Football Chosen to Repeat in Ivy League Preseason Media Poll

Football Chosen to Repeat in Ivy League Preseason Media Poll

The Harvard football team is seeking its third Ivy League crown in as many years (Gil Talbot).

PRINCETON, N.J. – Coming off back-to-back conference titles, the Harvard football team was chosen to win the 2015 Ivy League crown in the preseason media poll, the league announced Tuesday as part of its annual media day.

Heading into its 142nd season of football, Harvard, which was picked first in the poll for the first time since 2012, received 11 of 17 first-place votes and finished with 130 points. Dartmouth came in second with four first-place votes and 116 points.

Yale (one first-place vote) was third with 98 points, followed by Princeton (82), Brown (80 points), Penn (51), Columbia (29) and Cornell. Brown also earned a first-place vote.

The Crimson, which claimed its 16th Ivy League crown in 2014, has won at least seven games in each of the last 14 years, an Ivy League record. Harvard, which appears at No. 22 in the Preseason FCS Coaches Poll, posted a perfect 10-0 record last fall and has won a program record eight-straight games against archrival Yale in The Game.

Entering his 22nd season in Cambridge, Tim Murphy, The Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football, has led the Crimson to eight conference titles during his tenure.  Murphy boasts a 147-62 (.703) record at Harvard and is the school's all-time winningest coach. He is also 16-5 in The Game.

Harvard, which returns 10 All-Ivy League selections from last year's squad, graduated two players who are current on NFL training camp rosters: Nick Easton (center), Baltimore Ravens; Zack Hodges (linebacker), Indianapolis Colts.

The Crimson will open the 2015 campaign at Rhode Island Sept. 19 at 1 p.m. This will mark the first meeting between the Crimson and Rams since a 35-0 win for Harvard in Cambridge in 1923.

2015 IVY LEAGUE FOOTBALL PRESEASON MEDIA POLL
First-Place Votes in Parentheses

Rank

School

Points

1.

Harvard (11)

130

2.

Dartmouth (4)

116

3.

Yale (1)

98

4.

Princeton

82

5.

Brown (1)

80

6.

Penn

51

7.

Columbia

29

8.

Cornell

26

 

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

Opening Statement:

It is great to be kicking off the season and as we go into the 2015 season it's with a feeling that we had a great year last year, but that's ancient history.  We again have another chance to be a solid football team, and at the same time we realize we still have a huge target on our back.  If you look at last season, obviously you have to do a lot of things right to have the kind of season we had.  But our identity was really on defense, one of the best we had in our 20 plus years here.  I think we ended up FCS Division I, led the nation in scoring defense, which is a crucial statistic.  This year is going to be different, very challenging.  We lost some really great players, especially on the defensive line Zack Hodges and Obum Obukwelu were just very special players. 

On the defensive line we are going to have a lot more competition, a lot of uncertainty and we think this will work out just fine.  We have eight or nine guys that will compete.  Defensive tackle: James Duberg, Doug Webb, Stone Hart, Miles McCollum.  Defensive ends: Langston Ward, Davon Robertson, Caleb Johnson, Dan Moody, Jameson McShea. So, I think it will work itself out, like every team, you want to play a lot of guys at that position but we do have some work to do.  I think our linebacker is as good as group as we've had in a long time.  Depth is a concern, but as good of a group as we have had in a long time with Captain Matt Koran, Eric Medes, and Jacob Lindsey.  They are very seasoned players, outstanding athletes, and great leaders for us.  Secondary, we are fortunate to return three out of four starters, those guys did a great job last year.  Returning Sean Ahern, Chris Evans at corner, and Scott Peters at safety.  Guys like Jordan Becerra at corner and Asante Gibson, Kolbi Brown, and Zach Miller will give us good depth and competition at those positions.  Defensively, we should be very solid, but we have to get the defensive line equation figured out.  We always believe that is the most important part. 

