Don’t Sleep, Young Bloods: The Polar Bears Might Surprise


Projected Record: 1-7

Projected Offensive Starters: *Seven Returning

QB: Timmy Drakely (‘17)*

RB: Nate Richam (‘20)*

WR: Nick Vailas (‘18)*

WR: Garrett Thomas (’18)

WR: Liam Blair-Ford (’17)

TE: Bryan Porter (‘18)*

OL: Kyle Losardo (‘17)*

OL: Brian Mullin (‘17)*

C: AJ Mansolillo (‘19)*

OL: Ben Jurkic (‘17)


Projected Defensive Starters:  *Seven returning

OLB: Andre Joyce (‘20)

MLB: Latif Armiyaw (*18)*

OLB: Andre Jett (‘20)

DL: Steve Anderson (‘17)*

DL: Danny Wanger (‘17)*

DL: Nadeem Elhage (‘16)*

DL: Jay Mobley (‘20)

DB: Reeder Wells (‘17)*

DB: Jibrail Coy (‘16)*

DB: Cameron Rondeau (‘19)*

DB: Henry Little (‘18)

Projected Specialists: *One returning

K: Andrew Sisti (‘18)*

P: Chen (‘20)

Offensive MVP: Nate Richam ‘20

Yeah, he’s a freshman, but might as well go bold. Bowdoin was last in the league in rushing, rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, and yards per carry, averaging 2.2 yards per carry, totaling under 500 yards, and racking up just 3 TDs in 2015.  That was partly due to Tyler Grant getting hurt (Grant has hung up the spikes, and won’t be playing this year). In 2014, Tyler Grant ran for 893 yards, and 8 TDs, as a sophomore. He got more touches than anyone in the NESCAC that year. Needless to say, his injury caused some problems.

Richam, a West Hartford, Connecticut native, has drawn rave reviews this preseason. Yes, he’s a freshman, but the Polar Bears desperately need to establish a running game this year. Richam’s quick, he’s strong, and he has that ability to make people miss that you can’t coach. Bowdoin threw the ball 177 times last year, third most in the league, but historically, Bowdoin likes to run the ball, so look for last season’s historic lows in rushing production to at least return to normal levels this year.

Defensive MVP: Reeder Wells ‘17

This is the least exciting defensive MVP pick possible. Reeder Wells hasn’t put up huge numbers in his career, but he’s as steady as they come. He’s never missed a game. He’s the captain on defense, he’s a Texan, and he makes tackles. He’s had at least 36 tackles every year. He only has 1 career interception, and he’s never had a sack, but his value and consistency will make him the most valuable defensive player for the Polar Bears this season.

Welcome Back: Liam Blair-Ford ‘17

By the numbers, Blair-Ford hasn’t done much as a Polar Bear yet. His career receiving numbers aren’t very big, and he’s only played 10 career games, missing extended time due to injury. Despite all that, the word on the street is that he’s in great shape, and he’s gonna play a big role this year.

Biggest Game: September 24th, at Middlebury

Yeah, it might be strange to pick the opener. Think about it this way. Bowdoin hasn’t finished a season above .500 since over a decade ago (2005). The Bears need to win one of the first two games, and while Amherst at home would be a huge, huge win, objectively they have a better chance taking down the Panthers, considering Amherst’s won 19 in a row, and three straight NESCAC championships. If they win one of the first two, they’ll be in a good spot.

Best Tweet:

It’s gotta be this video of a barely comprehensible Latif Armiyaw looking really, really hot. You’re looking at the owner of the Bowdoin Track & Field 60m dash record there folks. As quick a linebacker as you’re gonna find in the NESCAC.



It’s hard to have an offseason more brutal than Bowdoin’s. They lost the usual seniors (but actually retain a handful 2016s, playing an extra year due to injury, like Nadim Elhage, and Jibrail Coy). After that though, things get bleak. They lost Philippe Archambault ‘19, arguably their best defensive player, a French-Canadian beast, who has returned to Canada. They’ve lost a handful to retirement, be it due to injury, or simply quitting, including former impact running back Tyler Grant ‘17. Perhaps worst of all, the team lost a handful of valuable players in a plagiarism scandal: 5 or 6 guys, most of whom figured to receive significant playing time, will miss the season.

So yeah, a rough offseason, but the freshman class shows great promise,and they return a lot of veterans with starting experience, which shouldn’t be overlooked. There’s a lot of buzz about the energy level and hunger that this team has. A duo of sophomore baseball guys, Brandon Lopez ‘19, and Ejazz Jiu ‘19 have joined the team this year, and Jiu ‘19 looks like he’s going to have an impact at wide receiver. He’s a big target. Richman ‘20 has looked great at running back, and Chandler Gee ‘20 is a really fast slot receiver who has impressed so far. On defense, a trio of freshman linebackers, Joe Gowetzski (ILB), Christian Pridgen (OLB), Sydney Guerrier (OLB), look like they could do some damage.

The group of returners is solid. In particular, the success of  WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18 will play a big role in the team’s chances. Vailas had almost 600 receiving yards and added 6 TDs, while Porter had over 400 receiving yards with 5 TDs. Porter made 2nd team all-NESCAC last year as a sophomore, he was one of only two Bowdoin representatives, and he’s also an excellent blocker.

Two of Bowdoin’s top offensive linemen, Kyle Losardo ‘17 and Brian Mullin ‘17, return as well. When you ask Bowdoin guys about top offensive players, they often point to those two as being weapons on the line.

The keys for this team are going to be health, running the ball, and stopping the run. Healthwise, they’re already extremely thin, and if they start to lose talented veterans, they’re going to be in a tough spot. Richam and sophomore RB Andrew Tichy will need to have big seasons in order for the Polar Bears offense to work, and the defense is going to have to at least be average, as opposed to league-worst, against the run. Bowdoin won’t have much room for error, but if they can limit injuries and mistakes, they should have the pieces to put together a decent season, with a little luck.

Still Plenty to Play For: Weekend Preview 11/6

Bates and Bowdoin always delivers a hard-fought affair. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Bates and Bowdoin always delivers a hard-fought affair. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Yes, the game between Trinity and Amherst is very important. Yada, yada, yada. Joe has you covered there if you want to read about that. Spoiler alert, it’s a bold prediction. Elsewhere, it’s rivalry season in the NESCAC with the second leg of the CBB and Little Three taking place this weekend. Bowdoin makes the quick jaunt up to Lewiston to face off against Bates who just won the first leg of the CBB against Colby, and Williams visits Wesleyan in the Little Three. For the Ephs, this is the first of back-to-back games against Wesleyan and Amherst, and the final two weeks might be the last two for Coach Aaron Kelton. Since going to 2-1, Williams has lost three in a row with last week’s loss to Hamilton a particularly stinging loss because it broke the long losing streak for the Continentals. Last year the Ephs managed just 123 yards of offense and no points in a 22-0 loss that would have been even more lopsided if Wesleyan hadn’t had to kick five short field goals. Unless the loss last week galvanized the team, expect this year’s result to be similar.

Meanwhile Bates can complete the salvaging of their year if they beat Bowdoin on Saturday. After going 13-11 over the past three seasons, the Bobcats have lost a good deal of close games and are just 1-5. A win over Bowdoin seals the fifth consecutive year of the CBB for Bates and means the graduating Bobcats will have never lost to the Polar Bears. Bates certainly isn’t happy to have the record they do, but their final two games against Bowdoin and Hamilton are both winnable ones. If they can finish at 3-5 with a three-game winning streak and an uncontested CBB title, things would look drastically different than they did just a week ago. However, that is still a ways away.

Four to Watch

  1. Running Back Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 (Colby): Despite a disappointing season for the Mules overall, Hurdle-Price has been fabulous. A slow start to this season is long in the past as he has had four straight games of over 100 yards rushing, including 202 yard, two TD performance against Wesleyan in Week 3 that served as the tone setter. What has really made him so valuable though is his receiving as he has 19 receptions for 146 yards. Then you add in his kickoff returns and in total you get the NESCAC leader for all-purpose yards at 171.7 per game, well above the next highest total of 144.7 from Darrien Myers ’17. The Mules are a heavy underdog at home against Tufts, but regardless of what happens, Hurdle-Price is going to get his yards.
  2.  Linebacker Branden Morin ’16 (Bowdoin): After having just two tackles in the season opener, Morin has been a tackling machine averaging 10.8 per game, and he now leads the league. Last week he had a sack to go along with his 11 tackles. The Bowdoin defense has been bad overall against the run, allowing 209.5 yards per game, 54.2 more yards per game than anybody else. That stat is probably the biggest reason why Bates is feeling confident entering tomorrow. Morin has to be able to make another dozen or so tackles in order to keep Bates from marching up and down the field all day long. Some of the other linebackers for Bowdoin are very inexperienced and have not played against Bates, and the coaching staff is relying on him to be a steadying force up front.
  3. Defensive End Jordan Stone ’17 (Wesleyan): It’s a given that Williams is going to throw all the time, and that is exactly what Stone wants to hear. He leads the Cardinals with 5.5 sacks, and he has three in the past two weeks. Williams has been decent at keeping QB Austin Lommen ’16 upright, but Stone will be one of their hardest challenges yet. The Ephs are unlikely to get much going on the ground which will allow Stone to pin his ears back and rush the passer. Stone isn’t quite a sack specialist as he is important for Wesleyan’s run defense also, but he is definitely one of the best pass rushers in the league.
  4. Wide Receiver Charles Ensley ’17 (Hamilton): My goodness, Ensley has turned on the jets recently. His statistics from the past three games: 19 receptions for 376 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers coincide with Cole Freeman ’18 becoming the starting QB midway through the game against Bowdoin. Ensley was in this spot two weeks ago, but I don’t feel bad putting him here again because of how well he has done. Freeman also deserves credit for his job coming in after starting the season as the third string QB. Freeman only has one pick in 124 pass attempts. If Hamilton wants to get their second straight win, Ensley must have a big day against the Middlebury secondary.
Patrick Williams (#7) wants to give Tufts their fifth win this weekend. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Patrick Williams (#7) wants to give Tufts their fifth win this weekend. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Game Previews

Hamilton (1-5) at Middlebury (4-2): 12:30 PM

The Continentals got on the right side of the win-loss column last week in part by taking advantage of mistakes by Williams. They also were able to run the ball more effectively than usual as they broke 100 yards rushing for the first time all year. They still averaged just 2.9 yards per carry (amazingly, Hamilton has not had a game this year where they average at least 3.0 yards per carry). They will have a harder time on the ground against the Middlebury run defense led by Tim Patricia ’16 and, if he’s active, Addison Pierce ’17. Even if Pierce is out, Aaron Slodowitz ’18 is more than capable fill-in.

