The Hobart College Statesmen are coming off a second Elite 8 and fourth consecutive Liberty League (LL) championship season. The Class of 2015 finished their historic careers with a 41-5 overall mark, multiple All-American, Region and Conference player awards. Although there are big shoes to fill on both sides of the ball, the returning Statesmen have excellent experience from last season’s 12-1 campaign, so expectations remain high in Geneva.
On offense Hobart will need to replace two year starter Patrick Conlan ’15 at QB. The good news is there are several strong candidates who will battle out for the job during preseason camp. SR QB and Co-Captain Parker Thelander has the most experience with the Statesmen’s system, but will be challenged by at least two “young guns” (see my "Arms Race" post from July 8th).
The real key to this year’s squad starts with the OL. While you can’t really replace a player like Ali Marpet ’15 (highest NFL draft pick for a D3 player in history), and an All American like DeAndre’ Smith ’15, the Statesmen return three starters from last year’s squad and have a solid roster of talent to keep whoever wins the QB job upright. SR OL Emilano Acosta filled in at RT when JR OL Patrick O’Connell III went down with an injury and acquitted himself well in the post-season. SR OL Brendan Casey did well in his first season as a full time starter at LG and will be a leader of this group this season. JR OL Nick Testani can play center or guard and that versatility will provide Assistant Coach and OC Jon Drach the opportunity to evaluate several players across the OL.
SR RB and Co-Captain Conner Hartigan established himself as Hobart’s leading rusher, gaining 871 yards and nine TDs in 2014. JR RB Bradley Burns is a viable runner as well, having added 391 rushing yards and three TDs last season. There is some positive buzz on SO RB Joseph Letizia as well (see my post from May 29, 2014 for more on him).
SR FB/HB Christopher Holoman is the leading candidate to take over the FB spot held down the last four seasons by Dominique Ellis ’15. Ellis led the Statesmen with 10 rushing TDs so those touches will need to be absorbed elsewhere. Holoman rushed for 228 yards and three TDs, including a 55 yard highlight reel run against RPI. JR FBs Sean Bright and Mark Marino will also look to gain more playing time in 2015.
The WR corps saw the largest amount of turnover given the graduations of Troy Robinson, Elvin Souffrant, and John Fasano ’15 but I think some of the most exciting and athletic offensive players in 2015 will come from this squad. SR WR Cooper Merrill is the most experienced returning letterman, but look for players like JR WR Jack Pfohl (21 catches for 226 yards) and SO WR Brandon Shed (nine catches for 216 yards and two TDs) to have more opportunities to shine this season.
The TE position is also an open competition with graduation of Mike Berkowitz ’15. SO TE Chris Cyr came on strong late in 2014, catching one TD to go with 120 receiving yards, but there will be several other players vying for the TD passes that Berkowitz hauled in last season (he led the team with six).
On the defensive end, you can’t replace the talent and production of a player like Tyre Coleman ’15. The edge will be an area Hobart opponents will look to test early on in the 2015 season. Fortunately for the Statesmen, they have a roster of about 10 players looking to make a name for themselves. The coaching staff moved SR LB Zach Thornton to DE which makes sense given his size (250 lbs) and nose for the ball (25 tackles including two TFL). JR DE James Hedger will look to keep the starting job he earned last year opposite Coleman where he contributed 32 tackles.
SR DT and Co-Captain Tucker Gumkowski will anchor the defensive line. Troy Johnson ’15 will be missed but there are several candidates to assume that starting job in what will be a key position battle in preseason camp. JR DT Jake Russell and SO DT Zack Robak gained valuable experience on the 2nd team and during the NCAA playoffs. Hobart does like to rotate tackles so whoever doesn’t win the starting job will be a key contributor and it’s likely you’ll see another 2-3 players get opportunities as well.
The Statesmen boast one of the best LB corps in the East, if not the nation. Key returning players include SR LBs and Co-Captains Jacob Stanley and Trayvon Toney. These two super Statesmen tallied a combined almost 190 tackles between the two of them. JR OLB Marcus Jemison earned D3football.com Preseason All-America honors and will look to improve upon his 71 tackle and nine and a half sack 2014 campaign. Nolan Toran’s ’15 production will be missed but players like JR OLB Michael Harper (38 tackles, three TFL and one sack) seems poised to fill that spot after a strong 2014 season. Harper can rotate in as a FS too if needed.
Speaking of the defensive backfield, 1st team All LL DB Fajri Jackson ’15 will need to be replaced but the vast majority of the defensive secondary returns intact and with a solid amount of experience. SO CB Gabriel Smith returns after missing the 2014 season and JR CB Todd Collier is looking to continue his success from 2014 which landed him 2nd team All LL honors. Also in the mix will be SO DBs Tommy D’Antonio and Christian Apicella who played very well during the playoffs in relief of injured JR FS Matt Cragg who is back to full strength and ready for another strong year at safety.
The special teams unit returns with both PKs from last year. JR PK Sean Kirsche and SO PK Will McCool combined for six FGs and 42 PATs last season. Kirsche typically handled kickoffs averaging 56.3 YPKO. SR QB and Co-Captain Parker Thelander averaged over 34 net yards as a punter, earning a 2nd All LL special teams award.
Since 1992 Hobart has opened each season against Dickinson College of the Centennial Conference. They will do so again this fall in Carlisle, PA. One potential challenge to the Statesmen in 2015 is that six of their regular season games will be on the road.
The home opener is September 12 against former OC Kevin DeWall ‘00’s Endicott College Gulls. Week 3 has a NCAA First Round Playoff rematch against defending Empire 8 Champions the Ithaca College Bombers at Butterfield Stadium.
Week 4 marks the opening of LL play against the Mariners of the US Merchant Marine Academy. Hobart will return for homecoming in Geneva against an improved WPI squad on October 3. The Statesmen will hit the road again in Week 6 to take on the Pride of Springfield College. After four road trips in the first six weeks of the season, Hobart will get a well deserved bye in Week 7.
Week 8 has conference rivals RPI Engineers returning to Boswell Field. Week 9 has the Statesmen lining up against rival Union College in Schenectady on Halloween. Week 10 will be circled on most all Hobart football fans (and national pollsters’) calendar as a potential LL Championship rematch against Saint Lawrence University at Boswell Field looms large. The final week of the regular season will once again pit the Statesmen against the University of Rochester in the annual Centennial Cup trophy game.
With kickoff only two weeks away, it's time to get ready for some football! Thanks again for reading and go Bart!