By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Ivy League football coaches like to play off the idea that there's parity within the Ancient Eight.
You know the old familiar lines - that they're recruiting from within the same small pool of high school players, the talent level is close and that on any given Saturday ...
Of course, it's easy to say that in August and September. Try checking the league standings in November.
Penn and Harvard usually stand out, having won 10 of the last 13 Ivy titles. And it's unlikely to change this season as both powers return excellent talent.
Penn rolled to the title last season behind a defense that led the Football Championship Subdivision in scoring defense (9.5 pg) and total defense (217.6 ypg). The Quakers allowed only 21 points in their final five games, squashing Harvard, 17-7, along the way in a much-anticipated game in Cambridge, Mass.
Penn's offense comes back stronger than the defense this season, but no Ivy offense appears as powerful as Harvard's, which abounds with depth. The Crimson, who have to travel to Philadelphia on Nov. 13 for another potential Ivy championship game with Penn, was picked first in the league's preseason media poll ahead of the Quakers.
"Offensively, I feel pretty good about where we're positioned," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "We're certainly a lot deeper than we've been and a lot more experienced than where we've been.
"We have some good players back on defense. We think we can build around 'em. I'm not sure we're going to be the same defensive team or should expect to be the same defensive team as we were in the past. But my hope is we're going to be a little bit better on offense and maybe take some pressure off that defensive side."
"The good news from the 2009 season was we came within a couple of plays of winning our third straight Ivy League championship," said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. "We also had a chance to have our ninth straight year of at least a 70-percent winning percentage, which we're really proud of - that consistency. But I think the bad news was, we just weren't quite tough enough, physical enough and good enough to beat the very best couple teams on our schedule. We set the bar high and that's what our intentions are, to try to get back to get back to that position this year."
Since Phil Estes became Brown's head coach in 1998, the Bears have been the most consistent threat to the Harvard-Penn dominance. The Bears shared the 1999 title with Yale, won an outright league championship in 2005 and shared the 2008 title with Harvard. The Bears were picked third in the preseason poll, but have to overcome key graduation losses.
The Ivy League, which doesn't send its champion to the FCS playoffs, has two new head coaches in Cornell's Kent Austin and Princeton's Bob Surace.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2010 Ivy League race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
1. Penn 2. Harvard 3. Brown 4. Dartmouth 5. Yale 6. Princeton 7. Columbia 8. Cornell
Offensive Player of the Year: Collier Winters, QB, Harvard
Defensive Player of the Year: Collin Zych, FS, Harvard
1. PENN QUAKERS (8-2 overall; 7-0 Ivy League)
COACH: Al Bagnoli (122-56 in 18 seasons at Penn; 208-75 in 28 overall seasons)
STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (8 offense/4 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Lyle Marsh, So. (112 carries, 526 yards, 2 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Zach Heller, Sr. (55 TT, 9 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Keiffer Garton, Sr. (43 of 64 for 400 yards, 4 TDs and 3 INTs; 59 carries, 150 yards, 1 TD) QB Billy Ragone, So. (3 of 4 for 17 yards and 1 INT; 10 carries, 66 yards, 1 INT) RB/KR Matt Hamscher, Sr. (50 carries, 203 yards) RB Mike DiMaggio, Sr. (47 carries, 123 yards) FB Luke DeLuca, Sr. (29 carries, 101 yards, 5 TDs) WR Matt Tuten, Sr. (29 receptions, 379 yards, 2 TDs) WR/CB/RS Bradford Blackmon, Sr. (36 carries, 204 yards, 1 TD; 24 receptions, 171 yards, 1 TD; 25.4-yard KO return average; 10.6-yard punt return average) WR David Wurst, Sr. (11 receptions, 126 yards) LT Greg Van Roten, Jr. LG Luis Ruffolo, Sr. C Joe D'Orazio, Sr. RG Drew Luongo, Sr. RT Jared Mollenbeck, Sr. DE Brian Levine, Sr. (43 TT, 9 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF) DT Jared Sholly, Jr. (12 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FR) NG Brian Wing, Sr. (10 TT, 2.5 sacks) LB Erik Rask, Jr. (42 TT, 10.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 blocked kick) FS Josh Powers, Sr. (52 TT, 1 INT, 4 PBU) SS Fred Craig, Jr. (14 TT, 1 FR) CB Anthony Marino, So. (7 TT) CB David Twamley, So. (19 TT) PK Andrew Samson, Sr. (11 of 21 FG, 45 long; 25 of 25 PAT) P Scott Lopano, So. (37.5-yard punt average)
OUTLOOK: Emotionally, the Quakers are dealing with the suicide of co-captain Owen Thomas in April, but Bagnoli likes Penn's chemistry and feels that the tragic event can bring the team closer. He has won seven outright Ivy League titles, and this could be his first back-to-back champions since the 2002 and '03 campaign. Those teams had dominant offenses, and after the Quakers were led by their defense last year, their offense will guide the way this season. They have the league's best offensive line and quality depth in the offensive backfield, with QB Garton, RB Marsh and FB DeLuca the expected starters. The defense suffered important losses, including the Ivy League's co-MVP, LB Jake Lewko. The Quakers still have excellent linebackers in Heller and Rask, and the d-line is always tough against the run because of the Quakers' 5-2 scheme. Powers is the only returning starter in the secondary. Samson already is 10th in league history with 34 field goals. The two big dates on the schedule are a visit to Villanova (Sept. 25) and a home game against rival Harvard (Nov. 13).