One advantage for the Continentals is how banged up Middlebury is at receiver. Of course, Matt Minno ’16 is still relatively healthy which should cause problems. Every team has injuries, especially at this point of the season, and they really hurt when grouped together in a particular position group.  This will be closer than the 37-9 blowout last season, but it won’t be that close. The only worry I have for Middlebury is that they come out flat after last week’s physical loss.

Prediction: Middlebury over Hamilton 26-13

Bowdoin (1-5) at Bates (1-5): 12:30 PM

I already talked about the stakes for Bates. The win against Colby was a huge confidence booster, but they can’t be that confident as the offense took a huge step backwards after the big day they had two weeks ago against Middlebury. Passing for only 43 yards against Colby is not going to cut it versus a Bowdoin team that is weak against the pass. The matchup of corner Jibrail Coy ’16 vs. wide receiver Mark Riley ’16 will be a fun one to keep an eye on. The Bobcats are dealing with injuries to some of their skill players which has hurt them.

Speaking of injuries, Bowdoin will not have its top two running backs, Tyler Grant ’17 or Andrew Tichy ’19 tomorrow. Given how much they have been throwing the ball, one wouldn’t expect that to be too big of an issue. The team that scores first will put a lot of pressure on their opponent as this could be another low-scoring CBB affair.

Prediction: Bowdoin over Bates 17-13

Tufts (4-2) at Colby (1-5): 1:00 PM

So the Jumbos didn’t managed to put much of a scare into Amherst last weekend. It happens. Running against Amherst was never going to be easy, and allowing a defensive touchdown to the Jeffs made things pretty much impossible. The Jumbos will have to go to the air in order to beat Colby because the Mules strength of defense is the defensive line. This is the game that Tufts really wants in order to get to five wins.

The Mules are in a little bit of disarray on offense as Christian Sparacio ’18 got significant playing time at quarterback against Bates and scored the Mules’ one touchdown. Gabe Harrington ’17 had looked better in the previous two weeks, but he regressed back to his early season form vs. the Bobcats. The offense has really been the downfall of Colby this year, and there is no magic formula in Week 7.

Prediction: Tufts over Colby 24-17

Williams (2-4) at Wesleyan (4-2): 1:00 PM

As mentioned above, Hamilton was able to run against the Ephs, and that does not bode well at all for this weekend. Watching Wesleyan last week, I thought that the Cardinals were trying to get too fancy on offense instead of relying on that bulldozing offensive line to get easy yards on the ground. Against Williams, Wesleyan is probably going to keep things pretty simple for whomever ends up starting at QB, Gernald Hawkins ’18 or Mark Piccirillo ’19. The Cardinals still feel like they have plenty to play for in the last two weeks even if they are out of the conference race.

I don’t know what to expect from Williams. They have in the past shown up in rivalry games more so than other games. The Ephs have almost completely given up on running the ball, and the defense is soft against the run. On paper Wesleyan should win this game relatively easily.

Prediction: Wesleyan over Williams 27-10

NbN Staff Last Week: 2-3

NbN Staff This Season: 23-7

It’s Not Your Imagination, Passing Is Up in the NESCAC: Part One

There was a time when we never thought we’d see statistics like those put up by Mac Foote ’14 again. Now it seems like every team is airing the ball out more than ever, but is that true? (Courtesy of the Middlebury Campus)

From 2011 to 2014, only 25 percent of teams finished the season throwing for more than 200 yards per game. If you take out Middlebury, that number becomes 16.6 percent.  This year, there has been a noticeable departure from that norm. Through six weeks of the 2015-2016 season, seven of the ten teams are averaging over 200 yards through the air, and Tufts is just off that mark with 199.7 YPG. As usual, Middlebury is pacing the league with 332.8 passing yards per game. Bowdoin, a team that finished eighth in the NESCAC in passing just one year ago, showcases a new and improved aerial attack under new Head Coach JB Wells that ranks third.

Other teams like Amherst and Williams have seen large upticks in their numbers in part because of strong quarterback play. The league’s higher passing numbers point to the possibility that the NESCAC is moving away from the ground heavy attacks they have long featured. Are defensive lines closing gaps like never before causing teams to turn to the pass? Are teams starting to envy Middlebury’s capacity to consistently throw up 300 passing yards a game? The reason is unclear, but there is no doubt that change is happening. The best way to answer this is to examine the numbers and go team-by-team to see whether the change is temporary or systematic.

2015 Passing numbers through Week 5 in below graph. All other stats are through Week 6.

overallchart  Middlebury

middleburyPeople who follow NESCAC football understand the prestige of the Middlebury Panthers passing attack. Its program employs the pass-heavy offense, which is made explicit by the impressive passing numbers it has put up in recent years. In each of the past four seasons, Middlebury has finished with a commanding lead in passing yards per game, and you would have to go back to 2007 to see Middlebury not finishing toward the top. The 2014 season marks the only time that Middlebury has dipped under 300 yards in the last five. Still, in 2014 QB Matt Milano ’16 threw for over 24 touchdowns, which was good for fourth in the last 23 years for which the NESCAC has records, with only three interceptions.

Despite graduating top WR Brendan Rankowitz ’15 (36 receptions, seven touchdowns), Milano’s offense hasn’t missed a beat in 2015. Through six games, Milano has thrown for an average of 317.3 yards per game with 17 touchdowns. He has already thrown nine interceptions, but he connects with his receivers roughly 60 percent of the time. Milano continues to connect with WR Matt Minno ’16 at an impressive rate. Last season, Minno lead the Panthers with nine receiving touchdowns, and he has remained one of Milano’s top targets. Ryan Rizzo ’17 had also picked up where he left off last season, hauling in 23 receptions and two for touchdowns, before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury on the first drive against Trinity. When Milano graduates, Jared Lebowitz ’18 will inherit the offense, and any betting man would predict that Middlebury will still rely on the pass heavily with him.

Verdict: Enduring. Middlebury will continue to throw the ball all over the place.


bowdoinAfter finishing eighth in the NESCAC in passing yards per game in 2014, it may be surprising for some to see Bowdoin close to the top of the pass rankings. Under new head coach JB Wells, the Polar Bears’ new offensive approach is a complete 180 from the one it displayed last fall. Last season, Tyler Grant ’17 was a workhorse for Bowdoin, rushing the ball 226 times for 893 yards and eight touchdowns. This season, after the implementation of Wells’ offensive scheme, the Bears’ have become one of the most pass-heavy in the league. Last season, Bowdoin scored ten touchdowns, nine of which came on the ground. This season the Polar Bears have found their way into the end zone 12 times, but 10 of those scores have been through the air. Last fall, the Bears only threw the ball 244 times in eight games, and they have thrown the ball 241 times through six games.

In the three starts he has had, Week 4 POW QB Noah Nelson ’19 has done an admirable job in replacement of Tim Drakeley ’17, averaging 196.5 pass yards per game and firing seven touchdowns. WR Nick Vailas ’17 has emerged as a top threat in Bowdoin’s aerial attack, leading the team in receptions (34) and yards per game (67.2). TE Bryan Porter ’17 has become a crucial part of the offense, accounting for 26 receptions and four touchdowns. There has been a renaissance in the Bears passing offense

Verdict: Enduring. With a new coach, Bowdoin is committed to throwing the ball.


trinityTrinity is passing the ball at a rate higher than any of its past four seasons. Having not exceeded an average of 188.5 since 2011, the Bantams are averaging 243 through the air in 2015. Due to the success of emerging RB Max Chipouras ’19, only 5 of Trinity’s 19 touchdowns on the season have been receiving, but make no mistake that the Bantams are moving the ball through the air much more. QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 has burst back onto the scene and found immediate chemistry with his receiving core.

In 2014, only four Trinity receivers reached double digits in receptions. This season, Darrien Myers ’17 (27 receptions, two TDs), Ian Dugger ’16 (22 receptions, 296 yards), and Bryan Vieira ’18 (21 receptions, three TDs) are evidence of a deep and consistent passing attack. Through eight games last season, the Bantams only threw the pigskin 173 times; through six in 2015, that number is already more with 176 attempts. The return of Puzzo is the clear catalyst of the uptick in passing, and he has two more seasons after 2015. However, the Bantams still want to be known as a smash-mouth physical team, and they are likely to retain that philosophy.

