FOOTBALL '07: Ivy League Picks

Yale is the presumed favorite, but challengers loom

It’s been 18 years since a team repeated as Ivy champion, but no squad has appeared as poised to do so as Yale, returning 17 starters from last season’s titlists.

This bounty of experience made the Bulldogs the heavy favorite in the preseason poll, taking 14 of 16 first-place votes. Yale also benefits from the bevy of questions that accompany its closest rivals. Harvard must replace the leading rusher and scorer in Ivy history, Princeton must find a substitute for the 2006 Player of the Year, and Penn loses the bulk of its excellent offensive line while also instituting a new offensive system.

For all the talk of a Yale repeat, the league continues to be balanced and unpredictable. Remember: Yale and Princeton were picked fourth and fifth, respectively, in last season’s preseason poll.

BROWN

Despite the loss of linebacker and Giants draft pick Zak DeOssie, the defense will return eight starters, including three All-Ivy selections. Those players, however, forced a league-low eight turnovers last season. The Bears must improve the running game, which averaged only 3.4 yards per carry last season—sixth in the Ivies. Quarterback Michael Daugherty is in his first year as a starter, and Brown must also replace four starters from the offensive line.

Player To Watch: Dereck Knight, senior running back. Knight is the best hope for rejuvenating Brown’s struggling ground attack.

COLUMBIA

Last year, Columbia hit the .500 mark for the first time since 1996. Repeating that feat will require improvement from the running game, which averaged only 44.1 yards per game last year. Senior quarterback Craig Hormann is back and has weapons in sophomore wideout Austin Knowlin and tight ends Troy Evangelist and Jamal Russell. The defense, tops in the Ivies in scoring defense last season with a unique 3-5-3 alignment, must replace five starters.

Player To Watch: Austin Knowlin, senior wide receiver. Last season’s Ivy Rookie of the Year is the Lions’ most dangerous weapon.

CORNELL

Junior quarterback Nathan Ford threw for 1,417 yards in his first year as a starter, and four of the top five receivers from last season return. Also back is senior running back Luke Siwula, a second team All-Ivy pick who rushed for 885 yards in 2006. The defense returns 10 starters from an average 2006 unit but loses its most heralded player, second team All-Ivy tackle Jonathan Lucas. Honorable mention All-Ivy picks Ryan Blessing and Tim Bax lead the linebackers and secondary, respectively.

Player To Watch: Zac Canty, junior wide receiver. Canty is the top receiver on an offense that will throw more in ’07.

DARTMOUTH

The offense is in desperate need of an overhaul after scoring just 14.7 points per game and ranking last or next to last in the Ivies in every major statistical category last year. Senior Tom Bennewitz has taken over starting quarterback duties after the departure of leading passer and rusher Mike Fritz. Two All-Ivy cornerbacks return in Chris Blanco and John Manning from a unit ranked fourth in pass defense last year, and nine starters return from the league’s worst scoring defense in 2006.

Player To Watch: Milan Williams, junior running back. Undersized back ran for 179 yards and a TD in the opener against Colgate.

HARVARD

Harvard’s deep receiving corps will look to pick up the slack from the departure of Clifton Dawson ’07. The running game looked fine in the season opener, aided by the scrambling ability of Liam O’Hagan. A bigger question is on defense, where two starters from the defensive line must be replaced for a unit that averaged 4.3 sacks per game last season. The secondary will be strong, led by preseason All-American Andrew Berry and All-Ivy pick Steve Williams.

Player To Watch: Liam O'Hagan, senior quarterback. The Crimson desperately needs O’Hagan to return to his form of late 2005.

PENN

The Quakers new-look spread offense sputtered in the season opener, especially after senior running back Joe Sandberg went down with a hamstring injury in the first half. He’ll be back, but the offensive line still must prove it has recovered from the graduation of three All-Ivy picks. A strong defense returns six starters in the 5-2 scheme Penn favors, including three in the secondary, which was fourth in the Ivies last season in pass efficiency defense.

Player To Watch: Robert Irvin, junior quarterback. Irvin will be the focal point in new coordinator Bill Schmitz’s spread attack.

PRINCETON

Ivy Player of the Year and quarterback Jeff Terrell is gone, to be replaced by Bill Foran, a senior who played mostly wide receiver last season. First team All-Ivy wideout Brendan Circle is back, along with leading rusher R.C. Lagomarsino. The defense lost two first team All-Ivy cornerbacks to graduation, along with second-teamer Jake Marshall on the defensive line but returns seven starters in all. The Tigers had five field goals blocked last season; otherwise, kicker Connor Louden was 9-of-11.

Player To Watch: Bill Foran, senior quarterback. Foran has big shoes to fill, replacing 2006 Ivy Player of the Year Jeff Terrell.

YALE

The receiving corps will be retooled after the graduation of the top three receivers from last season, but running quarterback Matt Polhemus is back, as is star tailback Mike McLeod. The offensive line must replace All-American tackle Ed McCarthy and another starter. The defense returns nine starters from a unit that led the Ivies in turnovers last year, including first team All-Ivy selections Brandt Hollander at defensive tackle and Bobby Abare at linebacker.

Player To Watch: Mike McLeod, junior running back. Workhorse will continue to be the focus of a pass-challenged offense.

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