Continuing the Patriot League offseason blog series, I introduce to you: *your* Georgetown Hoyas.
Coaching Changes: Say this about Georgetown athletics: they are incredibly patient. Entering Year Three of head football coach Kevin Kelly's rebuilding project in our nation's capital and coming off a dismal 1-10 season, the main cogs of the entire Hoya coaching staff remains intact for the first time in coach Kelly's tenure. The only addition comes in the form of a new volunteer assistant Matt Shea, who also worked with the NFL's Washington Redskins as a video coordinator.
The Hardest Guy To Replace: Even though the Hoya offense ranked last in the Patriot League in 2007 in scoring (15.1 points per game, 11.7 points per game in league games), the player responsible for more than half of those points is graduating. Tough QB Matt Bassuener not only was the primary signalcaller all year (1,874 yards passing, 8 TDs), he was also the teams 2nd leading rusher (308 yards, 4 TDs). It's going to be a free-for-all to find out which QB will step into his shoes at QB.
Big Name in the Incoming Class: If you thought Lehigh was the only school that brought in a highly-regarded QB from the midwest, you'd better think again. WR David King out of northern Illinois, who was an option QB in high school, brings his talents to DC after the Hoyas out-recruited Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, Harvard and Brown. Strangely, though, he's not in the mix at QB and instead on the depth chart as a WR.
Incoming Class Grade: B+. If this were getting scored on "filling needs", coach Kelly would certainly get an 'A' - of course with so many needs, it's impossible to fill everything, especially in one year. Seven (not a typo) players are listed as potential QBs, with four players exclusively listed at QB. Kelly also went for pure speed at RB, with three RBs at 5'10 or less (the "biggest" is RB Kyle Miller at a "beefy" 6'0, 185 lbs). It would have been nice to get a linchpin lineman, especially on the "O" line, which they didn't get. Still, it's clear that coach Kelly is going for an Appalachian State-like spread offense at Georgetown with this bunch.
Spring Game: Coach Kelly didn't score the game this time, but he appeared happy with the results of the drills that he put his team through. It seemed like the players, slowly, are starting to believe in the system that coach Kelly is bringing to DC offensively and defensively. Changing the culture in a program is a tough job - and Kelly seemed to make some headway. After the game, the coveted #35 jersey was awarded to junior DE Nicholas Umar as team captain.
Preseason So Far: For every football team, the preseason is always filled with talk of how this team is the best ever, and why. But the quotes showing up on Georgetown's web site concerning practice are truly worthy of mention. Senior DE Anthony DiTomasso: "There is no doubt that this team is giant steps ahead of the team it was a year ago at this point and with the leadership and work ethic of all those involved, that will hopefully be shown on the field this season." Senior QB Brian Newman: "We must continue to work to become the best conditioned and most disciplined team in the league. Our goals are lofty, but can be achieved through hard work and strong leadership." Frustratingly, there was no talk as to who is in the running for starting QB, but it seems like attitudes are changing at Georgetown.
Fan Base: To be a Georgetown fan is to experience pain. More accurately, Lucy-pulling-the-football-away-from-Charlie-Brown type of pain.
Going into the season, each year Hoya fans feel like every other football fan in America: this is the Year. This is the one that Georgetown will finally emerge from the shadow of the other Patriot League schools. That their new (pick one: new offense, new defense, new coaching staff, new recruit) will swoop into our Nation's capital and singlehandedly avenge the ghost of George Bahen and avenge what those bastards at the Columbia Athletic Club did to him and restore Georgetown's place in the universe.
But more than other schools, Georgetown football fans are teased like Lucy teases Charlie Brown. They're teased with brand new stadiums: and then it's yanked away - an unnamed Multi-Sport Field, eagerly awaiting more stands, in suspended animation since 2005. They're teased with highly-rated recruting classes (how many years have we heard that this recruiting squad is the one that will rescue the Hoyas?) only to see the Hoyas, again, dead last in offense. They're teased with hopes of a winning record and Patriot League wins - and then Lehigh steps in the breach - in an off year, mind you - and pastes the Hoyas 45-0.
Add to that an enduring disrespect from the DC media, who breathlessly covers Maryland football as if it were even important (or has done anything remotely important in college football history in the past twenty years except win one lousy ACC title and get pasted by Florida in the Orange Bowl that year), but barely even recognizes local teams Howard or Georgetown in football. Adding insult to injury is the preseason accolades and non-stop talk of Hoya basketball around mid-October, where fans are constantly reminded of a Hoya team that has national acclaim and has the rapt attention of the local area.
This year, like all others, Georgetown football fans are once again hopeful, especially the younger ones who haven't endured the same disappointment since the Hoyas have joined the Patriot League. Yet the older, wiser fans - like Clinton-istas looking over at Obama-niacs - have seen it before. They're hopeful that this year will be different - that maybe a DC paper might publish something about Georgetown football in late October, competing for the Patriot League title - but secretly aren't counting on it.
Overall Offseason: Last year, I said that "it should be very interesting to see how these young pups start to come together this year." I could cut-and-paste that analysis to this year's group - oh, wait, I just did.
Coach Kelly should have all the time he needs to build the Georgetown program into one that can compete for Patriot League titles in the long run, and that involves changing the culture around the program. He appears to be making headway in that department, as well as bringing a 21st century offense to the Hoyas as well when all is said and done. It's slow work, though as Georgetown fans eagerly await word to see which freshmen will be working their way into the starting lineup. Hope, as always, springs eternal.