Verdict: Enduring-ish. Puzzo has two more years of eligibility, but after that…


williamsAveraging 247.2 passing yards per game, Williams’ passing game is the most prolific it has been in the last five seasons, but the Ephs have had very successful quarterbacks in the past. Coming off a season in which he threw for an average of 181.4 yards per game with seven touchdowns, QB Austin Lommen ’16 has improved upon his success through the air. This season, that average jumps up to 248.8. Going up against two top five pass defenses in the NESCAC to close out the season (Wesleyan and Amherst), it’ll be interesting to see if Lommen can maintain the numbers he has put up thus far.

Since 2011, Williams has employed a balanced offense, passing and running the ball at a similar rate. That has not been the case this year with the Ephs passing much more. Going into this Saturday, the Ephs have already almost matched their receiving touchdown count from last season with six. Williams showcases an experienced receiving arsenal which includes Darrias Sime ’16 (29 receptions, 2 TDs), converted-QB Mark Pomella ’16 (23 receptions, 1 TD), Alex Way ’16 (18 receptions), and Colin Brown ’16 (15 receptions). With the exception of Way, each of the highlighted receivers has topped their numbers from last year, and Way is three catches away from doing the same.

Verdict: Temporary. Lommen and all those receiving threats are graduating.


hamiltonHamilton is another team whose passing numbers are the highest they’ve been since 2011. As the above graph indicates, the passing game has steadily been on the rise. Despite an 0-5 start to this season, QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 started the season under center but has since lost the starting spot to Cole Freeman ’18. As opposed to Rosenberg’s 115.8 passing yards per game and 4:3 touchdown to interception ratio, Freeman has averaged 190.8 yards through the air with a 4:1 ratio in two fewer appearances.

Last season, Hamilton threw for only seven touchdowns; this season, 10 of their 13 scores have been via pass. RB LaShawn Ware ’18 is replicating his production from last year but the receiving core is producing at a higher level than in the past. Pat Donahoe ’16 and Charles Ensley ’17 each are enjoying great seasons. With the team’s expanding trust in its passing game, and Bates’ last place pass defense left on their schedule, Hamilton may finish with four players having 20+ catches.

Verdict: Enduring. No matter who’s playing QB next year, they will throw the ball.


amherstAmherst’s 214.7 passing yards per game in 2015 is impressive in that the Lord Jeffs also boast the NESCAC’s best running attack (209.3). With the exception of the 2014 season, Amherst’s passing numbers have seen jumps in each of the past five seasons. In 2014, a dynamic duo made up of sophomore running backs Nick Kelly ‘17 and Raheem Jackson ‘17 gave Amherst incentive to take advantage of its success on the ground. This season, the emphasis has returned to Amherst’s passing game. Kenny Adinkra ’16 has assumed leading running back duties because of an injury to Kelly.

The offense for Amherst has morphed into one more than happy to take chances down the field. Wide receivers Devin Boehm ’17 and Jackson McGonagle ‘16 have paced the Amherst receiving core with 30 and 26 receptions respectively, both averaging nearly 70 yards a game. Foy has also connected with WR Nick Widen ’17 and TE Rob Thoma ’17 regularly, despite them being non-factors just a year ago. Amherst’s 282 passing yards through the air in Week 1 against Bates may be skewing the data, but their passing numbers are no fluke. With his arsenal of receivers, Foy is primed to terrorize Trinity and Williams.

Verdict: Enduring. Foy will be around for two more years.

Check back tomorrow for the final four teams and a conclusion about what this means for the NESCAC.

Monday Musings Part Two: Everyone Else

Things are good in Medford these days. The Jumbos are 3-0. (Photos Courtesy of Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

AL: Alright, enough about that Amherst-Middlebury game as there was plenty of other football played. The one score that caught my eye was Wesleyan sneaking by Colby 24-21. For the second straight week the Cardinals needed a late touchdown to take the lead, and both weeks it was Devon Carrillo ’16 who was responsible for it.

JM: So a couple of thoughts from me about this result. One, I think Colby played pissed off, especially Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17. Two, either Wesleyan isn’t as good as we thought, or, and sorry to keep dragging it back to Middlebury, the Panthers aren’t as good as we thought. The Cards have now played close game’s with teams we thought would be elite and teams we thought would be mediocre. I think it’s mostly a situation of a young team in Wesleyan with a lot of talent going through growing pains, and they’ll get better as the season goes on. My one other observation, and you just brought this up, Devon Carrillo is a beast. In Weeks 1 and 2 it was rushing the ball. This week he finally caught some passes. One way or another he’s going to hurt you. Like this:

AL: Get this: Wesleyan came in allowing just 13.0 YPG on the ground, and Hurdle-Price went for 19 yards on his first carry on his way to 202 for the day. This is an encouraging effort for Colby. Obviously they are 0-3 against Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan, but they did look competitive. That and then you have to look at the standings and see your CBB mates Bowdoin and Bates sitting there at 0-3 too.

JM: And it was another tough one for your Bowdoin Polar Bears, losing a whopping 43-24. What’s going on, Al?

AL: Ugghh, the defense has simply not shown up, especially in the first half of the past two games. The Jumbos had 27 points in the first half, and Chance Brady ’17 was able to do basically whatever he wanted. I thought it was going to be different under new coach JB Wells, but these things take time. Real story is Tufts moving to 3-0 I think.

JM: I’m with you, Al. Could Tufts be the real deal? They barely snuck by Hamilton and Bates, but in a way that’s a good thing. The Jumbos actually believe they can win. And that’s the kind of attitude they’re going to need when they go to play Trinity this weekend. This will either be Tufts’ announcement to the league that they’re a contender, or it will affirm our fears that there are really only four teams competing every year for the title.

AL: I’m going to say the Jumbos are still a year away, but Saturday will tell us, obviously. Bowdoin was playing without Tyler Grant ’17, and the Polar Bears picked off Alex Snyder ’17 twice, so you can’t say it was all roses for Tufts. Elsewhere, on Friday I said that I was high on the Ephs because of Austin Lommen ’16, and they leaned on him heavily throwing the ball 47 times in the Ephs’ win. Still, Bates had a lot of chances to win this game, but they haven’t been able to win the close games.

QB Austin Lommen '16 carried the Ephs' offense on his right shoulder on Saturday. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
QB Austin Lommen ’16 carried the Ephs’ offense on his right shoulder on Saturday. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

JM: No, and I think part of that is that their offense is one-dimensional. It just doesn’t work in football these days. The athletes on the other side of the ball are too good and too smart. There’s so much film that you aren’t really surprising opposing defenses with that option game.

AL: Patrick Dugan ’16 was 1-14 throwing the ball! Williams has a good secondary, but that is BAD. Bates has always leaned on the run, but they usually are able to get more of a passing game going. Finally, the game we haven’t talked about is Trinity vs. Hamilton. What did you think of that one?

JM: Really just confirmed what we already knew. Trinity’s defense is going to shut down bad teams. While Hamilton had a great showing in Week 1, and nearly upset Wesleyan in Week 2, I think that they’re closer to the offense we’ve seen the last two weeks than the one we saw in Week 1. More than anything, Trinity just has a chip on its shoulder after losing three straight to end 2014. If running back Max Chipouras ’19 is for real, then this team becomes terrifying to face.

AL: This score would have been more lopsided if Colby Jones ’19 (another impact freshman who also returned a blocked extra point for two points) hadn’t intercepted two Sonny Puzzo ’17 throws inside of the Hamilton 20-yard line. I’m a little more optimistic about the Hamilton offense just because I respect the Trinity defense so much. With that being said, Puzzo is coming back to earth.I have my worries about when Triniy has to face a top-four defense.

Jeff Devanney's defense has yet to allow a point through three games. That's 180 minutes of football. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
Jeff Devanney’s defense has yet to allow a point through three games. That’s 180 minutes of football. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

JM: I still feel good about Puzzo. He didn’t run much last week, so I don’t know what that’s about. But we saw in person with Foy against Middlebury how the threat of a quarterback taking off and running is a huge weapon. And Puzzo still put up good yardage against Hamilton. Trinity’s calling card is always going to be defense as long as Jeff Devanney is the coach, and that’s how they’re going to win.

AL: I mean the Trinity defense still hasn’t been scored on. Glancing at the standings, clear demarcation with six teams either 3-0 or 2-1 and then four 0-3 teams. With the exception of Wesleyan, I feel like I have a good handle on teams at this point.

JM: Agreed, and things are starting to separate, as you mentioned. Okay, Adam, any last takes on Week 3 in the NESCAC?

AL: Just want to reiterate how much I enjoyed watching the game at Amherst. And that we went 5-0 on picks this week. Definitely want to mention that.

JM: I feel pretty confident in saying that no one else has watched as much NESCAC football as we have this season, Adam. It’s paying off with the picks.

More than the Main Course: Weekend Preview 10/9


The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

Amherst and Middlebury is the main attraction this weekend, and Joe broke that down in detail yesterday, but the other four games still offer plenty to chew on. Trinity and Wesleyan are heavy home favorites against Hamilton and Colby respectively, but those games are still important measuring sticks. Bowdoin has beaten Tufts five straight times, and it would certainly behoove the Polar Bears to extend that streak to six in order to get their first win of the year. Bates and Williams meet in Western Massachusetts as both teams are in need of a win.

Four to Watch

1. Defensive End Zach Thomas ’18 (Tufts):

Zach Thomas
Tufts Athletics

Last year Thomas saw the field mostly as a kicker filling in for the injured Willie Holmquist ’16, and he has played great through two games at DE after playing there sparingly in 2014. He had 2.5 sacks against Bates, two of which came on third down to end Bates’ drives. Bowdoin allowed six sacks last week (admittedly Amherst is a different animal than most), and Thomas will get plenty of chances to rush the QB if Tufts gets up early. Along with Shane Thomas ’17 (no relation), the sophomore is part of a young group who are emerging for Tufts as difference makers, something that the Jumbos have lacked for a long time.

