Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A "Fan"-tastic Celebration Caps 2014 Season

Last Friday night over 300+ Statesmen players, their families, administrators and friends of Hobart College arrived at Club 86 in Geneva, NY to celebrate the 2014 football season.

The venue was set up beautifully and the Class of 2015 got the red carpet treatment with framed, game worn jerseys while the entire team was provided with beautiful Championship rings. The Class of 2015 won 41 total games, four consecutive league titles, five playoff games including two Elite 8 appearances, over the past four seasons. Note to the folks that say the Empire 8 is the best conference in the East - Hobart is 4-1 against their conference champions / playoff teams in the last four years ;)

The night began with a heartfelt invocation and prayer by Chaplain Leslie Adams who's in her final weeks of service at the Colleges. Defensive Coordinator Nick Grange was the evening's MC and did a great job keeping the night moving (and cracking jokes).

I had the pleasure of making a few remarks after dinner and Connor Cough's excellent highlight reel from all the big plays of this historic season. My focus was to implore the graduating SRs and the underclassmen to "Be A Fan" of Hobart and whatever passion / calling they have during and after their college years. I'll see you all in a couple years at the Bicentennial celebration, if not sooner!

After the ring ceremony, SR OLB and Co-Captain Matt McGriff '15 spoke on behalf of the team. He was thoughtful, impressive and humble. A true Statesmen to the core.

Head Coach Mike Cragg wrapped the evening with a game by game recap of the season and a big announcement. In 2015 the Statesmen will be "dry" during the season which was received with applause at the banquet and some discussions after the fact.

While I believe Coach is right in that this will make the team better, it's a bold step in the program's evolution. The Class of 2016 has some great leadership and time will tell whether or not this commitment - which Coach will hold everyone 100% accountable to - will work for all the current players on the team.

I think the goal is a worthy one and while of course these are 18-22 year old young men, if you want to achieve the goal of making it to Salem, you have to sacrifice a lot in order to get there.

Below are a few pictures from the evening:

Class of 2015

SR jersey keepsakes

More jerseys (note #90 and #55)

Trustee Jim Caird '56 and the Class of 2015

Go Bart!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

NEWMAC Adding Football Could Spell Trouble For LL

The New England Women's & Men's Athletic Conference made a major announcement regarding the addition of football and acquisiton of several schools at noon today. The impact to Hobart was this addition included three current Liberty League FB affiliates in WPI, USMMA and Springfield. D3football.com covered the story here.

My ITH cohost and D3football.com commentator Frank Rossi summarized the implications well, stating:

"It's an interesting development that we've been predicting for a while in terms of MMA and WPI finally breaking off from the LL.  We are now left with the original UCAA.  One of two things will happen here:

1) The LL looks for two replacement teams.  Ithaca alumni have had some level of consternation with the number of state schools in the E8 for football.  There had been a level of interest in the past from Ithaca in moving to the LL, but it didn't happen at that time.  Other potential candidates would be Alfred and WNEU from the E8 and NEFC.  I doubt that the LL would go after Hartwick, Utica, or SJF, but if a seventh team is still needed in 2017, it could be reassessed.

2) The LL teams seek other conferences.  This would be very tough for SLU (probably only the ECFC would be plausible).  Rochester has always dipped into the old UAA batch and could rejoin the old UAA teams.  RPI could still be considering a D1 move with the administrative changes we've seen recently.  Union is located such that the school could be attractive to New England conferences.  I have no plausible strategy for Hobart in this scenario, however.  If one more team decides to leave, then I think the LL dissolves as a modern football conference.

It is mathematically possible for the E8, ECFC, LL, MASCAC, NEFC, and NEWMAC to all have 7 or more teams by 2019.  If that happens, then the AQ mess gets even deeper nationally (I think we reach 28 out of 32, which I believe is the most the national base would swallow since it allows an average of only one Pool C bid per region).  The only way for this to happen, though, would be to forge unlikely alliances.  That said, what was more unlikely than Salisbury and Frostburg joining the E8?  At least geography suggests no alliance here is impossible.  Yet, the LL needs to swiftly decide what they want to do here.  2017 is not that far away."

Sound complicated? There's more:

"Here's the possible scenario that could work:

NEFC (5 --> 7) -

Loses WNEU
Gains UNE, Mass-Maritime, One ECFC team

MASCAC (8 --> 7) -

Loses Mass-Maritime

LL (5 --> 7) -

Gains Ithaca, WNEU

E8 (9 --> 7) -

Loses Ithaca, Hartwick

ECFC (7 --> 7) -

Loses a team to the NEFC
Gains Hartwick

That's how AQ hell could become a reality by these conferences all trying to survive in this move."

