Our preseason college football coverage continues by highlighting five New England NCAA Division II teams to watch this fall – all the teams listed below compete in the Northeast-10 Conference (NE10).
American International College (AIC): After beginning their 2021 campaign with three-straight wins, including a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Pace University, the Yellow Jackets’ winning ways vanished with a hard-fought loss to Bentley. AIC would lose its next five contests before ending its season with a 14-7 victory over the Setters.
The hope for the Yellow Jacket is they can use their final contest from 2021 as motivation – perhaps a learning lesson? – for what they must do to contend for a conference title.
AIC was competitive last fall – they certainly provided challenges for the top teams in the league but look for coach Kris Kulzer’s squad to finish with a few more wins this fall.
Wide receivers Jaheim McGuire and Jaxon Ramsay return after combining for 64 catches, 1,079 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns.
Bentley University: A new signal-caller will be spotted under center this fall – quarterback Stephen Sturm graduated following an impressive career with the Falcons, which saw him throw for 7,166 yards and 58 touchdowns in four seasons.
Additionally, Bentley will have a new coach as Alvin Reynolds takes over for Bill Kavanaugh, who stepped down as the head football coach in March. Reynolds has been with the Falcons since 2018 – prior to arriving in Waltham, he spent time with a slew of NFL teams, including the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Reynolds will guide a Falcons squad that finished 9-2 overall last year, as well as secured a bid to the NCAA Division II postseason for the first time since 2004.
Halfback Nathaniel Larkins, who finished second on the team with 558 rushing yards, returns, along with wide receiver Noah Neville (32 catches for 555 yards and six touchdowns). Linebacker Salvatore Lupoli Jr. also returns – he placed second on the team in total tackles with 90.0.
Saint Anselm College: Quarterback Drew Willoughby will be the player to watch on the Hawks this fall.
Named the NE10 Rookie of the Year last November, Willoughby enjoyed an impressive debut with the Royal Blue and White by completing 251 of 431 passing attempts for 2,803 yards and 22 touchdowns. Additionally, he added three scores on the ground.
Willoughby led Saint Anselm’s to three conference wins last year – the hope is he can continue his impressive play this fall, beginning in the opening week against Millersville University.
Halfback Vincent Wagner returns, as well, along with wide receiver Anthony Brown, who led the Hawks with nine touchdown receptions.
Southern Connecticut State University: The Owls won four of 10 contests last fall, including a non-league victory over Central Connecticut State University in the opening week (the Blue Devils, an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) squad, compete in the Northeast Conference (NEC)).
As a team, SCSU averaged 332.4 yards per game – most of their offensive yards came through the air, thanks to wide receivers Tylon Papallo and Izaiah Sanders, who represented the program on the league’s second team. Papallo and Sanders combined for 10 touchdown receptions to go with 76 catches for 1,196.
The expectation is both student-athletes will return this fall, which will certainly pose problems for opposing defenses.
Linebacker Robert Nunez, who earned NE10 All-Rookie honors, will also be a player to watch on the Owls. He finished second on the team in total tackles
(63.0) and solo stops (29.0).
University of New Haven: 27 graduate students helped the Chargers not only finish atop the NE10 final standings last fall with 10 victories but also advance to the second round of the NCAA Division II Tournament (UNH beat Bentley in the opening round before falling to Kutztown University).
It’s possible a few of these student-athletes will return this fall, but UNH will return some underclassmen, including defensive back Khyon Fitzpatrick, who finished second on the team with 62.0 total tackles.
Fitzpatrick was recently named a preseason first-teamer by The College Football Network (TCFN) – he, along with Bentley’s Cedie Dashiell II, was the only two student-athletes from the NE10 on the list.
New Haven has been the team to watch (and follow) these last few years in the NE10 so the expectation is they will once again be in the hunt for a league crown.