Ivy League spring football outlook
(STATS) – Harvard’s 16 straight winning seasons – all with a record no worse than 7-3 – comprise the longest active run in the FCS, but the Crimson will enter the 2017 season on a rare losing streak.
The Crimson fell at Penn and then to rival Yale to end last season, ripping away the prospect of another Ivy League title after they had sat alone in first place. Penn and Princeton wound up sharing the league title with Harvard one game back in the standings.
The Crimson, whose seniors were denied a fourth straight title, have extra motivation this offseason.
But Penn, the only team that isn’t returning its starting quarterback, and Princeton won’t make it easy on them again.
Following is a look across the Ivy League with spring practices underway in college football:
Head Coach: Phil Estes (112-77, 19 seasons)
2016 Records: 4-6, 3-4 Ivy
Spring Practices: March 20-April 29
What to Know: The Bears have finished 3-4 in Ivy games for four straight seasons, so there’s a continued push to get back to the old winning ways. They laid the foundation by playing freshmen last season, especially at wide receiver (Jaelon Blandburg had 13 receptions). But they need their veterans to lead the way, and that begins with consistency at quarterback from senior T.J. Linta, a drop-back passer, or junior Nick Duncan, a dual threat who was hurt most of last season. While only four starters return on offense, there are seven back on defense. The defensive front will be formidable, led by All-Ivy League defensive end Dewy Jarvis. Inside linebacker will be a key position battle in the spring.
Head Coach: Al Bagnoli (5-15, two seasons; 239-114 overall)
2016 Records: 3-7, 2-5 Ivy
Spring Practices: March 21-April 15
What to Know: Bagnoli has been trying to change the culture within Columbia’s struggling program. The offensive and defensive lines are always good starting points, and the Lions are experienced there, with three of their five returning offensive starters and four of their six returning defensive starters. Quarterback Anders Hill settled the position last year and works with a pair of wide receivers, Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith, who combined for 857 yards and nine touchdowns as freshmen. Not to be overlooked are strong special teams, including a kicker, Oren Milstein, who had a record-setting freshman season. Also, the program has received a boost with the installation of a new indoor practice facility.
Head Coach: David Archer (9-31, four seasons)
2016 Records: 4-6, 2-5 Ivy
Spring Practices: March 25-April 29
What to Know: Coming off a much-improved season, the Big Red hope the next step will be posting their first winning league record since 2005. Only four starters return to the offense, but they include last year’s two breakout sophomores, quarterback Dalton Banks and first-team All-Ivy running back Chris Walker. Right tackle Henry Stillwell will be the anchor of the offensive line as it replace four starters. After the defense wore down last season, there should be continued improvement because the Big Red return nine starters as well as some likely contributors who were injured last season. Safety Nick Gesualdi made the All-Ivy first team, while linebacker Mike Norris is a third-year captain.
Head Coach: Buddy Teevens (79-89-2, 17 seasons; 113-166-2 overall)
2016 Records: 4-6, 1-6 Ivy
Spring Practices: April 3-29
What to Know: Last year’s slide in the league was a reversal of Dartmouth’s 6-1 co-Ivy title in 2015. Many key skills positions players are back – quarterback Jack Heneghan, the top three rushers, the top three receivers and the two top tight ends – but having moved the ball well, the offense needs to finish more drives with points. New offensive coordinator Kevin Daft surely likes what he sees in wide receiver Hunter Hagdorn, who was named the league’s freshman of the year after he caught 56 passes for 706 yards. While the Big Green defense has been a strength in recent seasons, they need to replace All-America linebacker Folarin Orimolade and two of the three starting linemen.
Head Coach: Tim Murphy (163-66, 23 seasons; 195-111-1 overall)
2016 Records: 7-3, 5-2 Ivy
Spring Practices: March 27-April 22
What to Know: The ultra-successful Murphy enters the season only five wins from 200 in his career. It will come early in the campaign because the Crimson return terrific talent, including 12 starters (six on each side of the ball). Quarterback Tom Stewart will take the No. 1 snaps in the spring, but last year’s starter, Joe Viviano, will be back as a fifth-year senior after taking this semester off. Wide receivers Justice Shelton-Mosley and Adam Scott also are key returnees, but potential All-America left tackle Larry Allen III will not be in the program this season. On defense, end D.J. Bailey, safety Tanner Lee and linebacker Luke Hutton, the Crimson’s leading tackler, expect to take the next step for a unit that ranked second in the league.
Head Coach: Ray Priore (14-6, two seasons)
2016 Records: 7-3, 6-1 Ivy
Spring Practices: March 13-April 9
What to Know: If the Quakers fill their hole at quarterback, they will be in the mix for a third straight Ivy championship under Priore. They return 11 players who earned all-league honors – the most of any team. Whoever replaces quarterback Alek Torgersen will have big-time weapons in wide receiver Justin Watson, the Ivy’s leading receiver, and running back Tre Solomon, the league’s leading rusher. The Quakers also are focusing on the offensive line because they lost three starters. Versatile Jeff Gibbs should grab a spot after having an excellent season as a freshman backup. Defensively, the Quakers return eight of their top 10 tacklers, led by linebacker Colton Moskall.
Head Coach: Bob Surace (33-37, seven seasons; 51-40 overall)
2016 Records: 8-2, 6-1
Spring Practices: March 3-April 8
What to Know: The spring is about replenishing last year’s league-leading defense. Only four starters are back, although two of them, defensive tackle Kurt Holuba and defensive back Mason Williams, were All-Ivy first-teamers. A number of young linebackers and defensive backs saw action a year ago, so the competition will be fierce at those positions. The high-scoring offense will still flourish with six returning starters. Do-everything John Lovett, the Ivy’s offensive player of the year, is the headliner, and starting quarterback Chad Kanoff will be back for another season because he missed the 2014 campaign due to injury. The Tigers have an intriguing season opener as they host Pioneer Football League champion San Diego.
Head Coach: Tony Reno (24-26, five seasons)
2016 Records: 3-7, 3-4 Ivy
Spring Practices: March 31-April 27 (spring game is April 22)
What to Know: The results in Reno’s five seasons have been up and down, so the Bulldogs need to develop consistency within their program. Considering they return eight starters on each side of the ball, improvement appears likely. Incredibly, last year’s leading passer (Kurt Rawlings), rusher (Alan Lamar) and receiver (Reed Austin Klubnik) were freshmen. Senior cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski not only is back after sitting out last season with an injury, but he’s been voted as the team captain. He will join linebacker Matthew Oplinger, defensive end Kyle Mullen and Hayden Carlson, last year’s leading tackler, on a defense that has to improve against the pass.