Football got a head start on the 2010 season with Saturday’s annual intrasquad spring game. The scrimmage provided some answers, but raised even more questions, and it seems like a quarterback battle will once again be taking center stage this September.
The Back Page sat down with Harvard coach Tim Murphy after the game, and here’s what he had to say on the return of Andrew Hatch, the rebuilding of the offensive line, and more.
“I don’t think any of the quarterbacks played extremely well in the spring for a variety of reasons, but I think with Collier [Winters], Andrew Hatch, and Colton Chapple, we’re going to have the ability and the depth to be good at that position. How good remains to be seen. We need to improve against the blitz, we need to improve our football IQ on some things, and we need to take care of the football better. It’s a good group, but we need one of those guys to really jump out and improve to be a championship-caliber offense. That’s what our expectation is, that one of those guys will do that.”
On the possible return of Andrew Hatch:
“Well first of all, he hasn’t been 100% officially cleared by the NCAA, and we won’t know that maybe until Sep. 1. So it’s obviously hard to put him in that hole when you don’t even know if he’s going to be eligible. I mean, the signs and the precedent is there that he should be, and he’s had a solid spring, but he still has a ways to go. We run a [much] more sophisticated, pro-style offense than LSU did. They were very simple, just kind of three-step stuff, bubble screens and get it to their fast guys. Here, it’s a little bit more like a pro-style offense, at least from the pass-game standpoint. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, he’s just got to be more consistent, he has to take care of the football more, but it is a legitimate competition. And if he hadn’t been here, I’m not sure that it would have been. I would have said that Collier’s pretty much a slam dunk, but now there’s a competition, so we probably won’t know who our starting quarterback’s going to be until conceivably a week before the Holy Cross game.”
On rebuilding the offensive line:
“I think it’s our biggest concern on the whole team, and part of it is anytime you lose four seniors, it’s a huge rebuilding project. Having said that, we’re to the point with our program where we’re still going to end up starting nothing but juniors and seniors next year. So if you look at, as an example, Kevin Murphy replacing a three-time first-team All-Ivy league lineman, which almost never happens at that position, in James Williams, a guy who will sign an NFL contract [Sunday], you say, ‘Wow, that’s a big dip.’ It won’t be. People are going to be saying, where did this guy come from? Kevin’s going to be a great football player. Not just because he’s 6’7”, but because he’s extremely competitive, extremely focused, he’s smart, he’s tough, he gets better every single week, and he’s a guy that I think will be a very legitimate NFL prospect in a year. So we’re happy to have a left tackle that when you lose someone of the quality of James Williams, you can step up and bring in a Kevin Murphy. Kevin’s got two years to go, he’s got a ways to go, but he’s too talented and especially too committed to not be very good. And our expectation is for him to be an All-Ivy level player next year…The biggest part of the issue is anytime you have to replace four guys at a very labor-intensive position, it really takes a long time to become a unit. That’s your big concern. We have the talent, we have to find out of we can develop the leadership and the cohesiveness, but it has a chance.”
On the defensive line:
“We have the potential to have one of the better defensive lines we’ve ever had here. You look at guys like Chucks Obi, you look at Josue Ortiz, you look at David Sklar, three seniors, those kids along with fourth-year senior Ben Graeff with another year to go, junior John Lyon. We expect that group to be dominant, that’s our expectation. We’re not there yet, but we definitely have the talent, and I think we definitely have the attitude with that group and the potential to be really outstanding. And that’s where you start on defense. If your front four can be an outstanding group, then you have a chance to be really good.”
On the returning depth at receiver and running back:
“If you go to receivers, it’s just the opposite, receivers and running backs. Depth and experience. At running back, you’ve got two guys that, you’ve got the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and you’ve got a kid who was first-team all-Ivy. So that’s a luxury. They’re both very athletic, very smart, very competitive kids—obviously Gino Gordon and Treavor Scales. Gino’s become an outstanding leader for the football team. Receiver, it’s a very experienced group, I don’t know if we’re as good there, but it is very experienced. You’ve got guys like Michael Cook, who was banged up this spring. You obviously have got guys like Levi [Richards], who’s coming back into it, he was injured all of last year. You’ve certainly got guys like Adam Chrissis, who’s played since he was a freshman…Marco [Iannuzzi], of course, and we’ve got [Chris Lorditch], an All-Ivy kid returning at the x, caught a touchdown tonight. The combination of those guys means we’ve got a lot of depth. We need some of those guys to break out and be front-line, top-level Ivy League players. And we’ve only had one guy do that so far. The bottom line is that we’re experienced, but I’d like us to be a little more explosive. Adam Chrissis showed us a little bit of that today.”
On special teams:
“Special teams, we need to improve dramatically. In 2008, we finished last in the league and managed to win a championship, which is highly unusual. We got a little better last year, but we need to take the next step if we’re going to be a championship-caliber team. Right now we lose our top kicker, the incumbent is going to be Jake Dombrowski, but he’s been inconsistent in the spring. He’s got a strong leg, he’s got a lot of ability, but so much of that position is mental. Right now we’re counting on him at two positions, both punter and kicker—not an easy thing to do. But right now, unless we talk about freshmen, we don’t have anybody to really compete with him.
Kick return, I think we’ve got some reasonable depth. We’ll have guys like Treavor Scales, Marco Iannuzzi, Gino Gordon, Matt Hanson. All fast kids, all kids that were offensive players even if they aren’t playing offense now, before, and we feel like we’ve kind of got to rotate those guys, keep them fresh, but that should be much improved. Other guy I forgot to mention, was out all spring, Brian Owusu, and Brian’s another guy that if you look back at the secondary, he’s a guy that we’re counting on at the corner position to be a high-level corner even as a sophomore.”