2001 Football Season Preview
August 28, 2001
At wide receiver, the Jeffs boast one of the most athletic and productive playmakers in the nation in senior quad-captain Derrell Wright, named First-Team All-NESCAC at wideout and punt returner as a junior. Wright led the NESCAC with seven receiving touchdowns as a junior and was the conference's third leading receiver with 39 catches for 640 yards. Mills also expects big things from junior receivers J.P. Zito, Brian Hart and Todd Gately.
Amherst will feature a pair of experienced tight ends in senior quad-captain Matt Flavin - a returning NESCAC All-Academic selection - and sophomore Alex Popp, both of whom saw considerable time last season. Sophomore Mike Hanlon was hampered by injuries as a first-year but could pierce the lineup at tight end or offensive tackle.
What was a young offensive line is now a year stronger and wiser under assistant coach Rob Schur '98. Second-Team All-NESCAC junior Rob Vernicek is the biggest of the bunch and a two-year starter. He'll lead a pack of returning big men up front, including junior Brendan Carolin, senior center Josh Ahearn and converted linebacker Colin Renz '02. Sophomore Shane Morrow and juniors Jesse Webber and John MacKinnon should also see action in the trenches, as should sophomore W. Gee Roe.
The defense begins with its emotional leader, senior quad-captain Pat McGee, anchoring the line at defensive tackle. Despite missing the last three games of his junior season due to injury, McGee was a First-Team All-NESCAC and Second-Team All-ECAC selection with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Pat Hayes filled in admirably in McGee's absence and should see more time this season, while fellow juniors Jeff Bogino and Ryan Moriarty will add considerable depth up front. Seniors Brad Hensley and Kevin Bush will occupy the nose guard position with a little help from sophomores Mike Harrison and Mike Nerone.
Senior quad-captain Dan Lalli and classmate Brian Landolfi - both three-year starters - will once again anchor an experienced, hard-hitting linebacker crew from the inside slot. Lalli was voted First-Team All-NESCAC, Second-Team All-ECAC and the team's co-defensive lineman of the year as a junior with a team second-best 70 tackles. Landolfi was right behind him with 55 tackles, including 25 unassisted and a pair of sacks.
Senior Gregg Stankewicz returns at outside linebacker after racking up 38 tackles and Second-Team All-NESCAC honors in 2000. Junior Ian Ward has battled injuries but should be ready for training camp, while Gene Nogi - also an outstanding lacrosse player - is poised for a solid senior season.
Graduation left a slew of positions up for grabs in the Amherst secondary. Sophomore Paul Whiting is a three-sport athlete with a lot of potential at cornerback, while senior Geoff Dewire could man the other corner after considerable time at safety last season. Juniors Joe Rubbone and Fletcher Ladd will also be thrown into the mix. Mills has a lot of confidence in junior free safety Paul Miceli - a standout special teamer as a first-year who played increasingly in the secondary as a sophomore. At strong safety, veteran Jay Hutchins was the Jeffs' leading tackler with 76 takedowns last season and will provide much-needed senior leadership.
On special teams, junior punter Geoff Bough made a game-saving play with a 61-yard punt on a potentially disastrous errant snap in last season's dramatic win over Williams. He returns with a wealth of confidence after punting 48 times for a 33.2-yard average as a sophomore. Junior Mike Proman looks to replace the graduated Fleming as the team's place kicker. Fleming was successful on 19 of 20 extra point attempts in 2000.
On punt returns, Wright is one of the most exciting players in the nation, fielding 34 boots for 262 yards as a junior, including a game-breaking 68-yard touchdown run in a 9-7 win at Wesleyan. He may also return kickoffs as the Jeffs look to get the ball in his hands as often as possible.
The Jeffs will play a challenging eight-game NESCAC slate, highlighted by the season-opener at Hamilton on Saturday, September 22, with the home-opener set for the following Saturday, September 29, against Bowdoin. Additionally, Amherst Homecoming kicks off on Saturday, October 20, when the Jeffs host Wesleyan, with Family Weekend set for Saturday, November 3, against Trinity. This year's season finale features Amherst at archrival Williams on Saturday, November 10, at noon - the 116th meeting between the two teams.