|FCS Season Preview: NEC|
Nick Doscher was selected to the NEC all conference team as quarterback.
|Nick Doscher is 23 years old. He is a sophomore at Wagner University. More specifically, he is the starting quarterback of the Wagner Seahawks football program.|
Doscher's relatively advanced age is a result of his time spent in the farm system of Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals. He was selected in the eighth round of the 2005 draft out of Moore Catholic High School in Staten Island, N.Y.
He spent four years as a catcher in the minors, most recently with the Burlington Bees in Class-A. Doscher was released in June 2008. His dream of playing major league baseball was disentigrating, but the talented and versatile athlete had other options.
Despite a long absence from the game, Doscher's ability as a football player had not been forgotten by college programs. During his senior year at Moore Catholic, Doscher passed for 1,507 yards with 20 touchdowns and a .614 completion percentage in the tough CHSAA league. He was awarded the 2005 Fabbri Award as Staten Island?s outstanding high school football player.
Upon deciding to pursue football and a college degree at age 22, Doscher was recruited by the University of Delaware of the Colonial Athletic Association. When Delaware lagged in the recruiting process, eventually accepting a Penn State quarterback transfer instead, Wagner head coach Walt Hameline seized the opportunity and made Doscher a Seahawk. The union has proved fruitful for both parties.
Prior to Doscher's signing, Wagner had been in something of a NEC rut for some time. The program had failed to win more than four conference games in a season for nearly a decade. In 2009, Doscher's freshman year, Wagner was picked to finish second-to-last in the NEC preseason poll.
As the 2009 season began, Doscher once again found himself strapping on pads for a Staten Island football team. His role had changed, though, going from high school senior standout to college undeclassman and role player.
Wagner opened the season against Division II program Stonehill. Tyler Newberry got the start at quarterback. Doscher also saw time, but the rust was apparent as he threw two interceptions in a disheartening 45-42 loss.
The Seahawks opened the season 1-3 and Doscher's performance was inconsistent at best.
The freshman's breakout game came against NEC opponent St. Francis (Pa.). In a thrilling 56-48 overtime victory, Doscher rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
After losing the following week to Bryant, Doscher came into his own, leading the team to four straight victories, including a double overtime win over Duquesne, a 27-24 victory over Monmouth, and a shocking 32-27 win over ubeaten Central Connecticut State which gave the Seahawks a 6-3 record and share of first place. For his efforts against CCS, Doscher was named NEC Offensive Player of the Week.
It is safe to say Doscher's play exceeded expectations, and in turn elevated Wagner within the NEC. On the year, Wagner averaged 30.7 points per game, good for first in the conference. The team also tallied its most conference wins (five) since 2000. Doscher was named the NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year and first-team All-NEC quarterback.
"(Doscher) is an extremely talented young guy," Hameline said. "From a football standpoint (he is) very athletic, a fierce competitior, has a great knowledge of the offense, picks things up quickly and he's a ... playmaker. We feel great about his progress at this point."
Unfortunately, the year was not a complete success, as Wagner dropped its final two games of the season to finish at 6-5. While the offense finished first in total points, the defense finished last in points allowed.
This year, new defensive coordinator Malik Hall and eight returning defensive starters will look to improve the unit. Hameline is optimistic, saying, "We've got a ton of guys back ... hopefully, they are a little bit bigger and stronger and better ... I think we're gonna have the potential to be pretty good."
If the defense improves, Doscher's storybook return should see a triumphant second act. Coach Hameline, one of the instrumental figures in Doscher's rebirth, has a storyline of his own, as he is five wins shy of his 200th career victory. Therefore, Hameline's historic achievement is directly dependent upon Docher's continued storybook success, and vice versa. To have the legacy of a coach and his player so directly intertwined is reason enough to pay Wagner mind in 2010.
This year's NEC champion will earn an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs for the first time.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2010 NEC race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
1.Central Connecticut State
2. Robert Morris
8. Sacred Heart
9. St. Francis (PA)
Offensive Player of the Year: Nick Doscher, QB, Wagner
Defensive Player of the Year: Jose Gumbs, LB, Monmouth
1. CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE BLUE DEVILS (9-3 overall; 7-1 NEC)
COACH: Jeff McInerney (30-15 in four seasons at CCSU; 30-15 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense/6 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Josue Paul, Sr. (55 catches, 836 yards, 5 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Alondre Rush, Sr. (78 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 INTs)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Gunnar Jesperson, Jr. (transfer, JC)
QB Denzell Jones, Fr.
