so coincidentally they rank eighth in rushing yards allowed per game. Nevertheless, I think that Williams is better against the pass than the run, which is good when matching up with Hamilton, who hasn’t been able to get a sputtering running attack going whatsoever. LaShawn Ware ’18, a talented runner who showed some potential a season ago, is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry, and subsequently Jason “Bane” Nastovski, previously cast as a fullback, led the squad with 12 carries last week to Ware’s nine. Combined, the pair had just 62 yards rushing on 21 carries. Clearly, a lot of pressure will be placed on Freeman and his receivers, particularly Charles Ensley ’17, a dynamic playmaker who just needs to get the ball in his hands, and the reliable Pat Donahoe ’16.

So do the Conts finally get the monkey off their back this week, or do the Ephs get mad and pull out a victory? I’m expecting an ugly game, with, as usual, a turnover being the difference. That Williams is at home I think benefits them, and Hamilton has been much worse on the road, losing 29-4 at Trinity and 30-20 at Bowdoin. Williams gets its third win of the season.

Prediction: Williams 21 – Hamilton 14

Offense Needs to Make Strides for Mules: Colby Season Preview

The Colby defense makes a goal line stand against Amherst on October 11, 2014. (Courtesy of Mark Box of Clarus Studios)

Editors’ Note: While 99 percent of the work done in these previews is credited directly to the author, the projected records are a decision made together by the editors, Adam and Joe. So if you don’t like it, blame us.

Projected Record: 2-6

Offensive Starters (*Seven Returning)

QB: Gabe Harrington ’17*
RB: Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17*
FB: Rob Murray ’16*
WR: Ryder Arsenault ’17*
WR: Mbasa Mayikana ’18
TE: Glenn Parsons ’16*
LT: Jesse Eddy ’16*
LG: Drew Choos ’16*
C: Mike Roberts ’17
RG: Andrew Ferraro ’16
RT: Larry Patrizio ’17

Projected Defensive Starters (*Four Returning)

DE: Ryan Ruiz ’16*
DT: Chris Marano ’17*
DT: Harry Nicholas ’16*
DE: Henry Wallrapp ’17
OLB: Connor Rozinsky ’16
MLB: Stephen O’Grady ’16*
OLB: Ryan Neville ’16
CB: Adam Balaban ’18
SS: Justin Lamere ’17
FS: Ian Dickey ’18

Offensive MVP: Running Backs Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and Carl Lipani ’17

Optimism for this season begins with the talented pair of junior running backs. Lipani has played a lot from day one, and he started off last year in a big way with 133 yards on 20 carries against Trinity. Then he was lost for the season after the second game against Middlebury. Hurdle-Price showcased his skills the rest of the season and finished the season fourth in the NESCAC with 553 yards. Both are also capable pass-catchers and will be used there also to help make things easier in the passing game. There will be a lot of carries to go around, and these two could be on the field at the same time at points too. They have pretty overlapping skill sets, but those skill sets are both very diverse and will present defenses with a lot of problems.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Stephen O’Grady ’16

At least he better be. OK, that is putting too much pressure on the senior, but the biggest weakness for Colby is their back seven on defense, and O’Grady can do a lot to help shore it up. He missed the first four games of 2014 with injury but returned in the second half to record 19 tackles and help Colby to their 2-2 finish . The Mules lost their top two tacklers and need to fill that production immediately. O’Grady had 39 tackles as a sophomore, and he figures to have even more than that from his middle linebacker position. The good news for Colby fans is that O’Grady has looked great in camp and has taken well to being a leader on defense.

Biggest Surprise of Camp: Smoothness of Transition to New Coaches

So this isn’t your usual pick for this, but Colby has gone through a lot of turnover in its coaching staff in recent years. The Mules are technically on their third Offensive Coordinator in as many years as Head Coach Jonathan Michaeles takes over the play-calling duties. Long-time Defensive Coordinator Tom Dexter is also still around in Waterville. Overall, Michaeles is more than happy with the additions of Coaches Matt Dugan, Sean Conerly, and Alex Kretzschmar. The coaching staff has been able to focus on the players, both on and off the field, and Michaeles is excited about what this group can do going forward.

