By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11)
Name: Husson University Eagles
Preseason Ranking: The Eagles checked-in third overall on our ‘Preseason Top 10’ poll, which was posted on Twitter on Monday, July 31st.
2016 Recap: 2016 was an exciting year for the Eagles, who captured the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) crown en route to a NCAA Division III first-round match-up against Western New England. Unfortunately, the team’s season concluded in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the loss certainly provided the unit with motivation heading into the off-season, as well as this year, too. Running back John Smith highlighted his team’s 2016 campaign, rushing for 1,822 yards and 17 touchdowns. Smith’s best game occurred in week two when he rushed for a season-high 280 yards and four scores in a 43-23 win over Dean College. In addition to Smith’s effort, the team received boosts from quarterback Cory Brandon, wide receivers Deon Wiggins and Kadeem Edge, and linebacker Ellis Throckmorton. Husson’s initial game of the season against Alfred University – the team that defeated WNE in the second round of the postseason – was an impressive showing by the Eagles. That game – a 35-28 setback – certainly proves this is a team on the rise, as well as a program to watch this season.
Key Losses: Deon Wiggins (Wide Receiver), Kadeem Edge (Wide Receiver), Ellis Throckmorton (Linebacker), Alonzo Connor (Linebacker), Rick Orio (Defensive Back), Logan Steward (Defensive Back), and Jeff Turcotte (D-Line).
Players to Watch: Cory Brandon (Quarterback), John Smith (Running Back), Obie Christmas (Running Back), DJ Allen (Tight End), Robenson Saintard (Slot), Frank Curran (D-Line) and Luke Washburn (D-Line).
2017 Schedule: Coach Gabby Price‘s squad will be tested from the start when they commence their ECFC title defense with a non-conference clash against Union College of the Liberty League next Saturday, September 2. Union may not be the team to beat in the Liberty League this fall, but there is a great deal of optimism surrounding the Dutchmen who will be led by running back Connor Kinzelmann and safety Jason Nelson. Both units – Union’s offense and defense – will provide unique challenges, but this is a game the Eagles certainly will be prepared for once camp concludes. And after a visit from the Dutchmen, Husson will embark on an important three-game road trip, beginning in Franklin, Massachusetts against Dean College – the newest member of the ECFC – followed by visits to Western New England and Endicott College. These four games will be critical for the Eagles’ success this fall – they certainly could go 3-1 during this four-game stretch, which would set them up for an interesting week five match-up against SUNY Maritime, which was picked to finish second in the conference this season. The match-up with the Privateers could be a de-facto championship game, but don’t overlook other match-ups later in the season against Castleton or Mount Ida.
Season Outlook: Husson returns 13 starters from last season, including seven student-athletes on defense. All seven student-athletes will be critical to continuing the unit’s success from a year ago – keep an eye on Luke Washburn and Tarik Smith up front, as well as Quan Soyini, Jake Dobos and Jean Gabriel in the secondary. This unit will certainly provide challenges to opposing offense, not just to its ECFC foes, but also its non-conference foes, too. Games against Endicott, WNE and Union will be fun to watch – it will be interesting to see how running back John Smith does against all three defensive units. The meetings against Endicott and WNE will be a preview for when Husson moves over to the Commonwealth Coast Football (CCF) conference in 2019. While the defense will certainly be a unit to watch, fans should not overlook an offense that will be headed by Smith and tailback Obie Christmas. The two backs combined for 23 touchdowns on the ground – the ground game will certainly open up the air attack for quarterback Cory Brandon, who concluded last season with 27 touchdowns, as well as 2,323 passing yards. Brandon will be targeting a few new wide-outs this season due to graduation losses to Deon Wiggins and Kadeem Edge, but Husson does return a few members from last season’s offense, including tight end DJ Allen and wide receiver Kyle Gaudet. Look for Gaudet to become one of Brandon’s go-to targets this fall. Husson’s first four games won’t be easy, but should set them up for success once conference play begins. Their game against SUNY Maritime will certainly be the game to watch.