WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- At the big schools when the head coach is replaced it is customary to replace the entire football staff, but this is not what happens in NESCAC — where many of the assistant coaches have additional duties within the department. As a result Eph rookie head football coach Aaron Kelton only needed to hire one coach when he took over at Williams. Kelton hired Kyle Smesko as his offensive line coach.
Kelton, who came to Williams from a stint as the defensive
coordinator at Columbia University, played QB in college at
Springfield, but has spent most of his career coaching defensive
backs or serving as the defensive coordinator. His primary job his
first year as a head coach will be getting to know his coaches and
players and not changing much, at least not initially.
With 18 of 22 starters back and almost the entire coaching staff for a program that has not had a losing season in 22 years, Kelton is far from having to rebuild.
Kelton will assume the duties of handling the Eph defensive backs, while keeping an eye on everything else. Kelton is keeping Bill Barrale as the Eph offensive coordinator and George McCormack as the defensive coordinator, but there is one thing he does want to change.
Williams has been 6-2 the last three years and if any of the returning Ephs thought that Kelton would be satisfied with those numbers they received a rude awakening in the spring at the Ephs conditioning day.
To be fair Kelton’s spring conditioning test was a couple of notches higher than the Ephs were used to and not many were up to the task. The results when the team returned for preseason pleased Kelton. “It is clear that this team has re-dedicated itself to being successful and trying to achieve an 8-0 record,” says Kelton. “The conditioning test they had to pass, and it came from them as a team, was their first test as a team. We set the expectations high and they met them.”
Kelton will have 55 players back from last year’s team that finished in the top three in most statistical categories on both sides of the ball in NESCAC. He is also expecting one of the most physically gifted first-year skill-position classes in Eph history.
Only two members of last year’s offensive starting lineup have graduated, Simon Kloeckner (G) and Tim Bishop (C). Kloeckner was a 1st Team NESCAC honoree, while Bishop was a 2nd Team selection.
Senior 1st Team All-NESCAC Kevin Rose (G) will anchor the offensive line along with senior tackle Graham McCulloch and junior tackle Steve Denza. This trio will be called upon to open holes for NESCAC’s leading rusher in 2009, senior Ryan Lupo, and to protect senior QB Pat Moffitt. A year ago the Ephs led NESCAC in rushing with 160.5 yards a game and threw for an additional 224.4 yards a game.
Five players are in the mix to fill Kloeckner’s spot: Senior Brendan Munzar, sophomores Cong Tian, Pete Christiani, Ryan Loughran and David Baker. Junior Vince Nistico and sophomore Chris Sheahan are the leading candidates to replace Bishop snapping the ball.
Senior captain Jon Carroll is back to start at TE where he excels as a blocker and is a capable receiver, snaring a dozen passes last fall for 110 yards.
All three wide receivers that started the final game of 2009 return in senior Bryce Bennett and juniors J.C. Stickney and Bill Griffin. Also back is senior Todd Schnuck, who has logged some starts in his career.
|Bryce Bennett '11|
Bennett led the Ephs in catches (38) and yards (489) in 2009. Four of his catches were for TDs. Bennett was accorded 2nd Team All-NESCAC laurels for his efforts.
Stickney continued his steady progress by snaring 17 passes on the year for 289 yards and one TD, while Bill Griffin had a breakout game vs. archrival Amherst hauling in five of his seven catches on the year (85 yards) and a TD. Schnuck caught four passes for 49 yards last year in three games.
“We have a deep and talented group of receivers who are all working hard and looking for playing time,” notes receivers coach Marshall Creighton. Sophomore Darren Hartwell has impressed in the preseason and some first years look like they may also push for time on the field.
Ryan Lupo headlines the list of returnees in an Eph backfield that just might be overloaded with talent. Lupo churned out 107.1 yards a game last season and scored nine TDs. "This may be the deepest running backs group I’ve seen in many years," states coach Donnie Brooks.
“Lupo has worked very hard to put himself in the conversation with the other greats who have carried the ball here at Williams,” continues Brooks. “He waited behind Brian Morrissey ’09, (the leading rusher in Williams Division III history), and went on to lead the league in rushing as soon as the torch was passed. Lupo worked really hard on his hands, which has made him a threat catching the ball out of the backfield. He also takes pride in protecting the QB in the pass game.”
|Ryan Lupo '11|
“Sophomore Tommy Wohlwender showed he has difference making ability with the way he ran against Tufts last season,” notes Brooks. ”We expect him to contribute more this year.”
“Our freshmen backs were both very accomplished high school players,” comments Brooks. “Alex Scyocurka (Longmeadow, MA) scored 30 touchdowns his senior year and Marco Hernandez (Roanoke, TX) ran for more than 3,300 yards and was all-state in his last two seasons. Sophomore Tim Morris is another solid back that will also play a significant role on special teams as a long snapper. I’m really excited about coaching this group.”
QB Pat Moffitt, who has started the last 16 games for the Ephs, threw for 1,542 yards and eight TDs in helping the Ephs tie Middlebury for first in points scored in NESCAC with 239.