Biggest Game: Bates at Colby, 1:00 PM October 31, Waterville, Maine

The Mules once again start their season with a murderers row of Trinity, Middlebury, Wesleyan and  Amherst. From there the schedule gets easier, and this game represents the beginning of the CBB. The game last year was a classic with Bates coming back to win 34-28 in overtime in front of a big crowd in Lewiston. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 had one of the more interesting stat lines in this one, going 13-38 (34.2 percent) but also throwing for 234 yards and four TDs. A major challenge for Colby will be slowing down Bates receiver Mark Riley ’16 who had five catches for 109 yards last year. Colby will be primed for this game in a big way, and a win is essential in order to wrest the CBB away from Bates.


Last year’s squad was sunk in large part because the front end of their schedule decimated the depth chart with injuries. Even still, Colby was a late Bates comeback away from taking the CBB, and they will have a chance to capture that crown this season if their offense clicks. Harrington is of course the key to all of this. Last year he showed flashes of the phsyical ability to make all the throws, and he finished the season fifth in the league in YPG with 177.9. However, he forced way too many balls and had an 11:9 TD:INT ratio and an ugly 48.5 completion percentage. Michaeles is focusing on letting Harrington make simpler throws. The Head Coach thinks it took the QB a little time to settle into the position, but he was more willing to take what the defense gave him and even began to run the ball a little in the second half. Harrington needs to be more consistent and let his skill players make plays

Elsewhere on offense, the wide receiver position is fine despite the graduations of Luke Duncklee ’15 and Nick Joseph ’15. Ryder Arsenault ’17 takes over as the primary target and will be the first place Harrington looks on most downs. Arsenault ended up leading the team in catches last year with 25 and should surpass that total. Across from him, one of our Breakout Players, Mbasa Mayikana ’18, will also get a lot of chances, especially on deep balls where the track athlete excels. Fullback Rob Murray ’16 has had a very productive camp and will help as a lead blocker and a receiver. Tight End Glenn Parsons ’16 is used primarily as a blocker, but he could become a crucial safety valve in the passing game. Finally the offensive line has the chance to be good, but they could struggle with depth (a concern for many NESCAC teams) as the season goes along even though Michaeles wants to start the season rotating some positions along the line.

As mentioned above, the defense lost a lot of talent, and the strength of the unit is clearly on the defensive line where four year starter and captain Ryan Ruiz ’16 is the anchor. The Colby defense struggled in part because of their inability to create turnovers or sacks, and they lose defensive back Jason Buco ’15 who was responsible for seven of the nine total turnovers. The defensive line will have to be not only stout against the run, but also find a way to consistently get to the quarterback in order to keep the inexperienced back end of the secondary get exposed too often. Jack Muntu-Caron ’17 might not start at defensive end, but he is an intriguing talent after having three sacks in just five games.

The secondary is going to be an adventure early on, and the game against Middlebury in Week 2 will be extremely difficult. Ian Dickey ’18 and Justin Lamere ’17 finished the season starting a couple of game, and their experience is important there. Neither registered much in the way of pass defense, but they did a good job coming up against the run. Last year receivers Joseph and Duncklee both saw time at defensive back to help shore up the back line. The Mules were a middle of the road pass defense a season ago, and the hope is that the new guys are coached up quickly.

Michaeles has shown he is more than flexible and will work hard to get the 22 best athletes on the field in some way. That might mean moving somebody like backup QB Michael Ecke ’17 to wide receiver or cornerback if the need arises. The Mules have some talent and they could find themselves in some exciting high scoring games if Harrington develops in his second year. Ultimately that tough schedule and inexperienced defense will cause issues and keep the Mules from climbing back into the middle of the pack.

Best Tweet: This is what we call ‘playing to your strengths.’