Shane Thomas '17 (56) is emerging as a force, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)
LB Shane Thomas ’17 (56) is emerging as a force and nice complement to DE Zach, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

2. Wide Receiver Colin Brown ’16 (Williams):

Colin Brown
Williams Athletics

Brown and fellow wide out Darrias Sime ’16 probably spent much of the week drooling at the tape of Jack Cooleen ’16 ripping up the Bates secondary. Brown is 6’5″, but he was shut down last week against Trinity. A year ago he had by far his best game of the season against Bates hauling in eight catches for 96 yards. The young Bates secondary has to figure some way of forcing Brown and Sime to be physical, not just when the ball is in the air but also at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, that lies outside of how Bates usually plays, meaning that Brown should get a lot of clean breaks off of the line. Once he gets moving, he is much more difficult to stop.

3. Running Back Nick Gaynor ’17 (Trinity):

Nick Gaynor
Trinity Athletics

Hats off to Gaynor who has transitioned to running back almost as smoothly as one could hope. Given the long history of Trinity backs, nobody expected the Bantams to have to turn to a wide receiver. He has answered the call averaging 4.5 yards per carry so far. He still retains some of his receiver instincts to cut outside and only try to run through arm tackles, but that is also playing to his strengths as a shifty runner. The one concern for Gaynor is his three fumbles so far. Those are the only turnovers that Trinity has had all year. Freshman Max Chipouras ’19 could take carries away from Gaynor as the year goes along, but for now Gaynor is the signature back for the Bantams.

4. Defensive Lineman Tyler Hudson ’19 (Hamilton):

Hamilton Athletics

The Continental defense has looked much better in 2015, and Hudson has been a stud for them already as a freshman. He was everywhere against Tufts with 4.5 TFLs, and he proved that it wasn’t a fluke against Wesleyan with a sack and pass batted down. His 5.5 TFL are the most in the league. Hudson is from Whitesboro, New York which is a 15-minute drive away from Hamilton. Coach Dave Murray is a longtime coach and recruiter in Central New York, and Hudson is exactly the type of football player that Murray is trying to convince to stay close to home. Already……….

Game Previews

Bowdoin (0-2) at Tufts (2-0): Medford, Massachusetts, 1:00 PM

These two met last year with the same records, and the result was Bowdoin’s first win of the year. The Jumbos have found a way to take that magic oil that helped them win all four home games on the road the first two weeks, eeking out an overtime win and a one-point win. They are still not a great football team, but they are coming close to good and that’s enough to beat the lower half of the league. Chance Brady ’17 might not play because of a concussion, but Dom Borelli ’19 has looked good as the backup running back so far.

Bowdoin has looked pretty listless in their first two games. QB Tim Drakeley ’17 has thrown the ball well, but the Polar Bears have been forced to get away from running the ball with Tyler Grant ’17 because they have fallen behind so quickly. The defense, especially that secondary, has to play better as a unit. Until Bowdoin wins a game, you have to pick against them.

Prediction: Tufts over Bowdoin 19-13

Hamilton (0-2) at Trinity (2-0): Hartford, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

The easy opening schedule for Trinity continues, though the Bantams beat Hamilton by just 12 points last year. That game was at Hamilton, and the Bantams don’t have to worry about a long bus ride this year. Sonny Puzzo ’18 is playing great, attacking the defense downfield and not making any mistakes.

Hamilton is going to struggle unless Trinity suddenly catches the turnover bug. They don’t have the athletes to match up with Trinity in the open field, and they can’t sell out against the run like they did against Wesleyan. Charles Ensley ’17 and Pat Donahoe ’16 are underrated receivers, but even they will have trouble against the Trinity secondary. The scoreless streak ends, but the Bantams still cruise.

Prediction: Trinity over Hamilton 28-6

Bates (0-2) at Williams (1-1): Williamstown, Massachusetts. 1:00 PM

QB Austin Lommen '16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
QB Austin Lommen ’16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

On the surface this is the same Williams team we saw last year: an easy win over Bowdoin before a shutout loss to Trinity. However, I think the Ephs have more going for them this year. Much of that rests on the shoulders of Austin Lommen ’16, and despite subpar statistics from him last week, I think he bounces back against Bates. Mark Pomella ’16 is there as a change of pace quarterback, but the Ephs will win or lose because of Lommen. The running game has not improved much, and the Ephs can be made one-dimensional. That might not be a terrible thing against Bates.

Williams’ biggest worry is that their young defense wilts against the triple option, though the Bobcats haven’t been very successful moving the ball so far this year. Shaun Carroll’s ’16 statistics are inflated by one 80-yard run, and the Bobcats have not sustained enough drives. After their tough loss last week, this game is a test of the Bobcats leadership and resilience. Bottom line for me is I see the Williams offense capitalizing at points a week after Trinity gave them chances to make plays and the Ephs failed every time.

Prediction: Williams 27 – Bates 20

Colby (0-2) at Wesleyan (1-1): Middletown, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

Colby has struggled to run the ball and is going up against a Wesleyan team that suffocates teams when they run. Gabe Harrington ’17 might throw the ball 30 times in this game, and he needs receivers like Ryder Arsenault ’17 to get open much more consistently than they have. Last week against Middlebury the only success that Colby had in the passing game was a few go-up-and-get-’ems from young wideout Mark Snyder ’18.

If Wesleyan’s talent is going to coalesce into a very good football team, this is the week for them to do it. A big victory would give the team a huge boost in confidence. Justin Sanchez ’17 has been relatively quiet, and tomorrow would be a great time for him to intercept Harrington once or twice. The front seven has already proven that it is up to snuff with Shayne Kaminski ’18 and Jordan Stone ’17 helping to lead the way. The Mules don’t have the horses (bad pun intended) to hang for four quarters.

Prediction: Wesleyan 30 – Colby 10

Road Teams Rule Week One: Football Stock Report 9/28

After what seemed like an eternity, NESCAC football returned in triumphant glory on Saturday, and a lot of what we anticipated came to fruition, but there were many surprises, as well.

Today we give you the risers and fallers in our estimation, as well as a few game notes from each contest.

Stock Up:

Hamilton Offense

Tufts isn’t the most stout defense in the NESCAC, but you still have to be impressed with how the Continentals moved the ball and the play of QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 and WR Charles Ensley ’17. After starter Brandon Tobin ’18 succumbed to an injury early in the first half, Rosenberg (the starter for the past two seasons) came on and proceeded to go 14-23 (69.9%) for 301 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Ensley was on the opposite end of 107 of those yards, and displayed some top-notch athleticism with some of his grabs. His teammate, Pat Donahoe ’16, actually tallied even more yards – 174, to lead the NESCAC – so there may yet be some life in this Continental offense. We’ll wait and see whether or not Tobin returns, and how that might shake up the QB situation.

Connecticut Schools

Despite the loss, the Cardinals proved on Saturday that they still belong to the league’s upper echelon. The Cards ran all over Middlebury, and newly-minted QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 flashed potential throwing the ball, though the results were subpar on Saturday. The defense looks like it barely dropped off, and when you can control the clock and move the ball on the ground as effectively as Wesleyan, you always have a chance to win. Panthers players returned from this one bearing rave reviews of the Wesleyan team as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Bantams looked like they were playing a Pop Warner team on Saturday. A 34-0 win on the road, 439 yards of total offense and only 159 yards allowed. Enough said.

Williams QB Austin Lommen ’16

Expectations are great for former D-I players that transfer down to D-III, and that was true for Lommen last year. The BC transfer was about average last year, completing 60.1 percent of his passes and racking up seven touchdowns against nine picks, but it might be time to buy in on the righty. Lommen went 20-30 (66.7%) for 288 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Lommen managed the offense well, and the Ephs went 6-8 on third downs in the first half, most of them courtesy of throws by Lommen.

Stock Down:

Bates O-line

Yes, the Bobcats were matched up against an elite D-line from Amherst, but still, their performance in the trenches does not bode well for the rest of the season. Bates needs to churn up yards on the ground in order to win (with the occasional shot downfield to Mark Riley ’16). The Bobcats’ backs gathered 199 yards on the ground on Saturday, but 80 of those came on one Shaun Carroll ’16 scamper. Take that out, and the Bobcats rushed for 119 yards on 45 attempts – a 2.6 YPC average.

Colby Backs

Along the same lines as the above, the Mules were unable to consistently move the ball on the ground. QB Christian Sparacio ’18 had the most success of any ball carrier, racking up 30 yards on seven carries. We are still expecting big things from classmates Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and Carl Lipani ’17, but it looked like Colby just ran headfirst into a brick wall against Trinity.


Just to complete the Maine college trifecta, Bowdoin has to go in this spot. The offense was stagnant, and Tyler Grant ’16 didn’t get many opportunities with the Polar Bears trailing for much of their game against Williams. The loss of RB Trey Brown ’16 to injury will prove to be costly, as the Bowdoin coaches were hoping to be able to spell Grant far more this year than last – but alas, it was not to be. It was not a good opener for anyone in the black and white.

Game Notes:

Middlebury 28 at Wesleyan 25

Well, it wasn’t easy, but the Panthers hung on to go 1-0. Matt Milano ’16 wasn’t at his best early on, but was still very, very good. It was interesting that Jared Lebowitz ’18 got just one series. His entry into the game was pre-determined, but we don’t know what went into the decision to not use him for the rest of the game. Regardless, the passing game wasn’t the issue for Middlebury. The running game, however, was not effective. Somehow, the Panthers need to figure out a way to become a multi-dimensional team. They like to use screens to substitute for old-fashioned hand offs, but you still have to be able to give it to your back and let him work once in awhile.

