2018 Record: 2-9 (2-4)
Head Coach: Joe Conlin, 2nd year (2-9, 2-4)
Last Patriot League Title: 2014
Last FCS Playoff Appearance: 2015
8/31 vs Central Connecticut State
9/7 @ Ball State (FBS)
9/14 @ Bryant
9/21 @ Stony Brook
10/5 @ Yale
10/12 @ Georgetown
11/2 @ Lafayette
11/9 @ Colgate
11/16 Holy Cross
Fordham football has been able to establish a Top 10/15 ceiling over the last 20 years thanks to two excellent coaches that have gone onto to Power 5 FBS success. Current Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson laid an incredible foundation during the five years (’99-’03) he spent at the helm of the Fordham program. Recently, Fordham alum Joe Moorhead (’12-’15) once again displayed the potential of the Ram program. Unfortunately, the Rams have also shown the ability to flame out in rather epic fashion over that same time frame. Joe Conlin’s first year as a college head coach was a prime example of those bottoming out years. The Ram’s 9 losses were the most since 2011 when they went 1-10 in Tom Masella’s final season. The former Yale offensive coordinator inherited a talented roster that had lost its way under Andrew Breiner’s brief tenure. Conlin’s fingerprints are now all over the program so its time to see if he can begin to elevate the program to the heights of Clawson and Moorhead.
Joe Conlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Decker need to make sure the Ram’s “O” makes significant strides in year two. Fordham averaged just 12.8 ppg in their 9 losses last season. Outside of the 43 points they scored against Lehigh’s poor defense in a win the 41 they notched against Bryant in a loss, the Rams failed to score more than 17 points in their other 9 games. Fordham enters 2019 with a sophomore QB who has shown legitimate potential and a strong stable of running backs. The main concerns revolve around a fairly inexperienced group of wide receivers and an offensive line that has been pushed around the last two seasons.
Sophomore QB Tim Demorat (163 ypg 11 TDs 6 INTs in ’18) appears to be firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the 2019 season. The Florida native played well last year as freshman despite the offense’s overall poor production. Demorat lost his top three receivers (Longi, Searight and Caddle) to graduation so he must develop a new rapport with basically an entirely new crop of pass catchers. Indiana transfer/5th year senior Austin King and sophomore Sean Holland give Fordham two solid backups.
One of the two big questions for Decker’s offense heading into the season is at wide receiver. Seniors Joe Ferraro (13 rec 144 yards in ’18) and Jonathan Lumley (7 rec 100 yards 1 TD) will provide Demorat with some experience and two big targets (6’3 and 6’4). Junior Hunter Harris (7 rec 116 yards 1 TD) should also see meaningful snaps. Nothern Illinois transfer Fotis Kokosioulis has the potential to be the Ram’s next great slot receiver. Syracuse transfer Tyler Gilfus and several talented freshman should push for time as well. The TE spot appears to be wide open with the graduation of Isaiah Searight. Juniors Jack Gildea and Jack Lynch appear the most likely to battle it out for the starting spot.
The other concern on offense is the line. The unit has been pushed around the last two years which has been one of the main factors in the offenses precipitous decline; 40 ppg in ’16, 21.9 ppg in ‘17, 15.6 ppg in ‘18. Junior Nick Zakelj (OT) and two sophomores Phil Saleh (C) and Austin Glazier (G) appear to be safe bets to start. Junior Will Conley and Sophomore Anthony Marinelli should be in the running for the other two starting spots. Junior Jake Trautman and freshman Wyatt Kawiter should also be in the mix for quality minutes. The size is there for this to be the physical unit Fordham has been searching for. How well it gels will go a long way in ultimately determining the offense’s fate in 2019.
If the offensive line improves, the rushing attack has the potential to be rather potent after failing to gain traction in 2018 (50.7 ypg). Senior Tyriek Hopkins led the team in rushing last year (476 yards 4 TDs). Sophomore Naim Mayfield (157 yards 2 TDs in 8 games) and Zach Davis (94 yards 1 TD in 2 games) will back in the fold after battling through injuries in 2018. The return of Mayfield and Davis (391 yards in ’17) combined with the addition of Rutgers transfer Trey Sneed gives Fordham tremendous depth and versatility at running back.
The good news for the Fordham defense in 2018 was the fact they held opponents to less than 30 ppg (28.2) for the first time since 2014. The bad news is the unit still ranked near the bottom of the PL in several key defensive categories; Total “D” (408.8 ypg, 6th), Rush “D” (191 ypg, 6th) and Pass “D” (217 ypg, 6th). On paper defensive coordinator Paul Rice has the personnel for a major turnaround.
The key to the Rams “D” appears to be how much defensive line can improve. Like on offense, Fordham has been pushed around in the trenches far too often in recent years. Heading into the 2019 season there is size and perhaps more importantly depth for the first time since Joe Moorhead was rooming the sideline in the Bronx. The Rams return six juniors with significant playing experience; Anthony Diodato (34 TT), Ellis Taylor (4.5 TFL), Mike Marinelli, Sawyer Schwarz, Jeremy Imperati and Deondre Carter. Senior DT Michael Ware (started 11 games in ’17) returns after missing all of last season with an injury. Senior Anthony Solano (6’5 295) switch from the OL to DL during the offseason and the addition of junior college transfer Jonathan Coste (6’3 295) will give the Rams added depth and size in the middle of the line.
The unquestioned strength of the Fordham “D” is at linebacker. A reasonable argument can be made the duo of junior Glenn Cunningham (1st Team All-PL, 3rd Team STATS All-American) and sophomore Ryan Greenhagen (15 TFL) is as good as it gets in FCS. Sophomore Jaden Vasquez is expected to be the third starter. The Pennsylvania native is quite adept at playing the LB/S position that has become popular in recent years. After the starting three there’s not much experience/depth outside of junior Ricardo LLanio. There’s a good chance freshman Jeston Moore (1st Team All-State WV) will be called upon early and often to contribute.
Senior CB Jesse Bramble (1st Team All-PL) leads a fairly inexperienced secondary into the 2019 season. Getting senior James Biggs-Frazier back for a 5th year is certainly a huge boost for the secondary. Bigg-Frazier was a key reserve in 2017 that was expected to be a main contributor last season before he was sidelined with an injury. Junior Cooper Weis and sophomore Natani Drati saw time last year and will be in the mix at safety. Dervin Hylton (Jr) and Cameron Blair (So) should find their way onto the 2-deep as key contributors.
The Rams will have one of the better special teams units in the Patriot League this season. Junior Andrew Mevis (2nd Team All-PL in ’18) is an excellent all-around kicker (6/6 FGs, 44.1 punt avg, 24 touchbacks on kickoffs) who’s been overshadowed by Bucknell’s Alex Pechin. Northern Illinois transfer Fotis Kokosioulis has the potential to an electric return man. Biggs-Frazier also has experience in the return game.
Dave Clawson and Joe Moorhead have shown the heights that Fordham football is capable of reaching. On the flip side, last season’s 2-9 record was once again a reminder the depths the program can sink to when things really go wrong. In an attempt to speed up the rebuilding process, Coach Conlin and his staff went the transfer route to infuse some talent in areas of need. The Rams will need those pieces to take hold and the offense to improve significantly in order to challenge for a Patriot League Title and finish the year with a winning record.
Fordham will have little margin for error given their difficult schedule in 2019. Seven of their twelve games are on the road and their bye doesn’t come until week ten, October 26th. The Rams will be significantly better in 2019 but their record might not fully reflect it thanks to a daunting 12 game slate.
Prediction: 6-6 (3-3)