Breakout Players of 2015

No matter what level and in what sport, every year there are players who come seemingly out of nowhere to become superstars. Last year’s breakout studs included Middlebury QB Matt Milano ’16, Trinity RB Chudi Iregbulem ’15, Wesleyan RB Lou Stevens ’17, Bates WR Mark Riley ’16, Trinity DL Lyle Baker ’16 and Bates LB Mark Upton ’17 – and those were just the All-NESCAC First Teamers. Dozens of other players emerged to become integral cogs in their respective machines. Today we clue you in to a few players who could become studs in 2015. These choices are based off of talking to coaches, word of mouth, combing through statistics and the classic eyeball test. An added wrinkle: we’ve added our level of confidence in each player’s ability to take a big step forward this season.

Amherst DT Paul Johnson ’17

DT Paul Johnson (Courtesy of @AmherstCollFB)
DT Paul Johnson (Courtesy of @AmherstCollFB)

Confidence: High

Johnson was no slouch in 2014, playing in all eight games and recording 26 tackles and four sacks en route to All-NESCAC Second Team Honors. However, with some major pieces having graduated from the front seven, including defensive lineman Max Lehrman ’15, Johnson’s presence will be felt more than ever. The 300-pounder will anchor Amherst’s defensive line at nose guard.

Amherst DE Sam Caldwell ’16

DE Sam Caldwell (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
DE Sam Caldwell (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Confidence: Medium-High

Back-to-back with the Amherst d-linemen. As mentioned, Lehrman is out and Caldwell is in. Caldwell probably would have started last season but was slowed down by an injury. Expect the superior athlete to wreak havoc on opposing QBs. Caldwell is strong and if he gets free can run like a gazelle (for a defensive lineman). This unit will be scary once again.



Middlebury WR Ryan Rizzo ’17

WR Ryan Rizzo (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
WR Ryan Rizzo (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Confidence: High

You might point to Rizzo’s 29 catches last season, second on the Panthers, and say that by definition 2015 won’t be a breakout. But if you dive in closer, you’ll also see that former teammate Grant Luna ’17 – sidelined by concussions – was next on the Panthers with 27 catches. Why is this important? Because both guys played the same position last season, and Rizzo did nearly all of his damage – 27 of those catches – in the season’s last four games. If he’s healthy – and he did deal with a lower body injury during the spring and summer – he could, hypothetically, double his catches this season. Matt Minno ’16 is likely to draw some double teams outside, meaning the lightning-quick Rizzo will have room to work from the slot.
Also, check out the kid’s new track and buy it on iTunes. He catches passes, hits baseballs and spits fire rhymes.


Wesleyan Swiss Army Knife Devon Carrillo ’17


Devon Carrillo (Courtesy of Devon Carrillo's Twitter @TAZZ_Devil8)
Devon Carrillo (Courtesy of Devon Carrillo’s Twitter @TAZZ_Devil8)

Confidence: Low

This confidence rating is not based on a lack of talent, but rather the fact that Carrillo probably didn’t know where he was going to play when he came into camp last week – and he still may not know. In 2013 Carrillo was a dangerous return man (15 kicks for a 25.7 average and eight punts for 7.1 yards per return) and the team’s second-leading tackler with 35. Last year Carrillo found himself mainly running Wildcat QB and returning a few kicks (though there weren’t many returns to be had for last year’s Cardinals). I don’t know what to expect out of Carrillo, and Coach Dan DiCenzo has been very coy about his plans for the junior, but I think he will make a big impact, especially with so many holes to fill for the Cardinals. My best guess is that Carrillo becomes a versatile outside backer while still potentially running a few Wildcat plays.

Colby WR Mbasa Mayikana ’18

WR Mbasa Mayikana (Couresty of Sarah Crosby/Bates College Athletics)
WR Mbasa Mayikana (Couresty of Sarah Crosby/Bates College Athletics)

Confidence: Medium

Mayikana is another wideout that was good last season – 20 receptions for 193 yards – but there’s potential this season for so much more. Two big-time targets graduated in Luke Duncklee ’15 and Nick Joseph ’15, so Mayikana likely becomes the No. 2 to Ryder Arsenault ’17. Mayikana is also a track star, and he has the ability to stretch defenses, despite lacking great height (roughly 6’0″ or 6’1″).

