Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Northeast Conference 2011 Preview

Albany Great Danes
2010 Record: 6-5
The Danes were uneven at best in 2010, and are looking to make a surge this season by getting by their up and down nature. Andrew Smith is likely to get the nod at QB this fall, but he is not a passer. He did lead the team in rushing last fall with 724 yards and 7 scores, but with Buddy Leathley returning, Smith could wind up at RB. Ryan Kirchner caught 50 passes last fall, and will return as the top receiver, but the Danes would do well to increase upon their 137.6 yards passing per game.
Defensively, Albany was awful against the pass, giving up 216.1 yards per game through the air. LB Dave Plungas returns to take charge of the defense, but he needs some serious help around him, as Albany did not produce any other tacklers who ranked in the NEC top 25. Any pressure that they provided up front has gone out the door with the loss of DE Mike Kelly, so someone has to step up. Randall Exantus and Justin Hassan both return in the secondary, and were both very young last fall. With a season behind them, the pass defense can only get better.
Another year of mediocre play looks to plague Albany, but they are not the worst the league has to offer by a long shot.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Colgate, 9/17 Maine, 9/24 @ Columbia, 10/1 @ St. Francis (PA), 10/8 Duquesne, 10/15 Robert Morris, 10/22 @ C. Connecticut State, 10/29 @ Wagner, 11/5 Bryant, 11/12 @ Monmouth, 11/19 Sacred Heart

Bryant Bulldogs
2010 Record: 7-4
The Bulldogs enter their first full season of membership in the conference after moving up from D2, but they are a team on the rise already. Mike Croce returns at QB after a decent showing last fall, as he passed for 1780 yards and 13 TDs to just 6 picks. The senior will likely try to make a push to break 2000 yards this season. Jordan Brown may be the best returning back in the league, as he rushed for 1410 yards and 15 TDs as a sophomore, including 138 yards against league champ Robert Morris. Depth behind Brown is thin. The Bulldogs return their two top receivers in WR Jordan Harris and TE Matt Tracy, but they lose the next best three receivers, so again, depth and experience are at issue.
The Bulldogs return 3 starters on the line in Josh Janes, M Nwanekezi, and Chris Sywetz, while Jordan Kelly returns after seeing solid time. Franck Tebou returns at LB, but the Bulldogs lose their top tackler from last fall in Jason Riffe. LB is thin. The Dogs do return their top 3 DBs from last fall in Samad Waqstaff, Stef Whiteside, and Max Machado. Ro Williamson, Ty Wilson, and Mike McGowan all saw time as well.
Bryant has enough depth on defense outside of LB, and has some fire coming back on offense. It would not surprise me to see Bryant make a serious play in the NEC race.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Maine, 9/10 American International, 9/17 @ Sacred Heart, 9/24 Wagner, 10/1 @ Duquesne, 10/8 Stonehill, 10/15 Monmouth, 10/22 Robert Morris, 11/5 @ Albany, 11/12 St. Francis (PA), 11/19 C. Connecticut State

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
2010 Record: 8-3
CCSU had one of their best seasons in recent memory, but a loss to Robert Morris cost them the NEC title and a trip to the FCS playoffs. They enter 2011 with a 14 game home winning streak, and Robert Morris is coming to New Britain in November.
Gunnar Jasperson returns at QB after passing for 1918 yards last fall, but he needs to up his 11/8 TD to pick ratio in the passing game to push the Devils up a notch. Jasperson added 495 yards and 6 TDs on the ground last fall. The loss of Everett Benjamin at RB is going to be tough to deal with after he ran for 1330 yards last fall. Depth will be lacking in the backfield, as very little game experience returns. Deven Baker will step into the number one receiver slot, but the Devils lose their best two receivers from last fall.
The Devils did have issues on defense last fall, specifically against the run, as they allowed 194.3 yards rushing per game. Lorenzo Baker and Isaiah Boddie return at LB, and will be expected to help find a way to turn the tide after combining for 138 tackles last fall. Lawton Arnold joins them, while sack leader Charles Williams (6 in 2010) returns on the line. Dominic Giampietro will also return up front to try to put more pressure on the backfield. Chris Linares returns as the top play maker in the secondary, but losses there were heavy after last season. Linares will be the most experienced DB returning from last fall, and he is only a sophomore.
CCSU has some serious concerns coming into the season, so they are in danger of losing ground to Bryant.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 S. Connecticut State, 9/10 @ James Madison, 9/17 @ Wagner, 9/24 Monmouth, 10/1 Sacred Heart, 10/8 @ UMass, 10/15 @ Duquesne, 10/22 Albany, 10/29 @ St. Francis (PA), 11/5 Robert Morris, 11/19 @ Bryant

