My rants and insight into Colgate athletics and Patriot League sports

Thursday, August 10, 2006

2006 Patriot League Preview: #1 Colgate

Without any surprises to be sure...

#1 Colgate

Recent History

With five Patriot League titles in the past ten years and more wins over that time frame than any other league program, picking Colgate to win the Patriot League is hardly a risky bet. In what now has almost become a Colgate legend, back in 1996 head coach Dick Biddle took an 0-11 football program and made it into a winner; and has never looked back. Each year Colgate's a contender to win the whole thing, and following a flirtatious run at a national championship in 2003, the bar for success in Hamilton is raised higher ever year.

Off Season Developments

After years of stability, the winds of change finally rolled down Broad Street and shook up some of this Raider staff. The biggest name to go would be former offensive coordinator and associate head coach Mike Foley who spent 22 years at Colgate. Foley leaves for what one would assume would be his one shot at the big time with a gig at UConn coaching the offensive line. His loss would be followed closely by linebacker coach Bob Fraser heading to Rutgers. Fraser's impact on the Patriot League cannot be understated, as three out of the past four Defensive Players of the Year were players under his tutelage. Only time will tell just how much those two with a combined 31 years of coaching at Colgate will be missed.

Not surprisingly, Biddle promoted from within, naming longtime defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham to the associate head coach role and promoting coaching staple Dan Hunt from quarterbacks to offensive coordinator. There was additional shifting around as well, with Pinkham giving up his hold on the secondary for the linebackers and former All-American turned coach Kevin Bolis taking up the offensive line duties after handling the running backs.

For the first time in a while, there is also a facility development at Colgate to mention. In fact, a very large and noticeable facility development to mention, pictured at the right. Colgate's latest scoreboard in Andy Kerr Stadium catapults the Raiders into the 21st century with instant replay, sponsors and even yardage totals. Having walked around the stadium personally, it lends some weight to the far end zone and improves the overall look and feel of the stadium. Even if I wasn't an alum, I'd still say "Well done, Colgate".

Recruiting wise, the Class of 2010 rivals that of 2009 and puts two 'A' classes back to back for the Raiders. This season also saw the first online videos of the incoming recruits in the Patriot League, something that previously was left for the 'big boys' of I-AA like Montana. The videos are a great sneak peak at what could be in store in the years to come.

There is something for everyone in this class if you're a Colgate fan but the biggest stories are probably on both sides of the lines, where these young men could see some time starting this fall. The biggest spotlight probably shines on Kyle Poinsett and Zach Posey, both offensive lineman out of Florida. For the second year in a row, there is a good chance that a freshman could be starting on the offensive line this fall, and my bets would be on one of them. On the defensive line, more freshman may have an immediate impact on this program. Frank Vittorini, Juliues Barlay and Tyler Spencer could all be names to keep tabs on. David Ashton and Greg Hadley shine as linebackers of the future (no doubt pushing last year's touted recruits in this spot), and Wayne Moten could be the fastest defensive back seen in Maroon in a long time. Offensively, Tony Watts figures to find a way to touch the ball somehow, wide reciever Patrick Simonds could sneak his way in as the number 4 option this year, and Tulane transfer Ryan Meyers could have something to say about the quarterback position at Colgate before all is said and done.

2005 Schedule

Following last year's Central Connecticut State debacle, Colgate's opening game jinx cannot be underestimated. It doesn't get easier this year as instead of a supposed 'tune-up' game, the Raiders open with what could be the toughest opponent on their schedule, UMass in Amherst. This early test is followed by a four game homestand book ended by the Ivies. Dartmouth comes to town first, followed by Colgate's second ever NEC game against Monmouth. The league slate starts as Georgetown comes to town and then finally Princeton makes the long trip up Route 12 to end the month spent at Andy Kerr.

Although the homestand ends, the next game on tap is really just a short trip over hill and dale (and Deruyter) to Ithaca and Cornell for the final non-league game of the year. The Raiders head to the Bronx and Fordham before coming home to square off against last year's other co-champion, Lafayette. This key game is then followed by the second preseason key league game at Lehigh. Holy Cross makes that cold trip to Hamilton for Senior Day and then the Raiders try and erase embarrassing memories of 2004 with a road trip to Bucknell.

Season Outlook

Many of Colgate's preseason hopes lie in the offensive skill positions. Of any team in the Patriot League this fall, Colgate enjoys the biggest names returning back, starting with All-American tailback Jordan Scott. Last year the freshman emerged late in a Dartmouth loss and never let go of his starting position, running for a total of 1,364 yards and taking home the Patriot League Rookie of the Year award. If healthy he will be a Jamaal Branch-like workhorse for years to come for the Raiders, and every opposing defense will be gearing up to bring him down.

