Reis Seggebruch has been through the go-around of training camp enough times to know what it’s like — the weight room competition, on-field conditioning, playbook learning, mental workouts. But each year, more or less, Cornell football has seen the same result: a losing season.
But as Cornell embarks on the 2018 season, the senior captain and linebacker has noticed some differences this year.
“Nothing against defenses we’ve had in the past, but I feel like this season we’ve had a lot more camaraderie than we’ve had in the past,” Seggebruch said. “We’ve always been best friends with each other, but I feel like this season we are playing like a unit a lot more than we have in the past, [and] we have a lot more game experience with each other.”
Cornell kicks off the 2018 campaign Saturday for the second straight year on the road in Newark, Delaware. This time, however, the team believes it brings in the most depth it’s ever had in the six-year reign of head coach David Archer ’05.
Starters up and down the depth chart are returning while several others will make their triumphant reappearance from season-ending injuries.
“I really like our talent, I really like our depth and I think our health kind of prevented us from finishing things off last year, in addition to coaching mistakes [and] player mistakes,” said head coach David Archer ’05.
“We’ve had a really good camp, much better than last year in terms of developing our depth.”
But questions remain. Just how much can Walker, who’s not listed on the depth chart at running back, return to his All-Ivy first-team selection self from 2016? Can the secondary recover from losing two-time All-Ivy first team selection Nick Gesualdi ’18? Will the three-quarterback approach pay dividends, or will it prevent the offense from getting in sync?
“We’ve got several guys that can play. We’re going to see what we can do right now,” said senior quarterback Dalton Banks, who will split time under center with sophomore Richie Kenney and junior Mike Catanese. “ … The coaches want to mix things up for the first game and see what we all can do and go from there.”
Cornell has only two overall winning seasons since 1998 — in 1999 and in Archer’s senior season in 2005, which was the last time Cornell finished with a record above .500 in the Ancient Eight. Last season saw the Red flirt with breaking the skid, but three consecutive losses to close out the year eradicated that hope.
In last year’s opener against Delaware, things started off about as badly for Cornell as they possibly could have. Chris Walker, whose rehab from an ACL tear has him day-to-day entering the weekend, fumbled on the very first play of the game. From that point on, Delaware never looked back, scoring on the ensuing drive to kick off 34 unanswered points and a 41-14 victory.
This time around, Archer will be looking for a bit of a different start.
“It’s important for us to get out and compete and execute and take it play by play,” Archer said. “Even if it’s not a league game, it’s certainly an important one because we only have 10 of them.”
Delaware was ranked No. 13 headed into the season, and like last year, will have a few games under its belt before Cornell’s season-opener. But Banks thinks that could prove beneficial, as Cornell maintains its fresh legs and the Blue Hens haven’t gotten a look at their new schemes.
“It’s nice for us because they don’t know, really, what to expect from us,” Banks said. “We get to go out there having seen them play two games already. We saw Rhode Island beat them, so we saw what works and doesn’t work.”
As Archer embarks on year six at the helm, Saturday will provide a tough test for what he calls the deepest team in his tenure. While a game against a reloaded Delaware may not be indicative of how the rest of the season plays out, confidence will remain present after tasting success just a year ago.
“I feel like the roster has been developed so much over the last couple of years,” Archer said. “We were close last year. … We couldn’t finish it, but I expect us to be right back there this year and finish it [this time].”