September 3, 2014

Football Season Kicks Off This Saturday

Susquehanna Game Notes
Lycoming Game Notes

Regardless of past successes or failures, a new season is a blank slate for every team. That statement could not be truer for the 2014 Susquehanna University football team.

Five of the team's nine losses in 2013 were by seven points or fewer, including the final two games of the season. Despite what the coaching staff and players would deem a less than successful season, the Crusaders still boasted five All-Centennial Conference players, three of which return in 2014.

With head coach Steve Briggs at the helm of the program for his 25th year as head coach, 2014 shows nothing but promise. Briggs has compiled a talented coaching staff that includes the addition of defensive coordinator Rocco Salomone. Salomone has more than 20 years of head coaching experience at the Division III level as he comes to SU from SUNY Brockport where he was the winningest coach in program history.

OFFENSE
No matter how preseason camp shakes out, SU may have a new signal caller behind center this season. Last fall's starter, Mark Rosenbaum, was lost due to graduation and Taylor Kolmer, who saw action in seven games in 2013, has shifted to wide receiver. Kolmer will, however, be a more than viable option at quarterback should Briggs and his staff choose that route.

Sophomore Sean Loftus and freshmen Mike Dolan, Chris Hamersma, Nick Crusco and Matt Thies all enter camp vying for time at the quarterback position, as well.

Whoever gets the starting quarterback nod will have a talented group of wide receivers with which to work. Preseason All-American Denzell Walker led the team in receiving last year with 38 receptions for 615 yards and five touchdowns. Receiving mate Will Howell, now a junior, racked up 317 yards and two touchdowns on 25 receptions as the team's second-leading receiver.

On the ground, senior Ian Richardson and juniors Tim Wade, and Kris Stern should see a bulk of the carries. Wade rushed for just under 800 yards last year with a team-leading six touchdowns. Richardson saw action in just two games but found the endzone twice.

While there will be many new faces on the offensive line, the ground game should be aided by the addition of junior transfer Ryan Pearce, a 6-4, 290-pound player from Division I Cornell University. Pearce played two years for the Big Red, including starting as a sophomore.

DEFENSE
The defense will be under new leadership in Salomone and while new faces will see playing time this season, there is a wealth of talent returning. Four of the team's top five tacklers from 2013 return this fall, including team captain Jim Barry '16, who finished last year with 61 tackles. Senior Steven Viegas boasted 71 tackles in 2013, second-best on the team, and was also second in passes broken up (7) and passes defended (8).

Senior defensive back Cody Miller was all over the field last year with a team-high 11 pass breakups and 13 passes defended in addition to his 59 tackles and two interceptions. Junior Tom McLoughlin is also expected to have a big year after appearing in all 10 games as a sophomore with 50 tackles and one interception.

The defensive line, much like the offensive line, will have a multitude of new faces. Junior Phil Pecora and sophomore Alex Pecora may be among the most game experienced defensive linemen on the roster this year but a talented freshman group will see significant playing time.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Back for his senior season is three-time First-Team All-Conference kicker Spencer Hotaling. Hotaling was named a First-Team All-Conference player last season after averaging 58.1 yards per kickoff and will again be a crucial player for Susquehanna. He also connected on 8-of-10 field goal attempts, including a career-long of 43 yards. His 80 percent field goal percentage was 12th best among all Division III kickers last year.

While the team lost talented punter T.J. Morton, Hotaling will step in to fill his shoes. Hotaling held the punting duties in 2012 and averaged 39.7 yards per punt with 10 inside the 20 and seven of 50-plus yards.

Junior Kwane Hayle, the fastest player on the team, will see time at receiver but will also make valuable contributions in the return game. He had six kickoff returns for 119 yards last season. As for punt returns, Miller had four returns for an average of 5.5 yards per return.