Brown Football: 2006 Preview

April 17, 2006

Providence, RI - The Brown football team completed a "first" in 2005 by winning its first ever outright Ivy League title. This season, head coach Phil Estes' team will look to do what no Brown team has done before - win back-to back Ivy championships.

The Bears, who captured their last eight games of 2005 and were ranked 15th in the final Sports Network National I-AA poll, will take on a new look with the loss of Ivy League Player of the Year and "All-Everything" running back Nick Hartigan, and may turn towards the passing game more than in the last three years. Estes has built a solid foundation for the Brown football team and returns five starters on offense and six on defense. Five returning All-Ivy players will be disbursed among 16 returning players from Brown's final defensive depth chart and 13 returning players from its offensive depth chart.

Brown's defense will be built around senior All-American linebacker Zak DeOssie, a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award as the nation's top defensive player.

A two-time first team All-Ivy and All-New England selection, DeOssie was ranked in the Top 10 nationally in four different national defensive categories - total tackles, solo tackles, forced fumbles and tackles for a loss, before suffering a season ending injury in Brown's eighth game of the season.

One of the dominating linebackers in the nation, DeOssie tied for the team lead in tackles with 80, including 12 tackles for a loss and five quarterback sacks. DeOssie was named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week after he registered a career high 18 tackles on the road against Cornell, with 1.5 tackles for a loss.

Playing inside linebacker with DeOssie is junior Eric Brewer who stepped in for DeOssie and made 24 tackles for the Bears. Senior Justin Gallagher (6 tackles) also saw significant playing time.

At outside linebacker, senior David Healy started all 10 games, making 24 total tackles, including 17 solo stops, and five tackles for a loss. Junior Nkosi Still is a solid hitter with speed on the outside after making 28 total tackles last season.

Brown should be strong at defensive end with the return of junior Patrick Fisher and senior Casey Dougan. Fisher came away with 31 total tackles last season, including five tackles for a loss and 4.5 quarterback sacks. He made a season high 10 tackles against Rhode Island, including seven solo stops. Dougan shared starting duties a year ago, making 19 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and a quarterback sack. Look for junior Kai Brown (17 tackles, 5 tackles for loss) to also have a major impact on the Bears defensive line.

Despite the loss of its two starting down linemen, seniors Justin Revelle (14 tackles) and Brian Czekanski (3 tackles) saw considerable playing time and will look to step into starting roles.

Two of four starters return to the Bears' secondary, led by junior safety Jose Yearwood and junior corner back Matt Mullenax. Yearwood was Brown's third top tackler in 2005 with 56 total hits, including 28 solo stops. Mullanex earned a starting role midway through the season and finished with 30 total tackles and five pass break-ups.

Senior Gavin Logan (4 tackles) saw some starting action at corner over the last two years, while junior Beau Gaitors is also looking to step into a more productive role.

At quarterback, senior Joseph DiGiacomo, an honorable mention All-Ivy selection, has the lead over sophomores Matthew Nuzzo and Michael Dougherty.

DiGiacomo completed 121 of 231 passes for 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2005. His 3,314 career passing yards rank fourth in the Brown record book, while his 233 career completions rank fifth in the Brown record book. Digiacomo scored on a dazzling 40-yard scramble against Penn, and passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns against Cornell, including an 85-yard touchdown pass completion to senior Jarrett Schreck, the second longest pass play in Brown football history. In addition, DiGiacomo's 20 career touchdown passes rank seventh in the Brown record book.

Nuzzo, an exceptional athlete, saw action in four varsity games in 2005 and rushed for six yards. Dougherty is a strong-armed quarterback with excellent field vision, who played a strong Spring Game for the Bears.

There will be plenty of competition to fill Hartigan's shoes, led by seniors Brandon Markey and Akin Oyalowo, who have been waiting in the wings. Markey ran for 145 yards and a touchdown on 29 attempts last year, and displayed speed and the ability to see downfield as a standout on special teams, returning kicks and punts. Oyalowo is a bruising back, who rushed for 72 yards on 21 carries a year ago. Junior Dereck Knight made the transition to running back a year ago and was impressive against Columbia with 25 yards on 4 carries.

The Bears' coaching staff expects senior wide receiver Lonnie Hill to return to the dominating form of three years ago when he was a second team All-Ivy selection. Hill was an honorable mention All-Ivy choice in 2005, after making 33 receptions for 563 yards and five touchdowns. He made 76 catches in 2003, third best in the nation and 14th in the Ivy record book. Hill's 1,432 career receiving yards rank seventh in the Brown record book, while his 109 career receptions rank sixth in Brown football history.

Senior Thomas Balestracci should be ready to step into a starting role at receiver after making three catches last year after making nine receptions as a sophomore. Estes also expects junior Paul Raymond and sophomore Philip Spencer, who both have tremendous speed, to step into playing roles. At tight end, Matthew Krevis was used primarily as a blocker after making five catches in 2004.

Second team All-Ivy offensive tackle Alex Doty, junior James Tull and senior Michael DiBartolo were starters on an offensive line that helped clear the way for Hartigan's nation leading 172.7 rushing yards per game. The trio helped the Brown offense lead the Ivy League in scoring offense with 36.8 points per game, tenth in the nation. Brown also led the Ivy League in total offense (409.2 yards per game), and pass sacks against, allowing just five sacks the entire season, second in the nation. Junior AJ Tracey and seniors Evan Barbosa, Adam Muzika and Adam Cross all received valuable playing time a year ago.

Special Teams played a major role in Brown's success last year, and the kicking and return specialists return intact. The Bears led the Ivy League in kickoff coverage, kickoff returns and punt returns a year ago.

A first team All-Ivy selection and ECAC All-Star, junior Steve Morgan, the nation's leader in field goals (1.80 per game, picked-up where he left off in 2004, when he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and a first team All-Ivy kicker. Morgan established a new Ivy League record for kick scoring with 98 points, eclipsing the Ivy League record of 84 points.

Morgan holds the Brown record for field goals in a season, connecting on 18 of 23 field goals, second best in Ivy football history. Morgan's 47-yard field goal against Penn is the fifth longest in Brown football history. Morgan finished the season ranked seventh nationally in scoring with 9.80 points per game.

Senior Brandon Markey did his job on special teams with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown. Junior Nkosi Still led the Bears in kickoff returns with 30.4 yards per game, and had a 50-yard punt return.