2. HARVARD CRIMSON (7-3 overall; 6-1 Ivy League)
COACH: Tim Murphy (104-55 in 16 seasons at Harvard; 136-100-1 in 23 overall seasons)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Collier Winters, Sr. (156 of 272 for 1,861 yards, 15 TDs and 7 INTs; 121 carries, 295 yards, 3 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: FS Collin Zych, Sr. (73 TT, 6 TFL, 2 INTs, 12 PBU, 2 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Andrew Hatch, Sr. (sat out last season after transfer from LSU) TB Gino Gordon, Sr. (114 carries, 632 yards, 8 TDs; 23 receptions, 195 yards, 1 TD) TB Treavor Scales, So. (108 carries, 485 yards, 5 TDs) WR Chris Lorditch, Sr. (30 receptions, 545 yards, 5 TDs) WR/RS Marco Iannuzzi, Sr. (22 receptions, 233 yards, 1 TD; 22.9-yard KO return average; 6-yard punt return average) WR Adam Chrissis, Jr. (22 receptions, 210 yards, 1 TD) TE Nicolai Schwarzkopf, Sr. (12 receptions, 174 yards, 1 TD) TE Kyle Juszczyk, So. (11 receptions, 124 yards, 3 TDs) LT Kevin Murphy, Jr. LG Ben Stabler, Jr. RG Brent Osborne, Sr. DE Ryan Burkhead, Sr. (21 TT, 3 sacks in 2008; injured last season) DE Ben Graeff, Jr. (4 TT) DE Victor Ojukwu, Jr. (13 TT, 1 FF) DT Josue Ortiz, Jr. (35 TT, 9 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FF) DT Chuks Obi, Sr. (31 TT, 3 sacks, 2 PBU) OLB Nick Hasselberg, Sr. (31 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 3 FR, 1 FF) MLB Alex Gedeon, Jr. (18 TT, 3 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 blocked kick) CB Matthew Hanson, Jr. (31 TT, 7 PBU) CB Brian Owusu, So. (11 TT, 2 INTs, 2 PBU) SS Anthony Spadafino, Sr. (18 TT, 1 INT) SS Dan Minamide, Jr. (30 TT, 4 PBU) PK/P Jacob Domrowski, So. (35.2-yard punt average)
OUTLOOK: During the 2000s, the Crimson's .768 winning percentage trailed only Montana in the FCS. But they fell short of winning a fifth Ivy League title in the decade by falling to Penn in Cambridge, Mass., last November. The Crimson should be rolling when they head into their rematch with the Quakers on Nov. 13. The Crimson's offense should be explosive behind dual-threat QB Winters, who has been pushed by one-time LSU starter Hatch. Winters, who earned second- team all-league honors last season, will get the ball to a plethora of receivers and the No. 3 (Gordon) and 4 (Scales, Ivy Rookie of the Year) rushers in the league last season. Murphy thinks the defensive line could be the strength of the team, but the defensive leader is FS Zych, who gets all over the field. Their defense always does an incredible job racking up sacks and turnovers. The senior class is 19-2 in Ivy games and has its sights on a third league title in four years.
