When it’s all said and done, three and seven are the only numbers that matter. The quality of people we bring into the program, our record, and the quality of the people who come out of our program, in that order, will determine our success.
Over the off-season we will drill down into 3-7 and analyze “why” and “how.” We will analyze what we did well and what we did poorly. We will analyze every situation, red zone, third down, backed up, 4-minute and 2-minute. Within each situation we evaluate philosophy, plan, execution and personnel.
When we have finished studying ourselves, we will study the best teams outside the Ivy League in each situation. We will work to implement the ideas that will improve our system. In some cases we will set aside time to travel to those places to spend time with coaches in programs and organizations that we can share information with. We will set aside time for study of our Ivy League opponents as well as Fordham. Results of these projects will determine the practice objectives for spring practice. We never stop learning, when you think you have all the answers, you don’t.
What do we know about our team coming out of the season? We have at least one solid leader on each side of the ball. We expected a lot from our current freshman class, and for the most part they did not disappoint. We need to get stronger and increase muscle mass. We have reduced body fat to acceptable levels. Unlike last year, we are at an overall conditioning level that will allow us to work hard enough to maximize our efforts in the weight room and the running program. Our morning practice schedule was effective, we practiced with our whole team everyday and we stayed healthy. Preliminary indications are that we have done well in school, but we will see over the next couple of weeks. We will not compromise in any area.
Offensively, our system is in, and we became more efficient in its execution as the season progressed. We have to replace a quarterback, which is a challenge, but I feel confident in McDonagh, Hollis and Trumbull. We will continue to recruit quarterback prospects. I’d like to create competition in every class. The primary goal in our recruiting is to create competition on the practice field and ultimately improve the competitive nature of our team. Our offensive line was overmatched almost every week. We finished the year with three freshmen starters, Lawrence, Ramljak and Kuklinski, down the stretch. For those three young men it was tough on-the-job training, but we will reap the benefits moving forward. Garrett will lead our running game, but our young backs like Molina, will have to develop and contribute. Our receiving corps must continue to improve with more speed, more explosion, better route running by catching a “million” balls. At all positions, our football I.Q. must improve, and with a year in the system, I believe it will.
Defensively we started fast, from the beginning “running out of gas” was a concern. We played hard, chased the ball and played good team defense early. We need to be bigger and stronger in order to match up. If we are going to play smaller and quicker, we need better depth. Guys like Sommers and Lee played solid. Losing Adebayo hurt but Patterson was effective. Martin was a force up front and very effective when he aligned over the guard. We will miss him. Young linemen like Toba and Niko will have to step up, and I believe they will. Both Waller and Murphy were good players, and we will miss their leadership as much as their playmaking. The truth is we had a number of seniors on defense that were committed to our goals. They bought in, they worked hard, and they taught the younger players. Everyone on our roster has the same opportunity to contribute. Each players role, whether he starts, plays special teams, makes the travel squad or dresses at home, it is all decided based on practice performance. This is college football. You are given nothing, and if you want something, you have to earn it – that is the way this program is going to be run. Those have been our standards and will continue to be our standards moving forward.
Olinger will lead our linebacker corps. Pugliese and Pesanello should step in, but there will be competition in the spring and training camp. Our secondary was our biggest concern going into the season. We had a bunch of players in the secondary who were injured during spring practice last year. We will be further along going into next season. We need more speed in the secondary, but Reim, Patmon, Cahal, McCarthy along with Carter, Mingo and DiTommaso will improve this off season. You can never have enough corners, but we need to strengthen our safety position also.
Our special teams units were the training ground for our younger players. We improved on both return teams. Bell, Blackshear and Reim all contributed in both phases of our return game. Fisher improved his average from last year and was our best punt returner, but our freshmen returners will create competition in the spring and in training camp. Our kicking battery can and will improve, but I thought we responded in some “got to have it” situations down the stretch. I thought our punting was solid and coverage was good. We improved on balls downed inside the 10 yard line. This year, field position was a big weapon for us, but next year may be different. We are always trying to find those five to six non-starters who can be “core” special teams players. As our roster improves, those core players should come from a variety of positions.
Ryan Cidzik will lead our off-season strength and conditioning program. We will start immediately. We remain committed to our standards for body composition. We will not carry fat as a substitute for muscle mass. Our players will work to maintain optimum body composition, not maximum weight. As our program improves we will bring more players into the system that can be “big” enough and still live within our guidelines. Our conditioning level got us through the season relatively injury free. The way we practice and condition during the season was effective. With a full off-season, we will be bigger, stronger, more disciplined and better prepared to sustain the intensity level we expect for the whole season.
For the next few weeks, the emphasis will be academics and recruiting. This off-season will be more demanding than last. Expectations will, and should be, higher for each individual, the team, and the staff as a whole. Our message to the recruits will not change. We want smart, tough players, who love the game. Players who are motivated to be part of a team, players who are willing to help us build upon this season, and players that are competitors. What happened before last December will have less and less to do with the team that will report for training camp in August. We will continue to improve our roster, put the right people in the right spots. Nothing is assumed, nothing is promised, nothing is guaranteed. Everyone is accountable. We will move forward with those who believe in our mission and those who are willing to do the work necessary to complete that mission. We will move forward with people who want to be the solution. We know what the issues are.
We will build this team with quality players and people. We have created, and will continue to create, an environment that will develop each member of our team, both athletically and academically. We remain committed to the long-range career development and success of each of our players. Year two. Everything for the second time. Time to win. Now is the time