Football Preview: New Garcelon just one of many pluses for Bates
|Head coach Mark Harriman (center) observes an offensive drill during the team's first practice on the renovated Garcelon Field.|
|Construction for the Garcelon Field Project continues around the perimeter of the playing field.|
LEWISTON, Maine -- In a sense, the biggest coming attraction in regards to the 2010 Bates College football team isn't a player or even a coach, but the home field. The $2.6 million renovation of Garcelon Field, funded fully by donors, gives the Bobcats a state-of-the-art FieldTurf playing surface, with stadium lights, a new grandstand and press box to come. The project's completion will mark the first time the historic gridiron's surface will be anything but natural grass.
The team held its first practice on Sept. 1, and on the following day senior center Brendan Murphy (Sandwich, Mass.), one of three team captains, stood in the 92-degree afternoon heat and basked in the team's newfound ability to practice on such a sharp-looking, immaculate pitch -- right in the middle of campus, no less, as opposed to the team's previous practicing grounds, which are on a relatively far reach of campus, behind the Physical Plant.
"It's been nice, because you're right in the middle of campus. People walking by see you," said Murphy. "It definitely increases our visibility as a program. And the surface itself is phenomenal: it's fast, but at the same time you're not worrying about banging up your knees and your hips."
The team's first game on Garcelon's new turf won't be until the third week of the season, Oct. 9 (during Parents & Family Weekend), against Williams. In the meantime, there is the preseason scrimmage at Colby (Sept. 17, 5 p.m.) followed by a pair of road games: Sept. 25 at Amherst and Oct. 2 at Tufts.
Murphy's class of 15 seniors on the team has seen two consecutive years of many close games that were contested to the final series, with the Bobcats unfortunately coming up short on the scoreboard more than they'd like. But a team with so many returning players with so much playing experience in close games is a team that could indeed see some of those scores tip the other way another time around.
Mark Harriman is in his 13th season as head coach of the Bobcats, but the rest of the coaching staff includes five new faces, and even the returning assistants have all changed around their specific duties. For starters, Harriman himself will coach the quarterbacks for the first time, switching over from linebackers. Defensive line coach Skip Capone, now in his 14th season as a Bates coach, will also serve as the special teams coordinator for the first time. Fifth-year assistant Chris Kempton, now in his fifth year at Bates, will serve as defensive coordinator and will coach linebackers, moving over from defensive backs. Daryle Weiss, who has coached the offensive line and been recruiting coordinator for the past two seasons, has assumed the post of offensive coordinator following the departure of former assistant Matt Dence, who moved on to a coaching position at Georgetown University. As for the newcomers, Duncan Averill coaches the defensive backs and becomes the strength and conditioning coach as well. He is joined by Tyler Hanson (receivers), former Bates offensive lineman Mike LaButti '06 (tight ends), Chris Parker (slot backs) and Walter Polky (outside linebackers).
"It's exciting to have some fresh faces here, some new blood," said Harriman. "The new guys bring different energy levels. The guys we have on staff now are going to relate well to the players."
|Trevor Smith will compete with Ryan Katon for snaps at quarterback.|
If quarterback is the most important position on the football field, then surely the biggest question for the Bates offense is, Who will play quarterback? Will it be junior Ryan Katon (Middletown, Conn.), who has looked impressive at times in his 13 collegiate games, completing 51.9 percent of his passes for 1,739 yards and 11 touchdowns? Or sophomore Trevor Smith (Malvern, Pa.), who played in five games in 2009 and started the final three, completing 57.7 percent of his passes for 812 yards and six touchdowns? Katon's season-ending injury last season opened the door for Smith to play, and the rookie was uneven, though sensational at times -- in particular, when he set Bates records for completions (31) and yards (361) at Colby in his first collegiate start.
Harriman is never one to hand any player a starting job before the season, and he certainly isn't going to start here. In fact, Harriman likes both players a great deal and isn't averse to playing both of them. In Harriman's eyes, having two talented and relatively experienced young quarterbacks competing for playing time isn't a bad thing.
