My rants and insight into Colgate athletics and Patriot League sports

Friday, July 21, 2006

Next Installment of Preview

Just so people aren't wondering, the next installment of the Patriot League Preview will be up the first week in August. Yours truly will be away from a computer for the next 10 days... Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Scoreboard Pictures

A week late, but as promised here are some pictures I snapped of the new scoreboard when in Hamilton last weekend. I must say that I didn't find the scoreboard to be overpowering in any way. If anything, it surprised me with how much it elevated the overall look of Andy Kerr.

Standing on the visiting side, and looking at the Dunlap stands with this scoreboard in view, and you get the feeling like you're in a pretty serious football stadium. Now, we just need to take care of that visiting side...

Anyway, the pics. Enjoy!

The scoreboard in all its glory. Looks like Colgate Raider fans should be using Alliance Bank wherever possible. They are the big time advertisers on this scoreboard.

In rebuttal to some message board banter, here's the look from behind the scoreboard. The trees hide it very well, and it hardly takes away from any view of the valley.

This is from the top of the stairs leading to the Dunlap stands, right above the visitors half-time locker room.

Here are the Dunlap stands and the new scoreboard framed together. I think it anchors down that endzone pretty well and gives Andy Kerr some new 'heft' and clout!

This is from the visitors sideline. A wonderful view for opposing teams to watch replays of another Colgate touchdown!

And, in the interest of some equal opportunity, here is the new scoreboard for Van Doren field, home of the soccer teams. No video, but a nice upgrade nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

2006 Patriot League Preview: #3 Lehigh

#3 Lehigh

Recent History

With an established tradition that bespeaks of excellence, Lehigh University boasts one of the finest programs in all of I-AA. Through multiple faces on the field and multiple coaching staffs on the sidelines, the Mountain Hawks have earned the respect of the Patriot League and beyond. More often than not, when a team faces off against the Brown and White, they end up going home with a loss in hand.

To give the reader a sense of just how good Lehigh has been, fans in Bethlehem haven't seen at least eight wins in a season since 1997's 4-7 year. Year in and year out, Lehigh enjoys national rankings, league title contention and, as coaches soon find out, the pressure and expectations that go along with that success. The bar is set high for the Mountain Hawks, and most years, they come through.

Off Season Developments

In the third and final coaching change of the League, this off season Lehigh reached back to an earlier era of dominance by naming the former offensive coordinator under Kevin Higgins, Andy Coen as its 28th head coach. Coen, who was Penn's offensive coordinator when the head coaching call came, replaces now Elon head coach Pete Lembo.

Lembo, despite boasting a 44-14 record while directing the Mountain Hawks, was never really completely embraced by the Brown and White faithful. Dogged by comparisons to Higgins, his predecessor, and hurt by losing three out of the past four games to archrival Lafayette, Lembo looks to have decided to try his hand at a new situation.

With Coen at the helm, some new coordinators are in place. The good news is that these coordinators aren't really new to Coen. Offensive Coordinator Trey Brown followed Coen from Penn, having coached the wide receivers. The defense has been turned over to a familiar name in the Patriot League, David Kotulski. Kotulski was most recently at Holy Cross, but also spent significant time at Bucknell in the 1990's, as well as was their interim head coach for a season.

In a somewhat unusual situation, a large number of the coaches under Lembo have remained in Bethlehem. At last count five of Lembo's coaches will still be on the sidelines this fall for the Mountain Hawks. This is a bit of a double edged sword here; one could say that the lack of turnover will be good for the program. One could also say that if the fans weren't happy with Lembo, how happy will they be with essentially half of his staff still in place?

For recruiting in a short season, it sure looks like Coen knew what he wanted to do. Having worked at Lehigh before, it's pretty apparent that 'Air Lehigh' will not be going away anytime soon when one counts six wide receivers and a tight end in a class. There is a heavy focus on the skill positions as well as on linebackers, where six players as well were snagged. With almost half the class coming in as either a linebacker or a wide receiver, the remaining spots are sprinkled across the positions.

2005 Schedule

The 2006 schedule continues what's been a fairly formulaic (and good) list of opponents. The slate opens with an NEC team, then an A-10 team, there are several Ivy opponents and then the league schedule. It doesn't get any more clear cut than that.

