This is part of The Sun’s position-by-position preview of the 2017 Cornell football team. For a preview of each position, click here.
The recipients of 53 percent of quarterback Dalton Banks’ passes graduated since the 2016 season, leaving a void that needs to be filled if the offense wants to build off of last year’s success. With so many new names throughout the depth chart, the position is a “big question mark,” according to head coach David Archer ‘05.
Marshall Deutz ’17 and Ben Rogers ’16 are the two major losses for wide receivers this upcoming season. The pair combined for 70 catches for 878 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016. With Rogers’ deep threat and Deutz’s consistent presence across the middle, Banks had a full arsenal to choose from.
Without Deutz and Rogers, senior James Hubbard will anchor this year’s receiving class. Hubbard had the best game of his career in last year’s upset of Colgate. He hauled in five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. But outside of that outburst, Hubbard failed to top 50 yards or find the end zone in any of his other nine games. With much more opportunity this upcoming season, Hubbard will likely see his targets increase dramatically.
The other two main receivers are both inexperienced underclassmen. Davy Lizana — a big sophomore wideout who can play over smaller defenders — and Eric Gallman — a freshman who “doesn’t play like a freshman,” according to Archer — have stood out so far and will likely get the starting nod come Sept. 16.
After those three, the group is “still in fierce competition,” Archer said.
Fifth-year senior Collin Shaw will also be thrown into the mix once he recovers from an undisclosed injury. The wideout ranked fourth on the team in receptions, third in yards and second in receiving touchdowns with three, including the game-winning score against Colgate.
Overall, the new names up and down the roster have had a bit of difficulty finding the same level of chemistry that Banks had with last year’s squad.
“There have been some miscues,” Archer said of the communication between Banks and his receivers. “Dalton throws a hard ball now, there’s been a couple of drops.”
Similar to wide receiver, the loss of Matt Sullivan ’17 and Nick Bland ’17 at tight-end means less experienced players will have to step up. The pair of now-graduated tight ends combined for 464 yards last year and three touchdowns. Stepping in to fill the gap is senior Hayes Nolte. While he did not see nearly as much time as Sullivan last year, Nolte had a knack for finding the end zone. The 6-foot-4, 258-pound Nolte scored as many touchdowns as Sullivan did, despite catching a third as many passes.
Behind Nolte, sophomores John Fitzgerald and Nic Canal and junior Oscar Boochever, with some practice and refining, could see meaningful play time this upcoming season, according to Archer.
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