3. BROWN BEARS (6-4 overall; 4-3 Ivy League)
COACH: Phil Estes (72-47 in 12 seasons at Brown)
STARTERS RETURNING: 7 (5 offense/2 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero, Sr. (259 of 413 for 2,709 yards, 18 TDs and 14 INTs; 65 carries, 144 yards, 2 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: CB A.J. Cruz, So. (57 TT, 3 INTs, 9 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: WR Matt Sudfeld, Sr. (29 receptions, 205 yards, 1 TD) WR Alex Tounkaras, Jr. (injured last season) TE Alex Presley, Sr. (14 receptions, 146 yards, 1 TD) RB Zack Tronti, Sr. (133 yards, 564 yards, 2 TD) FB Jackson Freeman, So. LT Patrick Conroy, Sr. RG/C Brian Ellixson, Sr. RT John Cook, Sr. DT Joseph Rettig, Jr. (10 TT) DT John Anderson, Sr. (8 TT, 3.5 TFL) DE Clay McGrath, Jr. (12 TT, 3 TFL in 2008; injured last season) ILB Andrew Serrano, Sr. (32 TT, 2 TFL) ILB Chimso Okoji, Sr. (5 TT) OLB Robert Gillet, Sr. (31 TT, 4 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU) OLB Phil Roffi, Sr. (20 TT) OLB Shane Cooney, Jr. (27 TT, 2 TFL) CB Russel Leedy, Sr. (15 TT, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FF) S Steve Peyton, Sr. (6 TT, 1 FR) S Patrick Pakan, Jr. (4 TT) PK Nate Meyer, So. P Nate Lovett, Jr. (39.9-yard punt average)
OUTLOOK: The offense has to overcome the loss of All-Ivy WRs Buddy Farnham and Bobby Sewall, but the defense actually has more to overcome this season. It's probably asking too much for a team with the fewest returning starters in the league to be in the Ivy title race. At the forefront is All-Ivy QB Newhall- Caballero, who ranked second in the FCS with 25.9 completions per game last season. At least he can rely on RB Tronti, who might have been on his way to the Ivy rushing title until he missed the final 2 1/2 games with an ACL tear. RB Spiro Theodhosi (423 yards), who replaced Tronti, was lost to an ACL tear during spring practices. Defensively, graduation day wasn't kind as DT David Howard, DE James Develin and a host of Bears were lost. Lockdown CB Cruz enjoyed a huge freshman season and will be a premier player. The other returning starter is Roffi. It's not like the early-season schedule provides a cushion because Brown opens against Stony Brook (Sept. 18) and Harvard (Sept. 25) and then plays three straight road games.
4. DARTMOUTH BIG GREEN (2-8 overall; 2-5 Ivy League)
COACH: Buddy Teevens (35-63-2 in 10 seasons at Dartmouth; 69-140-2 in 20 overall seasons)
STARTERS RETURNING: 19 (9 offense/10 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Nick Schwieger, Jr. (139 carries, 626 yards, 2 TDs; 8 receptions, 44 yards)
DEFENSIVE STAR: CB/RS Shawn Abuhoff, Jr. (41 TT, 4 TFL, 3 INTs, 11 PBU, 2 FF, 1 blocked kick; 25.2-yard KO return average; 8.6-yard punt return average)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Conner Kempe, Jr. (101 of 196 for 1,031 yards, 7 TDs and 6 TDs) RB Greg Patton, So. (17 of 28 for 262 yards and 1 TD; 68 carries, 317 yards, 2 TDs) WR Michael Reilly, Jr. (38 receptions, 498 yards, 4 TDs) WR Tanner Scott, Sr. (45 receptions, 510 yards, 3 TDs) WR Tim McManus, Sr. (60 receptions, 637 yards, 3 TDs in 2008; injured last season) WR Garrett Babb, Jr. (12 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD) TE John Gallagher, Jr. (30 receptions, 288 yards, 1 TD) C Austen Fletcher, Jr. LT Will Montgomery, Sr. LG Ryan O'Neill, Jr. RG Kyle Cook, Jr. RT Brock Middleton, Jr. DE Charles Bay, Sr. (49 TT, 8 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FR, 2 FF) DE Connor Phillips, Jr. (16 TT, 3 TFL, 1 FR, 1 FF, 1 blocked kick) DE Marlon Alebiosu, Sr. (27 TT, 2 PBU in 2008; sat out last season) DT Eddie Smith, Jr. (32 TT, 2 sacks, 1 blocked kick) DT Mark Dwyer, Jr. (26 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks) DE Matt Oh, Sr. (24 TT, 4 TFL, 1 blocked kick) MLB Garrett Wymore, So. (63 TT, 2 PBU, 1 FF) OLB Diego Fernandez-Soto, Jr. (63 TT, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF) OLB Pat Scorah, Sr. (64 TT, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF) OLB Alex Johns, Sr. (30 TT) SS Garrett Waggoner, So. (38 TT, 2 PBU, 1 FR) FS Anthony Diblasi, Jr. (27 TT, 1 INT) CB/RS J.B. Andreassi, Jr. (51 TT, 1 INT, 7 PBU; 22.1-yard KO return average; 5.2-yard punt return average) PK Foley Schmidt, Jr. (6 of 9 FG, 40 long) P Matthew Kelly, Sr. (35.6-yard punt average)
