CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The Harvard football team continues to gain preseason notoriety as the Ivy League's top program. The Crimson has been consistently ranked among the nation's Top 25 and CollegeSportsMadness has weighed in recently with its predicitions. Read below for that outlet's insight.
Overall Rank: #23
#1 Ivy League
After losing at Holy Cross to kick off the 2011 campaign, Harvard cruised through the rest of the season. The closest game during that nine game winning streak was a ten point victory at Cornell. An Ivy League title was rarely in doubt. The Crimson have a few questions heading into 2012, but this is a team that should again dominate the conference and a perfect 10-0 record is not out of the question. But first they need to find some help in the passing game.
2011 Record: (9-1, 7-0)
2011 Postseason: None
Coach: Tim Murphy (120-59 at Harvard, 152-104-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joel Lamb
Defensive Coordinator: Scott Larkee
Rushing: Treavor Scales, RB, 816 yards
Passing: Colton Chapple, QB, 918 yards
Receiving: Kyle Juszczyk, TE, 512 yards
Tackles: Joshua Boyd, LB, 64
Sacks: Jake Boy, DE, 2.0; Zach Hodges, DE, 2.0; John Lyon, DE, 2.0; Grant Sickle, DE, 2.0
Interceptions: Brian Owusu, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Zach Boden, DT Jack Dittmer, C Jack Holuba, S Rey Kirton, LB Alex Norman, DT Nnamdi Obukwelu, G Austin Scheufele, LB Bobby Schneider, OT Will Whitman
Key Losses: LB Alex Gedeon, CB Matthew Hanson, OT Kevin Murphy, WR Chris Lorditch, S Dan Minamide, DT Josue Ortiz, WR Alex Sarkisian, QB Collier Winters
The Harvard defense was very strong in the front seven and that will not change even without Josue Ortiz, who easily led the team with 10.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss. Replacing that production will not be easy, but Coach Tim Murphy has a ton of options. Grant Sickle should emerge as the team's top pass rusher, but there is a ton of quality depth with John Lyon, Zach Hodes, Dan Frate and Jake Boy leading the way. The middle of the line should be in fine shape with Jack Dittmer and Nnamdi Obukwelu. The linebackers lost a star too. Alex Gedeon led the Crimson with 92 tackles during his senior season, but again there are quality replacements ready to step up. Joshua Boyd is a sure tackler in the middle and Alex Norman and Bobby Schneider are also seniors. The strength on the other side of the ball will be with the ground game, at least for now. Treavor Scales rushed for 816 yards and eight touchdowns and will again be the workhorse in the backfield. Zach Boden is coming off a great freshman campaign and is a excellent change of pace back. The offensive line will again make things much easier for the backs. Kevin Murphy is gone after a stellar career, but a line led by center Jack Holuba, guard Austin Scheufele and tackle Will Whitman will be the best in the conference.
But what about the passing game that ranked third in the Ivy League a year ago? Colton Chapple will take over full-time for the departed Collier Winters. Winters was a much more efficient passer than Chapple last year and could also make plays with his legs. Chapple is a mobile quarterback, but he will not run like Winters did. Chapple did throw for 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions during his junior campaign, so there is reason to believe that he should have little trouble turning into the go-to-guy. However, his top two receivers are gone. Tight end Kyle Juszczyk is one of the best in the nation and he will be a great safety outlet for Chapple after leading the team with 37 catches a year ago. Cameron Brate is another big tight end target who caught 25 passes for seven touchdowns as a sophomore. Matt Brown and Seitu Smith are relatively unproven receivers, but Harvard will need them to push down field.
The Bottom Line:
The only problem Harvard had last year was in the secondary. They allowed 232.20 yards per game through the air. Without corner Matthew Hanson and safety Dan Minamide, the pass defense could be in some trouble. Safety Rey Kirton is a big, talented safety and Brian Owusu has emerged as a fine corner. Chris Splinter and D.J. Monroe will likely join them in the starting lineup, but this is a less experienced unit than in 2011, especially when it comes to overall depth. On a team that is very senior heavy, as usual, there is not a senior on the two-deep roster in the secondary and that lack of leadership could expose the Harvard secondary. That is where the rest of the conference will try and beat the Crimson, but it probably will not be enough.
Projected Postseason: None
2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 180.00 (33rd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 255.60 (25, 2)
Total Offense: 435.60 (11, 1)
Scoring Offense: 37.40 (2, 1)
Rushing Defense: 89.70 (6, 1)
Pass Defense: 232.20 (97, 6)
Total Defense: 321.90 (24, 2)
Scoring Defense: 17.10 (5, 1)
Turnover Margin: 1.00 (12, 1)
Sacks: 2.80 (15, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.10 (66, 6)
Madness 2012 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#11 Dayne Davis
#39 Jameson McShea
#129 Dan Moody
#148 Tanner Wrisley
#172 Jordan Becerra