This year's home opener is newly 'scholarshiped' NEC foe Albany who will be looking to make a statement as they press their case for dropping the 'mid-major' label. The Mountain Hawks will then look to notch an important A-10 win against regional rival Villanova down in Philly. They then take on two of the most storied programs of all time, Harvard and Yale; Havard in the cozy confines of Goodman Stadium and Yale on the road.

The 'Harvard-Yale-Princeton' triumvirate is broken up by the start of league play against Georgetown down in D.C. before Lehigh completes the trifecta on the road.

With more than half the season under their belts, Coen and company's attention then shifts squarely to the main task at hand: the Patriot League Championship. Bucknell makes the first trip to Bethlehem, with a revenge game against Holy Cross breaking up Colgate and Fordham's trip to the Lehigh Valley. The season ends, as it always does, against the Lafayette Leopards. This one is the 142nd and it will be the first in the newly renovated Fisher Field.

Season Outlook

While some important names return this fall, some equally important ones have graduated. The undisputed heart of this offense will be junior quarterback Sedale Threatt. Threatt possesses a Randall Cunningham type athletic ability that showed from the start after he took over for injured Mark Borda. While not truly a running quarterback, he will be a one man threat to score at any time and will require plenty of attention from opposing defenses. The real key in this writer's opinion will be how strong his supporting cast is.

While not afraid to run the ball, for as long as I can remember Lehigh has been known for its passing attack. Having graduated a small army of senior receivers, the main focus now shifts to senior wide receiver Lee Thomas. Thomas averaged about 41 yards per game and scored three times for the Mountain Hawks in 2005 and is the only established receiver Threatt will be able to turn to. After him, it's wide open. It may turn out as it often has n the past that there are horses in the stable ready to run this fall. Their ability to provide Threatt with some targets will be a key aspect of this season's potential.

When deciding not to tuck it and run himself, on rushing plays Threatt will hand off to two familiar faces in seniors Greg Fay and Marques Thompson. While neither were the feature back last season, both have proven to be adequate when their number is called. There are a few players in line that are waiting for a chance to prove themselves in the Lehigh backfield, in particular a pair of transfers:Matt McGowan (Richmond) and Josh Pastore (Kent State) are both potential names that we might know by the end of the season.

Threatt's line is a mixed bag, as while returning some good experience in a trio of seniors (Jim Petruccelli, John Reese and Jason Russell), he also loses two all-league lineman that must be replaced. Apparently sophomore Kevin Bayani will most likely step into a starting role, and at 6'4" and 300 lbs., Lehigh fans should be happy to see a big boy like that impress the coaches.

The vaunted Lehigh defense will be, for the fourth time in four years, operating under a new defensive coordinator. Returning six starters on defense will certainly help Kotulski maintain the tradition of excellence for the Mountain Hawks, but there will certainly be some questions that need answering. In addition, the move to a 3-4 defense will be an interesting one to watch.

Leading this defensive unit will be fifth year senior Royce Morgan, an all-league performer on the line. The line will probably be Lehigh's strongest defensive element as Morgan is joined by experienced seniors Paul Fabre and Eric Rakus.

The news isn't so good on the linebackers, as Lehigh's two top tacklers are lost to graduation. There is some movement from line to linebacker with the new 3-4, so senior Matt Mohler will likely be the anchor of this corps. On the inside, Micah Greene seems to be the solid choice to start. After that though, it appears to be anyone's guess.

Much like the linebackers, the defensive backfield will an unknown quantity this year. Gone are the services of two all-league defensive backs this year. With the cornerback tandem of Brannan Thomas and Julian Ahye in place to defend the pass, the safety positions are where the Mountain Hawks need to get up to speed. The good news is that the likely starters, senior Julian Austin and junior Ernie Moore, saw significant action last season.

A familiar name on punt duties, sophomore Jason Leo will now be asked to add placekicking to his resume this fall. Leo, a solid punter, nailed a 45 yarder against Georgetown last season. I think Lehigh's in safe hands here.

Predicted Finish

3rd. With a program like Lehigh's, it is wise to never consider them out of the battle for first place and the coveted autobid of the Patriot League. The only thing holding back their ranking is the lack of proven offensive targets for Threatt and the unknown head coaching ability of Andy Coen. Compare that with what the teams remaining to be ranked are bringing back in players and coaches, and the slight nod goes elsewhere. That said, this could certainly be a championship season for the Mountain Hawks.

