-Courtesy John Connolly, Boston Herald
Harvard’s hopes of dethroning reigning Ivy League champion Pennsylvania were almost dashed in the very first preseason scrimmage when incumbent starting quarterback Collier Winters suffered a torn adductor muscle (groin). The junior from Claremore, Oklahoma, had been named the Ivy preseason Offensive Player of the Year, after completing 57-percent with 15 touchdown passes last season.
All is not lost however, as the cavalry has arrived with the return of 6-foot-4 senior Andrew Hatch of Henderson, Nevada.
The 24-year-old Hatch is quite a story. Recruited by former Brigham Young University coach Gary Crowton, Hatch arrived at Harvard to play as a true freshman in 2005. A planned two-year Mormon mission to Chile was cut short in 2006 when he injured a knee playing soccer, requiring surgery. Hatch transferred to LSU and walked-on to the football team, winning a scholarship in 2007 and the starting job in 2008. He was granted a medical redshirt following the 2007 season due to a shoulder injury. Hatch sat out last year after transferring back to Harvard.
1. Can Hatch, a legitimate run-and-pass threat, perform to the level of recent Harvard quarterbacks?
“To be perfectly honest, it was a neck-and-neck race in the competition, even though Collier (Winters) had been a Second Team All-Ivy player a year ago,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “We’re very comfortable that Andrew can run our offense. He’s a strong quarterback in leadership and production. . . . we’re very comfortable that can run our offense pretty well.”
2. Can a talented group of wide receivers match last year’s stellar production of 157 catches for 1,863 yards (11.9 yards-per-catch), and 15 touchdowns?
There seems to be no reason why it can’t, especially with a group that features seniors Chris Lorditch (30-545, 5 TDs), Mike Cook (10-109), Marco Iannuzzi (22-233, 1TD), and juniors Adam Chrissis (22-210, 1 TD), and Levi Richards (out with hamstring).
“In terms of depth, it’s probably as strong as we’ve ever been,” said Murphy of the receivers. “I don’t know if we have one of those Carl Morris or Corey Mazza type of guys but the guy that you have to lead with is Lorditch. He’s a big player for us. He came back in great shape. . . . That’s going to be a group with a lot of experience and a lot of depth.”
3. After graduating 4-of-5 starters, including star lineman James Williams (signed by Indianapolis), can the offensive line be rebuilt?
“The line is probably our biggest concern going in,” said Murphy. “It’s taken some time to come together. I think, in the grand scheme of things, we’re going to be very solid there.”
Imposing 6-foot-7 junior left tackle Kevin Murphy has pro potential and will be looked upon to fill the Williams void. Other candidates along the line include senior center Chris LeRoy (6-3, 280) of Portland, Me. The lone holdover is senior Brent “Ozzy” Osborne, a 6-5, 295-pounder, probably Harvard’s most physical of the linemen. The right tackle will be Kyle Harasimowicz (6-6, 275) of Duxbury.
“We have to stay healthy,” Murphy said. “It’s not a position where we have the same depth as last year.”
4. Will the defense shine in 2010?
“Defense will definitely be a strength this year,” Murphy said. “I think we will be an improved defensive football team in 2010. I think we have the potential to be a dominant defensive team. I say that because our front seven really is outstanding.”
Headliners are Josue Ortiz (6-4, 260) and Chukwuemeka Obi (6-4, 265) -- better known as “Chuks” -- two of the top defensive tackles in the Ivy League. Senior Hasselberg (6-2, 225), junior Alex Gedeon (6-1, 230) and athletic junior Blaise Deal (6-1, 215) have a chance to be exceptional at linebacker. In the secondary senior captain Collin Zych, the preseason Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore D.J. Monroe, junior Dan Minamide, and junior Matt Hanson, a former All-Ivy Rookie of the Year, provide quality.
5. Graduation claimed punter Thomas Hull and placekicker Patrick Long. Where does that leave the kicking game?
“We’re going to be in a position where we have some relatively skilled but untested specialists,” said Murphy, who has been trying freshman David Mothhander for field goal/kickoff duties and junior Tim O’Hara as new punter.
“Right now, kicking specialists, I think, is a work in progress. It could be strong, but we don’t have it all worked out yet,” Murphy said.