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Patriot League Offseason 2009: Colgate

My "Patriot League Offseason" series continues with that pesky team in the Great White North that has a disturbing tendency to win Patriot League championships in football. Ladies and gentlemen: *your* Colgate Raiders.

COLGATE
Coaching Changes: Replacing longtime defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham, who went to Rutgers two years ago, has proved to be a more difficult challenge than many might have thought. Last year's candidate, Steve Szabo, left after only one year to become an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan, leaving head coach Dick Biddle to promote from within to implement co-defensive coordinators: defensive line coach Ryan Knowles and secondary coach Nick Monroe. Aside from that and the addition of Pat Foley (Merchant Marine Academy; Linebackers) and Gabe Harrington (USMA; Strength & Conditioning), coach Biddle's staff - notably on offense - is almost completely intact from last year.

The Hardest Guy To Replace: Even though he was injured a good portion of last year, RB Jordan Scott is still the sort of player that will definitely be missed. The Patriot League record holder for rushing yards (5,621), and rushing touchdowns (59) may have been ably spelled by the local high school legend around these parts, sophomore RB Nate Eachus (932 yards rushing, 10 TDs), you don't simply lose a great player like that and feel no impact. (It also doesn't help that OL Nick Hennessey, and the majority of the "O" line that allowed him to carve out those yards, have also graduated.)

Big Name in the Incoming Class: While coach Biddle commented on the release of the incoming class with his usual "fanfare" ("A number of the incoming players will compete for playing time and will be called upon to play special teams." - please, Coach Biddle, don't hold back!) one kid out of California does stand out: freshman DB Demetri Diamond (Newhall Hart HS, CA). A do-everything player for the Indians, Diamond played running back and linebacker as well as retuning kicks. It's not hard to picture the 6'3, 205 lb incomer as a future free safety for coach Biddle in the future - and he may be returning kicks right away, too.

Incoming Class Grade: A. What's not to like? A nationwide recruiting class, filled with beef on both lines (Freshman OL Brian Crockett, 285 lbs, freshman DL Chris Horner, 260 lbs), several tall receiving candidates to replace potential pro prospect senior WR Pat Simonds (including 6'3 freshman WR Jonathan Mputu), and for good measure some linebackers (including freshman LB Pat Friel) that could make some noise in the Patriot League sooner rather than later. As a Lehigh fan, this group frightens me.

Preseason So Far: Last year's offseason was uncharacteristically eventful for the boys in Hamilton, NY, with RB Jordan Scott's unfortunate involvement in an on-campus burglary causing folks to wonder if he would be booted from the team. While clearly coach Biddle prefers quiet offseasons, the bombshell that all-Patriot League senior CB Wayne Moten won't be suiting up this year (word from the Utica Observer-Dispatch is that he "chose not to play this year") must have hit the Raiders like a ton of lead. While senior LB Greg Hadley will certainly provide the leadership on defense for the Raiders, this is still very bad news.

There's also the admission from coach Biddle that
the offensive line situation is “not settled. Five freshmen probably will be in the two deep. It’s a work in progress.” Uneventful? Hardly - and certainly not for junior QB Greg Sullivan, either, who (along with sophomore RB Nate Eachus) are relying on that line to make the offense work.

Fan Base: Last year, I said that Colgate fans are starting to resemble the crazy football fan bases in the rest of America. Part of that has to be a result of success - after all, coach Biddle and the Raiders have been a dominant force at the top of the Patriot League, winning four of the last seven Patriot League titles. Yet hubris must not like the cold weather - despite the incredible run of league dominance, Colgate fans still seem overwhelmingly humble and, well, downright nice.

But there are signs that the World Wide Interwebs are starting to affect the Buddhist-like calm up in Hamilton. (Maybe Fios finally made it up there?) When the Scott affair broke two years ago, Colgate found themselves in the headlines and Colgate's bulletin board lit up with "insider" information. Not coincidentally, the Utica Observer-Dispatch also revamped their website and opened up their Colgate coverage to the rest of America. Almost overnight, Colgate went from being the sleepy football secret in upstate New York to one that recruits nationally - with fans in places like Florida and California. (No, seriously, Biddle must be a great salesman if he convinces kids from California and Florida to waltz with the cows in the snow in November.)

The fans are continuing to become a bit more national; a bit more rabid; a bit more crazy. The rivalries with Lafayette, Lehigh and (now) Holy Cross are becoming more intense - and add to that the yearly white-out against Cornell as well. More games are finding themselves on local - and national - TV. They'll eventually get there: soon, Colgate fans will be hated by the rest of the league in the way, say, Delaware's fans are loathed. The snowball, if you will, is rolling downhill.

Overall Offseason: It's hard to put into words what the loss of Moten means to this team on the field - their best defensive player, a lockdown corner in a league where lockdown corners are few and far between. Once again, a sleepy Hamilton summer is upended by the announcement from one of the stars of the team - but the fans can respond with their characteristic calm that somehow, some way, coach Biddle will manage to put all the pieces together for yet another Patriot League championship. If they do, they'll have a nation of Colgate fans - from California to Florida to Canada - following them.

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