September 19, 2012

Optimistic Bates set to open at Trinity

More news about: Bates

LEWISTON, Maine — Coming off of their best season since 2002 at 3-5, the Bates football team certainly has the potential to maintain its upward trajectory in 2012. Saturday at Trinity College begins what may prove to be one of the most entertaining seasons of Bates College football in years. Here's a look at why.

COACHING STAFF

Familiarity and stability on a coaching staff can do a lot for a football team. Now in his 15th season as Bates' head coach, Mark Harriman is in his third year as Bates' quarterbacks coach as well. It's also the third year of Bates' triple option offense, and Daryle Weiss's third year as offensive coordinator, in addition to his offensive line coaching responsibilities. Seventh-year assistant coach Chris Kempton is also in his third year as Bates' defensive coordinator, and 16th-year defensive line coach Skip Capone is in his third season as Bates' special teams coordinator. Duncan Averill is in his third year as Bates' defensive backs and strength and conditioning coach. Mark Clements enters his second season on Bates' staff, and has moved from coaching receivers to slotbacks. Newcomers to Bates' staff are Brett McAllister '12 (outside linebackers), a standout at outside linebacker for the past four seasons at Bates, and Mark Dupuis (wide receivers).

OFFENSE

The ingredients are there for what could be Bates' all-around best offense since Sean Atkins scored seven touchdowns against Bowdoin in 2002:

Quarterback Trevor Smith enters his senior season after taking a leap forward in his junior year — his first full eight-game season, though he had played in 11 games combined as a freshman and sophomore. Obstacles in the path of Smith's career thus far have included an appendix removal, time-sharing with former teammate Ryan Katon '12 in his first two seasons, and the installment of Bates' triple-option offense, which began in 2010 and altered Smith's responsibilities from being mostly a dropback QB to being a quick decision-maker on virtually every snap — not just the passing plays.

Smith ranked third in the NESCAC in total offense, with a Bates record 1,688 yards (1,501 passing, 187 rushing). Though in Bates' offense he'll probably never throw as much as other QBs in the conference, he still ranked fifth in pass efficiency in the league (115.8), completing 140 of 253 passes (55.3%) for 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions and 1,501 yards. Strong-armed sophomore Matt Cannone is Smith's backup.

Senior running back Patrick George, the team's lone captain, has rushed for 845 yards and 11 touchdowns in three years, including 465 and six with a 3.9 yards-per-carry average in 2011, all career bests. The tackle-busting inside runner has a nice backup in senior Teddy Downs, who rushed 34 times in 2011 for 178 yards, a 5.2 average.

Junior Ryan Curit leads an intriguing and athletic group of slotbacks on the offense. Curit emerged as one of the NESCAC's premier running and receiving threats, finishing the year ninth in all-purpose yards with 773 (432 rushing, 350 receiving) while making 5.5 receptions per game, fifth highest in the league. Curit will start in the slot along with sophomore Mac Jackson, an All-NESCAC faceoff specialist in lacrosse. The slotback group also includes more of the fastest and most athletic players on the team, including sophomore Lani Eversage, promising rookie Shaun Carroll and junior Shawn Doherty, who resumes his career in garnet after missing the past year and a half. Doherty averaged 117.5 all-purpose yards per game in his first four games as a rookie in 2010, on 20 rushing attempts, nine receptions and 16 kick returns.

And, maybe best of all, the offensive line looks talented, deep and experienced. Bates returns all of the offensive linemen who started a game in 2011 save for center Andrew Scichilone '12. Most intriguingly, two standout linemen return to the lineup after missing all of last season with injuries. Senior left tackle Ryan Weston, an All-NESCAC selection in 2010, and two-year starter Mark Sylvester are back to form the left side of the line. Sophomore Larry Guinee, who had an outstanding rookie season, starting all eight games at guard, will move to center, and the right side of the line will see juniors Michael Bernstein and Liam O'Neil return to right guard and right tackle, respectively. Harriman also hopes to have senior Matt Antonellis, who started four games at offensive tackle last year, healthy and ready to provide even greater depth on the line. The surplus of returning offensive linemen, along with the relative dearth of experience on the other side of the ball, prompted Harriman to switch athletic sophomore Owen Mahan, who made six starts in 2011, to play on the defensive line.

Wide receiver is Bates' only offensive position group that may have a lack of experience, however relative. Kevin Davis (9 receptions, 87 yards, 1 TD in 2011) will start in place of graduated All-NESCAC wideout John Squires '12, while senior Ryan MacDonald (9 receptions, 61 yards, 1 TD in 2011) moves from slotback to wide receiver, in part to take advantage of his strength as a blocker.

The return of Weston and Sylvester, and Doherty as well, "really shores up the offense," said Harriman, and the veteran presence of Smith and George should further stabilize what may be a potent and balanced attack. The Bobcats scored 22.4 points per game in 2011, fifth best in the conference. They ran for 158.2 yards per game, ranking third, and passed for 187.6 yards, ranking fifth in that category. Bates hopes to not only maintain the flexibility not only to run and pass with equal effectiveness, but also to control time of possession, behind the strength of its offensive line strength and Smith's decision-making.

"The offense needs to set the pace for us a little bit this year," said Harriman. "Defensively we've got some really good athletes, but their experience is going to be a factory early.

