By Brian Willwerth
In about a month, the eight teams in the Ivy League will kick off the 2016 season.
The preseason media poll was released this morning, and there is a familiar name at the top: Harvard.
The Crimson top the poll for the eleventh time overall, and the sixth in the last nine years. In order to claim another league title, Harvard will have to replace what is arguably the most successful football class in Harvard football history.
“To lose that nucleus of 15 starters last year (it) is a little bit daunting and certainly unprecedented for us,” said head coach Tim Murphy during the Ivy League media conference call. “But there are a lot of guys really looking for the opportunity to replace those guys.”
The biggest question mark is at quarterback. Senior Joe Viviano and sophomore Tom Stewart are vying for the starting job. Whoever the starter is will have big shoes to fill: replacing the Ivy League offensive player of the year, Scott Hosch.
“I can’t remember coming into the season with a competition at quarterback where really neither guy has ever taken a meaningful snap in a college football game,” said Murphy.
The running back position will be a platoon situation, at least to start the season. Murphy expects junior Semar Smith, and sophomores Noah Reimers and Charlie Booker to all get some carries.
Up front, Murphy says some players to watch include lineman Larry Allen and Max Rich, H-Back Anthony Firkser, and wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley.
The leading returner on defense is Sean Ahern, a fifth-year cornerback who is also team captain. Doug Webb and Miles McCollum return to anchor on the defensive line.
Murphy expects a lot of seniors, who haven’t had much playing time, to step up.
“You’ve got to recruit character kids. And if you recruit character kids….they know what it takes. The starting point is ‘lead by example’,” he said.
Harvard begins its 2016 campaign on Friday, September 16th against Rhode Island.
The Crimson and the rest of the Ivy League teams will have to deal with some changes on kickoffs. They’ve been moved to the 40-yard line. And on touchbacks, the ball will be placed at the 20. The goal is to reduce the number of concussions and other injuries on returns.