OUTLOOK: Not only do the Big Green return the most starters in the league, but they may start only four seniors. They have excellent junior and sophomore classes. Having ended a 17-game losing streak and been competitive in most Ivy games last season, they seek a big improvement in year six of Teevens' second stint as their head coach. He has brought in two new coordinators (Jim Pry, offense, and Don Dobes, defense). The Big Green expect to move the ball all season. Schwieger won the Ivy rushing title despite missing nearly three games, Kempe is a seasoned QB and they have the league's deepest group of receivers with Scott, Reilly, McManus and Gallagher. Also, Patton, who surpassed Schwieger's school rushing record by one yard with 243 against Cornell, has been switched from quarterback to running back. With a more relaxed non-conference schedule, the defensive numbers should improve considerably after the Big Green allowed 421.9 yards and 28.6 points per game last season. LB Wymore led all Ivy freshmen with 63 tackles, and DE Bay and CB Abuhoff are playmakers. This will be at least the Big Green's best season since going 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the league in 2003.
5. YALE BULLDOGS (4-6 overall; 2-5 Ivy League)
COACH: Tom Williams (4-6 in one season at Yale)
STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (8 offense/6 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Patrick Witt, Jr. (138 of 241 for 1,449 yards, 8 TDs and 11 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: CB/RS Adam Money, Sr. (43 TT, 3 INTs, 1 PBU, 2 FR, 3 FF; 22.9- yard KO return average; 8.1-yard punt return average)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Brook Hart, Sr. (71 of 118 for 750 yards, 4 TDs and 5 INTs) TB Alex Thomas, Jr. (72 carries, 286 yards, 2 TDs; 14 receptions, 70 yards) TB Mordecai Cargill, So. (73 carries, 236 yards) FB/HB Shane Bannon, Sr. WR Jordan Forney, Sr. (30 receptions, 320 yards, 3 TDs) WR/RS Chris Smith, So. (18 receptions, 233 yards, 1 TD; 23.3-yard KO return average) WR/RS Gio Christodoulou, Sr. (5 receptions, 35 yards; 23.7-yard KO return average) TE Caleb Smith, Sr. C Jake Koury, Sr. LT Alex Golubiewski, Sr. LT John Pedersen, Sr. LG Gabe Fernandez, Jr. OL Nathan Burow, Sr. DE Tom McCarthy, Sr. (29 TT, 6 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF, 1 blocked kick) DT Joe Young, Sr. (24 TT, 2 sacks) DL Jake Stoller, Jr. (10 TT) LB Dan Walsh, Sr. (21 TT, 4 TFL, 1 FF) LB Jordan Haynes, Jr. (28 TT, 2 sacks, 1 blocked kick) CB Drew Baldwin, Jr. (39 TT, 2 INTs, 4 PBU, 1 FC) FS Geoff Dunham, Jr. (54 TT, 4 PBU, 1 FR) SS Marcus Wallace, Sr. (25 TT, 1 INT) PK Alex Barnes, Sr. (4 of 6 FG, 47 long)
OUTLOOK: The fake punt deep in Yale territory that helped lead to the Bulldogs' 14-10 loss to Harvard in "The Game" still hangs over Williams' first season in New Haven, Conn. For most of the season, it was the rotating of quarterbacks that defined the team. Williams appears committed to playing Witt, the Nebraska transfer who was inconsistent last season but is highly talented. RB Thomas could have a breakout season and Cargill performed well as a freshman behind an offensive line which solidified by season's end. The Bulldogs often have aggressive, stingy defenses, and this season shouldn't be different. In an experienced secondary, Money lives up to his name as an all-league cornerback. The defensive line features DT McCarthy and DT Young, but won't have DT Pat Moran (injury) and DE Sean Williams, who each have a season of eligibility remaining. A Yale upset of Penn on Oct. 23 could open up the league race. At the very least, it looks like the Bulldogs will get back to .500 or better, which would help put the disappointing 2009 behind them.
