2016 Record: 5-5 Overall, 4-2 in Patriot League
Head Coach: Dan Hunt 4th Season (19-17 Overall, 13-5 PL)
Last Patriot League Title: 2015
Last FCS Playoff Appearance: 2015
Key Returning Players
Offense: RB James Holland (Jr.), RB Keyon Washington (Sr.), WR Alex Greenawalt (Sr.), TE Nick Martinsen (Jr.), LT Ryan Paulish (Sr.)
Defense: DE Pat Afriyie (Sr.), LB Trent Williams (Sr.), CB Tyler Castillo (Sr.), FS Alex Wisniewski (Jr.), DB Abdu Damray-Swaray (So.)
Colgate entered 2016 with very high expectations given their run to the quarterfinals in the FCS playoffs the year prior. The strong finish in 2015 paved the way for the Raiders to be ranked in the Top 20 in the major 2016 preseason polls. They were also the odds on favorite to repeat as Patriot League champions. Unfortunately for Colgate, key injuries and a daunting schedule ultimately cost the Raiders a chance to live up to preseason expectations. Despite the obstacles, the Raiders managed to post a 5-5 record and more importantly a 4-2 league record. So while the 2016 seaon was in many ways a disappointment, the Raiders did manage to avoid the dreaded losing season.
The primary factor that allowed Colgate to finish with a .500 record was a pretty stingy defense (23.4 ppg allowed, 2nd in PL). The strength on “D” was unquestionably the rush defense which ranked #1 in FCS (69.4 ypg allowed). Led by All-American DE Pat Afriyie (21 TFL, 1st in PL & 4th nationally) and seniors Alex Campbell and Brett Fields, the defensive line caused opposing offenses trouble all season. As strong as Colgate was against the run, the pass defense was extremely shaky (274.7 ypg allowed, 7th in PL).
Offensively, QB Jake Melville battled through nagging injuries all year to post a pretty respectable year stat wise. His favorite target in the passing attack was senior John Maddaluna (54 rec 878 yards 5 TD). Melville lost his top running back James Holland against Richmond which was a rather significant blow to Colgate’s read option heavy offensive. Keyon Washington (155 carries 765 yards 5 TD) came in and did a solid job but without Holland and a nicked up Melville, the offense never truly got in sync all season.
Key Returning Player to Watch: RB James Holland
Freshman to Watch: WR Tre Caine
Colgate’s primary question on offense heading into the season is at quarterback. Jake Melville was a 3 year starter who led the Raiders to the 2015 league title and a quarterfinals appearance in the playoffs. Replacing his arm, his legs and his leadership on and off the field will not be an easy task.
The odds on favorite to assume the starting role in 2017 seems to be junior Sage Attwood. Attwood’s only game action in 2016 came in mop up duty against Syracuse and Yale. Despite his limited experience, he fits the mold of a traditional Colgate QB. ESPN had the Florida native ranked as the 49th best duel-threat QB in the country coming out of high school. If Attwood were to struggle Coach Hunt will likely turn to sophomore and fellow Floridian Carmine Scarfone. Like Attwood, Scarfone was a highly touted duel-threat QB coming out of the Sunshine State.
Whoever starts the year under center will have the fortune of having a proven commodity at running back to lean on. James Holland returns for the 2017 season after suffering a leg injury that cut last year short. The redshirt junior rushed for 732 and 16 TDs (7th best in FCS) in 2015. Keyon Washington, who stepped into the starting role in Holland’s absence, might split time between RB and defensive back (played DB in ’15). Even if his role is limited on offense he’s proven to be more than capable of producing when called upon. With Washington’s role cut back, sophomore Alex Matthews and freshman Malik Twyman figure to see time in the backfield. All three backs are on the small side (5’9 and under) so it will be interesting to see what Colgate does in short yardage situations. Colgate averaged 206.6 yards (2nd in PL) on the ground in 2016.
On paper, the strength of Colgate offense should be the offensive line. 1st Team All-PL LT Ryan Paulish (6’4 295) anchors an experienced group that will start 4 seniors and 1 junior. Seniors Andy Simms (6’3 285) and Scott Hirshman (6’3 280) seem like a safe bet to nail down the guard positions. The versatile Max Hartzman (6’3 280) will start the year at center but can also play guard if needed. The lone junior starter will likely be Jovaun Woolford (6’5 290). While the line is not overly big, its ability to move and block in space is ideal of Colgate’s style of offense.
Next to quarterback, the biggest question for Colgate on offense resides at wide receiver. The Raiders leading receiver in 2016, Joe Maddaluna, has graduated. Senior Alex Greenawalt (32 rec 411 yards 1 TD) is the most likely WR to assume the role as the #1. Greenawalt (6’3) and his anticipated backup Thomas Ives (6’5) give the Raiders excellent size outside. Owen Rockett (5’9) should get the nod at the other starting position. The shifty Rockett will give defenses quite a bit of trouble in space. Freshman Tre Caine (6’0) has the potential to make some waves early on as well.