RB Brian Fowler, Sr. (76 rushes, 526 yards, 2 TDs)
RB Everette Benjamin, Sr. (transfer, Hofstra)
WR Richie Martin, Sr. (21 catches, 260 yards, 1 TD)
WR Matthew Tyrell, So.
OL Mike Allison, Sr.
OL Brendan Brackett, Jr.
DL Ricardo Gibson, Sr. (24 TT, 7 TFL, 3 sacks)
DL Gene Johnson, Jr. (40 TT, 4.5 TFL)
LB Jeff Marino, Sr. (93 TT, 2 TFL)
LB Lawton Arnold, So. (50 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
DB Dominique Rose, Sr. (31 TT, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 6 PBU)
DB Andrew Clements, Fr.
DB Chris Linares, Fr.
DB Antwoine Reese, Fr.
K Joe Izzo, Sr. (5-6 FGs)
OUTLOOK: Central Connecticut won nine games last season for the first time since 1973. The Blue Devils have now tallied six winnning seasons in a row and four under head coach Jeff McInerney. This year, the team will be without 2009 NEC Offensive Player of the Year James Mallory, who rushed for 1,352 yards and 16 touchdowns. He will be replaced by promising backup Brian Fowler, who averaged an impressive 6.9 yards per carry last season. Also gone are quarterbacks Aubrey Norris and Hunter Wanket. Junior college transfer Gunar Jesperson will take over, and has impressed coaches during the offseason. Last season's leading wide receiver, Josue Paul, returns and should provide Jesperson with a reliable target. Of the Blue Devils' nine wins last season, six were decided by a touchdown or less. Winning close games is a sign of strong leadership, and expect more of the same in 2010 as CCS plays for an automatic FCS playoff bid.
2. ROBERT MORRIS COLONIALS (5-6 overall; 5-3 NEC)
COACH: Joe Walton (95-67-1 in 16 seasons at Robert Morris; 95-67-1 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (10 offense/7defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Myles Russ, Sr. (212 rushes, 1,059 yards, 2 TD; 20 catches, 106 yards)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Alex DiMichele, Sr. (109 TT, 8 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 6 PD)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Jeff Sinclair, So. (78 of 145, 828 yards, 9 TDs; 63 rushes, 128 yards, 3 TDs)
RB Raphael Johnson, Sr. (57 rushes, 209 yards)
WR Anthony Coleman, Jr. (10 catches, 120 yards, 1 TD)
WR Brad Hilovsky, Jr. (transfer, Hofstra)
TE Shadrae King, Jr. (34 catches, 369 yards, 4 TD)
OL Brad Rodgers, Jr.
OL Sam Miller, Jr.
OL Corey Konycki, Sr.
OL Carlos Andrade, Sr.
OL Brian Bevilacqua, Jr.
DL Chris Roberts, Sr. (32 TT, 5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks)
DL Farren Mason, Jr. (4 TT)
DL Mike Lovely, Sr. (17 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks)
LB Elias Navarro, Sr. (97 TT, 10.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 INTs)
DB Rolf Bathold, Sr. (53 TT, 3 INTs, 15 PD)
S Michael Landers, Sr. (80 TT, 1 INT, 7 PD)
K Garrett Clawson, Sr. (14-18 FGs)
P Nick Schirtzinger, Sr. (39.2 avg)
OUTLOOK: Robert Morris finished the 2009 season winning five consecutive games after losing its first six. Keys to the turnaround were freshman quarterback Jeff Sinclair and an improved defensive effort. Sinclair took over in the fifth game and finished 5-2 as a starter. The defense allowed an average of seven points per game during the win streak. This year, Sinclair returns, as does an offensive line which started the final nine games of the season intact. Leading rusher Myles Russ also returns and, barring a sophomore slump from Sinclair, the offense should improve. The defense also appears strong. Linebacker Alex DiMichele and cornerback Rolf Bathhold were both preseason All-NEC selections. After last year's furious finish, expectations are high for Robert Morris. The Colonials should live up to expectations and challenge Central Connecticut for the NEC crown.
3. ALBANY GREAT DANES (7-4 overall; 6-2 NEC)
COACH: Bob Ford (241-169-1 in 40 seasons at Albany; 241-169-1 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 9 (6 offense/3 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Jason Poore, Sr. (26 catches, 243 yards, 2 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DT Trevor Andreson, Sr. (36 TT, 5.5 TFL, 3 sacks)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Andrew Smith, So. (2-2, 44 yards, 1 TD; 64 rushes, 379 yards, 5 TDs; 10 catches, 99 yards, 2 TDs)
QB Dan Di Lella, Jr. (2 of 4, 7 yards)
RB Tramaine Wilson, Fr.