Offensively, we obviously lost an outstanding quarterback in Conner Hempel.  As well as our other quarterbacks played last year when we played them, we wouldn't have had the kind of season if Conner wasn't available all year.  It is going to be a battle between senior Scott Hosch and junior Joseph Viviano III.  Scott is the guy that can do it all, very seasoned guy, high football IQ, great leader.  Joe is just as talented as we have recruited at the quarterback position, still learning the position, but has a chance to be a really outstanding player.  Running back Paul Stanton, Jr. has started for almost four years, one of those guys that can take it to the house every play and a very durable kid as well.  Depth may come from some of the freshmen and we hope we did a good job in recruiting to make sure that all works out.  Tight end, halfbacks, we are very fortunate to return two outstanding players in Ben Braunecker and Anthony Firkser.  We think Ben is a potential All-American candidate.  Wide receivers, we are very fortunate to bring back two seniors in Andrew Fischer and Seitu Smith II.  Tough, explosive kids who can block, who can play, who can stretch you deep and those guys will be very important.  The strength of our offensive team will be upfront centered around three seniors: Cole Toner, who we think is a legitimate All-American candidate and a pro-prospect, Adam Redmond who can play guard or tackle, and Anthony Fabiano who has played all the positions but will play center this year and started at guard and tackle during his time here and has NFL type of ability. 

This group has a lot of potential, depth is a concern.  We have to get the quarterback situation figured out but the bottom line is it should be a good group. 

On Hosch and Viviano:

They are definitely even.  We did an unusual thing in spring.  Now, I'll jump ahead, and we are going to alternate days as number one in the near future and preseason and then I'll make the decision within two weeks of our season.  We can win with both guys, but we decided to let Joe get most of the reps in spring as the number one, even though he did not play a snap last year.  We still think he has that kind of ability.  Scott has a tremendous football IQ, he knows all the reads and defensives.  I explained to him why we do it and this is the best thing the depth of the competition.  He is a class kid, he competed, he went along with it and then we will go back to one and one during preseason to figure out it out pretty quickly.  But, I'm comfortable with either guy. Scott started five or six games last year, we won every game he played, he did a good job and he's much better now than he was then.  We are very comfortable with the situation even if it's not perfect.

On Ivy league champion to play in FCS playoff:

I get asked this question frequently and the bottom line and my decision may surprise people.  My players and I don't always agree on this.  Last year is a great example, we had a very good football team.  One of those really rare years, great kids, great team, managed to get it done on a big stage against a really outstanding team in our last game.  But the way I look at it is, the FCS championship playoff system is a great system, but my standpoint if you are fortunate to win every game and be the only Division I team to win every single game last year including Ohio State, on national TV against a great opponent who happens to be a bitter rival in a major college type stadium, it just doesn't get any better than that for us and for me.  I know some of our players and coaches would love to go on, but I quite frankly would just like to hit the recruiting trail and get going with the next season and I respect both positions but we are very fortunate to end the season the way we have. 

The competition in the Ivy League is better than it has ever been and last year was a very special year.  You could probably make a strong case that every team in the league is going to be better than they were a year ago, that is legitimate.  We have a tremendous challenge on our hands. 

On Coach Al Bagnoli being hired at Columbia:

It does change the dynamic of the league in a very good way.  By Columbia hiring Al, they made a statement that football is important to the university and it is important to the city.  To have an accomplished and outstanding coach, it is great for Columbia and the league and I don't have any question that they will succeed.  As Al says, "The only variable is time." On a personal level, I respect Al I thought it was a savvy predictable move by Columbia. 

On linebacker group:

The obvious thing is that they are all seasoned veterans.  These guys have been all playing since sophomores.  Jake is a tremendous athlete, can play multiple positions.  Eric is a tough and physical linebacker but he can play both inside positions.  Matt, is a tough, smart, gritty kid and is a tremendous football player, great leader, and will be someone that the team looks up to and do a great job as captain.  Those guys have to maintain their health because that may not be a position where we might be able to withstand tremendous depth challenges.  But guys like sophomores Alex White, Luke Hutton, Chase Guillory, and junior Eric Ryan are all good young players, they just don't have the experience that some of the older guys have.