Everyone knows that senior quarterback DJ Busch can launch the long ball, and that starting running back, junior Josh Johnston, tears up the turf, but who will Cornell call upon this season to cut routes and make diving catches?
A year ago, after the Red finished last among Ivy League teams in passing offense, that question went unanswered. This year, a corps of talented receivers hopes to leave its mark, ensuring that opposing defenses remember their names.
With a revamped offense under head coach Jim Knowles “87, they should have no problem achieving that goal.
Leading the pack, fifth-year senior Chad Nice returns for his final year of eligibility at Cornell. Hobbled by a hamstring injury since the first game of last year, Nice has something to prove. In 2002, he finished third on the team in receptions (15) and yards (164), and, as a sophomore, he saw action in all nine games, hauling in 12 balls for a total of 134 yards.
Assuming his injury heals, the Morrison, Ill., native should make big plays this time around.
‘When he plays, he can do some very nice things,’ Knowles said. ‘He runs savvy routes, and he”s got some explosiveness.’
While Nice”s status remains questionable, junior Brian Romney”s abilities are certain. Romney, a transfer from Snow Junior College in Utah, joins the team this year after a remarkable breakout season.
After taking time off to complete a Mormon mission, Romney joined the Snow football program and, astonishingly, led the nation in receptions-per-game his freshman year, earning first-team All-America honors. He followed that with the team”s MVP award his sophomore campaign and also made the scholar-athlete All-America list.
‘He”s really our true find,’ Knowles said. ‘He”s older, more mature, because he took some time off. He”s really a scat-back kind of guy, who can catch the ball outside on some short screens and just go.’
Adding speed and acrobatics to this list are three other wideouts — seniors Trent Carvoth and Carlos Hill, and sophomore Tony Jackson — who are sure to dazzle fans and score points this season.
Carvoth joined the squad in 2002 after transferring from UC-Berkeley. In his first year, he saw action in all 10 games, catching 13 passes for 168 yards. He worked hard in the offseason and was a top performer in spring practice.
Hill, a four-year veteran of the program, has the height (6-3) to jump for balls and make big catches. Last season, he hauled in a 56-yard touchdown reception in the Red”s lone win against Bucknell and finished with 36 receptions for 419 yards — an average of 11.6 per catch.
Jackson played in seven contests as a rookie, nabbing 14 catches for 116 yards, including a touchdown versus Colgate. This year, the Red hopes to increase his role and take advantage of his speed.
‘Carvoth is a solid performer who adds a lot of depth to the corps, and Tony Jackson is really quick, one of the fastest guys on the team,’ Knowles said. ‘Carlos Hill doesn”t have Jackson”s speed, but he”s a big, tall guy who makes those unbelievable circus catches.’
Augmenting the deep threat, Cornell”s tight ends and H-back will look to make their mark in the box, picking up yards — and more importantly — crucial first downs.
Junior tight ends Chris Eckstein and Troy Follmar proved they can block solidly but did not get the ball much last year. Knowles plans to utilize them frequently for that purpose this season.
‘They”re as strong as anyone in the league and will be critical to the offense,’ Knowles said. ‘They”re physical blockers and can make the 10-to-15-yard catches you need.’
Last, but certainly not least, sophomore fullback Todd Rusinkovich will step up to fill the role of H-back in Knowles” offense. A converted defensive end, Rusinkovich has transitioned well into his new role, and Knowles will likely utilize him for blocking and receiving duties.
‘He”s a converted defensive lineman, who”s sort of like a fullback,’ Knowles said. ‘But he”s really found his niche at H-back.’
This season, whether the play calls for a game-saving Hail Mary or a drive-saving first down, Cornell”s receivers will move the ball downfield, open up defenses, and get the job done.
With any luck, their contribution will take the Red from cellar dweller to Ivy League championship contender.
Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor