Patriot League Preview - 2011 Holy Cross Crusaders
Following a sixth consecutive winning season, and fifth-straight winning mark in the Patriot League, Holy Cross will aim to remain a contender for Head Coach Tom Gilmore with 42 letterwinners and 12 starters returning for the 2011 season.
Offense (6 starters returning/5 starters lost)
Competition figures to once again be fierce for playing time on the Holy Cross offense, with multiple players back with experience at quarterback and running back. Ryan Taggart (1899 yards/14 TD) received the bulk of the work under center in the first year of the post-Dominic Randolph era, but fellow seniors Kevin Watson and Mark Tolzien could certainly make an impact as well. Watson threw for 375 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season, while Tolzien played in the final four games and threw for 147 yards and two scores. At running back, juniors Sam Auffant and Eddie Houghton and senior Matt Bellomo all have solid track records. Auffant led the way with 451 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Houghton ran for 146 yards and a scores before missing the final four games due to injury. Bellomo missed all but one game of the 2010 season, but had 442 rushing yards and four touchdowns as well as 32 receptions for 251 yards in 2009. The graduation of standouts Luke Chmielinski, Bill Edger and Freddie Santana leaves the wide receiver position more in flux, with Gerald Mistretta (29 rec., 374 yards, 3 TD) as the most proven returnee. The passing game should also be aided by tight end Alex Schneider, who caught 30 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown as a junior. Three starters are back on the offensive line, including first-team All-Patriot League selection Mike McCabe.
Defense (6 starters returning/5 starters lost)
The Holy Cross defense has multiple starters back in each area, but also loses key contributors from the line, linebackers and defensive backs. Up front, Jack Maliska and Ryan McGinn (36 TT, 2 TFL, 1 sack) are returning starters as the unit loses Mude Ohimor (34 TT, 4 sacks). The strength of the unit should be at linebacker, where Ricky Otis (108 TT) and C.J. Martin (95 TT, 2 INT) come off outstanding seasons and Jimmy Thomas (35 TT, 5 TFL) has a strong pedigree that includes a 67-tackle, four-sack season in 2009. Holy Cross has a pair of returning starters at cornerback in Chandler Fenner (58 TT, 4 PBU) and Cav Koch (40 TT, 1 INT), and Tom Mannix (42 TT, 1 INT) looks to take on a bigger role with last year's starting safeties, Anthony DiMichele and Alex Johnson, both moving on.
Special Teams (0 returning/2 lost)
Gilmore and his staff will need to find answers for the kicking game heading into the 2011 season, with Rob Dornfried (10-13 FG) and Don Lemieux (39.1 avg) both gone after All-Patriot League seasons in 2010. Their departures leave an open competition for the kicking spots, with seniors Paul Tearson (PK) and Corey Page (P) having the inside track. The return game has more answers heading into the year, as both Andrew Zitnik and Mike Fess returned a kickoff for a touchdown last season and there are a number of players with experience in the return game.
A three-game homestand to open a season is usually a good thing, but the Crusaders could not find a much tougher way to do it. After opening the season on Sept. 1 against No. 25 Massachusetts on CBS Sports Network, Holy Cross takes on a critical early Patriot League game against Colgate (Sept. 10) followed by its annual matchup with Ivy League powerhouse Harvard (Sept. 17). The first road trip doesn't make things any easier as the Crusaders travel to No. 10 New Hampshire on Oct. 1. That is followed by two more games against Ivy League opponents at Brown (Oct. 8) and at home against Dartmouth (Oct. 15). The final five weeks are reserved for Patriot League games, with trips to Bucknell (Oct. 22), Lehigh (Nov. 5) and Fordham (Nov. 19) and games in Worcester against Georgetown (Oct. 29) and Lafayette (Nov. 12).
For more on the 2011 Holy Cross Crusaderes, read the team's pages from the Patriot League Football Media Guide and watch interviews with Gilmore, Otis and Tolzien from Patriot League Media Day below.