Thanks to a combination of a mix of seasoned veterans and promising youngsters, the Red’s wide receiving unit possessed one of the most prolific passing attacks in Division I-AA last year, finishing eighth in aerial yardage.
The 2001 campaign promises to bring a more balanced offensive approach with the loss of three standout receivers to graduation. Under the auspices of head coach Tim Pendergast, the offense will look to integrate a more potent running attack to complement its passing game.
The immediate question facing the Red’s wideouts is who will fill the massive shoes left by the departure of All-Ivy Joe Splendorio ’01. Cornell also lost Kevin Farese ’01 and the vocal leadership of Edgar Romney ’01.
Junior Keith Ferguson has been tabbed as the Red’s starting spread receiver. Since his arrival on East Hill two years ago, he has become a formidable fixture in Cornell’s passing unit, writing his name in the record books each year. His 680 receiving yards in 2000 gave him claim to the most ever compiled by a sophomore. In his rookie campaign he raised some eyebrows with a 94-yard effort against Fordham, a mark that makes him the owner of the record for most yards in a game by a freshman.
“When Keith catches the ball, he can make you miss. He has acceleration. He’s the kind of guy who’s a playmaker waiting to happen,” Pendergast lauded.
Although he is potentially in contention for a slot on the All-Ivy team, Ferguson says team goals, rather than individual honors, concerns him.
“It’s always the goal to win a title. We don’t want to be the Buffalo Bills of college football,” he observed, referring to the Red’s two consecutive finishes as league runner-up. “There is a sense of urgency to do it all this year.”
Ferguson remains largely unfazed by the departure of Splendorio.
“[Loosing Joe] is nothing we can’t handle. We learned a lot from him and the other seniors but we still have good players and someone is going to fill the void,” he observed.
What Ferguson lacks in stature (he is listed at 5’9, 140) he more then compensates with his explosive speed.
The Red will also turn to senior Tim Hermann to provide veteran leadership. After not seeing action in his rookie season, he has made a consistent ascent in Cornell’s offensive arsenal. Being the team’s likely flanker this season, Hermann is returning from a season that saw him pick up 414 yards.
Following an injury in last year’s opener at Bucknell, Hermann returned in week four to grab the winning touchdown in the Red’s improbable comeback at Harvard. Although he will be counted on to be a playmaker, his number one contribution should be his ability to act as a mentor for the younger members of receiving corps.
“I’ve always had guys ahead of me and this year I want to try to coach the younger guys because there are lots of things you need to learn to play college football,” Hermann offered on his leadership capacity.
At 6’0, 184, he brings some size to senior starting quarterback Ricky Rahne’s targets. And his strong showing in the spring has heightened the coaching staff’s confidence in him.
Sophomore Vic Yanz, prized for his speed and decision making ability, had arguably the best spring. He grabbed the most catches and is projected to be a key component in the four-man set. He has garnered rave reviews from the coaching staff.
“Vic Yanz is another one of those lunch-box kinds. He’s a blue-collar, no frills, smack you behind the eyes [kind of guy]. Our best blocking receiver. You’ll see him play,” Pendergast remarked.
Yanz says that despite the loss of man power at wideout, the Red’s new offensive schemes feature a recharged running game to take the pressure of the receivers.
“The new staff has come on this year and done a great job of letting us know what we need to win an Ivy League title. Our biggest advantage is no one knows about our offense. Unpredictability will be the key this year,” he noted.
Archived article by Gary Schueller