6. PRINCETON TIGERS (4-6 overall; 3-4 Ivy League)
COACH: Bob Surace (first season at Princeton; 18-3 in two overall seasons)
STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (7 offense/5 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Tommy Wornham, Jr. (174 of 306 for 1,624 yards, 7 TDs and 8 INTs; 94 carries, 372 yards, 3 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Steven Cody, Sr. (104 TT, 10 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 5 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: TB Jordan Culbreath, Sr. (213 carries, 1,206 yards, 10 TDs, and 21 receptions in 2008; did not play last season) TB/KR Meko McCray, Sr. (62 carries, 239 yards; 12 receptions, 66 yards, 1 TD; 15.7-yard KO return average) TB Akil Sharp, So. (45 carries, 142 yards) FB Matt Zimmerman, Sr. (27 carries, 141 yards, 1 TD; 23 receptions, 153 yards) WR Trey Peacock, Sr. (48 receptions, 527 yards, 3 TDs) WR Andrew Kerr, Sr. (38 receptions, 390 yards, 2 TDs) WR Jeb Heavenrich, Sr. (10 receptions, 111 yards, 1 TD) LG Andrew Mills, Sr. OT Kevin DeMaio, Jr. (25 TT as NT) OT Kevin Mill, Jr. C Mike Muha, Jr. TE Harry Flaherty, Sr. (18 receptions, 193 yards) DE Matt Boyer, Sr. (40 TT, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 PBU) NT Caraun Reid, So. (34 TT, 4.5 TFL, 4 PBU) DE Mike Catapano, Jr. (22 TT, 3 PBU) LB Keola Kahuliokalani, Sr. (24 TT, 1 FR) LB Jon Olofsson, Sr. (15 TT) LB Tim Kingsbury, So. (3 TT) LB/SS Andrew Starks, So. (33 TT, 2 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FR) CB Blake Clemons, Jr. (2 TT) FS Matt Wakulchik, Jr. (60 TT, 1 INT, 4 PBU) SS Mandela Sheaffer, So. CB Glenn Wakam, Sr. (30 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FR) CB Weston Palmer, Sr. (injured last season) P Otavio Fleury, Jr. (40.5-yard punt average) P Joe Cloud, So. (35.9-yard punt average)
OUTLOOK: The Tigers often were pounded last season (four losses by at least 31 points), but rallied to win three of their final four games. There will be some energy created from having a new coach, Surace, an All-Ivy center on the Tigers' 1989 league championship squad who was an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals the last eight seasons. He inherits a team with a lot of returning skill position players plus Culbreath, the 2008 Ivy rushing champion who missed most of the 2009 season after being diagnosed with aplastic anemia. What kind of production the Tigers will get from Culbreath is a big question mark. QB Wornham was inconsistent as a sophomore starter, but improved late in the season and is a running threat. Mills is the only returner starter on the offensive line. The defense has a star in Cody, who has led the Tigers in tackles for two straight seasons, and rising players in NT Reid, LB/SS Starks and FS Walukchik. Boyer also is a standout DE, but inexperience on both lines will hurt the Tigers. Although six of the 10 games are at home, this could be a similar season to the last three, which all ended 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the league.
7. COLUMBIA LIONS (4-6 overall; 3-4 Ivy League)
COACH: Norries Wilson (12-28 in four seasons at Columbia)
STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (4 offense/7 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: LT Jeff Adams, Jr.