This season will be one that tests the strength of the Lehigh program. Villanova, while down, is still a formidable opponent. Of all the Ivy teams to schedule, Harvard, Yale and Princeton are probably the toughest trio. Albany will sell its soul to the devil for a win. Finally, with Colgate and Lafayette flexing their muscles and the other three Patriot teams eagerly looking for a chance to knock off a big dog with a new coach, there will be no rest for the weary here. Week in and week out, Lehigh is going to have to perform at its best in order to bring home the crown.

They can do it, but it will only happen if some unknown players on offense and defense emerge to compliment Threatt and Morgan, respectively. Place your bets folks!

Monday, July 10, 2006

2006 Patriot League Preview: #4 Fordham

Sorry for the delay in this release. Yours truly experienced some 'technical difficulties' and is now in the market for a new Mac! As promised, here's the next installment, in an almost déjà vu fashion...

#4 Fordham

Recent History

Most Fordham fans would probably like to forget 'recent' history and prefer to remember the Fordham of 'not so long ago', as the two year reign of Ed Foley came to an abrupt end last season after an uninspired 2-9 campaign followed a 5-6 debut. Foley took the program over after current Richmond Spider coach Dave Clawson brought the Rams to the upper echelon of Division I-AA and a first round playoff win in 2002. After the 2005 season, those days of 2002 seem like a long, long ways away.

These past two years have probably been very difficult for the Fordham Faithful. The successes under Clawson brought one of college football's most historic programs back to the top so to speak after a long period of making the difficult transition from a discontinued program, to Division III and then finally to the highest level of playoff football in the land, I-AA. With the transition to a new staff this winter, Ram spirits are once again running high for a return to their place among the pantheon of college football.

Off Season Developments

Out with Foley, in with Masella; Tom Masella that is. Masella is a long time coaching veteran whose most recent spot was as head coach of Central Connecticut State of the NEC. That's right, he's the coach of CCSU who made headlines last September with one of the biggest upsets in recent I-AA history when his Blue Devils took down Colgate in Hamilton on a last second field goal. His resume also includes defensive coordinator credits at multiple playoff schools such as UMass and Boston University (yes youngsters, they once had I-AA football) as well as a head coaching stint at BU that was undermined by the elimination of the program. Ladies and gentleman of the Patriot League, take notice. Fordham's got themselves a gem here.

Masella has surrounded himself with a familiar staff as well, as pretty much the entire CCSU staff has moved over to Rose Hill. The staff is headlined by former Colgate coach and standout player Ed Argast as Offensive Coordinator. Argast held this position under Masella at CCSU as well. His defensive coordinator counterpart is Frank Forcucci, who has also been with Masella at both CCSU and UMass. So basically, if in two years CCSU can become a team that can beat Colgate with a 'mid-major' football budget, it should be exciting to watch what he can do with the resources and the name of Fordham University.

In almost as equally important news for the upcoming season, Masella was given probably the biggest gift he could ask for: three impact seniors were granted 5th year's of eligibility. League standouts James Prydatko at running back, Marcus Taylor at linebacker and Jay Edwards on the defensive line will all get a chance to end their college careers on a higher note.

Masella's first recruiting class includes: sure to be sentimental favorite Tommy Martin at defensive back, who claims 4.5 40 yard speed; potential quarterback of the future John Skelton; Skelton will have some talented beef on the line to work behind too, as Tom Porto, Amen Igbinosun and Robby Reis all weigh in over three bills and stand north of 6'2" and all have considerable post season accolades to their credit. They are also joined on the line by one of the better names in I-AA recruting this year, Frank "Get Me Brett Weir I Said" Rizzo.The linebacking duo of James Crockett and Asil Mulbah looks to have a lot of potential as well.

2006 Schedule

The schedule this fall is clearly one built to hopefully get this new team some confidence back. Gone from the schedule are any A-10 teams or Ivy teams not named Columbia. Consequently, anything less than a winning season will probably not go over well in the Bronx.

Fordham starts the year with some familiar faces for the coaching staff: Monmouth at home and Albany up the Thruway are both teams from the NEC conference that Masella and company just left. This game is then followed by cross-city Ivy rival Columbia and then a week off to prepare for the first Patriot League contest of the year, Holy Cross in Worcester.

This is followed by a solid homestand consisting of Duquesne, Marist for Homecoming and Colgate for Family Weekend. The remaining league slate closes out with a home and away alternation: Bucknell on the road, Lafayette at home, Lehigh on the road, Georgetown at home. That middle is a tough lump to swallow.

With the NEC awarding scholarships now, perhaps some of the 'mid-major' stigma will go away; but for now, with four out of five out of conference games coming up against so called mid-majors and the other one coming against perennial Ivy doormat Columbia, Fordham will not get any points for strength of schedule.

Season Outlook

Despite a 2-9 record last year, there should be plenty to be optimistic about for the Rams, starting with the offense. James Prydatko proved himself as one of the best running backs in the Patriot League last year and he gets another chance to do it again this fall. Under Masella, I expect the number 23 to be called often; there is no doubt in my mind we should see another 1,000+ yard season for the hard nosed kid from Mt. Sinai.

Derric Daniels returns at the quarterback helm to redeem a 2005 season that can only be described as disappointing. After setting records as sophomore, his junior year production plummeted completing only six touchdowns compared to 2004's 23. If Daniels can rebound, just keep this thought in the back of your mind: he's
got a fifth year of eligibility if he wants it.

Daniels does enjoy the return of his leading receiver, Mike Melvin. While far from the production of some of the receivers under Clawson, Melvin and Sylvester Clarke do offer Daniels two competent targets to keep opposing defenses honest and not keying totally on Prydatko.

These skill players will test their might behind a line that supposedly returns three starters, Ricky Bencivenni, Mike Breznicky and Justin Sarabeaz. I say supposedly, because Breznicky is not appearing on the current roster despite mention in the spring prospectus. Something is amiss here.

Like Prydatko on offense, Marcus Taylor on defense will be the anchor on which this team will need to rest on. Taylor is a very talented linebacker that in the game I saw first hand played with plenty of heart and never quit despite being down 23 points with little time left to play in a what was at that point a winless season. I can only imagine what success he might have if put into a different situation.

In even better news, Taylor will be joined by returning starters Josh Jenrette, Louis Woodland and Ryan Kleve. Woodland filled in for Kleve after he went down with an injury, so there is plenty of depth coming back for this crew - although Woodland is absent from the roster on line as well...

The defensive line gets a huge boost by the return of All-Patriot League second teamer Jay Edwards. Edwards could really have a breakout year this fall. Linemate Eduardo Boza is back as well to give this line even more experience.

The defensive backfield though, will be rebuilding as free safety Carl Garritano is the lone returnee for the Rams. Of those fighting for playing time, cornerback Bruce Lee (another great name for I-AA) looks to be the surest bet as he saw plenty of time last season.

Special teams for the Rams will enjoy the return of probably the best placekicker in the league, Micah Clukey. Clukey was perfect on point after attempts and banged home almost 64% of his field goals. His foot could be the difference between a season that is and a season that almost was. The punting duties will be up the air as another league standout, Anthony DiFino, has graduated.

Predicted Finish

Fourth. Fordham is rebuilding without a doubt, but boy do they ever have some things going for them. If this doesn't sound like a recipe for a turn around, I don't know what is:

  • A solid and proven head coach taking over with a staff he's been with before

  • One of the hardest working running backs in the league (who also ran for more than 1,000 yards)

  • Probably the preseason best linebacker in the league (maybe one of the better ones in the country)

  • A quarterback who showed promise before and may just need a kick in the pants

  • Returning starters on both lines and sprinkled elsewhere

  • A clutch placekicker

  • Finally, a bit of a padded schedule to get the team and the staff on the same page before the bulk of the league games start

Frankly, Fordham is the dark horse team of the Patriot League this year. Their situation is not nearly as dire as you might think a team coming off two wins would be. I think this season comes down to how quickly Masella can take control of the program and get the results he's looking for. Based on his quick turn around of CCSU, he could do that sooner rather than later.

Fordham's got experience, talent, a favorable schedule and a new attitude. While it remains to be seen just how high they can go this year, don't be surprised if they win a big game or two. A bounce here or there and this team could be right in the thick of the title hunt come November; however until they can beat any of the next three teams to be ranked, they're still on the outside looking in. For now.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Andy Remains a Duck

Looks like Andy McDonald will be the newest person in the Development office crosshairs, as he just signed a three year deal with Anaheim worth (hold your breath hockey fans) $9.9 million. Called "one of their top offensive players", McDonald continues to make Colgate proud. So, take note all of you Colgate hockey recruits: you can make it big in the NHL by coming to Colgate. The bonus deal is you also get a great education. The double bonus is now, it can also be for free!