The 2005 Cornell offense was the definition of one-dimensional. Junior tailback Luke Siwula had a breakout season, rushing for over 1,086 yards and earning a first-team All-Ivy League selection.
However, as was the case on many afternoons, he wasn’t even the leading rusher on his own team. Quarterback Ryan Kuhn ’06 also eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, garnering a first-team selection of his own. In fact, Kuhn ended last season with 199 rushing attempts — 20 more than the number of passes he threw.
With Kuhn’s graduation last spring, the Red looks to replace a first-team All-Ivy quarterback for the first time in school history — no simple task for head coach Jim Knowles ’87. However, he may have found the right man for the job in sophomore Nathan Ford.
“Nathan is a fantastic leader and a great kid,” Knowles said. “He understands the offense and he executes it well.”
The offense Knowles is referring to is sure to have a very different look than it did in 2005. Ford, more of a natural passer than Kuhn, should get plenty of opportunities to air it out this season. However, while he possesses the raw ability to be a dynamic playmaker down the road, Ford remains inexperienced at the collegiate level.
As a freshman, he saw action in only four games, completing 14 passes on 25 attempts for 132 yards.
“He’s young — he’s only a sophomore — so he’s going to make some bad decisions,” Knowles said. “We have to limit those as much as possible. We’re going to put him in positions to be successful and I’m confident he will be. He’s got a great arm and he’s very accurate … We want to put him in position to make simple reads.”
In order to facilitate Ford’s transition, Knowles and offensive coordinator Clayton Carlin have designed an offensive scheme that will not only rely on the running attack, but use the passing game as a change of pace as well.
“I definitely think of myself more as a game-manager,” Ford said. “I’m just trying to run the offense and let our offensive line, which is the heart of our team, and everyone else do all the work … I know what I have to do on each play to stay within myself and execute my assignments.”
In addition to providing a boost to the passing attack, Ford (6-1, 197 pounds) has the size and strength to supplement the running game.
“We’re still going to run with the quarterback position,” Knowles said. “He may not run over people like Ryan did, but hopefully he’ll run around them.”
Besides Ford, the Red have five other quarterbacks on the roster, including sophomores Shane Connolly, Tyler Lucas, Tom Piselli, as well as freshmen Stephen Liuzza and Ben Ganter. Connolly entered camp as the favorite to be the team’s backup, but persistent knee problems have left him questionable for the first start of the season tomorrow night at Bucknell. Liuzza will likely serve as the second-string quarterback in the game, which will see Cornell be the last team in the country to open its season.
“The kid we’re all excited about is Stephen,” Knowles said. “He can really be a dynamic player. He is extremely hard to tackle. He’s elusive. He’s a playmaker in the pocket. He can make all the throws … We have to find a way to work him in. We have some exciting plans for him over the course of the year.”