Monday, July 24, 2017

Pre-Preseason Preview 2 - Roster (Over?) Analysis

HWSAthletics.com recently updated the Hobart College Football roster for this upcoming season. The current roster of SO, JR and SR players comes in at 64 Statesmen, but a large (~44) incoming FY class will push the roster to nearly 110 players, one of the largest in recent years.

One of the aspects of the 2017 roster I really liked seeing is that it's more specific with respect to player positions than we've seen before, other than specific game-day starting lineups and such.

As of today, the roster break down (in alpha order by position) is as follows:

1 C
6 CBs
6 DEs
3 DTs
3 FBs
3 FSs
6 ILBs
2 LTs
2 LGs
2 NGs
6 OLBs
1 P
3 QBs
4 RBs
2 RG.
2 RTs
3 TEs
10 WRs

Let's take a closer look, starting with the offense:

OL - Effectively Hobart has it's two deep set at G and T, and the good news for Statesmen fans (and QBs), is that four starters come back from last season. Part of that was due to injuries, but either way, an experienced OL is a great thing no matter what. The one aspect that will need to be settled in preseason camp is SR OL Liam Murphy taking over at center. He has backed up three time all conference Nick Testani '17 and has yet to see varsity action. He does know the system well and is in good hands with OL Coach Mike Green '14, a former center himself (and a third team D3football.com All American to boot) as his position coach.

RB - Although some may argue RB was under-utilized in 2016, Hobart will once again have depth and experience in the backfield this season. What remains to be seen is if one or more high-profile recruits makes a splash here? In lieu of that you can expect JR Tynard Barfield and SR RB Joe Letizia leading the charge.

WR - The deepest group on the team, mostly because of how many WRs the Statesmen like to spread the field with. Other than the obvious return of All American SR WR Brandon Shed, the second and third WRs in the Hobart offense will be determined during camp. The most experienced upper classman is JR WR Joe Barrocas who tallied 13 catches for 130 yards and a TD. There are a lot of talented SO WRs (six total), but for now SO WR Isaiah Hill stands out due to his three catch, 62 yard and a TD performance in 2016.

QB - SR QB and Co-Captain Shane Sweeney is the starter, but SO QBs Ryan Hofmann and Zach Brotzki will compete for backup duties. FY QB Matt Maute could be in the mix as well.

TE - SR TE and Co-Captain Zach Withers adds another dimension to the Hobart attack given his size and speed. JR TE Matt Woods had a good SO season, catching 16 passes for 127 yards and two TDs.

Now let's take a look at the defense:

DL - Hobart probably could use more depth in the interior line, and this was worked on in the offseason, recruiting wise. To be fair, the players returning at DT and NG positions like SR NG and Co-Captain Zackary Robak and JR DT Sean Moore should be poised for big seasons. While the call out of NG may have some Statesmen fans thinking the defense could try some different formations, I'd be surprised to see DC Coach Backhaus '00 move to far away from what has been Hobart's standard 4x4 set. More on that soon.

DE - The Statesmen have added depth here and saw players like JR DE A.J. MacFarlane and SR DE Brandon Ball emerge and really excel in 2016. Ball finished seventh on the team in tackles with 49 and led the defense with 11.5 TFL.

ILB - SR LB and Co-Captain Almamy Conde will hold down the middle again alongside SO LB Jedh Downey who surprised some by being the first FY starter at ILB for Hobart in quite some time. Downey had an excellent season and probably should have won the LL's ROTY award (not surprisingly it went to an offensive player, RB Sean McAllen of WPI, as those awards are often apt to do). Otherwise the Statesmen have good depth and experience here, with two SRs and two SOs filling out the roster.

OLB - The biggest question mark I have going into camp is who will fill the two open starting OLB roles for Hobart? JR OLB Kai Brandford and SR OLB Will Hoffer did each start one game a piece in 2016 and should be leading candidates, but there will be a lot of competition vying for these spots.

FS - Another opportunity for a first time starter in some time will be at FS. JR FS CJ Boleware backed up former Co-Captain Matt Cragg '17 last season and is the likely candidate here. SO FS Marco King has converted from QB and will look to transition to being a QB for the defense. Classmate SO FS Jack O'Shea will also vie for time.

CB - Hobart returns two of its strongest defensive players here in SR CB Tommy D'Antonio and SR CB Daryl Scales. Adding depth are two SO and two JR players, including JR CB Sam Wheeler who appeared in 10 games for the Statesmen in 2016.

The list for special teams is pretty short:

SR P Rio Schmidt returns to bolster the punting and potentially KO game, but otherwise, Hobart will look to incoming recruits such as FY PK Kyle Hackett and FY PK/ATH Wylie Sherman to take over the kicking duties now that Sean Kirshe'17 has graduated.

