Having lost its top three receivers from last year, the Harvard football team entered the 2012 spring with questions at the position. But in the first drive of Saturday’s Spring Game, the annual inter-squad scrimmage, rising senior quarterback Colton Chapple showed that the Crimson may have found its answers. With his first five passes, Chapple targeted five different receivers who had combined for just 23 receptions in 2011.
“The receiving corps I thought would have been a cause of concern,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “But with the emergence of guys like [sophomore] Ricky Zorn, [sophomore] Matt Brown, [sophomore] Andrew Berg, and [freshman] Seitu [Smith], that could end up being a fun group.”
By the end of the game, those five receivers had nearly matched last year’s output, bringing down 15 balls, with Zorn leading the pack with five catches.
“Ricky Zorn has probably come farther than any other kid at his position,” Murphy said. “He came in here as a quarterback, and now he is potentially going to be a very athletic, tough, fast, decent-sized receiver.”
In total, 12 players caught a pass for the Crimson offense as it battled the White defense to a 6-0 win. The annual Spring Game represents the end of the spring offseason and a preview of what kind of Harvard team will step onto the field in the fall.
The man throwing to the bevy of emerging weapons when the season gets underway will most likely be Chapple, the Spring Game’s starter. The Georgian was outplayed in the game by sophomore Michael Pruneau, who threw for 118 yards and the day’s only score on 9-of-19 passing.
But Chapple has a firm grip on the job for now thanks to his impressive performance as a starter during the middle of last year. In two games, Chapple racked up nine touchdowns and nearly 600 yards through the air.
“The thing about Colton is that when he was a freshman, I would not have predicted he would be as good as he is now,” Murphy said. “He’s improved everything: his mechanics, his arm strength, his accuracy, his leadership ability, his running ability, everything.”
Chapple didn’t show off much of that improvement Saturday though, completing just seven of his 15 passes for 44 yards. On the first drive of the game, the quarterback took a hit in the pocket and fumbled the ball, though it was collected by a teammate.
While Chapple appears to be the one charged with replacing outgoing Collier Winters behind center, the man tapped to fill senior Kevin Murphy’s large shoes at left tackle Saturday was freshman Anthony Fabiano.
“Fabiano is going to be the guy, but there may be competition from guys like Parker Sebastian,” Murphy said. “We have four guys we think can play tackle. I don’t know if we will be better on the line than last year, but we will be deeper.”
Running behind Fabiano and the rest of the line will likely be a combination of rising senior Treavor Scales and rising sophomore Zach Boden.
“Treavor clearly is the best player,” Murphy said. “Zach has tremendous potential, but…he’s got a lot of work to do. The 1-2 punch of Treavor and Zach is pretty exciting, but Zach’s got to take the next step, find a lower center of gravity, and become a better pass protector.”
Neither Boden nor Scales played Saturday. Boden is recovering from a high ankle sprain and Scales was held out of the game to protect him from potential injury.
On the other side of the ball, Murphy said no single player will be able to make up for the loss of Josue Ortiz, the 2011 Ivy Defensive Player of the Year.
“We have to be collectively better,” Murphy said. “When you have a guy who was defensive player of the year, you probably aren’t going to replace that guy.”
The defense is generally ahead of the offense at this point in the offseason because it requires less synchronization, but the low score of the Spring Game was also a result of missed opportunities on special teams. Sophomore kicker David Mothander missed field goals from 29, 30, and 40 yards away and had an extra point attempt blocked.
“Moth was very consistent last year, but quite frankly he hasn’t had a great spring, so we’ve got to get that figured out,” Murphy said. “But I’m very confident that we can get that squared away.”
Murphy said that Mothander may see competition for both kickoff and field goal duties.
—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at email@example.com.