The 2006 sprint football campaign began this past Saturday with the annual Red-White scrimmage and began as most first scrimmages usually do — with the defense dominating. After 40-plus years with the Red, head coach Terry Cullen come to accept that defenses tend to shine early on, while the offense gradually settles in and finds its footing.
To further that point this year, the Red is faced with a wide-open three-person quarterback battle, with injured junior Brian Kennedy and sophomores Zak Dentes and Brandon Stoller mixing it up under center. Making matters worse for the offense was the absence of returning senior running back Mike Fullowan — who averaged 82.7 yards per game in 2005 and scored six touchdowns — due to illness and senior Ben Dunning.
“The defense was certainly superior in our first scrimmage,” said Cullen. “We had some of our key offensive guys out, but I did love the play of our offensive line.”
The offensive line, a unit which usually takes a great deal of time to patch the communication, has flourished early. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that the starting five consists of a completely veteran group. Senior Andrew Plaisted manned left tackle, next to senior Dave Frumberg as left guard. Junior Daniel DeSantis is in the middle at center, along with senior Rob Kuruzca at right guard and junior Ben Abramoff at right tackle. All five starters saw action on the line last year, and used 2005 as a foundation year to learn how to communicate well and work with each other.
“The biggest difference this year is that we are all close on the offensive
line, which helps us pick up blitzes better and communicate,” Frumberg said. “We have a new philosophy this year where we back up a half step on the ball, which has served us well so far.”
Cullen knows that victories this year will come from winning the battles in the trenches and he is very pleased with the way his offensive line has progressed.
Looking at the rest of the offense, the biggest question mark remains at quarterback, as the incumbent starter, Kennedy, is suffering from arm problems due to a recent surgery, and has been limited in his action.
There are a slew of wide receivers on the squad, although none has significantly stood out to Cullen early on. The Red will most likely base its offense on giving the ball to Fullowan and hoping the line creates holes and space to run.
Defensively, the Red returns another veteran unit. Seven seniors are returning, featuring seniors Matt Colin, Matthew Curler, and Derek Johnson on the defensive line, as well as basically the same linebacker corps from 2005. Cullen noted a key for the defensive unit to take that next step would be improving the secondary play, where senior Jon Samuel will move from linebacker to free safety to improve the backfield depth.
Coming up for the Red will be a scrimmage with the alumni this Saturday.
“[It’s] more a social event than actually a game, although we still play a game,” Cullen said.
Cullen hopes his squad continues to learn how to run the offense and stay healthy as the Red prepares for what Cullen hopes will be “a special year.”