DEFENSIVE STAR: FS Adam Mehrer, Sr. (89 TT, 5 INTs, 1 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Sean Brackett, So. (34 of 63 for 458 yards, 4 TDs and 3 INTs; 53 carries, 287 yards, 1 TD) QB Jerry Bell, Jr. (24 of 45 for 234 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs) RB Zack Kourouma, Sr. (48 carries, 194 yards, 3 TDs) RB Leon Ivery, Sr. (48 carries, 232 yards, 1 TD) FB Nathan Lenz, Sr. WR Mike Stephens, Sr. (20 receptions, 310 yards, 1 TD) WR Nico Gutierrez, Sr. TE Andrew Kennedy, Sr. (21 receptions, 316 yards, 5 TDs) LG Bob Hauschildt, Jr. C Kyle Stupi, Jr. RG Ian Quick, Sr. RT Dan Cohen, Sr. NT Chris Groth, Jr. (19 TT, 2 TFL, 1 FF) DT Owen Fraser, Jr. (28 TT, 4.5 TFL, 1 FR in 2008; injured last season) DE Josh Smith, Sr. (22 TT, 3.5 sacks, 1 PBU) DE Seyi Adebayo, So. (4 TT) OLB Matt Moretto, Sr. (8 TT, 1 INT) MLB Nick Mistretta, Jr. (40 TT) MLB Marc Holloway, Sr. (62 TT, 2.5 TFL) OLB Alex Gross, Sr. (25 TT, 1 INT, 1 FR; injured last season) OLB Augie Williams, Sr. (28 TT, 1 INT, 4 PBU) LB Evan Miller, Jr. (38 TT, 2 TFL, 1 PBU) CB Calvin Otis, Sr. (14 TT, 3 PBU, 1 FR) SS Dan Meyers, Sr. (4 TT) FS Neil Schuster, Jr. (26 TT, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FF) CB Ross Morand, Sr. (31 TT, 4 INTs, 1 PBU, 2 FR) PK/P Greg Guttas, So. (1 of 5 FG, 26 long; 33.7-yard punt average)
OUTLOOK: After injuries plagued what could have been an excellent defense last season, the Lions get back a bulked-up Gross, an all-league talent at linebacker, and Fraser, a solid defensive tackle. Add in the return of FS Mehrer, who was fourth in the league in tackles and first in interceptions, and the Lions expect improvement. There's less certainty on offense, although 6-foot-7, 305-pound LT Adams is a first-team all-league player. The Lions have high hopes for mobile QB Brackett after he started the final four games of his freshman season. But with all-time receiving leader Austin Knowles and RB Ray Rangel are gone, do the Lions have enough surrounding Brackett in the skill positions? The Lions' first four games are at home, and Princeton (Oct. 2), Dartmouth (Oct. 23) and Cornell (Nov. 13) offer winnable home contests.
8. CORNELL BIG RED (2-8 overall; 1-6 Ivy League)
COACH: Kent Austin (first season at Cornell)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (5 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Shane Savage, Jr. (42 receptions, 371 yards, 2 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Dempsey Quinn, Sr. (92 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 2 FR, 3 FF, 1 blocked kick)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Adam Currie, Jr. (15 of 28 for 207 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs) QB Jeff Matthews, Fr. QB Chris Amrhein, So. (1 of 4 for 6 yards and 1 INT) TB Marcus Hendren, Sr. (38 carries, 229 yards) WR Jon Scheidler, Jr. TE Ryan Houska, Jr. (13 receptions, 132 yards) LT Drew McGowan, Jr. LG Paul Ostick, Sr. C Robert Bullington, So. RG Matt Green, Sr. RT Dylan Cunningham, So. OG/C Drew Bourassa, Jr. DE Hugh Stewart, So. (13 TT, 1 FF) DT Matt MacFarlane, Jr. (20 TT, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 FF) DT Jack Campbell, Sr. (29 TT) DE Mike Spooner, Jr. (18 TT, 1.5 sacks, 2 FR) LB Brandon Lainhart, Sr. (86 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 1 PBU, 1 FF) LB Zach Imhoff, Jr. (injured last season) LB Anthony Ambrosi, Sr. (61 TT, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 4 PBU, 2 FR, 2 FF) S Ben Heller, Sr. (57 TT, 3 INTs, 1 PBU, 1 FR) S Traver Schmidt, Jr. (11 TT) CB Rashad Campbell, Jr. (42 TT, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 10 PBU, 1 FR) CB DeMarr Moulton, So. CB Emani Fenton, Sr. (36 TT, 9 PBU, 1 FR) PK Brad Greenway, Sr. (8 of 16 FG, 47 long) P Drew Alston, Sr. (36.8-yard punt average) PR Luke Tasker, So. KR Rashad Campbell, Jr. (39-yard KO return average)
OUTLOOK: Jim Knowles resigned after six seasons to become defensive coordinator at Duke and Austin, the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss the last two seasons, takes over a program coming off its worst season since 2003. The Big Red bring an eight-game losing streak into the season. Austin's offensive mind is needed because the Big Red are young in the skills positions. They have staged a quarterback derby in preseason camp, with Currie or Matthews perhaps the front-runners. Austin likes a power running game, so TB Hendren could surprise as a senior. Savage returns as a solid possession receiver, but the Big Red won't be able to replace last year's leading receiver, Bryan Walters, also their longtime return specialist. The defense has dropped off a lot in recent seasons. Although the defense lost All-Ivy LB Chris Costello, the unit still remains solid with Quinn, Lainhart, Imhoff (back from injury) and Ambrosi. The 5-8 Campbell was in on 11 passes defensed. Record-wise, it should get cold early again this year in Ithaca, N.Y. Austin needs to restock the talent.
08/30 10:48:54 ET