Four-fifths of Cornell’s week one starting offensive line from 2018 graduated this spring, leaving a handful of younger players with opportunities to step up as the Red’s 2019 season begins.
One player expected to make the greatest leap is senior captain George Holm III, who will be Cornell’s starting left tackle. Head coach David Archer ’05 — a former offensive lineman himself — says he has a number of players to fill the roles previously held by Henry Stillwell ’19, J. Edward Keating ’19, David D’Amelio ’19 and Mason Manning III ’19.
But Archer won’t be quite sure what he has in his offensive linemen until he sees them play.
“I think [Holm’s] a guy that will step up, and then there’s some really talented young guys who we just need to see them play,” Archer said. “I think they all have the talent, it’s just a matter of going to do it.”
Archer listed sophomores Jack Burns, Hunter Nourzad and Robert Fatovic and juniors Nick Busher and Zach Road as players he envisions seeing time on the offensive line this season.
The offensive line could be a make-or-break point for the Cornell offense because 80 percent of the unit — which helped lead Cornell to 156.1 rushing yards per game last season — graduated in May, and the rushing attack will again be crucial for the Red.
Cornell is likely to need a strong run-blocking unit for its run-first offense featuring senior running back Harold Coles, whose 710 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns earned him second-team All-Ivy honors as a junior.
The running game will also be a central focus for the Red’s defensive line. Cornell surrendered 192.2 rushing yards per game last season, the second-worst record in the conference, beating out only cellar-dweller Brown (Cornell’s pass defense was fourth-best).
Archer has some experienced players at his disposal with his defensive front seven. Senior defensive linemen Jordan Landsman, Nick Weber, William Baker and Cyrus Nolan (a fifth-year senior, eligible because of an injury earlier in his career) figure to be key players on the D-line. At linebacker, senior Malik Leary, senior Mo Bradford and junior Lance Blass all played lots of snaps in 2018.
Nolan, who Archer hopes will be healthy enough to contribute over the course of the season, had two and a half sacks last season. Baker contributed two sacks from his defensive line position, and Landsman made one and a half tackles for loss in the running game.