On the other side of the field, Wesleyan competed until the very last. Hawkins has loads of potential at QB, despite his struggles throwing. He’s a fantastic athlete, and when he took off for one 17-yard dash up the gut my jaw physically dropped. Obviously, he’ll need to work on throwing the ball – sort of important for a quarterback. As for the running game, I was really shocked that Jaylen Berry ’18 was used as the feature back, carrying the ball 21 times to LaDarius Drew’s ’15 six carries and Lou Stevens’ ’17 two – not because I doubt the youngster’s ability, but because he supplanted two former All-NESCAC First Teamers as the go-to guy on Saturday. That being said, I would not be surprised if next week Drew ran the ball 25 times for 150 yards, and the same can be said about Stevens. Furthermore, Devon Carrillo ’16 continues to be a threat with his legs in many ways – out of the Wildcat, multiple back sets and on sweeps. Defensively, I have to give a shout out to DE Jordan Stone ’16. He’s a physical beast and had a great game and it showed on the stat sheet as Stone gathered 2.5 sacks.

Amherst 37 at Bates 14

Amherst WR Nick Widen '17 and the LJs took care of Bates with ease. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen)
Amherst WR Nick Widen ’17 and the LJs took care of Bates with ease. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen)

I didn’t watch any game as closely as I did Middlebury-Wesleyan, but nonetheless there was much to be learned from every contest. Reece Foy ’18 got the start for Amherst, and – this is the surprising part – played every snap at QB. Last season Foy and Alex Berluti ’17 opened the season in a time-share until Max Lippe ’15 came back from an injury. That Foy was able to do enough in camp to completely takeover the gig says something in and of itself. Also of note, Kenny Adinkra ’16 got the lion’s share of the carries and was more productive than Nick Kelly ’17. Will that last, or will Kelly return to 2014 form and takeover the feature role as he was expected to do. OR, will the super-talented Jack Hickey ’19 start stealing away more carries?

For Bates, I know that the triple-option is the staple of their offense, but Mark Riley is just incredible. The Bobcats completed 11 passes for 117 yards, and seven of those catches went to Riley for 87 yards. I don’t think that if you put a prime-age Randy Moss on any team in the NESCAC he would take as large of a proportion of the catches as Riley does.

Williams 27 at Bowdoin 7

For the second straight year the Ephs stomped on the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/
For the second straight year the Ephs stomped on the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/

Not much went right for the Polar Bears in Week 1. I don’t know whether to credit Lommen or crucify the Bowdoin secondary for the Ephs’ success through the air. Overall, I’m reserving judgement on the Polar Bears.

For Williams, though, you have to feel good about this start. Maybe they’ve put something together in Williamstown right under our noses. Although, I vaguely remember writing something to the same effect one year ago after Williams’ 36-0 beatdown of Bowdoin in Week 1. Maybe Coach Aaron Kelton just has the Polar Bears’ numbers. Maybe he’s taping opposing coaches’ signals with a cell phone camera, and 15 years from now, when Coach is getting fitted for his fourth NESCAC Championship ring, and the twilight is setting on a decorated career, NESCAC officials will bust down the door and point a finger at him and call him a cheater for doing exactly what every other team in the league was doing…

I’m sorry, I wasn’t planning that. (And there’s definitely no illegal filming going on anywhere in the NESCAC.)

Trinity 34 at Colby 0

With Joe Moreno ’19, sadly, out yet again with a torn ACL, Nick Gaynor ’17 has become the team’s top back. From a fantasy perspective though, this is a tricky situation, as Gaynor, Ethan Suraci ’18 or QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 could be the team’s leading rusher any given week. I particularly don’t think Gaynor will see many goal line touches. Gaynor is a converted wideout, and Suraci is a much bigger body. Max Chipouras ’19 – who had just two touches – got a goal line TD on Saturday instead of Gaynor. No matter who’s behind him, the return of Puzzo under center is going to be huge for Trinity. Henry Foye ’16 did a great job when healthy last year, but I think that Puzzo brings elite talent to the QB position.

Tufts 24 at Hamilton 21

The best game of the day came between two perennial doormats that look to be rising from the ashes. Tufts already took the first step a year ago by going 4-4, but with the Jumbos still 0-infinity in their last infinity chances on the road, the Continentals were feeling really good about their chances. And with newly-transferred QB Tobin at the helm, it appeared that Chapter 1 of the fairytale was under way.

Then Tobin left the game with an ankle injury, and everything fell into the hands of Rosenberg, the beleaguered vet. And boy, did he respond.

Rosenberg matched a career-high with his 301 passing yards, the program’s fifth-highest single-game mark. His 21.5 yards per completion and 13.1 yards per attempt were Hamilton records. He threw three TD passes, all in the span of 12 plays in the second half. His receivers, namely Donahoe and Ensley, made some spectacular plays, but let’s give all the credit in the world to Rosenberg for his stellar performance.

Alas, the Hamilton offense could not punch it in with the first possession of overtime. K Zach Altneu ’18 boomed his field goal attempt through the uprights, but Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti was able to call a timeout just in time, forcing Altneu to kick again, and this time he pushed it wide left.

The Jumbos were conservative on their possession, moving the ball to the six-yard line before Snyder took a five-yard loss to position the football right in the middle of the field. K Willie Holmquist ’17 came up clutch for the Jumbos, who celebrated their first road victory since Oct. 3, 2009.

Aside from Rosenberg, CB Jimmy Giattino ’17 was a beast defensively for Hamilton and DL Tyler Hudson ’19 had an impressive debut. Last year’s tackle-leader John Phelan ’16 saw limited action, rotating with Mickey Keating ’17 at linebacker. We believe Head Coach Dave Murray is trying to protect Phelan who was banged up considerably during camp, but only time will tell if this timeshare continues. And lastly, Tobin’s ankle injury appears to be minor, which keeps the QB conversation in Clinton very intriguing. However, after a performance like that, how Rosenberg could not get the keys to the car for at least one more week is a mystery to me.

And in case you missed it, every road team won! Can you believe it? I don’t know how long it’s been since that happened in the NESCAC. Maybe between the 47 assignments I have this week and the job search I’ll try to procure that information.

It’s good to be back.

First Impressions Matter: The Weekend Preview

The best time of year is back. Football returns to the NESCAC tomorrow. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

The first week of the season is a special time. After 10 long months of waiting, NESCAC football is back to fill up our early Saturday afternoons for eight weeks. Yet, one can’t help but feel like right now is almost a better time to be a NESCAC football fan. After all, by Saturday night half of the teams will be 0-1. The expectations that every team and fanbase has can’t possibly all be met, and so for some, times are better before those expectations come crashing down.

This is the point where my friends tell me that I’m way too cynical. That football games are one of the best events ever created, and we should welcome them like a crying baby does the embrace of a parent. They are right of course. Enjoy tomorrow, and if at all possible get yourself to a game in person. Thanks to the Northeast Sports Network and improvements in technology, watching a NESCAC football game at home is now a great alternative, but nothing beats the ability to watch a game in person. Alright, enough of me rambling: on to the analysis.

Five to Watch

  1. Quarterback Reece Foy ’18 (Amherst): Coach EJ Mills has been loathe to disclose who his starting QB is, but the game preview on the Amherst website and one source have tipped us off to the fact that Foy is getting the nod for the start. Foy has talent, as he actually played at the University of San Diego (DI-AA) for a year before transferring to Amherst before last season. Foy battled for the starting position early in the year before Max Lippe ’15 retook control of the position down the stretch. At only 5’9″, Foye can have trouble seeing all of his reads. He is a good athlete though we didn’t see him run much last year. Even though Foy might start, I still think we see Alex Berluti ’17 play quarterback at some point, also.
  2. Safety Justin Sanchez ’17 (Wesleyan): As one of the two returners on defense for the Cardinals, Sanchez has to be spectacular against Matt Milano ’16 and Middlebury. Stars Donnie Cimino ’15 and Jake Bussani ’14 helped allow Sanchez to roam free and make plays in the run game (he led the Cardinals in tackles last season with 58), but Coach Dan DiCenzo will ask him to do more in pass defense this game. The Wesleyan defense might struggle to stop Middlebury, but if they get a couple of turnovers, that would also be huge. A noted ball-hawk, Sanchez is their best bet to make that happen.
  3. Defensive End James Howe ’16 (Williams): Does dominant 2013 James Howe return or are teams still able to scheme and stop him like in 2014? That question is one Ephs fans are hoping to see answered on Saturday. Top level talent like what Howe displayed in 2013 is rare in the NESCAC, and it can swing games. The defensive line besides Howe is young, but that is no excuse for him as a senior now. I will be watching Howe in person at Bowdoin while (shameless personal plug alert) I am doing the color commentary for NSN, so rest assured that I will keep a close eye on him.
  4. Outside Linebacker Patrick Williams ’16 (Tufts): This is a name you might not know right now, but I have a feeling that Williams is going to have a big senior year. He had 43 tackles and an interception a year ago; solid numbers but nothing special for sure. However, at 6’2″ and 220 he has exceptional size for his position and he moves pretty well. He was only moved to linebacker last season, and he has a better understanding of the position this year. Also, his dream job is to see the world while making money. Me too, Patrick, me too.
  5. Wide Receiver Darrien Myers ’17 (Trinity): Myers has a lot of hype around him after being selected fifth in our Fantasy Draft. Not actually, but Myers is important to watch because he could help create big plays in the passing game for Trinity. That was something the Bantams struggled with last year after relying on AJ Jones ’14 to be a game breaker for them for a long time. In 2014, Myers was targeted on a lot of short passes near the line of scrimmage in order to get him the ball in space and make plays, but it really makes more sense to allow him to use his speed and get behind the defense for big plays.