Hamilton QB Brandon Tobin ’18

QB Brandon Tobin (Courtesy of Pace University Athletics)
QB Brandon Tobin (Courtesy of Pace University Athletics)

Confidence: Low-Medium

All too often fans and media (whoops) get too excited about higher-level transfers coming in and saving the program. However, in this case there is an opportunity for the local (he’s from New York so that counts) boy to make good. Tobin arrives from D-II Pace University, where he was solid but unspectacular as a rookie in six games. (Read about his decision here.) However, while incumbent QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 gets some leeway for having to learn two offenses in two seasons, his overall performance has not been very impressive. Quarterbacks are always saddled with the weight of a team’s wins and losses, and the Continentals have done nothing but lose the past two seasons. It’s possible that Head Coach Dave Murray will try rolling the dice with Tobin if he does well enough in camp.

Bowdoin QB Tim Drakeley ’17

QB Tim Drakeley (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
QB Tim Drakeley (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Confidence: High

Confidence is high that Drakeley takes on an expanded role – we know, barring injury, that he will be starting. How good can he be is a wide open question. Don’t expect the junior to start flinging it around like the QBs for Middlebury and Tufts, but he throws a good ball and moves well enough in the pocket. It’s a new offense for Bowdoin this season, but they’ll still rely heavily on the run, so Drakeley just needs to be efficient for this offense to work.


Football End-of-Year Awards: The Definitive Edition

The committee of two has met and after much deliberation has made their decisions. All decisions on awards are final and complaints should be addressed to 472 Smith Union, Bowdoin College. Or the comments section works, too. If you want, take a look at our Mid-Season Awards to see what’s changed. Lastly, these are our own personal opinions of who should win each award. They are not predictions on what we think the NESCAC coaches will decide.

Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics
Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics

Offensive Player of the Year: Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 (Middlebury)

“Another Middlebury quarterback? Really original pick there guys.” Well, Milano didn’t really leave us with much of a choice given how he performed in the month of the year. In fact here are Mac Foote’s stats from last year and Milano’s from 2014.

Player A: 179-289 (61.9 percent), 2004 yards, 6.9 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

Player B: 259-421 (61.5 percent), 2766 yards, 6.6 yards per attempt, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions.

Player B has a huge lead in yards overall and a slight lead in touchdowns, but Player A was better in yards per attempt and threw a quarter of the interceptions. You could probably tell, but Player A is Foote and Player B is Milano. We don’t put the comparison there to argue that Milano had a better year than Foote did last year, but we just want to put the numbers there so people don’t say Milano was merely a product of the Middlebury system.

The junior took a little time to get settled, but once he did, Middlebury morphed into the hottest team in the NESCAC. Milano put up 18 touchdowns over the last four weeks to go with just one interception, and his yards per attempt rose every week from Week 3 until the end of the season. His play is made even more impressive by the fact that the Panthers averaged only 2.6 yards per rush, worst in the NESCAC, putting even more pressure on the gunslinger. Milano should be even better next year when he and most of his receivers return.

Also considered: Tyler Grant ’17 (Bowdoin), Chudi Iregbulem ’15 (Trinity), Jesse Warren ’15 (Wesleyan) and Mark Riley ’16 (Bates)

Jake Bussani '14 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Jake Bussani ’14 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Defensive Player of the Year: Safety Jake Bussani ’14 (Wesleyan)

The NESCAC website only lists the top 50 tacklers, and Bussani falls well short of making that with only 30 tackles on the year. So how does a player who was only sixth on his own team in tackles win DPOY?

Well, first of all, Bussani won by the narrowest of margins over a host of other worthy players. Then it is important to understand Bussani’s role in the Wesleyan defense; a role that requires him to patrol the deep part of the field. He did that to near perfection with seven interceptions and five pass breakups. Bussani also returned two of his interceptions all the way back for touchdowns. Also, he was part of a secondary that was a good rung or two above everyone else and allowed a minuscule 124.0 yards per game through the air.

Bussani and teammate Justin Sanchez '17 smother Alex Way '16 in the Cardinals' Week 8 shutout. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Bussani and teammate Justin Sanchez ’17 smother Alex Way ’16 in the Cardinals’ Week 8 shutout. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Conference coaches know how good of a player he is considering he has made the All-NESCAC team three times already. Last year his stats were even less impressive with 27 tackles and four interceptions. Given how he has been even better this year, the coaches should recognize him once again.

