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Holy Cross Looks for Answers in Spring

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 

Senior tight end Alex Schneider excels as a blocker and receiver for the Crusaders.

The Holy Cross football team finished second in the Patriot League last season, and comes into spring practice looking to reload and contend again.

After seven consecutive winning seasons, coach Tom Gilmore is confident about the state of his program. The Crusaders return 17 starters from last year's 6-5 team, seven of which were named All-Patriot League, and Gilmore believes his team has enough talent across the board for another special season.

“Coming into a year, everyone says they’re going to contend,” Gilmore said. “But I think saying it and believing it are two entirely different things. Right now, we have a lot of people that believe we can contend and win the league.”

Quarterback in Question

The Crusaders lost starting quarterback Ryan Taggart to graduation, and will use spring practice to groom his replacement. Unfortunately, fifth-year senior Kevin Watson will not be able to participate in any spring practices due to having an internship and not being enrolled at Holy Cross. Gilmore says it is unfortunate for Watson, the only quarterback on the roster that has thrown a collegiate pass, but it could be a blessing in disguise.

“We have a lot of young talent at the quarterback position,” Gilmore said. “It’s unfortunate for Kevin, but now we have some younger guys in junior Max Librizzi, and sophomores Steven Elder, Ryan Laughlin and Michael Shewchuk that will get those reps. It’s a blessing for them.”

Weapons Galore

Whoever does win the starting quarterback position will have plenty of talent around them. The Crusaders return leading receiver senior Gerald Mistretta, along with two other starters at receiver in juniors Mike Fess and Kyle Toulouse. Tight end Alex Schneider, an All-Patriot League selection the past two seasons, also returns, as does senior Eddie Houghton, who finished last season as the starting running back.

“At every positional group on offense there is experience and talent,” Gilmore said. “Now, we have plenty of talent at quarterback, but not much experience. Having that experience around the quarterback will certainly make the transition a little easier.”

Strength Up Front On Defense

While the Crusaders do lose a bit on the back end of their defense, the defensive line could be one of the best in the Patriot League. The Crusaders, who run a 3-4 defense with three linemen and four linebackers, return all their starters from last season on the line. Leading the experienced group is senior defensive tackle Jack Maliska. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds, Maliska is a dominant force in the middle of the Crusader defense. On the outside, edge-rush linebacker junior Mike Tucker returns after a productive nine-sack campaign in 2011.

Questions still linger for the rest of the linebacking corps, however. The Crusaders lost their three other starters to graduation. For a defense that asks its linebackers to do so much, and generates much of its pass rush from blitzing linebackers, the Crusaders will need several players to step up this spring.

Plenty of Talent; Less Experience

The Crusaders have a wealth of athleticism, but little experience in their secondary this spring. Junior Irvin Scott returns to start at one cornerback spot, but the other is open to competition. The starting free safety spot is also open, but Gilmore is looking for senior strong safety Tom Mannix to the lead the secondary and help some of the younger players come along.

“We bring back Tom Mannix, and he’s a really smart football player,” Gilmore said. “We have a lot of really talented young guys, but we’re going to need Tom to be the quarterback of our defense and help that secondary come together.”
 

 

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