DEFENSE

Indeed, in contrast to nine returning starters on offense, the Bobcats will have the luxury of starting experience at only three positions on defense: senior defensive end Matt Gaither, senior cornerback Kyle Starr and junior safety Andrew Kukesh. The front eight in Bates' 3-5-3 defense did a good job of playing the run in its preseason scrimmage at Colby last Friday, according to Harriman, and with ball-hawking defensive backs in Kukesh and Starr, both All-NESCAC selections (in 2010 and 2011, respectively), the Bobcats will seek to keep that up in the regular season, beginning Saturday against Trinity's league-leading rushing attack, led by junior Ethan Bunker, who tied his brother Evan of Amherst with a conference-best 106.6-yards per game average in 2011.

Gaither, with 20 games under his belt, leads the defensive line. The 6-foot-5 end made 21 tackles last year, included 5.5 for a loss and three sacks. He also batted away four passes. Gaither and Owen Mahan ("Athletically Owen has the ability to play over there and be a very good player for us," said Harriman) will flank junior defensive tackle Matt Comstock (15 tackles in 2011). Sophomore Sam Hundley is one of what will likely be in a mix of five or six defensive linemen to see playing time right away.

Two of Bates' three inside linebacker spots will be filled with experienced seniors stepping into the starting role for the first time, although both senior Josh Chronopoulos (23 tackles in 2011) and Joe Dell'Erario (16 tackles) have started before and been effective run stoppers when called upon. Joining them at ILB is a promixing mix of younger players, headed by likely Week 1 starter Josh Freedland, one of Bates' top special-teams contributors as a freshman last year. Also likely to see playing time are sophomores Steven Hild, Adam Cuomo and John Durkin.

The outside linebacker position, which demands players who can rush the passer and defend the pass, will be occupied on opening day by sophomore Gilbert Brown, who made a splash late in his rookie season, and senior Evan Dowd, who has grown from an athletic 6-1, 175-pound cornerback and punter into a 6-2, 200-pound OLB. The Bobcats hope Dowd's transition from DB to OLB mirrors the successful one Cam Evans '12 made last season. As for Brown, if he continues the pace he set in the last two games of 2011 (a combined 13 tackles, four for a loss with two sacks and an interception), he may be a rising defensive star.

The defensive backfield is again anchored by junior free safety Kukesh, Bates' leading returning tackler with 56 last year, in addition to two interceptions and four pass breakups. Kukesh's smarts, character and outstanding athleticism are all welcome commodities to have on a young defense. Starting opposite Starr at the other cornerback position at Trinity will be sophomore Mike Kelleher, who didn't play due to injury last year but had an outstanding offseason, according to Harriman. Sophomore Ryan Newson, another special teams standout last year, will also be called upon to play in Bates' backfield.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Junior kicker Charlie Donahue made 14 of 18 extra-point attempts and 1 of 2 field goal attempts in 2011. Sophomore David Kurey returns to punt, after a rookie season in which he averaged 35.8 yards per kick, sixth best in the NESCAC. Junior linebacker A.J. DeBenedictis will serve as Bates' long snapper.

OUTLOOK

While a young and inexperienced defense may have to endure some growing pains, Bates should be able to put points on the scoreboard as well as anyone. If the offense can be the defense's best friend by wearing down opposing defenses and keeping the Bates D fresh, that's a proven winning formula. Barring major injury issues, the Bobcats have what it takes to go 3-5, 4-4 or beyond in 2012.

Trinity, however, would be a tough opening opponent for any Division III team. The Bantams return two All-NESCAC running backs and three All-NESCAC offensive linemen from last year's league-leading ground attack, along with five starters and two all-conference returnees from last fall's defense that led the nation in three statistical categories. The game starts at 1pm at Jessee/Miller Field, where Trinity has won 43 straight games, on Saturday in Hartford.

Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
Box Score Recap
Final
MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
Box Score
Final
at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
Box Score Photos
Final
St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
Box Score
Final
at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western New England 59, Curry 28
Box Score
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Colby 9, at Williams 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
Box Score
Final
at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
Box Score
Final
Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
Box Score
Final
at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
Box Score
Final
at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
Box Score
Final
at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
Box Score
Final
at Springfield 28, WPI 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Denison 45, Wooster 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
Final
at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
Box Score Recap
Final
at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
Final
at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
Box Score
Final
Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
Box Score
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
Box Score
Final
at Centre 49, Chicago 27
Box Score
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
Box Score Recap
Final
Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
Box Score
Final
at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
Box Score
Final
at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
Box Score
Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
Box Score
Final
Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
Box Score Photos
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
Box Score Photos
Final
Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
Box Score
Final
at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
Box Score Photos
Final
Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
Box Score
Final
at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
Box Score
Final
at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
Final
Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
Box Score
Final
Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
Final
at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
Box Score
Final
at Ripon 33, Knox 19
Final
Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
Box Score
Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
Box Score
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
Box Score
Final
UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
Box Score
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
Box Score
Final
at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
Box Score
Final
at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Box Score Photos
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
Video Live Stats
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Sep. 29: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
Live Stats
Sep. 30: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Emory and Henry at Washington and Lee
Video Live Stats Audio Audio
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap