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Patriot League: 2018 Colgate Preview

Colgate Raiders

2017 Record: 7-4 (5-1)

Head Coach: Dan Hunt, 26-21 (18-6) through 4 seasons

Last League Title: 2017, Co-Championship

Last FCS Playoff Appearance: 2015

2018 Schedule

9/1 Holy Cross

9/8 @ New Hampshire

9/15 @ Furman

9/22 Lafayette

9/29 @ William & Mary

10/6 @ Bucknell

10/13 Cornell

10/27 Georgetown

11/3 @ Fordham

11/10 @ Lehigh

11/17 @ Army

Overview

Colgate enters the 2018 season fresh off a share of their 9th Patriot League Championship. In addition to their co-championship, Colgate was the only team in the league to post a winning record in 2017. Unfortunately for the Raiders, those two accomplishments weren’t good enough to earn a berth in the FCS Playoffs. Lehigh’s 41-38 win over Colgate in Hamilton proved to be the difference in the race for the automatic bid. Due to Colgate’s struggles in non-conference play and the league’s overall weakness in 2017 they weren’t seriously considered for an at-large bid.

The good news for Colgate is they return a roster loaded with talent at every level. QB Grant Brenenan (’17 PL Freshman of the year) showed tremendous growth as the 2017 season went on. He will lead a very experienced offense. On the other side of the ball Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Chris Wheeler will anchor the most talented unit in the league.

Offense

Best Returning Player: T Jovaun Woolford

Freshman to Watch: OL Michael Griggs

Heading into the season it’s hard to find a weakness on the Colgate offense. Brenenan (132-233 1,594 yards, 18 TDs 5 INTs; 401 yards rushing 6 TDs), RB James Holland (722 yards 6 TDs) and WR Thomas Ives (23 rec 353 yards 7 TDs) a 3 headed monster at the skill positions that can rival anyone in the league. Getting Holland back for a 5th year is a huge boost for the offense. Holland led the FCS in rushing TDs in 2015 before suffering a season ending injury early in the 2016 campaign. Ives (6’5) gives Brenenan a big target in the redzone. WR Owen Rockett (29 rec 333 yards 2 TDs) and TE Nick Martinsen (23 rec 254 yards 1 TD) will likely see increased productivity this year with a more experienced quarterback behind center.

The offensive line figures to be the top unit in the league. Fellow seniors Juvaun Woolford and Max Hartzman were named to the Preseason All-Patriot League team. Guard Scott Hirshman (2017 2nd Team All-PL) gives the Raiders a third talented, proven commodity in trenches. The other two spots figure to be a battle between sophomores Sam Diehl and Jack Badovinac, juniors Will Varble and Charlie Holstopple and a slew of talented freshman. Keep an eye on freshman Michael Griggs from New Jersey.

Defense

Best Returning Player: DE Nick Wheeler

Freshman to Watch: LB Milton Braasch II

Last year it was DE Pat Afriyie who entered the year as the stud along the defensive front. This season the torch has been passed to senior DE Chris Wheeler. Junior Cam Rohr (6’2 315) gives Colgate the big body at the NT position that teams at this level covet. Senior Caleb Fell is also capable of manning the middle of the defensive line. The other end position in the Raiders 3-4 alignment will likely come down to the experienced Chuck Moore (10th in tackles in ’17) or sophomores Hunter Gossman and Owen Rosenberger.

The Raiders seem set at linebacker. While the area did suffer some key graduation losses there’s a ton of experience that returns. Senior T.J. Holl earned Preseason 1st Team All-PL honors. Nick Ioanilli and John Steffen will almost certainly join Holl in the starting rotation. Ioanelli and Steffen could easily vie for postseason league honors. Dillon Deluliis, Matt Carandang, Blane Briggs and Trevor Thompson will also be in the mix.

The Raiders return an embarrassment of riches in the backend of the defense. The secondary will not only be the best in the league, it should be one of the top units in the country. The cornerback combo of Tyler Castillo and Abu Daramy-Swaray were named to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team. Senior Alec Wiesnewski joins them on the Preseason 1st team at strong safety. A case could be made that free safety Ben Hunt IV is the top player at his position in the league.

Special Teams

Colgate returns all their specialists from last year. Junior place kicker Chris Puzzi earned Preseason 1st All-PL 1st team honors. The punting duties will once again fall on the leg of Josh Cerra (39.8 ypp in ’17). Owen Rockett and Daramy-Swaray figure to once again be in line for punt and kick return duties.

Outlook

On paper, Colgate is the team to beat in the Patriot League. No team enters 2018 with fewer question marks than the Raiders, and it’s not really close. If the offense is off one game they have a defense capable of pulling out a tough “W” and vice versa. Expect to see Grant Brenenan’s name pop up more and more in the national conversation as the season goes along. He’s the most gifted Colgate QB since Ryan Vena.

The one thing that could trip up Colgate is their schedule. They once again face a daunting non-league slate and must travel to Fordham and Lehigh in early November. The Raiders have struggled in non-league play in recent years. They haven’t fared much, if any better against the Mountain Hawks.  Colgate is 2-6 against their main nemesis this decade.

Prediction: 7-4 (5-1)

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