With a new coach and staff, the Red looks forward to the start of the 2013 season.With the first preseason practice completed last Tuesday and the week of grueling fall camp that followed, newly appointed head coach David Archer ’05 and his staff ushered in a new era for Cornell football.
Though the squad lost some key components in wide receiver Luke Tasker ’13 and offensive lineman J.C. Tretter ’13, the Red returns two-time Bushnell Cup finalist quarterback Jeff Mathews for his final campaign in a Cornell uniform.
Though the loss of Tretter and Tasker — who both worked out with NFL teams this summer — is a significant one, Mathews said he is confident that his team can collectively work to ease the pain of their absence.
“One player cannot step in and fill the void of guys like that,” he said. “We need the entire receiving core and O-line to improve as units.”
After receiving his first All-Ivy second team honor last year, senior wide receiver Grant Gellatly will take on Tasker’s role as Mathews main option in the passing game.
“We have a lot of talented players in both groups,” Mathews said. “Grant Gellatly is a returner and wide receiver and one of the best players in the league, and we have a lot of young players vying for spots.”
Seniors Josh Grider, Brad Wagner and Zach Wilk all return to the offensive line this year. Wagner was a preseason second team All-Ivy pick, and Grider and Wilk both earned third-team nods. Sophomore running back Luke Hagy — who was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award last year — also received preseason All-Ivy honors on the third team.
“On the O-line we have a good mix of seniors and underclassmen,” Mathews said of the group that will make up his protection on the field. “There will be a lot of competition for the five starting spots.”
Of the underclassmen that Mathews mentioned, 31 are the freshmen making up the class of 2017. Seven of these new additions to the Red are offensive lineman, including Jake Waltman, Dan Morin, Flint Geier and Alex Emanuels — all of whom were first-team all-state selections in their senior years. This recruiting class also contains one quarterback in Robert Somborn, who will likely be groomed for the future. Somborn was a two-time first-team all district selection in Texas and threw for more than 300 yards in five of his 10 starts as a senior.
Though the class of 2017 is diverse and talented, Mathews acknowledged these players might still need time to develop.
“I think it’s very difficult to play as a freshman, but each player will have a chance to earn a spot,” he said.
Heading into his senior campaign with the Red, Mathews has received numerous preseason accolades. He has already been named a Preseason First-team FCS All American and was put on the CFPA Performer of the Year Watch List. Most recently, Mathews was named to the Initial Senior Bowl 2014 watch list. He is one of only two Ivy Leaguers on the list. Still, the star quarterback remained modest about his achievements.
“I came here to win football games,” he said. “The awards will always take a backseat to winning and competing with my team.”
Even with these preemptive awards hanging over his head, Mathews said he does not feel pressure to perform up to certain expectations.
“I think when you are focused on the right things, such as improving each day, you don’t have time to worry about others expectations for you,” he said. “I know what I need to do to put our team in the best position to win, and that’s all I’m focused on.”
After completing the 2012 season at 2-5 in the Ancient Eight and in a tie for sixth place with Columbia, the Red was once again picked sixth in the Ivy League Football Preseason Media Poll.
“Honestly, we don’t care about the preseason rankings. Our team understands that we will have the opportunity to play every team in the Ivy [League} and we look forward to competing,” Mathews said.
According to Mathews, Archer and his staff has worked tirelessly to improve the Red before the start of the season, hoping to beat the odds of the preseason poll.
“We will have a lot of new faces competing for spots, and it will be fun to see the guys get better,” Mathews said. “We are solely focused on improving each day.”
As for a new head coach and different staff this season, Mathews said his team has the utmost confidence in Archer and what he has done with the program in just a few months in his new role.
“Coach Archer has done a great job of establishing our identity as a program,” he said. “He really focuses on bringing in great people and our staff is comprised of very well respected coaches. Coach Archer bleeds Cornell Red and his passion is infectious.”
Original Author: Scott Chiusano