Moffitt connected on 57.2% of his 201 passes and finished third in QB efficiency at 129.8. Moffitt is battle-tested veteran who spends countless hours in the film room preparing for whatever opposing defenses might throw at the Ephs. "Pat Moffitt is poised to lead our offensive unit,” notes Eph offensive coordinator Bill Barrale. “He works hard at his skills and is as bright as any quarterback I’ve ever worked with in the film room. With 16 starts under his belt and surrounded with talented players, this fall should be very exciting."
|Patrick Moffitt '11|
Backing up Moffitt are junior Chris Cleary and first year Adam Marske. Cleary appeared in 5 games last season and connected on 2 of 5 passes for 40 yards and he rushed the ball 4 times for 15 yards. Cleary showed great improvement over the course of last fall as the QB on the Ephs undefeated JV team. “Chris would start for a lot of teams in NESCAC,” states Barrale.
Last season the Ephs were one of the few teams in the country that were almost 50-50 in passing and throwing opportunities. Featuring talented depth at running back and experienced receivers this fall led by an accomplished QB there likely won’t be any reason to change the balance of the attack.
“We want to move the chains and we’ll take what the defense gives us,” says Kelton. “That’s what we’ve been working on with our QBs. We’ll run multiple sets and we will also be a quick strike offense when the situation presents itself.”
Nine of 11 starters that fashioned the NESCAC’s top
defense, allowing just 261 yards a game in the 2009 season, return.
Last season’s top three tacklers also return and the nine
returnees are positioned closest to the line of scrimmage.
Defensive backs Matt Zanedis and Will Cronin both of whom earned All-NESCAC recognition a year ago were lost to graduation. Zanedis landed on the NESCAC 1st Team and Cronin was selected as a 1st Team specialist (punter).
The four returnees up front are senior defensive ends Tim Kiely and Dan Canina and senior defensive tackle Ben Halbower and junior defensive tackle Colin Curzi. Nine of Kiely’s 17 tackles last fall were either for a loss (5 for -27) or a sack (4 for -25), while Canina posted 19 solo tackles and 7 assists. Canina recorded 4.5 TFLs (-13) and 1.5 sacks (-7). Canina collected 2nd Team All-NESCAC laurels in 2009.
|Colin Curzi '12|
Colin Curzi chipped in with 22 tackles last season, 14 solos. He also notched 5 TFLs (-21) and 2 sacks (-15) on his way to 1st Team All-NESCAC recognition. Six of Ben Halbower’s 13 tackles were solos and 3 were TFLs (-3).
Alongside Schultz will be sophomore Chris Cameron and either senior Dan Johnson or classmate Pat Barren. Cameron earned 2nd Team All-NESCAC and Rookie of the Year recognition as the Ephs second leading tackler with 46 (33 solo). Cameron recorded a team best 5.5 sacks (-42) and contributed 8 TFLs (-48), broke up 2 passes and recovered 1 fumble.
Barren played in just 5 contests in 2009 due to injures, but the
converted defensive back made his presence known with 22 tackles
(14 solo) and 3.5 TFLs (-8). Barren’s mobility and
aggressiveness allow him to cover a lot of territory and may allow
him to even play the nickel back in certain situations.
Johnson’s 2009 campaign was limited to just three contests due to injury, but when healthy he is one of the top LBs in NESCAC. Last fall Johnson had 14 tackles (5 solo)
|Dan Johnson '11|
“The LB corps is looking to be very athletic and competitive,” notes position coach George McCormack “The senior class has some very talented players competing at the LB position. Dylan Schultz will anchor the defense as the middle linebacker; he has a lot of experience and has worked very hard in the off-season. Dan Johnson is poised for a break out season and is coming back after a frustrating year of injuries. Pat Barren is also coming back from an injury-plagued year. He is looking to compete for starting time as the weak side LB and as the nickel LB. Chris Cameron is excited to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign. He will look to play either the weak side or strong side LB. Junior Noah Goldberg will compete for both the middle and strong side LB positions. Sophomores Scott Fyall and Hill Hamrick also look to be in the mix for playing time.”
Two junior starters return in the secondary in Ben Oliva and Dan O’Mara. Oliva recorded 22 tackles a year ago with 15 solos. Oliva broke up 2 passes and picked off one. O’Mara finished last season third in tackles for the Ephs with 40 (30 solos). He broke up two passes and picked off one.
|Chris Cameron '13|
Leading candidates to fill the two open spots in the defensive secondary include senior Chris Rudnicki, junior Tyler Cole, sophomore Hunter Lent and first-year Andre Lafontant.
The Eph kicking game took a direct hit on graduation day when All-NESCAC placekicker and kickoff man Scott Sobolewski and All-NESCAC punter Will Cronin departed.
Junior backup QB Chris Cleary has done some kicking for the Ephs the past two years and appears to be the leader to replace Sobolewski as the placekicker and as the punter. “We’ll be leaning on Chris in the early going as he has game experience, but some of the first years will push him,” says Kelton. “Joe Mallock and Luke Faust are getting better every day as is Greg Payton. We’re excited about what this group will be able to do for us in the future.”
“Seeing all of the hard work this team put in over the last three months and how excited they are each day to run out on the field has everyone excited,” Kelton says. “We plan to use that excitement to help us get out to a good start and have a good season.”
The Aaron Kelton era will begin on the same day as President Adam Falk’s era commences, September 25th. At noon Kelton and the Ephs will host Bowdoin on Weston Field, while at 4:00 PM President Adam F. Falk will be formally inducted as the President of Williams College.