What complicates matters is new members would likely have to become full time members in every sport.  The LL already has 11 full time members so the respective college / university Presidents would have to approve expansion to 13 full time members vs. a easier approval of affiliate members for football only.

An AD's meeting is slated for tomorrow. I'm sure more shuffling is in store.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Statesmen Name Captains for 2015 Campaign

Six days ago @HobartFootball tweeted out that five rising SR Statesmen were elected as Captains for the 2015 season.

Your captains for this fall include the following:

#98 DL Tucker Gumkowski - a presence on the interior line, Gumkowski played in 12 games last season racking up 39 tackles, seven tackles for loss (TFL), three sacks and an interception (INT). What the stats belie is how well he occupies blockers which is a key component to Hobart's 4-4 defense.

#10 RB Connor Hartigan - after struggling with injuries earlier in his career, Hartigan grew into Hobart's feature back late in the 2014 season, ultimately leading the Statesmen with 871 rushing yards. Nine rushing TDs and a team long 75 yard run shows his ability to break away and make plays.

#7 LB Jacob Stanley - graduated into a starting role at ILB in 2014 and was a force inside, tallying 92 total tackles, one shy of the team best. Stanley appeared in all 13 games and added nine TFL, four sacks, an interception and an emphatic 44 yard FR for a TD against league rival Union.

#14 QB Parker Thelander - "Parker Football" is an overall leader and has been a special teams contributor while backing up Shane Conlan '15. He appeared in relief six times last season while booming punts for an average of 34.23 net with a long of 53. Thelander will be challenged by some young guns, including a D2 transfer from Stonehill, for the starting role at QB this fall.

#43 LB Trayvon Toney - an emotional, fiery leader and heartbeat of the defense, Toney once again led the Statesmen with 93 total tackles. Toney has 193 tackles in his 35 game Hobart career. I wouldn't be surprised if he broke 100 this fall and gets some All American recognition if all goes well.

Congratulations to these fine student athletes! Go Bart!

2014 Football Banquet This Friday

The Statesmen will formally close the book on the 2014 football season, a 12-1 effort that once again featured Hobart advancing to the Elite 8, this Friday night at Club 86 in Geneva, NY.

The ceremonies will include presentation of championship rings to the team as well as recognize the Class of 2015's incredible four season mark of 41-5. This great class which includes multiple All-American and Conference players certainly deserves it.

While there has been plenty of news post-Pro Day, SR OL Ali Marpet continues to garner interest from many NFL teams, the latest per the Sun Sentinel are the Miami Dolphins. I certainly wouldn't mind and would enjoy being able to drive to a couple of hours down to see some Dolphins home games this fall to cheer on Ali if that's where he ends up. Ali has met with approximately 17 different clubs so far and remains projected anywhere from a 2nd to 4th round pick by most prognosticators.

Although no championship belt could be produced in time for this Friday's banquet, there is at least one surprise in store for the Senior Class that I'm sure they'll appreciate. No spoilers from me though. I'm looking forward to a fun night of looking back on a great season, celebrating with the players, their families, friends and fellow Hobart alumni.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hobart Pro Day a Success, Coleman Invited to NFL Super Regional Combine

There's been a lot of Hobart Football news of late, including the successful pro day for SR OL Ali Marpet on Friday, March 13th in Geneva. The event was well attended by pro scouts and Marpet and the Hobart Athletics department showed that even D3 teams can do D1 quality productions.

A link to a D&C article on the day can be found here. Credit Marpet for pointing out a lot of his teammates, including All-Americans SR OL DeAndre' Smith and SR DE Tyre Coleman were a big part of his success as a student athlete at Hobart. SR FB Dominique Ellis also got a "shout out" as well in this group of articles.

Speaking of Coleman, he's also pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL this weekend in Arizona. Coleman was invited to the Super Regional Combine after a good showing at a similar event in Chicago a week prior.

A snapshot of Tyre on the ground in AZ can be seen here. Not surprisingly he performed well and earned some praise in this article by FootballGamePlan.com.

Word is the Buffalo Bills are coming back to Hobart on April 8th to see Ellis, Smith and Coleman in action.