Duquesne Dukes
2010 Record: 7-4
The Dukes took a slight step back last fall, but they are in position to make a major push in 2011. Sean Patterson looks to challenge to become the best QB in the NEC this fall after passing for 2050 yards and 20 TDs last season. Larry McCoy returns at RB to give the Dukes a home run threat whenever he touches the football, as he rushed for 1291 yards last season. The Dukes do lose their two best receivers from last fall, and it falls to Akeem Moore to step it up.
Serge Kona returns at LB, but there was very little in play for play productivity from the rest of the defense last fall, and the Dukes were rather vulnerable against the run. Kona added 10.5 TFLs last fall, so he is truly the only major weapon up front. The Dukes also suffer in the secondary that could limit them as well, with Alex Inda the only real play maker returning.
If the offense can really explode with new receivers this fall, it may be enough to carry a thin defense, but that remains to be seen. Still a top half club, but I don't see enough to challenge for the title outright as of now.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Bucknell, 9/10 @ Dayton, 9/17 Valporaiso, 9/24 @ St. Francis (PA), 10/1 Bryant, 10/8 @ Albany, 10/15 C. Connecticut State, 10/22 Wagner, 10/29 @ Monmouth, 11/12 @ Sacred Heart, 11/19 Robert Morris

Monmouth Hawks
2010 Record: 3-8
The Hawks were literally 4 points from being a 7-4 football team last fall, as they lost 4 games by a total of a point each. Their average margin of defeat for the season was 5.75 points per game, so they were just an incident or two away from having a solid football season. That being said, good teams win close games, and they did not pull that off.
Kyle Frazier returns at QB after passing for 2072 yards last fall, but he needs to to more than toss 9 TD passes on the season. Bilial Sloan-El will likely take over at RB this fall for the departed Bobby Giles, but Sloan-El only carried the ball 51 times last fall. Tyler George returns at TE, and is the best returning receiver the Hawks have, and they will look to Mitch Pollard, a sophomore, and junior Matt Plautz to start at WR.
DB Jose Gumbs and LB Chris Mastrangelo are the top returning tacklers from last fall, but the Hawks lose two of their top four. Jimmy Lawson (3.5 sacks, 5.5 TFLs) is the lone returning threat of a pass rush. Gumbs also brings the only real solid pass defender to the secondary, as he defended 8 passes last fall. He will be surrounded by new starters at every other position in the secondary this season.
It looks like the margin of defeat could widen a bit this season, as I see no real promise to push ahead in 2011.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Lehigh, 9/17 @ Villanova, 9/24 @ C. Connecticut State, 10/1 Robert Morris, 10/8 Colgate, 10/15 @ Bryant, 10/22 @ Sacred Heart, 10/29 Duquesne, 11/5 @ St. Francis (PA), 11/12 Albany, 11/19 Wagner

Robert Morris Colonials
2010 Record: 8-3
The Colonials are coming off of their first ever playoff trip, which ended in a loss to semi-finalist North Dakota State. The Colonials will be hammered by major losses this fall, as they lose 8 players selected as All-NEC last fall. Jeff Sinclair returns at QB after passing for 1920 yards and 22 TDs, and was our All-Bilo NEC QB of the Year last fall. Losing Myles Russ at RB is really tough, as there was such little depth behind him. There is a major opportunity for a young back to step up big this fall. Shadrae King is probably the best FCS TE in the nation, and he returns after catching 7 TD passes last fall. Converted DB Anthony Coleman is the best returning receiver, but only caught 22 passes in 2010, so there is a void of experience in the receiving corps.
The Colonials also got hit hard on defense, where they lose their three top tacklers from 2010. Nolan Nearhoof returns at DE after leading the team with 4.5 sacks, and Steve Mitchell joins him on the line, but LB depth is a major problem. Eric Lowery and Marvin McAlla return in the secondary, but their best play makers graduated after last season, leaving more questions than answers.
Everyone that finished in the top half of the league has questions coming into this season, so until someone beats out Robert Morris, it's theirs to lose, but they are indeed ripe for the picking.
9/3 Dayton, 9/10 @ Liberty, 9/17 @ Morgan State, 10/1 @ Monmouth, 10/8 St. Francis (PA), 10/15 @ Albany, 10/22 Bryant, 10/29 Sacred Heart, 11/5 @ C. Connecticut State, 11/12 Wagner, 11/19 @ Duquesne

