Last season, Cornell’s sprint football team’s offense was in flux. The Red had a new starting quarterback — junior captain Brendan Miller — and was hoping junior college transfer senior captain and wide receiver Abe Mellinger would prove to be a weapon for Miller. Luckily, the offense came together, as Miller passed for 1409 yards — third in the league — despite missing a game due to a concussion. Mellinger gathered 609 receiving yards — also third in the league — and was the only player to accumulate over 1,000 all-purpose yards. This year, the team has added to its offensive playbook and expects big things from their offense, according to Miller.
“We’re putting in a lot more package plays instead of individual plays [in our playbook],” he said. “It’s a little more complex … and it’s taken a bit of an adjustment process, but I think we’ve picked up on it pretty quickly and we’ve gotten the mistakes out of our system in the first couple days we’ve implemented it. I think that we will be able to capitalize on these plays as the season comes along.”
“We have an entirely new offensive scheme, a lot of more opportunities, a lot of new plays and a lot of new things to open up,” said senior wide receiver Spenser Gruenenfelder. “It’s really just up to execution; if we run the plays like we’re supposed to and really read the defense, it’s going to be a good year.”
One of the reasons why the coaches have been able to open up the playbook is because the returning trio of Miller, Mellinger and Gruenenfelder, who caught 27 passes for 413 yards last season.
“We have a really good receiving corps this year and with the talent we have and all the returning players, coach [Mark] Kreydt can really expand the playbook,” Gruenenfelder said.
The trio is hoping to capitalize on their experience together and produce results this season, according to Mellinger.
“We know we have a lot of experience and we want to take advantage,” he said. “One thing I think we will try to do more is to have more motions on the field to try to get the defense moving and confused. We’re [able] to do that because Spenser and I are flexible and [can] move around in the offense.”
While the returning receiving corps will be very strong, the passing game starts and ends with Miller and the chemistry with his two star receivers.
“[Miller and I] have a very healthy quarterback-receiver relationship and we have a lot of respect for each other,” Mellinger said. “He knows that if I make a mistake or don’t quite make that catch, I’m doing the best I can do and [I know] he’s doing his best to make the catch possible.”
Miller expressed the same enthusiasm towards his teammates..
“Abe [Mellinger] is one of the most disciplined route runners that I’ve been able to play with,” he said. “He’s very, very consistent, which helps me tremendously just knowing where he’s going to end up. Spenser [Gruenenfelder] is a quarterback’s dream as a deep threat. He’ll beat anybody [down the field], even guys that are bigger or faster. He’ll find a way to get past them and make a big play, so he’s always a big threat.”
Gruenenfelder and Mellinger also praised Miller’s leadership qualities.
“For [Miller] being a junior and a captain, I’m very impressed by his leadership and communication skills,” Mellinger said. “I’m definitely glad to have someone like him as a leader for the offense.”
“From last year, [Miller and Mellinger] have really proven themselves as leaders,” Gruenenfelder added. “They execute, come to practice every day to work and are ready to get better. They’re at the forefront as far as the playbook is concerned and they’re focused on the plays and communicating with the coaches. They set really good examples … working just as hard, if not a little more, just to push us.”
While the passing game will have much experience, the backfield will be young and inexperienced with the graduation of First-Team All-CSFL running back Doug Famularo ’12.
“I see [junior running back Nick] Perez playing a big role in the running game and there’s a few freshmen…that are very quick and strong,” Mellinger said. “It’s hard to replace someone like Doug, who was a quiet leader that got a lot of running yards and was a great blocker, but I think that any one of those guys, if not all of them, can fill his shoes.”
The offensive line may also see its fair share of growing pains with the graduation of First-Team All-CSFL center George Gomez ’12.
“The center’s arguably one of the most important offensive linemen; he’s making a lot of calls for the other guys on the line and that’s been our trouble [with replacing him],” Mellinger explained. “We have three guys who can hopefully fill his shoes, but were having some trouble deciding who that guy is going to be.”
With younger players comes added responsibilities for the team.
“We have a young offensive line and we’ve been working with them [on] new blocking schemes and communication,” Gruenenfelder said. “This year, we are focusing on them communicating better with each other, [so they] know who they must block.”
Despite the lack of experience outside of the passing game, the team has very high expectations for the season, according to Mellinger.
“I have huge expectations,” he said. “We’re opening this season with Penn, which is usually one of our biggest games — besides Army and Navy — so this is going to be a wake-up call for us and put a benchmark of where we are at this early in the season.”
Original Author: Albert Liao