That's it for now on the roster. We will revisit this once the Class of 2021 are posted. Camp opens in less than 3 weeks, so we'll lay low until then. Enjoy the rest of summer - it's almost FOOTBALL SEASON!

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Pre-Preseason Preview - Defense Will Be Key in 2017

The #14 Hobart College Statesmen will likely enter the 2017 season as favorites - to repeat as Liberty League Champions and by default of the associated automatic qualifier - to return to the NCAA playoffs. While it's obviously a long way to November 18th, Statesmen fans and friends have high expectations after last season's 9-2 record and Hobart proving they could go toe-to-toe with perennial powerhouse, now #2 Mount Union.

With several All-American accolades going to SR QB Shane Sweeney and SR WR Brandon Shed, four of five starting OL coming back, as well as key players coming back at TE, WR and RB, the Hobart "Air Show" offense will once again be a force to be reckoned with.

The "hype" around the offense is valid, but what I think may get overlooked, but is equally, if not more important, is how will the Statesmen defense perform in 2017? While they do return six starters, including five players who earned some form of all-conference recognition in 2016, losses to graduation at DE (James Hedger '17), DT (Jake Russell '17), OLB (Michael Harper '17 and Marcus Jemison '17) and FS (Matt Cragg '17) leave some big shoes to fill.


While we wait to see who wins those starting roles in preseason camp, I thought it may be interesting to take a look at the overall defensive statistics from 2016 compared to a couple of past playoff teams - the 2012 and 2014 squads (which is high bar to measure against, given they were arguably the two best teams in Hobart history). There are some pitfalls to doing this exercise, but I think the data provides some potential insights that could help Hobart get back to the Elite 8 (and potentially further).

To be fair, it's very difficult to compare units over time, namely because of players like Tyre Coleman '15 and a handful of other all-time greats, among other factors. While the Statesmen defense of 2016 didn't perform statistically as well as those 2012 and 2014 units, 2016 was probably the most competitive year that the LL has seen in about eight seasons. SLU, WPI and USMMA had some of their best overall offensive squads in recent years. A punch-less Dickinson was replaced by a high powered Brockport team that led the Empire 8 in scoring with 38.1 PPG and averaged 432.4 YPG on offense in the out-of-conference slate also.

Based on that, perhaps you can take these statistical shifts with a grain of salt, and every season is different. I do think the numbers tell an interesting story, however, and will leave it up to you whether you agree (or not).

The first and most obvious difference was points per game allowed (PPG).

The average PPG allowed by the 2012 and 2014 Elite 8 teams averaged out to ~17 (barely rounded up). One caveat there is that the 17 PPG allowed is inflated due to the lopsided losses to UST (47-7) and Wesley (41-13) in the final playoff games of those respective seasons.

Regardless, let's look at it this way - those NCAA quarterfinal quality units only allowed opponents two scores a game on average.

I think this two scores per game stat is a key measuring stick, especially when you consider national contenders such as the Purple Raiders typically only allow one score per game (actually Mount Union allowed around 9.5 PPG in the 2016 regular season, but they did allow 25.5 PPG in the playoffs) on average.

In 2016, the Hobart defense allowed 23.45 PPG, or more than three scores a game on average (which put more pressure on the offense, hence a lot of those close call comeback games). While passing yards allowed only differed by about 30 YPG and passing TDs allowed amounts were negligible, there were some potentially relevant differences in the amount of rushing yards and TDs allowed in 2016.

The playoff squads of 2012 and 2014 both allowed under 100 rushing YPG (97.8 YPG in '12 and 87.5 YPG in '14) during their respective seasons and only allowed about 2.6 yards on any given carry. The 2016 defense allowed 159 rush yards per game and 3.6 YPR, which isn't a lot more in some respects but you can see a difference that adds up over time (e.g., how you call plays on 3rd and 5 vs. 3rd and 3). Also, the 2014 defense only allowed 6 rush TDs in 11 games, while the 2016 version allowed 19. The 2014 Statesmen allowed one rushing TD in the JHU game and two to Wesley in the Elite 8 to finish the year with 9.

In the LL rankings, the defenses of the '12-14 era usually ranked in the 1-3 range of key stats whereas the 2016 version tended to average in the 5-7 range, depending on the category. Some of that difference had to do with some exceptional units of last season's LL opponents (e.g., RPI, SLU and MMA had some of their best defensive units in several seasons), but some of it also falls on a "bend but don't break" style the Hobart defense played in 2016.

Sacks were also down from 43 in 2012 and 39 in 2014 to 31-33 in 2016 (LL stats show 31 but HWS has 33). INTs also dropped from over 10 per season in 2012 & 14 to only six in 2016 (which was last in the LL in that category).

