FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2005: Sonkur, Howell Bring Both Experience and Influence
Dante Balestracci ’04 destinguished himself as one of the best players in school history and his successor, Bobby Everett ’05 was the face of a defense that helped the Crimson secure its 10-0 perfect season a year ago.
This year, with the loss of Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 and Everett, the Harvard secondary led by Howell and Sonkur will finally get its time in the spotlight as well.
Sonkur—who is doubtful for Saturday’s opener at Holy Cross due to a sore hamstring—and Howell give the Crimson two of the best and most experienced corners in the Ivies. It is a defensive strength that has long been noted by Harvard coaches and teammates, even if it has taken the media and fans slightly longer to take notice.
“The team and the coaches know,” said Howell of the secondary’s influence on the Crimson’s overall success. “And we know full well that we’re going to be a vital part of our defense.”
Howell emerged last season as one of the top corners in the league. At 6’0—compared with Sonkur’s 5’9—Harvard relied on Howell to contain its opponent’s biggest receiver.
Howell responded to the challenge and received an All-Ivy honorable mention after his first year of starting.
Sonkur, meanwhile, finds himself in the same position as he has throughout his first three years with the Crimson—battling nagging injuries. He has proven that when he is healthy enough to play, he can be one of the most feared corners in the league.
Sonkur cemented his status as a big-play defender against Yale in 2003 when he iced a Harvard victory in The Game with a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown. Last year, he solidified his spot among the Ivy’s best and received a second team All-Ivy selection.
If Sonkur is unable to play on Saturday, sophomore Steven Williams and freshman Andrew Berry will likely split time in his place in the starting lineup.
“I think we’ve got a lot of experience [in the secondary],” defensive coordinator Kevin Doherty said. “It’s an athletic group so I feel pretty confident.”
The rest of the secondary will feature many of the same faces from last year’s squad. Junior Danny Tanner switches from cornerback to the safety position that Sean Tracy ’05 occupied last year. Junior Ryan Tully and sophomore Doug Hewlett figure to round out Harvard’s secondary—both saw significant action last year.
“Even in three-deep coverages we have a huge improvement [over last year],” Howell said. “I feel very confident that we’re going to be able to move some things around and give some different looks.”
With increased depth and experience, it may be the secondary—and not an outstanding linebacker core—that anchors the Crimson’s defense.
—Staff writer David H. Stearns can be reached at email@example.com.