By Matt Noonan
Here is part two of our conversation with Framingham State’s head coach Tom Kelley.
Make sure to check out part one of the conversation by CLICK HERE.
What unit will be the strongest this season?
“We’re going to have to lean on our defense, but our defense has gotten better the last couple years and they were getting better every week last year. I think our defense is going to be the stronger unit, I really do.”
Sticking with the defense, who’re some players that you’re looking to step up this season?
“James Muirhead is the cornerstone of our defense, he’s a defensive lineman and James was an All-State heavyweight wrestler coming out of high school and once again, we recruited him. James – we recruited him as middle linebacker – and then we put his hand in the dirt and he never got back up again. He is just a [tough player] to block and he’s an athlete. I love those wrestlers because they know the leverage, and we could play him any place up front. Our middle linebacker Pat McGrath is just something special, too. So, having those two guys pretty much in the middle or wherever we want to put them – let’s start there – that’s a pretty good foundation. We’ve got some veterans over on that side of the ball and for once we’re pretty healthy over there and if we can put together a pass rush then we’re going to be something [special].”
Do you expect your team to experience any obstacles or challenges like last year?
“I don’t know if we’ve ever gone through a season where the target’s been on our back [because] we’ve always been the pursuer, and now we’re the one being chased and I don’t know how we’ll stand up to that since we’ve never been in that situation. Every week, we better come with our A-game and we’ve been chasing the gauntlet, so to speak, and this year we’ve definitely got the target on our back and even in the [Bogan Division]. We’ve got a long way to go and we’ve got one week of camp left, and like I’ve said, if we win a game we’re going to be lucky, but we’re working hard and I think the one thing that we just haven’t experienced yet is being on the top of the heap and having everyone trying to knock us off, it’s going to be everyone’s biggest game this year.”
Finally, what’re your thoughts about this being the final season that Framingham State is part of the NEFC?
“I don’t know if the kids realize it or know the history of this conference, [but] the coaches and a lot of the athletic directors certainly do because there was a lot of gnashing of teeth and pounding of the table about people that didn’t want to leave the New England Football Conference just because of the history and what has transpired. [However], our first goal is to get the Bogan Division and then hopefully get to the championship game. Two years ago, we tied for the Bogan Division championship and then we lost head-to-head to Maine Maritime, and last year we were fortunate to win it outright, so there were a lot of firsts over the last couple years, [such as] best records and [our] first bowl game. One of the things that I’m going to miss, but I’m not going to miss as a coach – that championship game – and I’ve thought long and hard about [the contest]. It was a wonderful experience for the kids and the crowd was unbelievable, but it’s a play-in game for the NCAA, so you’ve got this big emotional game and you’re playing and you’re going out and leaving it on the field, and I think that hurt Western New England College going into the [tournament last November]. So, the championship is going away, but if I look at it realistically as a coach, it’s probably better off that we do it a different way, win the championship and then go onto the tournament.”