I have some recruiting news to report soon and obviously will report back on the upcoming Football banquet scheduled for April 10th to honor the 2014 Statesmen team, along with the most successful SR class in Hobart Football's nearly 125 year history.

Thanks for reading and go Bart!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Conversation With Coach Drach

Last week Head Football Coach Mike Cragg and Hobart Athletics announced the promotion of Coach Jon Drach to Offensive Coordinator. A link to the formal announcement can be found here.

I "spoke" with Coach Drach earlier this week, asking about the promotion, his approach to being OC and, most importantly, on becoming a new father:

While I suspect the Statesmen probably won't change from the I formation right off the bat, what wrinkles do you hope to bring as OC compared to Coach DeWall?

We will be pretty similar to what we have been in the past. I was able to learn a lot from Coach DeWall over my 8 years with him and feel we have very similar offensive styles. I am sure that my style as a play caller will be different in flow and sequence but with the same goal of putting the ball in the end zone. When teams play Hobart, I want them to know that they faced a physical, aggressive offense. We will control tempo and be methodical in our approach.

What offense did you run as QB at Western Michigan U and do you think that could translate to D3?

At WMU our offense was very similar to what we have run here at Hobart; I believe that was one of the reasons that I was originally hired for the position of QB Coach. Lots of 1 and 2 back sets with multiple personnel groupings and formations. Many different zone concepts in the run game, accompanied with a horizontal and vertical passing game. We leaned a little heavier on the pass at WMU, which was always a lot of fun from a QB's perspective. I am a product of many systems throughout my playing days and you will see that in our offense in 2015.

How much and how has your being a former QB and QB coach shaped your offensive philosophies? 

As QB and QB Coach, I have a few major points that we stress with our guys; Limit negative plays, do not turn the football over, and score points. It sounds pretty simple but it has gotten us to this point. I feel like I have a great understanding of the game from spending time surrounded by the game since birth (dad is a high school coach and in the hall of Fame for Illinois). I know what it is like to have ten other guys looking at you to make a play and take control. I know what it is like to have 11 defensive guys looking to take you out. I think all of that gives me a good understanding of what our guys are going through, they know I understand them.

Speaking of QBs, Hobart will have a new one in 2015. What are you looking for in your new starter? 

We want a guy that can manage this offense and make plays. Our QB will always be in control and put us in a position to win football games. I do not care how flashy we are, I just want our guy to make good decisions and control this offensive unit. QB should and will be judged on wins, not yards thrown or rushed. It is the end product and team that matter most. 

Coach DeWall admitted in his Endicott presser that the timing of his appointment is challenging from a recruiting perspective. How does your being named OC (with 8 years of working at Hobart) make that transition, recruiting and otherwise, easier for the players / incoming recruits? 

All the recruits know me and know what this program stands for. We cross recruit quite a bit so I have had a chance to build relationships with all of our recruits throughout the process. I think the new guys will be comfortable with the change and our current guys have shown nothing but support. Coach DeWall is an outstanding recruiter and coach, his presence will missed but it does not change who we are as a college and program. 

Finally, you just became a new father. How do you feel?

Being a dad is the best thing in the world. Caleb Robert Drach was born 2/28/15 at 9:50pm. 7lbs 14oz and 21 inches. Lots of sleepless nights ahead, but that is just more time to spend talking football with my little guy. 

Many thanks and good luck to Coach Drach, his and the Hobart Football family!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coach DeWall Is Going to the Gulls

Earlier today Hobart Athletics announced the appointment of Hobart OC Kevin DeWall '00 as Head Football Coach for the Endicott College Gulls (Beverly, MA).

While certainly a loss to the Hobart Football program on one hand, you can't be surprised on the other. Coach DeWall has done a masterful job in helping the Statesmen become a Top 10 D3 program and coaching some all time greats (like maybe a future NFL player.....).

While the NEFC will present some challenges, Endicott has made the D3 playoffs in the past and has a lot of access to talent being so close to Boston and it's overall NE ties.

I have no doubt Coach DeWall will be a great hire for Endicott College and make the Gulls not only perennial NEFC championship but also D3FB playoff contenders for years to come.

The only downside is who am I am going to bug for Hobart FB player interviews for "In The HuddLLe" going forward? Usual channels have been less, ahem, responsive, but that's a rant for another day. As an aside Frank did say he will pull Coach's Interview from last November for a #TBT post on this blog or on our @ITHuddLLe handle.

The official press release can be found here.

Congratulations to Coach and Go 'Bart!