Both of these categories are ones I imagine new DC Coach Backhaus would like to see go up, which combined with a more stout rushing defense, would put the Statesmen in rarified air, as far as the potential for another special season goes.

While it's no surprise that if a team plays the run tough, rushes the passer and forces turnovers you win more ballgames, hopefully the above puts things into perspective as we head into the 2017 season. I think this year's Hobart defense has a lot of potential but there are some X factors that need to be worked out.


Fortunately there's a strong combination of experience - SR LB and Co-captain Almamy Conde and SR DT and Co-Captain Zack Robak up the middle along with SR DBs Tom D'Antonio and Daryl Scales in the secondary and SR DE Brandon Ball on the end - and youth - with SO LB Jedh Downey, JR DE/DT AJ MacFarlane and JR DT Sean Moore - "comin' atcha" in 2017.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Monday, July 10, 2017

D3football.com Tabs Statesmen 14th in the 2017 Preseason Poll

The preseason accolades keep coming in for the Hobart College Statesmen, this time as the 14th ranked team in the D3football.com Top 25.

A link to the poll can be seen here.

This is the highest ranking for a Hobart team since the 2014 preseason ranking of 12th. The highest preseason ranking for the Statesmen was in 2013 when they were ranked 7th.


With about four weeks until players check in for preseason camp, I'll start working on the 2017 Hobart Preseason Preview soon.

Where did Hobart get ranked again?

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Coach Backhaus Named DC, David Lands at Muhlenberg

Yesterday HWSAthletics.com announced the promotion of LBs Coach Aaron Backhaus '00 by HC Mike Cragg to fill the open Defensive Coordinator (DC) position left by former DC Kory David. Regardless or not a national search was actually conducted (as reported by FootballScoop.com back in early June) or not, this is a great move on a number of levels.


The Mike Cragg coaching tree has grown to an impressive number over the years, with former Statesmen such as Scott Yoder '01 and Kevin DeWall '00 taking over their own programs at Shenandoah University and Endicott College, respectively.

Several former Statesmen players have joined the staffs of each program including Art Garvey '12, Tom Elder '13 and Drake Woodard '12. With five Hobart graduates working as coaches (the latest being newly minted WR Coach Jack Pfohl '17), there will certainly be plenty of familiarity and continuity for Hobart student athletes going into the 2017 season.

Backhaus joined Cragg's coaching staff in 2004, working part-time while also pursuing a Master's in Education at Alfred University and working full-time as a counselor in Geneva. He has participated in Hobart's rise to a perennial Top 25 program during that time, producing some of the greatest LBs in Statesmen history. A link the announcement, and Backhaus' strong resume, can be seen here.

Congratulations to Coach Backhaus!

In other news, Coach Kory David has apparently landed at Muhlenberg College where he was named "interim DC" to fill in while current and long-time HC Mike Donnelly battles leukemia. A link to that announcement can be seen here.

You can read about Coach Donnelly and his fight, named #DigInForDuke, to raise awareness as part of the "Be The Match" and the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation to encourage individuals ages 18 to 44 to join the national marrow registry.

I'd like to wish all three of these men the best, but especially Coach Donnelly, as he awaits a bone marrow transplant and undergoes treatment in Buffalo.

That's all the news for now. Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Palm Beach Post Profiles Shed, NYS Bowl Game Created

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day weekend and holiday!

While we're still ~6 weeks away from preseason camp, the Statesmen are still making headlines. The latest is a story from the Palm Beach Post reporting on rising SR WR Brandon Shed.

A link to the article can be seen here.

I'll have more on Brandon, and the returning WR corps (among other units), later this summer. I'll once again be writing the Liberty League preseason preview for D3football.com's "Kickoff", so I hope you consider getting a subscription. It's the best source of D3FB information out there.

A link to order Kickoff can be seen here.








In other news, the Empire 8 and Liberty League announced today that they will be forming the first ever "New York State" Postseason Bowl Game. This game will occur in what effectively would be Week 12 of the D3FB season, and the bids would go to each conference's runners-up (who don't qualify for the NCAA tournament). While it's possible for two teams from a conference to be selected, with the expansion of D3FB to approximately 250 teams (and growing) and the addition of Automatic Qualifiers to newer conferences like the MASCAC and NEWMAC, for example, this is a nice and smart way to give more student athletes additional postseason experience.

A link to the announcement can be seen here.

This Bowl series will begin on November 18, 2017 with the LL runner-up as the host. The E8 runner-up would host in 2018 and it would alternate in that same fashion going forward.

Overall I think this is a great (and overdue) idea that matches what other East Region conferences have done (e.g., the New England Bowl, Centennial-MAC Bowl (PA) and others) which creates more opportunities for student athletes (and provides some competition to longer-standing, pay-to-play Bowls like the ECACs). The only "down side" I could potentially see here is that, due to the overlap between the conferences from an OOC scheduling perspective, there is a very high likelihood that these Bowl games will be rematches from earlier regular season ones. Time will tell.