Sacred Heart Pioneers
2010 Record: 4-7
If you are replacing the leagues leading passer, and you only won 4 games the previous season, those are really bad omens as to how your season will likely go. Gregory Ibe will likely be the most experienced player in the backfield, and he only ran the ball 79 times as a sophomore last season, so yeah, it gets worse. The Pioneers do return four receivers who saw valuable time last season, led by team leader Rich Rossi (51-704-5).
LBs Chris Mandas and Michael Zambrano both return on defense, giving the Pioneers a set of building blocks. Justin Embler recorded 3 sacks last fall, but the Pioneers will ask more of him this fall. Embler did record 12 TFLs, while Mandas recorded 10.5. LB Niko Sierra joins Steve Tellefsen in the secondary as solid pass defenders, and Ahmad Covington also returns for SHU.
The defense has pieces to play with, but the offense may have issues when it comes to the QB and RB positions. If the defense keeps them in some close games, and gives the new offense time to develop, SHU could show some improvement.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Marist, 9/17 Bryant, 9/24 Dartmouth, 10/1 @ C. Connecticut State, 10/8 @ Columbia, 10/15 St. francis (PA), 10/22 Monmouth, 10/29 @ Robert Morris, 11/5 @ Wagner, 11/12 Duquesne, 11/19 @ Albany

St. Francis Red Flash
2010 Record: 1-10
No doubt about it, nothing good came out of last season. Former NFL Lineman Chris Villareal enters his second season trying to figure out how to right this sinking ship, and it's going to be a hell of a challenge for him to do so.
John Kelly returns at QB, but only passed for 1314 yards last fall. There is absolutely no depth at RB, so the backfield, once again, is in total flux. Anthony Howze returns as the top WR, but failed to average 10 yards per catch and never scored last fall.
The Flash will lose their top two tacklers, leaving LB Tyler Gillmen as the best returning tackler, with DB Jakob DeMedal leading the way in the secondary. Ryan Revtai is the only player resembling a backfield threat, but he was only good for 5 TFLs last fall. Jerome Matthews returns in the secondary, but he was not exactly stellar.
Looks like another slide to the bottom coming up for the Flash.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Wagner, 9/10 @ North Dakota State, 9/17 Morehead State, 9/24 Duquesne, 10/1 Albany, 10/8 @ Robert Morris, 10/15 @ Sacred Heart, 10/22 @ Youngstown State, 10/29 C. Connecticut State, 11/5 Monmouth, 11/12 @ Bryant

Wagner Seahawks
2010 Record: 5-6
Nick Doscher passed for 2067 and 16 TDs, but only completed 50% of his passes and tossed 15 picks. Good with the bad. Doscher also rushed for 672 yards and 6 TDs, so he is all important for the success or lack thereof for the Seahawks. Torian Phillips will likely step into the starting job at RB out of camp, but depth is at a premium. David Carter is the only returning receiver that saw extensive game action last fall, so again, depth is an issue.
Carl Oliver-Prime returns at LB, but the Seahawks lose their top three tacklers last fall. DE Julian Stanford also returns, and is on our watch list for All-Bilo FCS Defensive Lineman of the year. He is very good, and was good for 64 tackles, 7 sacks, and 12.5 TFLs last fall. Even with Stanford, the defense loses so much talent, that it may become easier for teams to defend against him. The secondary was decimated by graduation losses.
Wagner, again, has some pieces to compete, but the defense loses so much experience. If Doscher can keep the offense on the field, the defense may have some time to catch up. The offense will have to score plenty to make this work.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 St. Francis (PA), 9/10 @ Richmond, 9/17 C. Connecticut State, 9/24 @ Bryant, 10/1 @ Cornell, 10/8 Georgetown, 10/22 @ Duquesne, 10/29 Albany, 11/5 Sacred Heart, 11/12 @ Robert Morris, 11/19 @ Monmouth

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