The Raiders entered last season as the favorites to repeat as Patriot League (PL) champions but they finished the year with their first losing record since Head Coach Dick Biddle began his tenure in 1996. This year however, the Raiders hope to get back on top of the Patriot League standings with the help of junior running back Jordan Scott, senior linebacker Mike Gallihugh and others.
The 2006 Raiders struggled to a 3-3 PL record and a 4-7 mark overall. Consecutive losses to division foes Lafayette and Lehigh near the end of the season sealed Colgate’s fate and knocked them out of Patriot League title contention. Yet, there is reason to be optimistic for this season, as the Raiders have two of the best players in the Patriot League. On the offensive side of the ball, Colgate will be looking to Scott to carry the load. He led Colgate with 1,234 yards rushing and 13 total touchdowns. He also displayed Thurman Thomas-esque versatility, finishing fourth on the team in receptions as well.
On defense, the unquestioned leader is Gallihugh. He amassed a whopping 148 tackles and four sacks last year. The Virginia native was recently named Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. The Raiders will need another stellar year from Gallihugh to contend for the conference title.
Colgate’s secondary will be hurting this year after the departure of stellar safety Geoff Bean ’07. Bean was second on the team in tackles and contributed greatly on special teams as well. Veterans in the secondary such as senior cornerback Cody Williams and junior corner Chris Ekpo will need to step up and fill some big shoes. Both showed great potential last season as Williams led the team with three picks while Ekpo was sixth on the team in tackles. The loss of Bean does not overly concern Coach Biddle.
“Both corners are back and we still have three out of four starters returning,” Biddle said. “So we still have a lot of experience, and the secondary is an area that tends to get better as you go on.”
Another key player from last year’s team that will not be returning is quarterback Mike Saraceno, who was a steady performer during his time here. Last season, he passed for over 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. As of Monday, Biddle was still uncertain about who would replace Saraceno, but said the decision would be between juniors Alex Relph and Anthony Fucillo.
“Both have had their good days and their average days,” Biddle remarked. “Both are capable players, but we need one of them to step up and be consistent.”
Whoever starts should have a good group of receivers to throw to led by senior Erik Burke and junior David Morgan. Burke led the Raiders with 565 receiving yards last season. Morgan racked up over 400 yards and had a team high four receiving touchdowns.
One area of the game that needs to improve is special teams, namely the place kicking unit. Colgate kickers made just five field goals on the year and made no field goal over 33 yards. They also made just 78% of their extra points. However, senior kicker Mike Buck connected on all four of his field goal attempts in the second half of last season. According to Biddle, he’ll be the man this year as well.
Not to be overlooked are the men up front. The offensive and defensive lines are quite often where the game is won or lost, and those two units should be two of the biggest focal points for Colgate this season.
“Defensive and offensive line are the toughest positions to play because of the need to have both size and strength”, Biddle noted. “We were undersized on the defensive line a little last year, but time in the weight room has really helped. We now have six solid players capable of playing the four positions on the defensive line.”
Among the best of this group will be senior defensive tackle Pat Nolan. Nolan was second on Colgate with seven tackles for a loss last season. The offensive line should also be strong. It will be anchored by two skilled junior tackles: Steve Jonas and Nick Hennessey. The line will be as much of a key to Scott’s success as Scott himself.
Colgate football certainly has the potential to succeed this year, and hopefully they can realize their potential. The Raiders will be tested early with two tough home games against Albany this Saturday and last year’s Division I FCS runner-up UMass next Saturday. Both games will start at 1:00. Raider fans will find quickly found out what this team is made of within the next two weeks.