RB Dillon Romain, Fr.
WR Ryan Kirchner, So. (16 catches, 186 yards)
WR John Lullen, Jr. (14 catches, 141 yards, 2 TDs)
C Andy Sparano, Sr.
DE Eddie Delaney, Jr. (33 TT, 6 TFL)
DT Zach Gallo, Jr. (38 TT, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks)
LB Chris Blais, Sr. (DNP, injury)
DB Ross Bertrand, Sr. (38 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack)
K Herb Glass, Jr. (12-18 FGs)
OUTLOOK:The Great Danes suffered some significant losses, as 17 starters do not return. Among the losses are quarterback and No. 2 all-time passer Vinny Esposito, and all-time leading rusher David McCarthy. The lines look to be the strongest returning units. The offensive line returns four players who started all 11 games in 2009, led by preseson All-NEC selection Andy Sparano at center. The defensive line has a preseason All-NEC selection of its own in Trevor Anderson. The linebacking corps took a big hit as all starters from last year depart. Chris Blais, who missed all of last season with two seperate hand injuries, is a welcome return. It is not clear who will replace Esposito under center. Triple-threat quarterback Andrew Smith is a possibility, as well as a more traditional option in Dan Di Lella. Albany is a quality program but may find it tough to compete in 2010 in light of such significant turnover.
4. WAGNER SEAHAWKS (6-5 overall; 5-3 NEC)
COACH: Walt Hameline (195-110-2 in 29 seasons at Wagner; 195-110-2 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Nick Doscher, So. (103 of 178, 1,330 yards, 8 TDs; 161 rushes, 769 yards, 13 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Chaz Legette, Sr. (75 TT, 2 TFL, 2 INTs, 4 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
RB Dominique Williams, So. (113 rushes, 642 yards, 9 TDs)
RB Jeremy Martinez, Sr. (48 rushes, 202 yards, 5 TDs)
WR Justin Matthews, Sr. 15 catches, 186 yards, 1 TD)
WR David Crawford, Jr. (14 catches, 282 yards, 4 TDs)
TE Morgan Mizell, Sr. (13 catches, 202 yards, 1 TD)
OL Joe Feriozzi, Sr.
OL Zach Johnson, Sr.
DL Christian Hanna, So. (5 TT)
DT Quintin Anderson, Jr. (44 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
DE Derrick Forrest, Jr. (29 TT, 7 TFL, 4 sacks)
LB Jeremiah Brown, Jr. (52 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack)
LB Carl-Olivier Prime, So. (48 TT, 2.5 TFL, 3 fumbles rcv)
DB Frantz Placide, Sr. (40 TT, 7 PD)
P Kyle Muir, Sr. (40.2 avg)
OUTLOOK: Wagner's defense struggled last year, and as a result new defensive coordinator Malik Hall was brought in to the fold. Hall will attempt to fix a unit which surrendered 31.1 points and 392.2 yards per game last season. No team allowed more points than Wagner last season, but no team scored more points either. The offense excelled under freshman quarterback Nick Doscher. Doscher was a first-team All-NEC selection in 2009 and also took home NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. The offense should shine under Doscher, but look for the defense to continue its struggles. Still, with the potential on offense, even an average defensive effort could put Wagner in the hunt for the NEC title.
5. MONMOUTH HAWKS (5-6 overall; 4-4 NEC)
COACH: Kevin Callahan (101-72 in 17 seasons at Monmouth; 101-72 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (7 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Kyle Frazier, Jr. (129 of 216, 1,453 yards, 10 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Jose Gumbs, Jr. (95 TT, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Andrew Mandeville, Sr. (18 of 29, 209 yards, 1 TD)
RB Bobby Giles, Sr. (38 rushes, 254 yards, 1 TD; 7 catches, 57 yards, 1 TD)
RB Balial Sloan El, Jr. (3 rushes, 13 yards)
WR Ryan Folsom, Sr. (17 catches, 201 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Nick Romeo, Sr. (1 catch, 14 yards)
OL Shawn Wright, Sr.
OL Mike Murphy, Jr.
OL Joe Hurley, Sr.