Game Previews

Editors Note: We are going to cover Wesleyan vs. Middlebury in depth this afternoon. Just sit tight on that one.

Amherst at Bates: Lewiston, Maine, 1:00 PM.

So Foy is the QB, but that doesn’t change much about the Jeffs. Nick Kelly ’17 is going to get the ball a lot, and Kenny Adinkra ’16 and Raheem Jackson ’17 should also get nearly 10 carries apiece. That offensive line had trouble creating holes in 2014 as the Jeffs ran for only 126 yards on 37 carries (42 yards came on one run too). Look out for any tweaks to the Amherst scheme like them rolling Foy out of the pocket or using the read option more because they knew whomever won the starting job would be better suited for that type of offense. A major concern for Foy is just limiting mistakes and taking care of the ball.

#2 Jackson McGonagle '16 is hoping the Amherst passing attack can break out this year. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
#2 Jackson McGonagle ’16 is hoping the Amherst passing attack can break out this year. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Outside of Wesleyan, nobody lost more from its roster than Bates so I am not quite sure what to expect from them. The game last year was touch and go to the end, but the defense for Bates will have difficulty keeping this one low-scoring. The best hope for a Bates victory comes from being able to control the clock and hit Mark Riley ’16 on a lot of third downs. The Jeffs of course get the benefit of playing the Bobcats first and have had ample time to get ready defensively to defend the triple option. The 3-4 defense that Amherst runs is already well-suited to stopping it, and the Jeffs have more than enough athleticism in the front seven to make plays. This one won’t be as close as it was last year, but Amherst doesn’t blow many teams out either.

Prediction: Amherst 23 – Bates 7

Williams at Bowdoin: Brunswick, Maine, 1:00 PM

The first game for JB Wells is a chance for Bowdoin to wipe the slate clean and put last year’s 36-0 blowout loss to Williams in the rear mirror. That moment turned out to be the high moment of the year for Williams who face a lot of questions entering the season.

The loss of safety Justin Harris ’17 for the season is a tough one especially since the Ephs also lost Tom Cabarle ’15 to graduation. Corners Taysean Scott ’17 and Mike Davis ’17 are still very good, but the Ephs will really have to hope that their front seven can handle Bowdoin’s running attack without having to bring one of the inexperienced safeties into the box. That running attack is led by Tyler Grant ’17, who didn’t do much in this game last year. The new Bowdoin offense will look similar when they line up, but the action after the snap will be very different. The Polar Bears want to throw the ball more than they did last year, and Dan Barone ’16 will be targeted in the passing game early and often. Because he works out of the slot a lot, I’m not sure how Williams will matchup with him, but he could give the outside linebackers fits.

I’m higher on Austin Lommen ’16 in his senior year than most, and he needs to prove in this game that he can lead the offense even if the running game isn’t working. The Williams receivers will have a large height advantage in at least one of their match ups, but that has often been the case, and they haven’t found a way to exploit it.

As a reminder, I (Adam) played for Bowdoin my freshman year and do not pick their games because of that. So the prediction is from Joe.

Prediction: Bowdoin 17 – Williams 13

Trinity at Colby: Waterville, Maine, 1:00 PM

In case you forgot, Trinity comes into the season with a three-game losing streak. They are going to come ready to play. Sonny Puzzo ’18 is the QB with Henry Foye ’16 ready to play, also. The big battle is in the trenches between the inexperienced Trinity offensive line and the veteran Colby defensive line. The Bantams ended up running all over Colby in the second half last year, but that was after the front seven had been worn down. Chris Marano ’17, Ryan Ruiz ’16 and the rest of that defensive line have to get penetration and stop those big Trinity running backs before they get a head of steam going. When Puzzo does go to throw the ball, he should have great success with all of his talented receivers back against the very inexperienced Colby secondary.

Jabari Hurdle-Price '17 become the team's feature back once Carl Lipani '17 went down with an injury last season and proved that he can carry the load, averaging 4.1 YPC. (Dustin Satloff/Colby College Athletics)
Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 become the team’s feature back once Carl Lipani ’17 went down with an injury last season and proved that he can carry the load, averaging 4.1 YPC. (Dustin Satloff/Colby College Athletics)

Running back Carl Lipani ’17 had great success running against the Trinity front seven last year, and the Mules have to keep that level of commitment to running the ball in order to not have their defense tired at the end of the game. That also means quarterback Gabe Harrington ’17 has to complete above 60 percent of his passes. The entire linebacking group for Trinity is new, and so Harrington should put pressure on them to make tackles in space by getting the ball to either his running backs or receivers in the flats. Trying to throw the deep ball against Trinity safety Spencer Donahue ’17 is not a winning proposition. The Mules keep it close again for a while, but the strength of Trinity wins out over four quarters

Prediction: Trinity 22 – Colby 16

Tufts at Hamilton: Clinton, New York, 1:00 PM

Year two of Dave Murray’s tenure begins with a Tufts team coming to town eager to prove they are a better team than the one that beat Hamilton a year ago and that they can win on the road. The key for Hamilton is improvement on defense. They held opponents to under 30 points just three times all season in 2014. The good news is that most of the defense is back, and they had to fend off competition for their spots. The offense should be decent overall, but I don’t like the way that things matchup for Hamilton against Tufts. The Continentals had over 400 yards of offense last year, but they didn’t finish drives.

Tufts will run the bubble screen until the Continentals prove they can stop it, and that isn’t easier given the skills of the Tufts slot receivers. I am worried about the quarterback play for Tufts, though. Alex Snyder ’17 has not grabbed the job in the fashion that the coaches were hoping he would, and the Tufts offense will have to be more effective than it was last year when they relied heavily on their defense and special teams to create points. I’ve actually gone back and forth on this one a little because I do like what Murray is selling at Hamilton, but I don’t think his first win comes in this one.

Prediction: Tufts 19 – Hamilton 13

Final Preseason Power Rankings

The Panthers - as expected - top our 2015 Preseason Power Rankings. (Photo by Joe MacDonald
The Panthers – as expected – top our 2015 Preseason Power Rankings. (Photo by Joe MacDonald

Editor’s Note:

Below Contributor Nick DiBendetto gives us the first of our weekly installments of our Power Rankings. DiBo will be our Power Ranker, if you will, for the remainder of the 2015 football season. These rankings are as up-to-the-minute as you get, and could reflect the newest information available and any discussions had among the editors and contributors. Admittedly, though, these preseason ranks do follow our projected records (included in parentheses) fairly closely. Check back weekly to see how each team has moved through the ranks.

1. Middlebury (8-0)

We have projected Middlebury to be the outright NESCAC Champions, something they have not done since 2007. The team looks strong with plenty of returners on both sides of the ball. They will be a very good, physical team. UNLV transfer Jared Lebowitz ’18, a 6’4″ Vermont native, will compete and push an already great senior quarterback in Matt Milano ’16. The Panthers are the safest bet at this point for a NESCAC title.

2. Amherst (7-1)

Amherst is coming off their fifth NESCAC Championship season, and is going to give the title another run. They boast running back Nick Kelly ’17, but they don’t seem to have a go-to guy at quarterback, which should make for two very difficult games against Trinity and Middlebury. Their typically strong offensive line looks nimble as ever this season, which could be big for Kelly.

3. Trinity (6-2)

The Bantams have a refined team this season with the addition of two serious offensive threats in quarterback Sonny Puzzo ’18, and 21 year-old rookie running back Joe Moreno ’19. The All-Time NESCAC Championship tally still belongs to Trinity with six titles, but they are planning to make it seven. This will be no easy task with Middlebury and Amherst right in the way, two teams that Trinity so badly wants redemption against. If Trinity’s anticipative offense can make some magic happen, the defense will grind out games – and the Coop may find itself basked in glory for one last time before Jessee/Miller Field is torn down for a renovation project.

4. Wesleyan (5-3)

This team was runner-up last year, but they are not returning many starters. Running back LaDarius Drew ’15 poses a lethal threat to opposing defenses. The quarterback race is not over, but there seems to be looming promise in quarterback Gernald Hawkins ’18, who comes from a football-rich area in West Park, FL which borders Miami. They kick the season off against Middlebury – which feels like a loss already, but don’t count them out too soon because Hawkins is a wild card and may have the Panthers biting their nails.

5. Tufts (4-4)

Tufts is coming off a .500 season, and does not seem to have any answers for becoming a winning team. There is reason to lack confidence in their quarterback, Alex Snyder ’17, who was average in limited play last season. If he is able to find some mojo within him Tufts could potentially get five wins this season. The defense looks solid, and look for Chance Brady ’17 to be leading the offensive rush. Don’t count the Jumbos completely out, but it does not look like they will display much improvement this season.

6. Colby (2-6)

The only real surprise in this week’s Power Ranks, the Mules are projected for a 2-6 record but could rise to greater heights. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 has potential to make big strides this season, the two-headed monster at running back should be one of the league’s best, and a few of the returners on defense are real difference-makers.