Also considered: Chris Tamasi ’15 (Amherst), Jaymie Spears ’16 (Amherst), Dan Pierce ’16 (Middlebury) Mark Upton ’17 (Bates)

Coach of the Year: EJ Mills (Amherst)

Head Coach EJ Mills (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Head Coach EJ Mills (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Below is the conversation that we had when talking about Coach of the Year. We weren’t planning on publishing it at the time, but it’s just so juicy that we could not resist.

Adam: Alright, Coach of the Year is another interesting one. Ritter has a strong argument because of how well Middlebury did, but I think Mills deserves it.

Joe: Amherst was expected to be near the top again and Middlebury was supposed to be much worse this year.

Adam: Maybe so, but Amherst went through a lot to be undefeated. They played three QBs and switched their lead running back as the season went along. In close games they went 5-0 which is a testament, too, to Mills’ coaching. When I look at Amherst’s season it seemed like they always played a little better than I was expecting or somehow managed to win games when they got outplayed. The coach deserves credit for that.

Joe: I guess. I just feel like the Coach of the Year award is almost equivalent to a team overall achievement award, because we can’t quantify from the outside how much of a team’s success is due to the coach. I expected Amherst to beat everyone but Trinity and Wesleyan at the beginning of the year. As the year went on I got to realizing that Amherst was the best team, but I was always skeptical of Middlebury. I had them middle of the pack but they clearly overachieved. I don’t want Mills to win just because he coached the best team.

Adam: My argument would be that it wasn’t necessarily clear that Amherst really was the best team. Middlebury got better as the year went along and I think mostly because Milano got more comfortable. I didn’t expect he would get so good so fast and that is why I think Middlebury finished with six straight wins. Obviously coaching matters there, but just seems like the player still has a lot of agency, also.

Joe: True….splitting hairs here at this point. I think both are great coaches and just like talking about it.

Drew Jacobs (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Drew Jacobs (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Rookie of the Year: Running Back Drew Jacobs ’18 (Middlebury)

There wasn’t an absolute standout first year this season that burst onto the scene like QB Sonny Puzzo last year or LB Tim Patricia ’16 the year before, but Jacobs was productive for the pass-heavy Panthers, and among first-year players he was first in rushing yards and third in receiving yards. His production was all over the map, as his total yards went 113, 55, 43, 154, 62, 82 and 8, as he left the game early in Week 7 and sat out all of Week 8. With another year under his belt, though, Jacobs could turn into one of the league’s best backs, but he will still have to fight off the presence of teammate Jonathan Hurvitz ’17 and classmate John Jackson ’18 for playing time.

Also considered: Slotback Frank Williams ’18 (Bates), K Zach Altneu ’18 (Hamilton), RB/KR Amman Weaver ’18 (Hamilton), WR  Mbasa Mayikana ’18 (Colby)

Zach Trause (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Zach Trause (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Special Teams Player of the Year: KR/PR/RB Zack Trause ’15

Ike Fuchs ’17 made a push for this award in Week 7 when he broke a Wesleyan record with five field goals in one game (and by going 7-7 FG and 8-8 XP in the last three weeks), but Trause’s body of work is enough for him to get the nod. Though most of the fireworks came in Week 2 when Trause followed up his third quarter kick return TD with a punt return TD early in the fourth quarter to seal the Jumbos’ victory, he was an explosive returner all year. His 32.1 yards per kickoff return were tops in the NESCAC and seventh in all of Division-III. Players need 1.2 attempts per game to qualify for leaderboards, so Trause failed to qualify with only eight punt returns, but if he had qualified, his 19.6 yards per punt return would have placed him fifth in the nation.

Trause taking back a punt 49 yards to the house against Bates in Week 2. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Trause taking back a punt 49 yards to the house against Bates in Week 2. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Also considered: Ike Fuchs ’17 (Wesleyan), WR/KR/PR Ryan Rizzo ’17 (Middlebury) and K Phillip Nwosu’ 15 (Amherst)

Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments section.