2013 Johns Hopkins Football Preview

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Aug 22, 2013

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Johns Hopkins enters the 2013 season with lofty goals and expectations after posting a 10-2 record with a fourth straight Centennial Conference title and a trip to the NCAA Playoffs a year ago. With 17 returning starters, a deep and talented cast of young players anxious to assert themselves and the arrival of another heralded recruiting class, head coach Jim Margraff may just have the elements in place for another run at a Centennial title.

While Margraff has always been one to emphasize what he has and not what he lost, the facts are the facts; gone are the 2012 Centennial Conference Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, the team's top two tacklers from a year ago, more than half of the team's 3,000+ rushing yards and a receiver who totaled more than 100 receptions in his career.

Still, the Blue Jays have moved from rebuild to reload mode in recent years and 2013 appears to be no different. With a schedule that has four of the five teams that directly followed the Blue Jays in the final 2012 league standings scheduled to visit Homewood Field this season, Johns Hopkins appears poised to challenge for a fifth straight CC crown and a fourth trip to the NCAA Playoffs in the last five years.

Below is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2013 Blue Jays.

All senior quarterback Robbie Matey did in his first year as a starter for the Blue Jays was guide the team to a 10-2 record, the program's eighth Centennial Conference title since 2002 and the second round of the NCAA Playoffs. The unflappable Matey enters the 2013 season with a 12-2 (.857) career record, a mark that ranks him among the most successful returning quarterbacks in the nation.

Matey threw for 2,453 yards while completing 67.6% of his attempts a year ago (219-of-324) with 12 touchdown passes. He also provides offensive coordinator Dan Swanstrom with a running threat as he finished third on the team in rushing with 276 yards and six touchdowns. Matey has a strong command of the offense, is a great leader on and off the field and added another impressive number to his resume in the spring; a perfect 4.0 grade point average for the semester.

While the luxury of returning Matey is obvious, the Blue Jays also count junior Braden Anderson as a capable backup. Anderson saw action in nine games a year ago and was 24-of-36 for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also rushing for 94 yards on just 18 attempts (5.2 ypr.).

Running Backs
Surveying the Johns Hopkins roster for the 2013 season turns up several key losses - none bigger than 2012 Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Year Jonathan Rigaud. While Margraff and Swanstrom are confident in the players returning, they also realize replacing the All-American's 1,555 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns won't be easy. With Rigaud leading the way, the Blue Jays averaged 252.8 yards per game rushing and added a school-record 47 rushing touchdowns.

Margraff and Swanstrom won't get any sympathy from the remainder of the Centennial Conference on the loss of Rigaud, in part because the Blue Jays return senior JD Abbott and sophomore Brandon Cherry, who combined for 751 yards and 11 touchdowns on nearly 5.1 yards per attempt between them a year ago.

Abbott, whose totals would likely have been higher if not for a midseason injury, rushed for a career-high 539 yards and eight scores and provided a threat in the passing game as well (8 receptions for 68 yards). His powerful running style provided the perfect complement to Rigaud.

Cherry burst on the scene a year ago and appears primed for a breakout campaign. He rushed for 252 yards and three touchdowns, averaged 17.2 yards on his six receptions and finished fifth on the team in all-purpose yards (531) while seeing time in all 12 games. Rigaud and JHU's all-time leading rusher - Andrew Kase (2006-09) - both enjoyed productive rookie campaigns before emerging as the team's primary weapon at running back as sophomores; Cherry could be in line to do the same.

The Blue Jays return another productive running back in junior Jason Blades, who averaged 6.3 yards per carry and totaled 232 yards and three scores before a late-season injury capped his 2012 campaign. He and classmate Matt Berry, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry in limited action as a freshman before missing the entire 2012 season with an injury, figure to push for increased playing time in the battle to fill Rigaud's role.

Wide Receivers
Matey will have the luxury of throwing to his top two targets of a year ago in seniors Dan Wodicka and Bob D'Orazio, who combined for 146 receptions for 1,501 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.

Wodicka enters his final season as one of the top receivers in school history with 216 receptions for 2,642 yards and 11 touchdowns to his credit. His 216 receptions are the most of any returning Division III receiver in the nation.

Wodicka broke his own single-season school record for receptions last season (94) and needs just 26 receptions to become the Centennial Conference's career receptions leader and just 43 to break the JHU career mark.

D'Orazio emerged last season as a legitimate threat opposite Wodicka as he counted 52 receptions for 634 yards and a team-high four touchdowns to his credit. With a year of starting experience under his belt and a rapport with Matey established, he could become an even bigger threat this season.

