WASHINGTON - The Georgetown University football team will begin spring practice on Tuesday, March 14, when the Hoyas hit Cooper Field. It will be the first of 15 spring practices, concluding with the annual Blue & Gray Spring Scrimmage on Friday, April 21 at 6 p.m. The Hoyas will be on the field for practice on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during the course of spring ball, and all practices will be open to the public.
Head Coach Rob Sgarlata begins his fourth spring at the helm of the program and will work with the coaching staff to begin restocking the depth chart after the departure of the 18 graduating seniors, including four All-Patriot League selections in 2016.
Offense: The Hoyas will be boosted by the return of quarterback Tim Barnes, who received a fifth year of eligibility after his senior season was cut short by injury. Through a little more than three games, Barnes was averaging 162.5 passing yards and had already thrown for seven touchdowns. Sophomore Clay Norris, who received valuable experience in 2016 after replacing Barnes, averaged 74.7 passing yards in 11 games of action.
Georgetown will also return its top three rushing leaders from 2016, highlighted by juniors Alex Valles and Isaac Ellsworth. Valles led the GU offense in rushing attempts (104), yards (462), yards per game (42.0) and rushing touchdowns (3) last season while playing in all 11 games. The speedy Ellsworth averaged 20.3 yards per game and also rushed for two touchdowns, including a season-long 74-yard run at Harvard. Sophomore Christian Bermudez was relied upon in short yardage situations and averaged 10.6 yards per game and also scored twice. The Hoyas will be bolstered by the return of sophomore Carl Thomas who only rushed twice in 2016 due to injuries.
While the receiving corps is losing a big playmaker in Justin Hill, a 2015 All-Patriot League selection, the Blue & Gray does return three of its top four receivers from the 2016 campaign in junior Justin Harrell, sophomore Brandon Williams and junior Jim McLaughlin. Harrell tied with Hill for the team lead with 41 receptions, despite his season ending early after just eight games due to injury. Williams caught 33 passes and led the Hoyas with an average of 12.0 yards per catch and 39.7 receiving yards per game. McLaughlin came on strong at the end of the season, recording 16 of his 31 catches over the final three games, including a six-catch, 77-yard performance against Bucknell that included his first career touchdown reception. The Hoyas will have to replace 2015 All-Patriot League selection Matthew Buckman at tight end. Junior Jacob Sweitzer saw action in all 11 games in 2016 and Bermudez received significant time at tight end, primarily as a pass blocker.
Georgetown was young on the offensive line last season as five of the 10 linemen who received playing time were making their collegiate debuts in 2016. The Hoyas do not lose anyone to graduation and return four linemen – juniors Nick James and Matthew Houpert, sophomore Randy Crystian and freshman Nick Sweitzer – who appeared in at least 10 games. Juniors Michael McFarlane and Dominic Scarangella will also provide veteran leadership for the offensive line, having 34 career starts between the two of them.
Defense: Sgarlata and new defensive coordinator Kevin Doherty will be tasked with replacing All-Patriot League players in defensive lineman Hunter Kiselick and linebacker Leo Loughery, as well as defensive end Phil Novacki. The Hoyas do return sophomore linebacker J’V’on Butler, an All-Patriot League Second Team selection and several key members of the front seven and secondary. Georgetown will look to remain atop of the Patriot League after leading the league in scoring defense (23.3 ppg) in 2016.
The defensive line is where GU will be losing the most production as Kiselick and Novacki combined for 108 total tackles, 16 TFL and 9.5 sacks. Georgetown will look to senior Bryan Jefferson (28 T, 1.0 S), junior Kendall Catching (14 T), sophomore Brennan Sawicki (39 T, 1.0 S) and freshmen Marquis Parris (30 T, 3.0 TFL) and Khristian Tate (22 T, 5.0 TFL, 1.5 S) to lead the front line.
Butler - who finished with a team-high 87 tackles to go along with 5.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles – leads a linebacker corps that is only losing Loughery (69 T, 5.0 TFL, 1.5 S) from its regular rotation. The Hoyas also return juniors Matthew Apuzzi (57 T, 2.0 TFL) and Daniel Yankovich (48 T, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 S), who had a successful 2016 season after playing as a safety his first two seasons. Sophomores Matthew Deal (27 T, 1.0 TFL) and AJ Schimmelpfennig (18 T) will both look to increase their roles this spring.
Georgetown returns every member of its secondary that was among the league leaders in interceptions in 2016. Junior co-captain David Akere finished second on the team with 77 tackles from the safety position, and was also second with two interceptions. Sophomore safeties Jethro Francois (37 T, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT) and Blaise Brown (55 T, 1 INT) were also among the team leaders defensively. Junior Jelani Williamson led the Hoyas, and tied for the Patriot League lead, with four interceptions while also finishing with 50 T. Sophomore Ramon Lyons (52 T, 6.0 1 INT) was strong on the other side of the field, while junior Jake Johnson (6 T, 1 INT), and freshman Jalen Goldwire (8 T, 1 INT) all also saw valuable time in the secondary.
Special Teams: The Hoyas boasted one of the strongest special teams units in the country in 2016, and will look to improve this spring under new special teams coordinator Maurice Banks. The Blue & Gray tied for the national lead with eight blocked kicks and led the Patriot League allowing just 36.9 yards per kickoff return.
Georgetown will have to replace all three of its regular kickers from last season - Henry Darmstadter, Harry McCollum and Ben Priddy - as well as its long snapper Robert Longwell. Junior Henry Woodrow, freshman Brad Hurst and sophomore transfer Jonathan Coppens will compete this spring and into the fall for the open kicking positions. Junior Warren Wynn will see the majority of the snaps as the team’s long snapper this spring.
Banks and the coaching staff will search to replace Kiselick who was a force on special teams, leading the entire FCS with four blocked kicks - all field goals. Tate was also among the national leaders, blocking three punts on the season. Schimmelpfennig had GU’s other punt block.
The Hoyas return all of their primary returners from 2016, highlighted by Ellsworth, who ranks in the top five of the GU record books in career kickoff returns, kickoff return yardage and average. Michael Dereus burst onto the scene last season, including a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Holy Cross. Valles took the majority of the punt returns, averaging 6.2 yards on nine returns. Brown and Dereus combined for 10 returns as well.