A link to the D3football.com story on this development can be seen here.


Kudos to the E8 and LL for forming this alliance. Hopefully Hobart will have to wait a while to get a bid to one ;)

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Another Reminder Why to Not Put Too Much Stock into Preseason Polls

Lindy's Division III Top 25 has been released, ranking Hobart at 19th. While I normally wouldn't scoff at the Statesmen ending up in a Top 25 poll, this one is laughable on several levels.

Hopkins, at 5th, has never been a Top 5 program, at least not in the past 20-30 years. They have come close, that 2014 team that Hobart beat in the 2nd round of the NCAA playoffs was certainly a Top 10 one for sure, but Top 5? No way.

Wesley at 8th seems high to me as well given who they graduated and they really haven't found someone to fill the role that now Green Bay Packer backup QB Joe Callahan played so well for them.

Alfred at 9th is really problematic given their QB and top offensive weapon, Tyler Johnson, is gone (recently signing with the Jacksonville Sharks of the AFL). Alfred also graduated three starting OL players as well. The Saxons defense may be tough again, especially with SR LB A.J. Licata coming back, but the rest of their spring roster shows it doesn't have a lot of SRs on it, and so starting off in the Top 10 seems questionable at best.

Stevenson at 10? It's been about a decade since a MAC champion was ranked this high, but to their credit, the Mustangs have been a strong program in a short amount of time. They finished in the 2016 season on spot below Hobart at 20th in the final D3football.com Top 25 poll, which is think is pretty accurate.

Saint Lawrence (11) has grown into a tough LL-rival for Hobart, but in spite of several close calls, they still haven't beaten the Statesmen since 2010. Add to the fact the Saints graduated a huge amount of what was probably their best SR class in the last 25+ years, and you can't take this ranking seriously. Is SR QB Sean Richardson legit? Yes, but you can't simply reload guys like All-American DL Chyron Brown-Wallace, DB/ST star James Holley-Grisham, LB Alec Dietsch, TE Mitch Gallagher and others without a little drop off.

UWW at 15? C'monman. Sure they got knocked out of the playoffs by JCU last season, but they still went 12-1 and are only two seasons away from back-to-back National Championships.

Lastly, the poll screams out with Hobart at 19th with what is a bold-faced lie in the comments. The Statesmen aren't "switching to a 4-2-5" defensive scheme. I have no idea who the author of this article / poll spoke with, but the Statesmen have been a 4-4 scheme for the past 25+ years, so I'm not sure where this comment came from?

I will say this, and maybe it'll be a future, more detailed post, but the question mark I have going into 2017 season is who will be starting at OLBs in that 4-4 scheme? Hobart has been blessed with great, all-time even, players at that position for the last 6 seasons.

Think about this - Devin Worthington '13, Nolan Toran '15, Marcus Jemison '17, Michael Harper '17 - all these guys had excellent college careers and helped lead the Statesmen defense by consistently making big plays in big games. With no starters returning back at this position in 2017, save for perhaps rising SR DB Tommy D'Antonio who played well filling in during Jemison's injuries which sidelined him a couple of times last year, I'll be curious to see who steps into these roles for Hobart's defense this fall.

The only thing I liked about this poll is the inclusion of WNE which has grown into a solid program, arguably the best in New England (at least until Coach DeWall's Endicott Gulls eventually topple them). The Golden Bears will be on a couple of LL schedules this fall and are the favorite to win the now CCC (formally the NEFC) and return to the NCAA playoffs. I would probably have WNE in the 24-25 range, or maybe "receiving votes" if I was a pollster, but I do believe they merit consideration.


You can expect to see Hobart in the D3football.com Top 25 when it's released later in July. The Statesmen got a few shout outs on the last "Around the Nation" podcast which you can check out here if you missed it.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy summer. Only two more months until preseason camp!

Thanks for reading and go ' Bart!



Monday, June 12, 2017

DC Kory David Departs, National Search Underway

Doug Samuels of FootballScoop.com reports that Hobart College will open a national search for a new Defensive Coordinator upon the resignation of Coach Kory David. Samuels indicated that David "has decided to pursue opportunities closer to his family in Philadelphia." Apparently Mrs. David still works for the Philadelphia Eagles, where Coach David was employed for a few years prior to taking the Statesman DC job.

A link to the article can be seen here.

Samuels goes on to say that "[t]here will be a national search to fill his position in the weeks to come. Formal job opening announcement will be posted early next week."

While this is bad timing for the Hobart coaching staff on one hand, the good news this role will garner a lot of interest given the Statesmen's track record.

Please join me in wishing Coach David all the best in his future endeavors.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!