In Swanstrom's fast-paced attack (the Blue Jays averaged 79.5 plays per game last season), a deep receiving corps is essential and there's no shortage of talented players looking to find time.

Seniors Jonathan Monteiro and Jared Beekman and sophomores Evan Adamo and Ryan Finkel all figure to see action this season in a key role. Monteiro, Beekman and Adamo combined for 21 receptions for 277 yards and a pair of scores last season, while Finkel is looking to bounce back from a season-ending injury suffered in early in the year.

Tight End
Senior Brendan Hartman returns after enjoying a breakout campaign last season with 16 receptions for 244 yards. He provides a big target (6-3/230) and is a difficult matchup over the middle. With the weapons available on the outside and JHU's deep crop of running backs, it will be difficult for the opposition to key on Hartman and his ability to exploit favorable matchups - especially in the red zone.

Senior Alex Kelln and junior Brad Foulke figure to battle for time when the Blue Jays go to double tight end sets. Kelln played in nine games a year ago, while Foulke is looking to bounce back after missing the entire 2012 season.

Offensive Line
The backbone of the success the Blue Jays have enjoyed offensively in recent years has been the offensive line; the 2013 season should be no different as four starters return here from last season's record-breaking offense.

Senior tackle Armand Jenifer is one of four returning starters along the offensive line.

Headlining the group is senior tackle Armand Jenifer, who has been a starter at right tackle since his first year at Homewood. He is adept at both pass and run-blocking and has the size (6-4/295) and footwork to draw the attention of scouts at the next level. In a program that has produced some outstanding offensive linemen during Margraff's tenure, the First Team AFCA All-American may be the best.

While Jenifer mans the right tackle spot, the responsibility of protecting Matey's blind side falls on senior tackle Vincenzo Bonaddio (6-5/305), who teams with Jenifer to give Johns Hopkins one of the biggest tackle tandems in the nation. Bonaddio earned Second Team All-Centennial Conference and Second Team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors a year ago and, like Jenifer, excels in the run and pass games.

A staple of the Margraff era has been the play of some exceptional centers and senior Ben Cranston seamlessly transitioned into that spot last season after All-American Ed Rodger graduated. Cranston, who had played guard as a sophomore, earned First Team All-Centennial honors in his first season in the middle and has drawn Preseason All-America honors from a pair of publications. His ability to manage the middle of the line figures to be a key for the Blue Jays this season.

Rounding out the returning starters along the line is senior Kevin Quinn, who quietly started all 12 games at left guard a year ago and earned Second Team All-Centennial honors. On a line full of decorated returning players, Quinn is often overlooked, but has worked hard to develop into one of the top interior linemen in the Centennial Conference.

The vacant guard spot opposite Quinn may see a rotation of players filling the spot as there is no shortage of talented returnees in contention for time. Senior Mark Bozzo, juniors Kyle Flynn and Zach Lorenz and sophomore Colin Eagan all figure to see time this season; the nucleus of the line in 2014 will also likely come from this group and their ability to gain time this season will ease that transition.

A pair of talented sophomores with great size, Baxter DeBruyn (6-4/295) and Rowan Cade (6-8/310), figure to see time at the tackle spots behind Jenifer and Bonaddio.

Defensive Line
Winning at any level of football often comes down to controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. With all four starters returning on the defensive line, the Blue Jays should have a leg up on the opposition here as JHU was strong against the run and also did a nice job of pressuring the quarterback last season.

Senior Joe DiTrolio anchors the line from his spot at nose guard. A powerful inside player, DiTrolio counted five tackles for losses and three sacks among his 39 tackles last season en route to earning Second Team All-Centennial honors. His ability to hold the point of attack in the middle was a key to JHU allowing just 102 yards per game rushing a year ago.

Junior Michael Rocca joins DiTrolio on the interior of the line and, at 6-foot-6, creates passing lane issues for the opposition. He posted 23 tackles, including 2.5 for losses and two sacks, last season and is primed to become one of the top interior linemen in the Centennial.

The end spots are manned by juniors Michael Longo and Matthew Connery, who excel at putting pressure on the quarterback. Longo grabbed Honorable Mention All-Centennial honors last season, when he led all Johns Hopkins defensive linemen with 44 tackles. Included were 7.5 for losses and 5.5 sacks, while Connery counted a team-high 11.5 tackles for losses and five sacks among his 39 tackles on the year.

A trademark of the Blue Jay defense during Margraff's tenure has been a deep rotation that emphasizes keeping players fresh and this season should see more of the same.

