Patriot League Preview - 2011 Fordham Rams
While remaining ineligible to compete for the Patriot League title and automatic playoff berth, Fordham will take on a daunting schedule to enhance its chances for an at-large spot. The Rams have 63 letterwinners and 11 starters back for sixth-year Head Coach Tom Masella.
Offense (6 starters returning/5 lost)
With jack of all trades Blake Wayne moving from quarterback to a wide receiver/running back spot, the competition is open for the snaps under center. Ryan Higgins has the inside track after playing down the stretch with Wayne injured last season, throwing for 665 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Griffin Murphy appears to have the best shot of unseating Higgins for the job. Running back is a more settled position, with Darryl Whiting (771 yards, 4 TD) returning in a deep backfield that also features Carlton Koonce. A look at Fordham's wide receiving corps gives an indication of why Wayne has shifted positions, as the Rams have lost standouts Jason Caldwell (71 rec., 910 yards, 4 TD) and Stephen Skelton (42 rec., 443 yards, 3 TD) from last year's squad. Nick Talbert (19 rec., 175 yards) has the most experience while Fordham will also look to get the ball in the hands of Wayne (458 rush yards, 4 TD). Three starters are back on the offensive line, including senior center Jonathan Sheridan.
Defense (5 starters returning/6 lost)
Fordham loses more than half of its starters on defense, but has plenty of strength left in the middle. Justin Yancey (41 TT, 10.5 TFL, 3 sacks) comes off a breakout freshman season and will be joined by Patrick McGee as a returning starter in the interior for the Rams. Mike Martin (69 TT) and Nick Womack (24 TT, 3.5 sacks) are back at linebacker as Fordham loses Nick Magiera (57 TT), Clifton Stuckey (47 TT) and Bryson Wilson (54 TT). The biggest holes to fill come in the secondary, where brothers Jamal (74 TT) and Ahmed (57 TT, 8 PBU) Haruna are gone at the cornerback spots and NFL signee Isa Abdul-Quddus (78 TT, 6 PBU) departs at one of the safety spots. Brendan Melanophy (64 TT, 2 INT) is the lone returning starter, though a handful of players that saw action last year return to compete for more time in 2011.
Specialists (1 returning/0 lost)
Fordham may boast the most reliable kicking situation in the Patriot League, with Patrick Murray back to fill duties as both the placekicker and punter. Murray connected on 12-of-21 field goals and punted to a 39.3 average last season.
Fordham will only set foot on Jack Coffey Field four times in 2011, and the non-League schedule will present a host of challenges. The Rams open the season at FBS opponent Connecticut on Sept. 1, and take on a second FBS game when they travel to Army on Oct. 29 on CBS Sports Network. The non-League slate also features challenging visits to Rhode Island (9/24) and Penn (10/8) as well as the annual intra-city clash with Columbia (9/17) as the lone home game. Fordham has a tough road in the Patriot League in October as it visits Colgate (10/1) and Lafayette (10/22) and hosts defending champion Lehigh (10/15), then wraps up the season with games at Georgetown (11/5) and at home against Bucknell (11/12) and Holy Cross (11/19) in November.
For more on the 2011 Fordham Rams, read the team's pages from the Patriot League Football Media Guide and watch an interview with Masella from Patriot League Media Day below.
2011 Patriot League Football Media Guide - Fordham pages
Video Interview - Head Coach Tom Masella