7. Bates (3-5)

The Bobcats have some playmakers this year, but it is a matter of if they can pull it together in time. Quarterback Pat Dugan ’16 hopes to stay healthy this season, and he will have some good receivers to throw to and experience behind him in his running backs. This team has talented players, but it is unlikely they will find themselves with a winning record come the end of November. I think they will give teams a real run for their money and even give a scare to some of the top dogs in the conference, but Bates is likely to crumble in the big moments due to their inexperience.

8. Williams (2-6)

The Williams offense looks solid this season with some weapons at TE, in particular, and a solid O-line to protect Austin Lommen ’16, the Boston College transfer. Their defense is going to be young, so that will really hurt them and their offense is unlikely to put up enough points to cope with the raw defense.

9. Bowdoin (3-5) 

The Polar Bears are hoping for Trey Brown ’16 to come out of hibernation and make a big impact at running back. After three ACL injuries in three years and then spending a year as a student trainer, Brown could spell Tyler Grant ’17 for significant portions of time. Beyond their Boobie Miles project there are many spots up for grabs. The Polar Bears do feature a lot of depth on the O-line, which could allow for Brown and quarterback Tim Drakeley ’17 to do some damage. Bowdoin’s new coach JB Wells is looking to turn this program around, but it will be no walk in the park.

10. Hamilton (0-8)

Last in the ‘CAC a year ago, Hamilton is determined to not go all season without winning a game again. They may be looking at QB Brandon Tobin ’18 to switch up the offensive gears and make gallant decisions. LaShawn Ware ’18 will come back as running back and is expected to have a very good season. In general, the team is more focused than ever and may actually upset a few teams, and a realistic goal for them would to get to .500.


Just Don’t Call It a Rebuild: Bowdoin Season Preview

Running Back Tyler Grant '17 has the advantage of running behind an experienced line. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Running Back Tyler Grant ’17 has the advantage of running behind an experienced line. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Editor’s Note: Our other previews will look a little different than this one. With a new Head Coach at Bowdoin, we wanted to look a little more into the changes in Brunswick.
Additionally, while 99 percent of the work done in these previews is credited directly to the author, the projected records are a decision made solely by the editors, Adam and Joe. So if you don’t like it, blame us.

Projected Record: 3-5

Projected Offensive Starters

QB: Tim Drakeley ’17
RB: Tyler Grant ’17
FB: Tyler MacNeil ’18
WR: Dan Barone ’16
WR: Seamus Power ’16
TE: Bryan Porter ’18
LT: Kyle Losardo ’17
LG: Brian Mullin ’17
C: Matt Netto ’16
RG: Stephen Melgar ’16
RT: Jack Lucy ’17

Projected Defensive Starters

DE: Parker Mundt ’16
DT: Nadim Elhage ’16
DT: Dan Wanger ’17
DE: Latif Armiyaw ’18
LB: Branden Morin ’16
LB: Brendan Lawler ’16
LB/Rover: Bjorn Halvorson ’17
CB: Jibrail Coy ’16
CB: Alan Banks ’18
SS: Reeder Wells ’17
FS: Greg Thompson ’16


First-year coach JB Wells is not implementing a turn-around project for the football program; it is a realignment. “It has just been a change in our mentality rather than a change in our game plan,” said junior RB Tyler Grant. Beginning last spring, when he met his team for the time, Wells made it clear that he wanted to establish a level of consistency and a tradition of success. A change in culture was paramount to the goals he had in mind. The first phase had to do with establishing team standards and raising the expectations of every player.

“We have not necessarily made any big changes,” said senior captain Parker Mundt. “The things Coach Wells has stressed to the team have been extremely easy to get behind and have brought our team closer together”. The next phase focused on establishing core values.

“One thing that I thought was missing from the Bowdoin team culture was that they really didn’t know what they were all about,” said Wells. “I knew the guys really liked football, I think they liked what it was all about, but it was really one of those things that came down to finding out what [the team] is at its core – at its base level.”

Wells encourages a culture of mutual understanding. He wants Bowdoin football to have its own definitions of words like “passion, toughness, love, integrity, and tenacity”, defined not by the coaching staff but by the players themselves. In Wells’ mind, there is a stark contrast between process and outcomes; rather than looking at it as an eight game season, it should be looked at as a 365-day process.

“The goal is not to beat a rival or win the NESCAC; that’s an outcome,” said Wells. “Instead, focus on how you play rather than who you play, to make investments rather than sacrifices”.

The goal is to dominate the day and to develop unparalleled team chemistry. “It’s like building on sand. You need to sink things in as deep as you can,” Wells notes. “When that happens, you create a culture of achievement, and that’s what we’re trying to do here”.

Bowdoin starts its season with a blank slate and a battle at every position. “I don’t care what you’ve done up until this point, it’s what you do going forward,” said Wells. The Tufts scrimmage will be a good indicator of who will fall into leading roles, but there will be depth at every position.

Junior Tim Drakeley is the likely candidate to win the starting quarterback job, but sophomore Chad Carrera ’17 and two incoming freshmen are making the decision for Coach Wells a difficult one. It is unlikely that junior RB Tyler Grant ’17 will replicate the heavy load he carried last year with Wells’ new playbook and the re-emergence of senior Trey Brown. Grant rushed for 893 yards in 226 attempts and added 11 receptions for 77 yards. He finished with eight touchdowns, which was good for second among running backs, trailing only Chudi Iregbulem ’15 of Trinity. The Polar Bears have depth at WR this year led by seniors Dan Barone ’16, Kenny Skon ’16 and Seamus Power ’16.

Barone looks to perform at the same level he did last fall when he finished fifth in the NECAC in receptions (36) and averaged nearly 50 yards per game (48.8). Skon returns after missing all of last season due to back and knee injuries, and the 6’2”, 212-pound wide out will prove to be a valuable deep ball threat if he is able to stay healthy. A converted WR from QB, Power will play on the outside along with Liam Blair-Ford ’17 and the two will look to create more big plays in the passing game.

The only lock on the offensive line appears to be All-League center Matt Netto ’16, but seniors Jonathan Macat ’16 and Stephen Melgar ’16 and juniors Kyle Losardo ’17, Brian Mullin ’17 and Jack Lucy ’17 are expected to see a big bump in production. Tevin Montgomery ’18, a transfer from Boston College, is another player that will play a good amount on the line. Coach Wells has depth on the o-line, and he plans to take advantage of it throughout the season by rotating lineman.

Nadim Elhage '15 celebrates a tackle against Bates (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Nadim Elhage ’15 celebrates a tackle against Bates (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

The defense will showcase a 4-2-5 scheme, with a defensive line that is highlighted by captain DE Parker Mundt ’16 and senior DT Nadim Elhage ’16, the two unquestioned leaders of the defensive line this year. Seniors Branden Morin ’16 and Brendan Lawler ’16 will handle the inside LB duties, with junior Bjorn Halvorson ’17 returning as the OLB/rover. Senior Jibrail Coy ’16 will man one of the cornerback positions, with the other looking to be a battle between sophomores Henry Little ’18 and Alan Banks ’18. Coy turned in a noteworthy junior season, finishing with 44 total tackles, one interception, and eight broken up passes, which was tied for first in the NESCAC. Reeder Wells ’17 makes the transition from cornerback to safety and may be joined by converted senior wide receiver Greg Thompson ’16. Andrew Murowchick ’16 looks to continue his success as the team’s punter and sophomore Andrew Sisti ’18 hopes to pick up where he left off last year with the placekicking duties.

Other than the leadership and talent being put on display in training camp, Coach Wells considers the players’ efforts to do things right as the team’s greatest strength. As for the weaknesses, Wells cannot pinpoint any area of concern, not a particularly surprising thing for a coach to say. The cultural realignment that began last spring is paying dividends.

“Our team culture this year really revolves around accountability. If your teammates cannot hold you accountable to do the little things like knowing your role and doing your job, you will not survive on our team,” noted Mundt.

Training camp has been physical and competitive, and Wells can already see the Polar Bears building toward a level of consistency. They have come a long way and they are a much different team than they were last year. There is work still to be done, but the players and coaches are putting trust into the process and laying the foundation for a successful season. Like in every facet of life, the biggest obstacle will be consistency. “The biggest challenge for us will be to keep a level mindset throughout the entire season,” said Grant. “It is a short season so we have to maintain our focus and effort game in and game out”. When the Polar Bears take the field against the Williams Ephs on September 26, they  will showcase much of the same talent as last year, but this year they have a new weapon: unity.

Offensive MVP: QB Tim Drakeley ’17 – The Polar Bears are not going to run the ball as much this season as they did last fall. They had a meager one passing touchdown, and it was to fullback Jack Donovan ’15. All-League RB Tyler Grant will be an integral part of the team’s offense this fall, but with the return of Trey Brown, he will not be asked to carry the offense how he did last year. He’ll be put into space more often where he’ll be able to use his pass-catching ability and speed to his advantage, but in Coach Wells’ new regime, the Bears will showcase a more balanced offensive attack, and QB Tim Drakeley will be the driving force behind it all. In 2014, Drakeley played in only two games, but he showed flashes of promise, notably in his 13-24, 96-yard performance against an undefeated Amherst team. With an experienced offensive line, reloaded arsenal at WR, and a three-headed, pass-catching monster at RB in Tyler Grant, Trey Brown, and Garrett Thomas ’17, Drakeley is equipped for success. Fantasy owners should be buying high on the QB in his first full season under center.

Defensive MVP: Junior OLB/Rover Bjorn Halvorson – Coming off a season in which he finished third on the Polar Bears in total tackles (51), Halvorson looks to replicate and improve upon the success he had last fall. A safety in high school, he moved to outside linebacker at Bowdoin, and the junior is set to thrive under Wells’ new defensive scheme. The way the new Bowdoin defense is designed, Halvorson will be in the thick of it all. In the 4-2-5 alignment, he will be tasked with stopping short runs and covering the short passing zone. Expect the skilled defender to become a force in the NESCAC this year and see an increase in his totals from last season, especially in terms of big time plays like takeaways.

