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Patriot League Offseason 2008: Colgate

Today I'm profiling Colgate in my "Patriot League Offseason" series. Ladies and gentlemen: *your* Colgate Raiders.

COLGATE
Coaching Changes: This offseason, Colgate lost a huge part of their dominating defenses over the past decade: defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham, who was grabbed by Greg Schiano of Rutgers to fill out his staff vacancies. (Schiano, himself a Bucknell grad, obviously is no dummy.) Filling his big shoes as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach is another huge name: Steve Szabo, a Navy alum who played football alongside the great Roger Staubach. More recently, he comes after coaching linebackers at Michigan after a long, illustrious coaching career which included stops on defensive coaching staffs in the NFL. Also hired were two coaches from the ranks of Division III: a new defensive assistant (Dave Uimonen, Springfield College) and running backs coach (Kade Rannings, St. Joseph's, IN)

The Hardest Guy To Replace: This one isn't hard at all: LB Mike Gallihugh simply was one of those special players on the Raiders that Colgate will most likely need 2 or 3 players to replace. One of the strongest players on the team physically, he was recognized as one of the best linebackers in FCS as a Buck Buchanan Award finalist and a second-team Sports Network All-American. All that and he amassed 123 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and 10 tackles for loss, too.

Big Name in the Incoming Class: If you ask anyone in the Lehigh Valley, the big name is definitely RB/LB Nate Eachus, one of those special high school athletes that you just know folks are going to be talking about a long, long time from his Hazelton area exploits on the wrestling mat and in the Pennsylvania state football playoffs. A two-way player in high school with 2,169 yards and 28 TDs rushing his senior year, , he could very well be the heir apparent at RB the second senior RB Jordan Scott graduates. With his incredible record and durability at the high school level, it's no wonder Colgate fans are already excited (and Lehigh and Lafayette fans are just a little bit nervous).

Incoming Class Grade: B+. With an incoming class of 32 players, there's pretty good odds that they are going to get a bunch of needs filled, and with 7 'D' linemen on the list they filled their most glaring need in their list: defensive end. A local legend at tailback, more LBs, big 'O' linemen... the only thing keeping this class from being an 'A' is that Colgate only got three DBs where they seem to need more. Still, this seems like yet another quality recruiting class.

Spring Game: By historic standards, the Raiders' official release on spring practice was like jumping from Dr. Seuss to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing: you're happy that the number of words have gone up, but you're still left wanting more. Still no scoring; still no indicator as to what coach Biddle did on the day; but two individuals were singled out in junior LB Greg Hadley and junior WR Pat Simonds as having had an outstanding spring. (Of course, I had them penciled in as starters already; not exactly earth-shattering news.) That's about it, although intriguingly coach Biddle also said that "the back-up QB position is still up for grabs as are some of the linebacker positions," and didn't rule out freshmen battling for starting spots.

Preseason So Far: It's been a tumultuous offseason for Colgate with a lot of attention for the wrong reasons: the leading rusher in FCS last year, senior RB Jordan Scott (along with senior DB David Morgan) getting charged for burglary, pleading guilty, and later spending 21 days in jail. Now with the unfortunate incident behind them (and Scott's and Morgan's one-game suspension looming for the Stony Brook game), you got the undercurrent that the Raiders couldn't wait to put on the pads and hit something - anything. Piecing together the preseason from loyal Colgate fans (officially, there's only an unhelpful two sentence announcement that practice had begun) leads to a picture of an interesting, aggressive defense... and an offense that will offer few surprises. Interestingly, senior QB Alex Relph's arm strength and accuracy was questioned in one post --and, according to the poster, there were not many downfield passes by any QB on the roster, either.

Fan Base: Generally speaking, Colgate fans are some of the nicest fans you'll ever meet. If your team weren't playing against them, generally they're exactly the type of fans you want to see happy with national championships and league titles - even if most of the talk seems to center around ECAC Hockey rather than men's basketball or football. As Patriot League rivals, this character trait makes their fans so difficult to deal with. Who can hate a team whose team is so... nice? They almost beg to be taunted, to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of the emotional rollercoaster in which most regular sports fans live.

That's what has made the Jordan Scott situation so interesting, with fans obsessing over the tone of Scott in media interviews, asking is-he-or-isn't-he in spring practice, or pouring over the terse reports about the Raiders' progress in the offseason. Colgate fan goes against Colgate fan debating things like: are athletes getting preferential treatment? Is Scott getting treated too harshly?

In other words: Colgate fans seem to be changing in a subtle way. Football fever has thawed the tundra in Hamilton. They're starting to resemble the crazy football fan bases in the rest of America. If they win the Patriot League title this year, perhaps we can expect the same annoying hubris that (say) Lehigh fans exhibited in the late 1990s. Conversely: can running coach Biddle out of town after back-to-back 7-4 records be far behind?

Overall Offseason: In a world of Appalachian State and spread offenses, the Colgate smashmouth offense is refreshingly retro, and with the Scott drama behind them, Raider fans are heaving a sigh of relief. With the studs that coach Biddle seems to get every year in recruiting - along with a defense that seems like it's ahead of schedule at this point in the offseason, despite the presence of a new defensive coordinator - Colgate fans have every reason for some hubris. They may worry about Relph's arm, but going into the season they look to be a daunting opponent for everyone in 2008.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Nice wrap up and very balanced and fair. As a Raider fan, we shall endeavor to be a bit less "nice" and somewhat more rabid in the coming years.
Anonymous said…
Nice writing and great insights, as always. I love your website and have loved reading it for the past several years. keep up the good work!!

from "raiders"

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