Two other key players return to the line in seniors Andy Laychur and Mike Zikoski. Laychur epitomizes JHU's commitment to playing a deep rotation as he counted a team-high 7.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for losses among his 29 tackles last season despite not starting a single game on the edge. Zikoski will once again provide talented and experienced depth inside after notching 25 tackles in 12 games a year ago.

While a solid nucleus returns on defense for the Blue Jays, the linebacking corps did suffer two big losses to graduation as Taylor Maciow, the 2012 Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and Adam Schweyer, a First Team All-Centennial selection a year ago, took more than 425 career tackles, 36.5 tackles for losses, 18.5 sacks and 15 pass breakups with them when they graduated in May.

Again, not many will feel sorry for Margraff or first-year defensive coordinator Mickey Rehring, who officially count just one returning starter here, but may still boast one of the most talented linebacking units in the Centennial.

Junior Hani Annabi is - in theory - the only returning starter as he got the nod in all 12 games last season. After ringing up 55 tackles to rank fourth on the team, he is now a leader just one year after being the only non-senior among the starting four in the middle level in JHU's 4-4-3 alignment.

John Arena, a 2012 First Team Academic All-American, is JHU's top returning tackler on defense.

Senior John Arena has put together some impressive numbers during his time at Johns Hopkins despite not technically being a starter. Arena finished third on the team in tackles (64) and added 7.0 tackles for losses and a pair of sacks last season to earn Second Team All-Centennial honors. The leading active tackler on the team (115), Arena's other key number is 4.0 - as in he boasts a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade point average as a neuroscience major and earned First Team Academic All-America honors last season.

While Annabi and Arena are the most experienced returning players at linebacker, the most talented may in fact be sophomore Keith Corliss, who burst on the scene last season as a freshman and rang up 36 tackles while appearing in all 12 games. He stepped into a starting role in the NCAA Playoffs when Maciow went down with a season-ending injury and responded with eight tackles in JHU's 42-10 win over Washington & Jefferson in the first round. He has the frame (6-2/210) and athleticism to become the latest in a long line of decorated middle linebackers for the Blue Jays.

Seniors Nate Winek and J.P. Marquess, who combined for 34 tackles in reserve roles a year ago, figure to play more prominent roles this season, while junior Nick Follet (11) sophomore Brady Watts (17) were key special teams performers a year ago and should also settle into bigger roles defensively.

Two-thirds of the Blue Jays' starting secondary is back in junior cornerback Ryan Rice and sophomore safety Joe Trumbetti. Gone is cornerback Alex Logue, but the Blue Jays used a crop of talented young players a year ago in nickel and dime situations and the experience gained should pay dividends this season.

Rice, a Second Team All-Centennial and First Team CoSIDA Academic All-District pick a year ago, counted 37 tackles, four pass breakups and one interception to his credit last season and is widely regarded as one of the top cover corners in the Centennial. He is now the most experienced player in the secondary and will be counted on to lead a talented young group.

Trumbetti was thrust into the starting safety spot a year ago as a freshman and responded with 25 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. His command of the secondary should take a big jump this season with added experience and confidence.

Joining Trumbetti at safety is fellow sophomore TJ Reeves, who played in all 12 games and led all freshmen in tackles (37) and the team in interceptions (3) last season. Reeves plays much larger than his 5-foot-7 frame and quickly developed a knack for making big plays.

Junior Chris Ibrahim could be the wild card in the secondary after making the move from offense in the spring. Ibrahim finished second on the team in special teams tackles a year ago (10) and is one of the fastest players on the team.

The secondary will not count a senior among its charges this season. Juniors Jimmy Holder and Patrick Eichner and sophomores Curtis Antrum and Charlie Kassis figure to find time at cornerback and all will likely play key roles on special teams as well.

Special Teams
Senior Richie Carbone, who is also a standout member of the Blue Jay baseball team, handled the punting and place-kicking chores a year ago. He averaged 36.6 yards on his 34 punts and was 50-of-55 on extra points and 2-for-3 on field goals. With a proficient offense that averaged 36.8 points per game, his field goal attempt numbers weren't that high, but his experience provides a comfort level should JHU's efficiency in the red zone decline.

The return game boasts all the key producers from a year ago as Adamo and Cherry handled a majority of the kickoff return chores, while Wodicka is back as the primary punt return specialist.

Adamo averaged 22.7 yards on a team-high 19 kickoff returns, while Cherry was good for 17.6 yards on 10 returns. Wodicka was often asked to simply save yards with a fair catch, but did average 9.4 yards on 17 punt returns and has a career average of 11.3 on 30 attempts.

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