My rants and insight into Colgate athletics and Patriot League sports

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.


  • Counting Mesalla, there are four former UMass guys coaching at Fordham. You know they gotta get better :)

    By Blogger UMass74, at 3:01 PM  

  • Ha! I feel the Colgate/Fordham rivalry growing in intensity already from the 2003 UMass connection!

    By Blogger colgate13, at 3:57 PM  

  • Excellent preview and based on my single game observation, you are right on the mark. The two Hoya PL wins last season were both very close. The difference was that in their win against Fordham, I was not convinced that the better team won.

    While I won't root for the Rams when Georgetown visits, I would love to see them succeed and make it a miserable season for those few Fordham detractors who seem to post their venom all over the place. Good luck, Fordham.

    By Blogger LBPop, at 9:58 PM  

  • Excellent job. When I watched the Lehigh/Fordham game last year I saw a lot of talent wearing maroon; but it was evident there was no spark and a majority of the players were 'going through the motions.' The key will be Masella getting the players' heads straightened out. If that happens, look out.

    By Blogger Ngineer, at 11:52 PM  

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