Friday, August 27, 2010
Know Your 2010 Opponents: Colgate
And that's probably just how Raider fans - and head coach Dick Biddle, who is entering his fifteenth season coaching the team playing in the frozen tundra of upstate New York - like it.
There's no drama this season in Hamilton, really compared to the rest of the Patriot League. Elsewhere, there are quarterback battles in training camp, staff changes, head coaching changes and plenty of news to keep the newspapers and internet buzzing. Colgate? They're wondering which players they can reload with while their senior signalcaller - and leading running back - return to shoulder the Raider load in 2010. There's no drama in Raidertown. (more)
Biddle, a veteran of preseason expectations, has mastered the art of mildly praising his team while somehow making it seem like the media is crazy for picking his team to win the Patriot League.
“You normally get picked because you’ve been fairly good,” he told the Utica Observer-Dispatch. “You’d rather be picked than not. We have our quarterback and tailback back, and other people have lost theirs, so we get picked.”
What Biddle neglected to mention that those two players are: his starting signalcaller and third-leading rusher, senior QB Greg Sullivan (1,952 yards passing, 778 yards rushing, 25 TDs) and a superstar rusher in junior RB Nate Eachus (919 yards rushing, 16 TDs in 8 games). With these two workhorses coming back - and a mammoth offensive line which Biddle admittedly calls "the biggest since I got here" - there's plenty of reason for high expectations in Hamilton.
Sullivan is a tough, scrappy competitor who will just as easily beat you with his legs as with his arms. The Raiders are quite happy to let their offensive line - led by mammoths like junior C Kevin Morgan - smash you in the mouth and let Eachus run you over. When Eachus gets a little tired, Sullivan has a tendency to throw completions to the sticks. Then, it's rinse, lather, repeat - until you've lost.
The only problem with this narrative is that Sullivan's favorite target, WR Pat Simonds, graduated last year, meaning senior WR Doug Rosnick is the wideout with the most experience (396 yards) returning. Sophmore WR Jonathan Mputu is a name that has been mentioned as another potential replacement for Simonds' production.
To be fair, losing Simonds and a good chunk of his offensive line from last year must not make Biddle Mr. Sunshine. But the way Colgate has plugged in all-Patriot League offensive linemen over the years to replace the ones that graduated - well, you have to take what Coach Biddle says sometimes with a grain of salt.
And it certainly won't make Biddle rest any easier that their schedule, like Lehigh's, doesn't really offer a lot of rest. After Monmouth of the NEC and Furman of the SoCon - neither of which will be easy victories - a game with their nearby historic upstate New York Rival, Syracuse - finalized the last week of April, for a September 25th, 2010 date - is circled on every Raider fan's calendar, and looms even larger than the other games. Forget the fact that the Orange haven't sniffed a bowl since 2004, or a winning record since 2001 - with the way they play, Colgate will have their hands full.
The Raiders also graduated some key playmakers on defense, too, which means co-defensive coordinators Ryan Knowles and Pat Foley also have some key holes to fill as well. SS Uzi Idah and LB Greg Hadley, their two leading tacklers, need to be replaced, as well as DE Garrington Spence, their leading sack artist.
Senior CB Coree Moses (34 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Patriot League rookie of the year sophomore DB Demetri Diamond (35 tackles, 5 passes defended) will lead a very strong secondary. Senior DE Zach Smith (43 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks) will in all likelihood lead the defensive line - but who will be the key guy at linebacker? Senior LB Chris DiMassa (13 tackles) has the most experience returning in the middle - which is unusual for the Raiders, as they tend to grow great middle linebackers the same way they grow huge "O" linemen.
Could it be that Colgate has more holes than they've let on - that coach Biddle is right to downplay the expectations? While they may face some growing pains, one thing I've definitely learned is: never underestimate senior QB Greg Sullivan. A gutsy, veteran quarterback can disguise a lot of ills. Colgate fans will hope that Sullivan straps an "S" on his chest in their brutal first month and hope everything else gels in time for the big games against Holy Cross and Lafayette later in the season.