A preview look at all the college football teams in the state including an outlook for the 2013 season.
Opener: At James Madison, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Conference: Northeast Conference
Last season: 2-8, 2-5
Head coach: Jeff McInerney, eighth season, 44-33
Outlook: Settling on a quarterback is an important issue. The position will be filled by senior Andrew Clements or sophomore Nick SanGiacomo; they split time last season. All key members of the offensive line return, which should help the quarterback and junior running back Rob Hollomon. Central is coming off consecutive losing seasons after consecutive NEC championships in 2009 and 2010.
Players to watch: Hollomon had 1,104 rushing yards and 1,710 all-purpose yards last season. He led the NEC in rushing yards per game (110.4) and all-purpose yards per game (171). Senior receiver Denzell Jones had 35 receptions for 337 yards and two touchdowns last season. He will have a more prominent role with the departure of Deven Baker, last season’s top receiver. Senior defensive back Antwione Reese had a team-high 89 tackles last season, averaging 8.9 a game, second in the conference. Senior linebacker Patrick Atkinson was second with 81 tackles.
Opener: At St. Lawrence, Sept. 7, Noon
Conference: New England Football Conference
Last season: 5-4, 4-3 Bogan Division
Head coach: Bill George, 15th season, 46-85
Outlook: The Bears run a no-huddle spread offense that makes them one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation, but they will be challenged to replace Jon Resch, who graduated as the best quarterback in program history. Senior Aaron Corn and sophomore Drew Londo saw limited action last season, and junior Blake Thompson, a converted receiver, will also compete for the starting job. Senior Mike Vitrano is the only returning offensive lineman. Also, the Bears have struggled defensively in recent years, and that must change. The NEFC is going from a two-division format to one eight-team conference after several programs left for the MASCAC.
Players to watch: Senior running back Tyler Hames gained 186 yards on just 35 carries but missed most of last season with an injury. Junior receiver Collis Brown had a team-high 53 receptions for 538 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Opener: At West Chester, Sept. 7, Noon
Last season: 10-1, 8-0
Head coach: Peter Rossomando, fifth season, 34-10
Outlook: The Chargers are coming off two consecutive NE-10 championships and trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs. New Haven now must replace 26 graduates, and this is the first season without Rossomando’s initial recruiting class.
Players to watch: Senior running back Mike DeCaro averaged 56 yards a game and 6.4 yards a carry last season. Senior quarterback Ronnie Nelson gained invaluable experience last season, starting four games in place of the injured Ryan Osiecki. Sophomore tight end Mike Flacco, 26, comes to New Haven after a minor league baseball career. His brother Joe, the Baltimore Ravens QB, is the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Senior linebacker Matt Fallico leads the defense. He had 48 tackles last season, third on the team.
Opener: At Marist, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Conference: Northeast Conference
Last season: 2-9, 1-7
Head coach: Mark Nofri, second season, 2-9
Outlook: Sacred Heart had the best passing attack in the NEC for three consecutive seasons before dropping to sixth in 2012, as Luke Wischnowksi and Tim Little combined to throw 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Defensively, the Pioneers will be without linebacker Justin Sexton, an All-NEC player who has elected not to play as a senior for what the school termed “personal reasons.” Sacred Heart tied for the NEC lead with 13 interceptions last season and was second in allowing just 336.7 yards a game. But of the NEC-best 33 sacks, 21 were by players no longer with the program.
Players to watch: Junior running back Keshaudas Spence had 816 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, the most among team rushing leaders. He also had four 100-yard games. Senior linebacker Matt Colucci is the team’s top returning tackler, with 71 last season. Junior defensive tackle Troy Moore had 6 1/2 sacks last season.
Opener: Hosting Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Sept. 7, 1 p.m.
Last season: 3-8, 2-6
Head coach: Rich Cavanaugh, 29th season, 167-123-1
Outlook: Last season’s 3-8 mark ended a streak of 18 consecutive seasons at .500 or above, as the Owls were an extremely young team. Senior Jacob Jablonski and sophomore Michael Eckrote will compete for time at quarterback. Both played last season, and both had mixed results.