"When you have two guys who have been very productive, it will make for an interesting situation in preseason, who emerges," he said.
The Bobcats graduated a pair of All-NESCAC receivers in wideout Tom Beaton and tight end Sean Wirth, not to mention one of the team's all-time leading pass-catchers, Matt Gregg. The returning group hopes to quickly make up for its lack of experience with talent and physicality. Senior Evan Tierney (Carlisle, Mass.), who has had some spectacular moments during his career, has the opportunity to step into the limelight and improve vastly on his career total of 10 receptions. Six-foot-6 junior John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) totalled eight catches for 139 yards over back-to-back games at midseason last year, and his teammate on the basketball team, 6-foot-5 Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine), will return at H-back and serve as another key target. Former quarterback Ryan Larsen (Hull, Mass.), who played on the defensive line as a junior in 2009, will move back to the offensive side of the ball as a tight end.
Promising sophomore tailback Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.) will have the chance to boost his rookie numbers (51 carries, 162 yards, 3 TDs). Senior Jared Jammal (Arlington, Mass.), who missed all of last season due to injury, may earn carries as well.
The offensive line returns three full-time starters from last season as well as a part-time starter in junior Andrew Scichilone (Sandwich, Mass.). Murphy, the center, is already a two-year starter. Sophomore Mark Sylvester (Everett, Mass.), who started at right tackle all eight games as a rookie, returns, while senior Matt Conetta (Ridgewood, N.J.) returns as a starting guard. Also in the mix for playing time and/or a starting guard spot will be senior Matt Cocciardi (Middleton, Mass.), who was hurt last season.
|Kyle Starr's continued development at cornerback will be a key for the Bobcat defense.|
Bates returns nine starters to a defense that improved notably in a key category, stopping the run, in 2009, allowing 127.9 yards per game (after 182.1 ypg in 2008). Bates' D also tied with Amherst for fourth in the NESCAC in opponent's first downs (135) and tied for second in forced turnovers (20). All four starting linebackers are back: captains Ted Durkin (Rye Beach, N.H.) and Myles Walker (Needham, Mass.) as well as juniors Brett McAllister (Exeter, N.H.) and Kevin Helm (Norwell, Mass.). Up front, senior tackle Devin Horvath (Parsippany, N.J.) returns as one of the defensive linemen in the conference, along with senior Joel Israel (Andover, Mass.) and juniors Tyler Kuehl (Plymouth, N.H.) and Pat Quinn (Milford, Mass.). Senior Dan Santorella (Danvers, Mass.), senior Zach Lynch (Plymouth, N.H.), and sophomore Matt Gaither (Winchester, Mass.), a converted tight end, will also vie for playing time.
The secondary features the move of junior Cam Evans (Norwell, Mass.), a standout cornerback in his first two seasons, over to the free safety position vacated by graduated two-time All-NESCAC'er Kyle McAllister. Sophomore Kyle Starr (Concord, N.H.), who responded impressively when thrust into a regular cornerback slot in the first game of the 2009 season, will man one corner, with the opposite starting cornerback to be determined.
Gavin Segall-Abrams (Greensboro, N.C.), who has punted for the Bobcats for three full seasons and has been the placekicker for two years, returns for his senior year. Segall-Abrams ranked third in the NESCAC in punting last season, at 35.9 yards per kick.
Rookies to Watch
A promising crop of freshmen joining the team in 2010 includes several student-athletes from Maine: running back Ryan Curit (South Portland), defensive back Matt Duka (Hanover), linebacker Matt Place (Portland) and quarterback Ezra Wolfinger (Cape Elizabeth). Other rookies to watch include linebacker Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.), wide receiver Kevin Davis (North Andover, Mass.), offensive lineman Liam O'Neil (Duxbury, Mass.) and slot back Shawn Doherty (Mansfield, Mass.), a Boston Globe All-Scholastic player.
"It's a good class of freshmen," said Harriman. "We should be able to fill some of the holes left by graduation, and increase our depth."
All four of the Bobcats' home games will be broadcast live via video and audio webcast. Check Bates' page at First Team Broadcasting to tune in.