April 21, 2004

Brown Football: 2004 Preview

April 21, 2004

Providence, RI -

When the midpoint of the 2003 season hit, the Bears were 1-4 and had won just three of their last 15 games. Head coach Phil Estes didn't panic, though. He had made a commitment to youth and knew that his team was on the verge of a turn-around.

Brown's youngsters answered the call and won four of their last five games, with their only loss coming to Ivy champion Penn by three points, to finish 5-5 overall and earn a second place finish in the Ivy League standings with a 4-3 league mark. Armed with the return of eight starters on offense and seven on defense, the Bears are optimistic about their Ivy League title hopes.

"The future looks bright for the Brown football program after two years of rebuilding," said Estes. "We feel that we have the necessary skill players in place to compete, and we return a squad that features a lot of playing experience."

For the last 10 years, Brown's offense has been synonymous with an explosive aerial attack, All-American wide receivers and record-setting quarterbacks. But as explosive as its offense has been, Brown unveiled a powerful rushing attack last year, featuring All-American Nick Hartigan, who led the nation in rushing.

"Nick Hartigan became a huge part of our offense with his relentless rushing style," said Estes. "He had the uncanny ability to find a hole in the line, even if it wasn't there right away."

"We haven't changed out offensive philosophy," stated Estes, "but we're utilizing the resources we have. Our game plan on offense is to continue our balanced attack to keep the opposition off-balance."

A unanimous first team All-Ivy selection, Hartigan led the nation with 149.8 yards per game and established a single-season Brown rushing record with 1,498 yards, the most ever by an Ivy League sophomore, breaking the previous mark of 1,409 yards by Cornell's Ed Marinaro in 1969. He also scored a Brown record 96 points, breaking the previous mark of 90 points by Guss Russ (1905), Sean Morey (1997) and Michael Malan (2000, 2001).

Hartigan rushed for 200 or more yards three times, including a 214-yard performance against Fordham, the fifth best rushing day in Brown football history. He ranked second nationally in all-purpose running with 180.6 yards per game, and eighth nationally in scoring with 9.6 points per game (16 touchdowns).

Hartigan rushed for 100 or more yards in eight of Brown's 10 games, and ran for 1,103 yards in seven Ivy League games, fourth best in the Ivy League record book. With Hartigan running for 1,498 rushing yards this year, only Ed Marinaro (1,881 yards in 1971) and Keith Elias (1,701 yards in 1992, and 1,575 yards in 1993) have run for more yards in a season.

Junior Max Tornatore earned a starting role at fullback in two games last season. He was used primarily as a blocking back and ran for 23 yards on 5 carries.

The quarterback position is wide open with the graduation of Kyle Slager, with four players - junior Matt Hostetler, senior Nick Marietti and sophomores Joseph DiGiacomo and Anthony Vita - battling for the starting nod. Hostetler saw action in three games last season, completing 9 of 16 passes for 42 yards. Marietti also contributed a year ago, completing 3 of 5 passes for 22 yards and a touchdown. DiGiacomo displayed a grasp of the offense and a rifle arm for Brown's JV team a year ago, sharing time with Vita, who was also impressive on the field.

"We have four talented quarterbacks, who will all be in the mix for the starting job," said Estes. "Hostetler and Marietti bring varsity game experience to the table, while DiGiacomo and Vita had outstanding freshman seasons."

With All-Ivy wide receiver Lonnie Hill taking a year off from school, Brown's capable receiving corps is led by junior Jarrett Schreck, junior Jordan Pryor and host of newcomers. Schreck made 42 receptions for 525 yards last season, averaging a team high 12.5 yards per reception. He also grabbed four touchdown passes. Pryor emerged in the second half of the season, using size (6-2), speed and athleticism to make nine catches for 87 yards.

Estes believes that 6-4 sophomore Shane Sabine can step into the lineup at wide receiver or tight end, while sophomore Tom Balestracci is a warrior, who should be in the mix at wide receiver. Senior Mike Westbrook caught four passes last season and is expected to see increased playing time.

At tight end, junior David Turner returns to the lineup after making 19 catches for 188 yards and a touchdown last season. He'll be joined at tight end by 6-5, 270, sophomore Matt Krevis, who can block and catch.

What was considered a weakness at the outset of last season - the Bears offensive line - quickly developed into one of the finest blocking units in the Ivy League. Senior Will Burroughs, an honorable mention All-Ivy selection, played a key role in the development of last year's young offensive line, and helped block for 408.5 yards in total offense. In addition, the left tackle led the front line that blocked for the nation's top rusher, Nick Hartigan, who ran for a school record 1,498 yards, fourth best in Ivy history.

While the entire offensive line returns intact, the Bears also return senior Lawrence Rubida, a second team All-Ivy selection in 2002, who missed all of last year due to injury. Senior Sean Fortin is one of the strongest player on the Brown team and anchored the line at center. Senior tackle Tyler Johnson, junior guard Alex Jury and senior guard Ian Tolle were all solid starters for the Bears a year ago.

Brown ranked second in the Ivy League in total defense, yielding 369.2 yards a game in 2003, and the Bears return 7 of 11 defensive starters.

Senior outside linebacker Anjel Gutierrez had a break-through season in 2003 and earned honorable mention All-Ivy honors. He led the Bears defense with three interceptions this season, and ranked fourth with 64 total tackles. His 5.5 tackles for a loss were tied for second best. He was named the Ivy League's first Defensive Player of the Week after having a big afternoon against Albany, making 7 tackles against the Great Danes and picking- off a pass, returning it 20 yards for a touchdown.

Junior Dan Doublin returns at inside linebacker after making 26 tackles and three tackles for a loss. He'll be joined by hard-hitting sophomore Zak DeOssie, a finalist for Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors, who made 27 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, and picked off a pass for the Bears.

Brown's secondary returns intact with junior corners Jamie Gasparella and Jason Ching returning along with senior safety Craig Young. Gasparella ranked third on last year's team with 64 total tackles. He also picked off a pass and brought it back 32 yards. Ching is a two-year starter for the Bears, who made 48 tackles and broke up a team high 11 pass break-ups. Young was second on last year's team with 84 tackles, while making four tackles for a loss.

Estes also expects sophomores Gavin Logan, Justin Amoah and Adjatay Nyadjroh to contribute to the secondary. All three played mostly on special teams with Logan making 8 tackles and Amoah three total hits.

The Bears defensive front will be led by and junior tackles Greg Burlin and Pat Curran. The 6-1, 245 Burlin made 15 tackles and had a sack for the Bears, while the 6-3, 230 Curran registered 39 total tackles. Curran, who has a nose for the ball, recovered three fumbles, and made four tackles for a loss and two quarterback sacks. Juniors James Frazier and Steven Storrs have the edge at defensive end. Frazier registered 5.5 tackles for a loss and two quarterback sacks last year while making 25 total tackles. Storrs made 13 tackles and three tackles for a loss, including two quarterback sacks.