Tight end is in excellent “hands” with the return of 2016 Patriot League Second Team selection Nick Martinsen (26 rec 269 yards 3 TD). Sophomore Nick Diaco and Junior Brett Gasiorowski will also see time at Tight End.
Returning Player to Watch: LB Trent Williams
Freshman to Watch Trevor Thompson
The heart and soul of the Colgate defense is All-American defensive end Pat Afriyie. The senior has a legitimate NFL future. But before he heads to the greener pastures of the pro ranks he still has one more season to terrorize opposing offenses in college. Joining Afriyie upfront will be two new starters, junior NT Caleb Fell and sophomore DE Nick Wheeler. Both players saw limited time in 2016. With the loss of two seniors there figures to be some drop off against the run this year. Still, with a dynamic player like Afriyie garnering so much attention the defensive line should remain quite formidable. One player worth keeping an eye on is 6’1 315 pound reserve NT Cam Rohr. The sophomore could have an impact in short yardage situation.
One area for concern for head coach Dan Hunt and defensive coordinator Paul Shaffner is at linebacker where Colgate must replace 3 out of their 4 starters. Senior Trent Williams (23 solo tackles, 3.5 TFL 1 INT) is the most accomplished returning linebacker. Three juniors, Nick Alverez, T.J. Holl and John Steffen, will likely be the other starters in Colgate’s 3-4 alignment. While the starting LB group might be light on experience they more than make up for it in size with 3 out of the 4 anticipated starters going 230 pounds or more. One player who still has time to fill out is Freshman Trevor Thompson (6’2 215). The Kansas native has the talent to see time early on.
The Raider secondary might be strength of the defense which seems hard to believe given how porous the unit was in 2016. Colgate returns two preseason All-Patriot League cornerbacks in Tony Castillo and Abdu Daramy-Swaray which is a huge boost in a league that boosts some excellent quarterbacks. Ben Hunt IV saw significant time at free safety last year and should get the starting nod again this season. Alec Wisniewski finished 10th on the team in tackles in 2016 despite not starting a single game at strong safety. Given that, Wisniewski seems like a sure bet to assume the starting role this year. Depth at cornerback could be the lone concern in the defensive backfield. That’s why Keyon Washington has been getting reps at CB.
The Colgate special teams should be a strength in 2017. Punter Josh Cerra ranked 3rd in the PL (41.5) yards per punt as sophomore. Current sophomore Chris Puzzi is expected to take over field goal duties after doing a great job on kickoffs in 2016. Abdu Daramy-Swaray is an extremely dangerous returner. Don’t be surprised if freshman Tre Caine gets a chance in the return game.
Colgate enters 2017 with several talented individual players but a lot of inexperience on both sides of the ball. The quarterback position seems to be biggest question mark right now. Attwood and Scarfone have the resumes but neither possesses game experience to lean on. Given how much Colgate relies on their quarterback to make plays with their arm and legs, whoever emerges as the starter must produce at a high level while protecting the ball. The lack of a true #1 at wide receiver seems a bit concerning as well. Greenawalt has the potential to take over for Madddaluna but with an inexperienced quarterback there’s no certainty that will happen. Colgate will likely lean on the running game and their talented offensive line early in the year.
Defensively, Colgate should remain one of the top units in the league. However, it will likely take a step back stopping run given the graduation of so many key players along the front 7. Afriyie will see double teams consistently until someone else is able to command attention. LB Trent Williams has the potential to be that player. If good health is on Colgate’s side the secondary might be the top unit in the Patriot League with Costillo and Daramy-Swaray being two lock down corners. However, outside of the projected starters there’s a lack of depth and experience.
The schedule is once again brutal. Colgate opens up with 2016 playoff participants Cal Poly and Richmond before heading west on I90 to face FBS Buffalo. The Raiders do get league favorites Lehigh and Fordham home in back-to-back weeks in early October. Split those games and Colgate is almost certainly in the league mix down the stretch. While the schedule is extremely difficult the one positive is the fact that Colgate will once again play an 11 game schedule after going the Ivy League route last year.
8/26 @ Cal Poly 4 PM
9/9 Richmond 1 PM
9/16 @ Buffalo 6 PM
9/23 Furman 1 PM
9/30 @ Cornell 1:30 PM
10/7 Lehigh 1 PM
10/14 Fordham 12 PM
10/21 @ Holy Cross 12 PM
10/28 Bucknell 1 PM
11/11 @ Lafayette 12:30 PM
11/18 @ Georgetown 1 PM
2017 Projection: 6-5 Overall, 4-2 in Patriot League