Scott is complimented by returning fifth-year and first team all-Patriot League quarterback Mike Saraceno. Saraceno was dogged by turnovers throughout the season, but still managed to throw for over 2,000 yards and twelve touchdowns. It probably goes without saying that the number one priority for #11 will be to make smarter decisions under fire.

When Saraceno's game is on, he will be looking to throw to arguably the strongest receiver corps of the league, headlined by Kenny Parker. Parker made the switch from running back to wide receiver in 2005 and ended up second in the Patriot League in touchdowns with seven. Parker's speed and scoring ability are balanced by the solid possession skills and deep ball threat of Erik Burke. Burke made a name for himself with some key catches in league contests such as Lafayette, Lehigh and Holy Cross. The Parker/Burke tandem is bolstered by sophomore David Morgan and by perhaps one of the strongest receiver recruiting classes in memory, with 6'6" Patrick Simonds, previously mentioned Moten (a threat to play both ways), 6'2" Ty Henry and 6'2" David Gongora all having potential to see some time this fall. Finally, one must not forget the presence of 6'5" Brent Dillingham at the tight end spot. Dillingham quietly ended the season fourth on the team in receptions, and his role will surely increase as he matures.

This talented group will operate behind a moderately experienced line, anchored by senior center Jake Sulovski. Sulovski is joined by a pair of sophomores who represent the future of Colgate football, tackle Steve Jonas and guard Richie Rosabella. Jonas earned the honors of being the first lineman to ever start under Dick Biddle and figures to be a fixture at the right tackle spot. Rosabella saw time at numerous spots last season and will likely settle in at right guard this year. The left side of the line will be interesting to watch, as there are a pair of seniors with playing experience looking to earn a starting position, as well as the Florida Freshman will be jockeying to be the next Steve Jonas.

With the sun shining on offense, there is a large shadow cast over the loss of the entire Colgate defensive line and two outstanding linebackers, including the 2005 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Jared Nepa. For any of these title dreams to come true, some currently unproven names will have to carry on the strong defensive tradition that defensive coordinator Pinkham has established. For the line, the one name you can pencil in is Pat Nolan. Nolan saw significant action and had one starting assignment. After Nolan though, it is anyone's guess as to who will step up. Do not be surprised to see some freshman seeing time here as well.

The linebackers do return David Wesley to the starting position, and the remaining two spots appear to be Mike Gallihugh and Eric Tupta. Tupta in particular will have many fans watching as he was tagged early as a blue chip recruit. If these three have any of Fraser's fingerprints on them, it is likely that it won't take long for them to carve out names for themselves away from the large shadow of Nepa, and Lukabu before him.

While untested on the front lines, the defensive backfield will be seasoned and proven and will add much needed support for the newcomers. Two year starter Geoff Bean leads the secondary from his strong safety position and garnered Preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors for the league. Bean's classmate and fellow safety Andrew Moore has started every game with Bean and will be helped by standout corner Cody Williams. The sole question to be answered will be in finding Cody's brother, Chris's, replacement. It could be nickel back Sam Breslin or even incoming freshman Moten that ends up winning the battle.

Both kickers return for the Raiders and while it is unlikely they will be called on to win any games for Colgate this fall, fans should feel confident that their team is in good hands.

Predicted Finish

First - by virtue of the least amount of unknowns and the biggest names coming back; specifically Dick Biddle and Jordan Scott. Dick Biddle has proven, time and time again, that he knows how to build teams, get the most from his players and, surprise, win, win, win. He seems to only get better each year, and all signs point to 2006 being no different. Jordan Scott splashed on the scene in the early part of 2005 and by the end of the season placed himself in line to be the next great Colgate running back. Put those two together, with a supporting cast of a capable all-league quarterback, talented receivers and somewhat experienced line, and the sky is the limit for this offense.

That of course has to be balanced by the sheer unknown on the defensive side of the ball. If it was Ed Pinkham that left for UConn and not Mike Foley, I would have picked this season a bit differently. But with his steady and experienced hand at the wheel, again, experience has proven that time and time again, a new defensive group is waiting in the wings to step up.
We just don't know their names yet.

The fairly safe bet in the league this year is that the Colgate offense can score enough points, and control the time of possession enough to overcome the changeover in defensive personnel. Of course it all comes down to execution, disregarding your own press, and perhaps most importantly, staying healthy; sitting behind a computer in August though, the preseason odds are that the Raiders have the best shot of bringing home the title in 2006.

Thanks for reading this year's preview. Be on the lookout for the first "Prognosticating" piece and the UMass scouting report!


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