OL Tom Ottaiano, Sr. (transfer, Hofstra)
DL Dave Ogden, Sr. (47 TT, 10 TFL, 4 sacks)
LB Joe Valenti, Sr. (64 TT, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT)
LB Nick Bonturi, Jr. (58 TT, 3 TFL)
CB Kendall Haley, Sr. (86 TT, 3 INTs)
CB Mike Avent, Sr. (46 TT, 2 INTs, 6 PBU)
DB Kenny Amsel, Sr. (45 TT, 5 INTs, 14 PBU)
OUTLOOK: Monmouth has two quality quarterbacks in Kyle Frazier and Andrew Mandeville. Frazier, a pocket passer, should start, but Mandeville should see time as well. Last year, both quarterbacks saw the field before Mandeville went down with an injury. Of bigger concern to Monmouth is the running back position, where 2008 NEC Offensive Player of the Year and Walter Payton Award candidate David Sinisi departed. The offensive line should ease the burden as it returns three-time All-NEC guard Shawn Wright. Hofstra transfer Tom Ottaiano could prove to be one of the better offensive lineman in the conference. The defense returns reigning NEC Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gumbs, who will return to safety after filling in admirably at linebacker last year. Along with Gumbs, defensive back Kendall Haley and lineman Dave Ogden earned preseason All-NEC honors. The team is experienced and if it finds a capable replacement for Sinisi, it should return to its winning ways.
6. BRYANT BULLDOGS (5-6 overall, 4-4 NEC)
COACH: Marty Fine (39-24 in six seasons at Bryant; 39-24 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (6 offense/5 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: TE Matt Tracey, Jr. (35 catches, 476 yards, 6 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Jason Riffe, Sr. (75 TT, 11.5 TFL, 1 sack)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Michael Croce, Jr. (151 of 297, 1,695 yards, 13 TDs)
RB Michael Canfora, Sr. (46 rushes, 232 yards, 1 TD; 29 catches, 255 yards, 2 TDs)
RB Jordan Brown, So. (10 rushes, 37 yards)
WR Khalel Pritchard, Sr. (23 catches, 369 yards, 4 TDs)
WR Vinton South, Sr. (8 catches, 114 yards, 1 TD)
OL Raymond Bundy, Jr.
OL Tony Edwards, Jr.
DL Andrew Regan, Sr. (48 TT, 3 TFL, 2 sacks)
LB Franck Tebou, Jr. (46 TT, 5 TFL, 2.5 sacks)
CB Samad Wagstaff, Jr. (18 TT, 2 INTs)
DB Addison Lynch, Sr. (15 TT, 2 INTs)
K Christopher Bird, Sr. (11-14 FGs)
OUTLOOK: Bryant has performed admirably since joining the NEC in 2008. The team has won 12 games over that span. Quarterback Michael Croce returns under center and will have preseason All-NEC tight end Matt Tracey as his primary target once again. Not returning is the program's two leading rushers from 2009, Jerrell Smith and Lindsay Gamble. Smith ran for 1,198 yards and seven touchdowns in 2009. On defense, Jason Riffe, the team's leading tackler in 2009, returns at linebacker. The defense may take a hit, however, as it only returns five starters. Look for Bryant to continue its solid but not spectacular play while it prepares for postseason eligibility in 2012.
7. DUQUESNE DUKES (3-8 overall; 2-6 NEC)
COACH: Jerry Schmitt (26-25 in five seasons at Duquesne; 54-46 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (7 offense/10 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Dave Williams, Sr. (29 catches, 385 yards, 3 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Nathan Totino, Sr. (73 TT, 1.5 TFL, .5 sacks)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Sean Patterson, So. (25 of 52, 342 yards, 3 TDs)
RB Larry McCoy, So. (160 rushes, 807 yards, 8 TDs)
WR Akeem Moore, So. (4 catches, 82 yards)
WR Jay Spinks, Sr. (42 catches, 354 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Brooks Roorback, Jr. (18 catches, 176 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Joe Cangilla, Jr. (14 catches, 241 yards)
TE Sean Bunevich, Sr. (DNP, injury)
OL Ron Dunn, Jr.
OL Jamaal Thomas, Jr.
OL Cameron Downey, Jr.