Players to watch: Senior Vaughn Magee rushed for 1,141 yards last season, averaging 126.8 a game, and scored eight touchdowns. Sophomore Malcolm Crosson is part of a solid secondary, having been named to the NE-10 All-Rookie Team last season.
Opener: At Bates, Sept. 21, 1 p.m.
Conference: New England Small College Athletic Conference
Last season: 8-0, 8-0
Head coach: Jeff Devanney, eighth season, 49-7
Outlook: Trinity is looking to become the first back-to-back champion in the NESCAC since winning four in a row from 2002-05. Last season, the Bantams became the fifth consecutive conference champion to finish undefeated. The Bantams feature one of the deepest and best backfields in Division III, led by senior Evan Bunker, and are coming off another season of being among the best defensive teams in the nation. Trinity did lose four starters from its dominant offensive line of 2012. Sophomore Henry Foye and junior J.P. Morales will compete for time at quarterback (Ryan Burgess, a senior last season, was 15-0 as a starter).
Players to watch: Bunker, a senior, is already Trinity's all-time leading rusher, with 3,066 yards on 577 carries (5.3 per carry). Joining him in the backfield are senior Ben Crick (540 yards on 84 carries last season) and junior Michael Budness. Senior linebacker Brett Cde Baca and junior linebacker Rob Gau lead the defense.
Opener: Hosting Tufts, Sept. 21, 6 p.m.
Conference: New England Small College Athletic Conference
Last season: 5-3, 5-3
Head coach: Mike Whalen, fourth season, 12-12
Outlook: Wesleyan is moving in the right direction under Whalen, who returned to his alma mater to become athletic director and football coach in 2010 after a successful run at Williams. The Cardinals posted their first winning season since 2002 last season, losing in overtime to NESCAC champion Trinity in the season finale. This year, the Cardinals return a lot of talent at the skill positions and lose just one lineman. Wesleyan is much the same team it was in 2012, but a year better.
Players to watch: Junior running backs LaDarius Drew and Kyle Gibson give Wesleyan one of the best running attacks in the NESCAC. Drew averaged 92.3 yards a game last season, Gibson 92.1. Quarterback Jesse Warren returns for his senior year after throwing for 1,406 yards last season. Junior Donnie Cimino and senior Jake Bussani lead the secondary.
Opener: At Nichols, Sept. 13, 7 p.m.
Conference: Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference
Last season: 1-8, 1-7 (New Jersey Athletic Conference)
Head coach: Joe Loth, second season, 1-8
Outlook: Western was overwhelmed in recent years as a member of the NJAC, though it managed to snap a 28-game losing streak last season with an overtime victory over Montclair State in the home finale. In the MASCAC, Western will be playing more appropriate competition. The Colonials hope to be competitive immediately, with eight returning starters on each side of the ball. Western must take better care of the ball after finishing 2012 with 16 interceptions and 10 fumbles lost.
Players to watch: Junior quarterback Will Arndt threw for 1,686 yards and 13 touchdowns last season but had 16 interceptions. Senior running back Octavious McKoy averaged 75.6 yards a game, gaining 680 overall and eight touchdowns on 176 carries in nine games. McKoy also had 33 receptions for 212 yards. Senior safety Tyrell Ballard and senior linebacker Mike Lacaria lead the defense.
Opener: At Colgate, Sept. 21, 1 p.m.
Conference: Ivy League
Last season: 2-8, 1-6
Head coach: Tony Reno, second season, 2-8
Outlook: Settling on a quarterback and staying healthy at the position will be key, and so will the overall further adjustment to the system and leadership of Reno. Yale was forced to use five different quarterbacks last season due to injury. The Bulldogs finished last in the Ivy for the first time since 1997. Yale was picked to finish seventh in 2013 in a preseason media poll, with defending champion Penn the favorite.
Players to watch: Junior running back Tyler Varga led the FCS in all-purpose yards per game last season (194). He had 935 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in eight games. Junior punter Kyle Cazzetta was named to the College Football Performance Awards Watch List with Varga. Cazzetta averaged 40 yards per punt last season, with a long of 72. He will compete for kicking duties too. Senior defensive end Beau Palin has been named team captain.