Biggest Surprise of Camp: When asked, Coach Wells was cagey about singling out a player who has excelled in camp. Wells did, however, have nothing but high praise for Nadim Elhage.

“Nadim is a hell of a defensive tackle,” said Wells. “He’s as good of a player as there is in the league”.

As he inherits a more expanded role after the Bears lost leading defensive tackle Jake Prince ’15 to graduation, there are high expectations for Elhage by his coaches, teammates, and himself. “I came to Bowdoin with really high expectations for myself and since I’ve been here I’ve felt like I haven’t come close to meeting those expectations,” Elhage said. “This summer and preseason I have worked incredibly hard to fulfill my potential and become the best player I can be”. His hard work has not gone unnoticed, as Elhage is described by senior captain Matt Netto as having come into camp “strong, quick, and in overall great shape”. In limited playing time last fall, Elhage recorded nine tackles and one broken up pass, but finished fourth on the team in sacks (1.5). We know what Elhage is capable of; it’s only a matter of time until number 98 breaks out. Check out his Twitter account if you don’t believe me.


Best Tweet of the Offseason:

Biggest Game: Colby, November 14 – If Bowdoin takes care of business from the start of the season until the finish, their biggest game may be the season finale against Colby College at home on November 14. It’s a short season, and the most important game is going to always be the next one, but if Bowdoin plays itself into a position to compete for a title, it will have stolen a couple surprise wins and the Polar Bears may be controlling their own fate when they take on Colby in the last game of the season. Even if Bowdoin is not in the championship fold by then, the Bears may be playing for the best record of the three Maine colleges and the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) crown. Last fall, the Polar Bears lost a 14-7 thriller to Colby in the last game of the season, resulting in a tie in the standings between the two schools. Also, in case you don’t remember what happened the last time these two played at Bowdoin…

Previewing the Player of the Year Races

If you have a better picture from the paper, by all means use that Joe
Matt Milano ’16 looks to defend his POY title (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Yesterday we tackled all the players who have a chance to rise from relative obscurity into stardom. Now it’s time to talk about the ones who already are big names and might take home the shiniest hardward at the end of the season.

Offensive Player of the Year Race

The question is whether a non-QB will be able to win this award. Eight of the last nine Offensive Player of the Year Awards have gone to a QB with Amherst’s Evan Bunker the only running back to win in 2011. In the six years from 2000-2005, non-QBs won the award in four of the six years.  As you will see below, among our five favorites, only one is a QB, Matt Milano ’16. Of course, Milano is the odds-on favorite to win the award provided he stays healthy, but if for some unforeseen reason he does not put up amazing statistics, there does not appear to be another QB ready to win the award. While it is possible someone like Austin Lommen ’16 (Williams) makes a big jump, it is probably Milano or bust in terms of QBs, so that is something to keep in mind.


Running Backs LaDarius Drew ’15/Lou Stevens ’17 (Wesleyan): Stevens enjoyed a strong end to the 2014 season to earn First Team All-NESCAC honors in 2014, and Drew was First Team All-NESCAC in 2013 before missing all of last year because of a foot injury so both of these guys are very talented. In the end, these two might be each other’s worst enemies. There are only so many carries to go around. However, in 2013 with Drew and Kyle Gibson ’15 splitting carries, Drew still finished second in the NESCAC in YPG. If these two were one player, LouDarius Drevens would be the favorite to win the award.

Tyler Grant '17 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Running Back Tyler Grant ’17 (Bowdoin): The league’s leading rusher from 2014, and the only player who averaged more than 100 YPG, Grant racked up an incredible amount of carries over eight games. He finished the year with 226 rushing attempts, 76 more than the next highest total by Trinity’s Chudi Iregbulem ’15! Grant surely will not run that much this year, but he could benefit from a more open scheme that will put him in space more often where he is best. Health is a definite concern after all of the carries a year ago. He was banged up for much of the offseason and is out of practice now, though he is expected to be fully healthy by the time Week 1 rolls around.

Matt Milano '16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 (Middlebury): Milano is the reigning co-Offensive Player of the Year (he split the award with Wesleyan QB Jesse Warren ’15 a year ago) so he is an obvious choice for this list. We are pretty sure that he will be starting Week 1 over transfer Jared Lebowitz ’17 because Milano has more experience with the offense. Make no mistake, Milano was amazing last year. After an uneven first start against Wesleyan, he threw 22 TDs against one INT over the final seven games of the season. He does have to play more consistently against the top defenses in the league, as he had average or subpar games against Wesleyan, Amherst and Williams. Middlebury will rely on him even more than they did last year with the team’s leading rusher from a year ago, Drew Jacobs ’18, out with a Lisfranc fracture.

Nick Kelly '17 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Running Back Nick Kelly ’17 (Amherst): Kelly entered 2014 splitting carries with Kenny Adinkra ’16, but with Adinkra injured for the final five games of the season, Kelly became the feature back. A tall back, Kelly is somewhat in the mold of a Derrick Henry from Alabama who possesses breakaway speed once he gets moving downhill. His 59-yard touchdown against Middlebury last year was the difference in that game, and he had a run of at least 20 yards in each of the first five games of the season. Kelly did struggle mightily down the stretch averaging less than 3.0 yards per carry in his final three games. He will also have to fight off a lot of talented backups including a healthy Adinkra.

Mark Riley '16 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Wide Receiver Mark Riley ’16 (Bates): Having a wide receiver from Bates, a school known for their triple option running attack on offense, as a preseason favorite for this award is unusual. Then you have to realize that Riley has the statistics to more than back up his inclusion. He led the league in receiving YPG and was second in catches. He has the speed to run past defenders and also runs good routes underneath. With no other clear passing option, he will have to overcome a lot of double teams. New QB Patrick Dugan ’16 is known as a good passer so I’m not worried about a big drop in targets for Riley. Winning this award as a wide receiver is hard, but Riley has a lot of the ingredients to make it happen.

Others to Watch: Wide Receiver Matt Minno ’16 (Middlebury), Quarterback Austin Lommen ’16 (Williams), Quarterback Sonny Puzzo ’17 (Trinity), Running Back Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 (Colby)

Defensive Player of the Year

The past winners of this award exhibit a lot more variety than the QB-heavy Offensive award, but the most common position to win it is linebacker because of the big tackle totals. This season there are more than a fair share of worthy competitors for DPOY, and we left off a lot of players who will make a run at it.

Jaymie Spears '16 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Cornerback Jaymie Spears ’16 (Amherst): The best corner in the NESCAC, no questions asked. A year ago Spears was second in the league with six interceptions, tied for first with eight pass breakups, and blocked two kicks, just because he can. One worry for Spears’ candidacy? That teams simply ignore his side of the field and target other receivers. You see that in the NFL for corners like Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis. NESCAC teams haven’t done that yet, but if Spears’ numbers drop precipitously it might be because he simply isn’t getting opportunities.

Mark Upton '17 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Linebacker Mark Upton ’17 Bates): The presence of multiple senior linebackers on Bates couldn’t keep Upton from racking up 84 tackles a year ago. Now, as the centerpiece of the Bates defense, he could have eye-popping numbers from the middle linebacker spot. He is more than just a steady player in the middle too. He led the league with four forced fumbles and had the most sacks on Bates with 3.5. A severe drop in the overall talent of the Bates defense could spell trouble for Upton, but he has a very good shot if he plays at a similar level to what he did last season.

Tim Patricia '16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Linebacker Tim Patricia ’16 (Middlebury). Patricia is just one of several Middlebury defenders who could make a run at this award. He gets the nod because of his job as the middle linebacker. He is nothing if not consistent with three NESCAC Second Team honors back-to-back-to-back years. Some might worry that Patricia has hit his ceiling as a player already, but he improved his play-making ability by doubling his TFL total from 2013 to 2014. Patricia’s greatest skill is a nose for the ball. He just knows how to make tackles. And even if he doesn’t win the award, one of his teammates, the Pierce bros (they’re not actually brothers), S Dan and LB Addison, just might.

Mike Stearns '17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Safety Mike Stearns ’17 (Tufts): Nobody had more solo tackles than Stearns’ 60 in 2014, and the fact that they came from the corner position makes it all the more impressive. Now at safety Stearns should have even more opportunities to make tackles. A great instinctive player, Stearns will be all over the field as a safety. Of worry is a significant tapering off of production as the year went along. He had only 18 tackles in his last four games. At safety, Stearns will have to show that he can make plays in the air and not just on the ground.

James Howe '16 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Defensive End James Howe ’16 (Williams): Joe and I talked about this in our video on Monday (Williams part begins at 3:40), but there is no bigger enigma than Howe entering this season. After totaling 10 sacks as a sophomore, he had zero all of 2014. He still had 38 tackles, a good amount for a defensive end, but a year ago I was ready to call Howe the JJ Watt of the NESCAC. I put him on this list because he obviously has the talent to make a ton of plays. He might not be quite as much of a focus for opposing offenses this season, which could give him more opportunities to get into the backfield.

Others to Watch: Linebacker Alex Daversa-Russo ’16 (Wesleyan), Safety Dan Pierce ’16 (Middlebury), Linebacker Addison Pierce ’17 (Middlebury), Linebacker Frank Leyva ’16 (Trinity), Linebacker Thomas Kleyn ’16 (Amherst)