While admitted students were exploring the campus for Visitas, this past weekend also served as a fall preview for the Harvard football team. On Saturday night, the Crimson took the field at Harvard Stadium in organized fashion for the first time since November to play its annual Spring Game.
As the Crimson lost more than thirty members of the Class of 2014 to graduation, the intra-squad scrimmage represented an opportunity for less experienced players to show what they could do. But perhaps most importantly, Saturday provided a broad look at the current state of the Harvard football program, which is coming off a 2013 Ivy League co-championship. Here are five takeaways from the Spring Game.
The Crimson’s defensive line looks strong. Despite the graduation of several standout pass rushers, defenders forced their way through the offensive line to register sacks and create pressure throughout the scrimmage. Rising senior Zach Hodges, the 2013 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, is sure to draw consistent double-teams, opening things up for classmate Obum Obukwelu and rising junior Dan Moody on the other side of the line.
Harvard has depth at wide receiver. A number of receivers stepped up to make catches Saturday night. Perhaps the best news for Harvard is that senior Ricky Zorn, who sat out his freshman year due to injury, will be returning to the team this coming fall. The team’s leading receiver in 2013, Zorn will be complemented by rising junior Andrew Fischer and rising seniors Ryan Simpson and Tyler Hamblin. Another standout from Saturday was rising sophomore Anthony Firkser, who reeled in several long passes.
The team should be solid once more at quarterback. Rising senior and returning starter Connor Hempel looked good on Saturday, threading the needle with several passes and tossing a pair of touchdowns. Rising sophomore Joseph Viviano III will likely represent a threat at backup quarterback, as Viviano showcased his speed and quick plants while rushing for two touchdowns in the scrimmage.
Special teams will need to be cleaned up. Admittedly, things get confusing in the Spring Game, with players from different teams often suiting up on the same unit for punts, kickoffs, and field goals. But things appeared sloppy at times as rising senior Andrew Flesher missed an extra point, and punts fell short of their intended distance several times.
As usual, Harvard will have options out of the backfield. Rising junior Paul Stanton burst onto the scene in his sophomore campaign and will look to build on his success this fall. Stanton did not receive much work in the Spring Game, but rising seniors Seitu Smith II and Andrew Casten contributed some solid runs of their own, each scoring a touchdown while Smith ran for 85 yards on 14 carries.