ACADEMIC INTEGRATION COMPETITIVE EXCELLENCE

IN DIVISION I ATHLETICS

 

Harvard Football Picked Second in Ivy League Preseason Media Poll

The Crimson opens the 2014 campaign at home against Holy Cross Sept. 19 (Gil Talbot).

PRINCETON, N.J. – In a vote of Ivy League football media members, Harvard was chosen to finish second in the Ancient Eight this fall. The media poll was released Tuesday as part of the league's annual football media day.

Harvard received eight first-place votes and finished with 127 points, while Princeton slightly edged Harvard with nine first-place votes and 128 points. This is the closest vote since 2008 when Harvard and Yale tied for first with eight first-place votes and 124 total points each. Harvard has been voted first or second every year since 2008.

Dartmouth (91 points) was selected to finish third, followed by Penn (79), Yale (68), Brown (65), Cornell (34) and Columbia (20) in the poll.

Entering his 21st season in Cambridge, Tim Murphy, the Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football, will look to capture another conference crown in the program's 141st season after earning a share of the Ancient Eight title in 2013. Harvard finished the 2013 season with a 9-1 overall record and a 6-1 mark in Ivy League play.

Harvard has won at least seven games each of the last 13 seasons, making the Crimson the only team in the history of the Ivy League to post such a string of successful campaigns. In 2007, Harvard became the first Ivy team to put together seven straight seven-win seasons. The Crimson has also reeled off seven consecutive wins over archrival Yale in The Game.

The Crimson returns senior defensive standout Zach Hodges, who was recently named to the watch list for the prestigious Butkus Award, given to the top linebacker in college football. Junior linebacker Eric Medes looks to continue to excel after leading the team in tackles with 72 last fall.

Returning on offense, senior quarterback Conner Hempel tossed for 15 touchdowns and 1,866 yards last season, while junior running back Paul Stanton, Jr., scored 17 touchdowns, including four in the 34-7 win over Yale.

From last year's squad, Harvard graduated three players who went on to earn spots on NFL training camp rosters (Cameron Brate (tight end), Nnamdi Obukwelu (defensive tackle) and Tyler Ott (long snapper).

The Crimson will open the season under the lights of Harvard Stadium against Holy Cross Friday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. Harvard will also host Yale in the 131st playing of the Game Saturday, Nov. 22 at 12:30 p.m.

2014 Ivy League Football Preseason Media Poll

Rank

School

Points

1.

Princeton (9)

128

2.

Harvard (8)

127

3.

Dartmouth

91

4.

Penn

79

5.

Yale

68

6.

Brown

65

7.

Cornell

34

8.

Columbia

20

 

Tim Murphy, The Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football, Media Day Quotes

Opening Statement:

I cannot remember a more competitive Ivy League. Everyone has outstanding athletes and is very well coached. To be a championship team, you better be good, you better stay healthy and you better come to play every week. As we look to this Harvard team, our strengths are a little bit opposite of what they were last year. Last year, going in we had a lot of questions on offense and a lot of answers on defense. It might be a polar opposite this year.

Offensively, we have our quarterback Conner Hempel returning this season. We think he is a tremendous football player. We have a proven running back in Paul Stanton. We have a couple of receivers returning in Ricky Zorn and Andrew Fischer. Even though we graduated some outstanding h-backs and tight ends, we feel Tyler Hamblin, Matt Brown and Ben Braunecker are good. Our offensive line group, as a group of five guys, is as good as we have had in a long time. We are excited about the offense and we feel that those guys will have to set the pace.