DE Thaimu Bangura, Sr. (42 TT, 6.5 TFL, 4 sacks)
DE Alex Inda, Jr. (41 TT, 7 TFL, 3 sacks)
DT Mike Passodelis, Jr. (41 TT, 6 TFL)
LB Derrick Lakins, So. (40 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack)
DB Justin Melhado, Sr. (48 TT, 6 PBU)
DB Dionte Wade, Sr. (36 TT, 4 PBU)
DB Devin Duggan, Sr. (44 TT, 2 PBU)
DB Khiry Carter, Jr. (49 TT)
OUTLOOK: Duquesne enters its third season of NEC football in 2010. It will be deeper and more experienced than it has the previous two seasons. The staff has confidence in returning quarterback Sean Patterson. Besides returning seven offensive starters, the team returns 2008 second-team All-NEC performer Sean Bunevich, who missed all of 2009 with a knee injury. Senior wide receiver and kick returner Dave Williams also returns and is a preseason All-NEC selection. The defense should be deep with 10 returning starters. The unit will switch to a 3-4 and benefit from a strong and deep line, anchored by preseason All-NEC selection Thaimu Bangura. Duquesne should improve on its 3-8 record of a year ago.
8. SACRED HEART PIONEERS (2-8 overall; 2-6 NEC)
COACH: Paul Gortham (25-38 in six seasons at Sacred Heart; 25-38 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (6 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Dale Fink, Sr. (212 of 347, 2,064 yards, 17 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Justin Embler, Jr, (53 TT, 7.5 TFL, 4 sacks)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
RB Garry Coles, Jr. (73 rushes, 529 yards, 3 TDs; 26 catches, 189 yards, 2 TDs)
RB Marcel Archer, Sr. (58 rushes, 292 yards, 1 TD)
FB James Moore, Jr. (1 rush, 3 yards)
WR Tony Patterson, Sr. (25 catches, 264 yards)
WR Rich Rossi, Jr. (35 catches, 313 yards, 1 TD)
WR Jo Jo Jamiel, So. (26 catches, 192 yards)
C Justin Smith, Sr.
OL Justin Martel, Jr.
OL Bill Romaniello, So.
OL Dylan Larson, Jr.
DL Bill O'Brien, Sr. (DNP, injury)
LB Chris Mandas,Jr. (88 TT, 5 TFL)
RB Brian Flumere, Sr. (61 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
LB Michael Zambarano, Jr. (43 TT, 4 TFL, 1 sacks)
DB Titus McIntosh, Jr. (46 TT, 2 INTs, 8 PBU)
DB Ahmad Covington, Jr. (44 TT, 2 TFL, 2 INTs)
DB Rashod Underwood, Sr. (20 TT)
K Jason Plescow, So. (6-6 FGs)
OUTLOOK: It is uncertain which team will show up in 2010. Sacred Heart's 2008 squad finished third in the NEC at 8-3. In 2009, despite returning 2008 All- NEC quarterback Dale Fink, the Pioneers fell to 2-8. Fink returns again in 2010 but is without top receiver Steve Tedesco. Fink should be protected and returning backs Marcel Archer and Garry Coles should find holes behind an experienced offensive line. The defense, which boasts preseason All-NEC end Justin Embler, gets a boost in returning lineman Bill O'Brien, who missed 2009 due to injury. This team has some promise but must prove it can recover after a poor showing in 2009.
9. ST FRANCIS (PA.) RED FLASH (2-9 overall; 1-7 NEC)
COACH: Chris Villarrial (first season at St. Francis; 0-0 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (9 offense/4 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Kyle Harbridge, So. (78 rushes, 484 yards, 3 TD; 24.5 KR avg)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Scott Lewis, Sr. (118 TT, 9 TFL, 4 sacks)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB John Kelly, So. (135 of 264, 1,357 yards, 7 TDs)
QB Timmy Myers, So. (7 of 12, 36 yards)
QB Stanley Gensiak, Fr.
RB Jude Yearwood, Sr. (133 rushes, 518 yards, 4 TDs)
WR Omar Winston, Sr. (34 catches, 225 yards)
WR Anthony Howze, Jr. (15 catches, 184 yards, 1 TD)
OL Christopher Buzas, Jr.
OL William Houston, So.
DE Christopher Shepard, So. (18 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack)
LB Matthew Parker, Sr. (103 TT, 16 TFL, 7 sacks)
LB Ryan Shepard, Sr. (57 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
OUTLOOK: New head coach Chris Villarrial is challenged with turning around St. Francis. He inherits a few building blocks. Sophomore running back Kyle Harbridge had a stellar debut last year and should excel this year behind an experienced offensive line. On defense, the linebacker unit is the strongest part of the team as it again returns the team's top three tacklers. Senior Scott Lewis, a preseason All-NEC selection leads the unit. The secondary is a different story as all 2009 starters depart. Do not expect a rapid turnaround.
By Andrew Gaddess, FCS Contributing Editor