September 21, 2001

Pocket Protectors

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We all know variety is the spice of life, but the Cornell football team is hoping it will be the elusive ingredient in the recipe for an Ivy League crown. If that is the case, the Red’s offensive line is in good shape.

The unit combines what could prove to be a potent mixing of young, up-and-coming players with veteran leaders. The line is equally diverse with brawny, grounded lineman and complimented by strong, yet quick athletes.

Staking the line at the left guard slot should be a seasoned senior in Thomas Kaplun. Although he spent much of his rookie campaign watching from the sidelines, due to injuries, he brings valuable experience to a line featuring many newcomers.

Classmate Matt Holleran is projected to be the Red’s center. Although he has been part of the line for the last two seasons, he was Cornell’s left guard last season. The local product, hailing from the nearby town of Horseheads, N.Y.) is billed along with Kaplun as a strong on-field leader. Holleran is a quintessential center with instincts that have impressed the coaching staff.

“[Matt] is a typical center and a tough kid. He just wants to snap the ball and block someone,” head coach Tim Pendergast noted.

Perhaps the most promising newcomer is sophomore Larry Stark. Like Kaplun, his playing time was scarce freshman year, but he did start five games at right guard last year. Listed at a herculean 6-7, 350, Stark’s greatest attribute is that he combines his daunting physical stature with relatively nimble feet that make him quick to his target. He has certainly caught the eye of Pendergast.

“Larry’s still young. He’s still learning, but he has loads of potential,” an optimistic Pendergast assessed.

Junior Scott Fithen brings consistency and a puritanical work ethic to the unit. Having played in all 20 contests over the previous two campaigns, his commitment earned him both a an All-Ivy honorable mention last year and a starting role. It didn’t take long before he was garnering rave reviews from the new coaching staff.

“[Fithen] might be the most gifted of [the guys on the offensive line]. He’s got some snap, some punch to him. That translates into a lot of power,” Pendergast boasted.

Several of the elements of last year’s defense will be called upon to switch sides of the ball. The group includes senior Andy Balough, juniors Troy Carnrite and Dominic Garguile and sophomore Jason Stadnik. Balough has handled the long snapper responsibility and in four games last season picked up a pair of tackles and an assist. A Gowanda, N.Y., product, Carnrite made the transition to the offensive line before spring practices and will most likely act as a back-up to Holleran at the center position. His classmate, Garguile brings a solid physical presence to the line. At 6-5 315, his size should help him make the transition to the offensive line. Stadnik will seek to play on his pure athleticism to assimilate into the line.

Sophomore John Megaro will be competing for a spot at left tackle.

Junior Jonathan Sweeney who is expected to be stationed at the right tackle this season believes the line’s greatest asset may be it chemistry.

“We work very well together. There’s a lot of unity because we have the common goal of winning an Ivy championship. We lost a lot of veterans, but there were many good players that were in their shadows,” the junior optimistically asserted.

Indeed, the Red was liquidated by graduation, loosing the likes of Jason Landrum ’01, Charles Mitchell ’01, Chris Morosetti ’01 and Dru Vaughn ’01, but if variety is truly the missing ingredient in the Red’s previously thwarted championship drives, then its losses may actually work to the team’s advantage by providing slots for untested and young players to join the veterans on what should be one of the more formidable lines in the Ivy League.

Archived article by Gary Schueller