Defensively, it is a little bit different. We have some terrific players coming back, but losing three starters in the secondary is going to put some pressure on unproven guys. We think we have some really talented athletes at those positions, but they are going to have to get experience and prove themselves in the preseason and early in the regular season. Up front, we have one of the most unique players in the league in Zach Hodges. He is an amazing play maker. It is hard to categorize Zach because he does so many things well. He is extraordinarily hard to block and draws a lot of double teams, so that opens up a lot of one-on-one situations for other guys like Obum Obukwelu. We have a good group of linebackers with Jake Lindsey, Eric Medes and Matt Koran being our top three guys. We certainly need to find some depth at that position to replace guys like Josh Boyd, but were certainly have some talent and experience in that group. The secondary will probably be our biggest challenge. We have our captain Norman Hayes coming back, one of the best defensive backs that we have ever had. He is a tremendous leader and physical player. We are going to need some of the younger guys to step up. Guys like Raishaun McGhee, Sean Ahern and Jordan Baecerra are terrific football players, but it is a transition for all of them. Special teams should be a solid area for us. Our punter David Bicknell and our kicker Andrew Flesher are both proven guys but all of us have room for improvement.

All in all, we think we are a very solid football team but one thing that we try to hammer home every year is that even though being successful leads to more success, our kids never feel that they are destined for success, but have to go out and prove it every year and stay hungry and that message is no different for this team

On Penn Coach Al Bagnoli:

Al Bagnoli has done an amazing job. Truly one of the great runs in Ivy League history. I have nothing but admiration for him. I know that for us, (Penn) being the ninth game of the season, the road for the Ivy League Championship, for any team starts and end with Penn especially if you are playing them on the road. They are as tough and well coached as they come. The program has tremendous class and consistency.

On the Offensive Line:

As a starting five, our offensive line is good. We need some depth, but the starting group is one of the best we have ever had. We have two terrific tackles that made starts last year in Cole Toner and Adam Redmond. They are both about 6'5"-6'6" athletic kids and did a great job last year as sophomores on a good offensive football team. Our center Nick Easton may be the best offensive lineman in the league. He is 305 pounds and extremely athletic and tough. He is definitely an NFL prospect. Our two guards, Mike Mancinelli and Anthony Fabiano are tough athletic kids. When you put it all together it is a rare group and they have aspirations to do an even better job than they did last year and we certainly have room for improvement. The depth, like with any team, is a bit of a concern and hopefully that works itself out.

On the Secondary:

We lost some really great experienced kids in the secondary. We feel athletically that we are still right there with the type of kids we have had over the last several years. Norman Hayes is kind of the lone guy back there being a three-year starter. So guys like Sean Ahern, Jordan Becerra and Raishaun McGhee have to grow up fast. There is going to be a lot of competition in the preseason. We are excited about that group but hopefully we will be more excited come September.

On Norman Hayes:

Any time you are voted the lone captain for any college football team, it is a tremendous honor. The one piece of advice I give to my captains is to be yourself and be authentic, because that is the only way it is going to work. In his case, he is a great captain by example, first and foremost. He has a tremendous work ethic, setting a great example for his teammates. He is a tremendous football player. He is one of those guys that we recruited more for character more than his ability. He was hard to project because he was an option quarterback coming out of Tucker, Georgia, had never played defense and he did not have world-class speed or size. Yet he went on to become one of the best players in the Ivy League. He is who he is. He is going to lead by example and can do it vocally when he has to. We are in good hands.

On Coming Back After Surgery:

If it did not affect my perspective, I would not be human. When your cardiac surgery walks in and says he has to open you up, my first reaction was, 'Really?' I had not taken a sick day in 27 years as a head coach and haven't missed a work out in three years, but that is life and life comes at you fast. I feel like a NASCAR race car that has run a few good races but has a new engine, so I am revved up and ready to run again. For me, I noticed some things that I may have already known but did not reinforce. The most important things in your life are your health, your family and your friends and the other things are a little bit of gravy. Having to take time off for the first time in my life as a coach was tremendously difficult and humbling. It reinforced that I love coaching college football, I love working with these kids and I especially love being the coach at Harvard and working with these kids. It reinforced how much this means to me. It is not everything, it is not the world, but it is very important to me.