Aug. 9, 2016
WASHINGTON - The Georgetown University football team’s offense improved by nearly seven points per game last season in the second season under Head Coach Rob Sgarlata and offensive coordinator Michael Neuberger. This camp the offensive coaching staff will have the enviable task of replacing All-Patriot League performers offensive tackle Kevin Liddy and running back Jo’el Kimpela, in addition to quarterback Kyle Nolan and slot Jake DeCicco, a pair of three-year starters, who have their names scattered near the top of the Hoya football statistical career leaders.
Georgetown’s offense boasts key returners at every position, particularly with returning All-Patriot League performers in senior tight end Matt Buckman (Hasbrouck Heights, N.J./Saint Joseph Regional) and senior wide receiver Justin Hill (Pittsburgh, Pa./Montour).
QUARTERBACKS: Senior quarterback Tim Barnes (Oradell, N.J./River Dell Regional) has earned his opportunity to lead the Hoya offense after serving as Nolan’s understudy for the past three seasons. The 2016 No. 35 Joe Eacobacci Memorial Jersey recipient has taken meaningful snaps each season, receiving a start against Fordham during his freshman season. He played in eight games as a sophomore, then five last season, leading a crucial scoring drive late in a victory over Bucknell, while showing his dual-threat capability. In three seasons, Barnes has played in 14 games, completing 27-of-56 pass attempts for 209 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for an additional 96 yards. The Hoya offensive coaches are confident that Barnes has just scratched the surface of what he can do at the helm.
Beyond Barnes, sophomores Clay Norris (Charlotte, N.C./Myers Park) and Jowan Watson (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) are in their second season in the offense and benefitted from the experience in the quarterback meeting room in their first year. Both turned in strong performances during the spring and will be counted on to provide depth. The Hoyas also welcome a trio of freshman in Brock Johnson (Newport Beach, Calif./Mission Viejo), Isaac Schley (Littleton, Colo./Chatfield) and Matt Zebrowski (Verona, N.J./Delbarton) whose father, Matt, starred at Georgetown in the mid-1980’s.
COACHES TAKE: “It’s always a big loss when you lose a three-year starter at quarterback, but we’re extremely lucky to have Tim Barnes stepping into a starting role,” Sgarlata said. “Not only with his character in being named the No. 35, but he is a top-flight quarterback at this level. Throughout the spring, Clay Norris and Jowan Watson have gained valuable experience and both offer a different skill set at the position.”
RUNNING BACKS: Juniors Alex Valles (Danvers, Mass./Danvers) and Isaac Ellsworth (Belfort, Texas/Euless Trinity) earned carries behind three-year starter Kimpela last season and provide the offense with versatile players who have shown promise in the run and pass games and as returners on special teams. The pair combined for more than 300 rushing yards and more than 100 receiving yards last season.
Sophomore Christian Bermudez (Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School) earned carries late last season and had an excellent spring, while the coaching staff will be excited to have sophomore Carl Thomas (Floirissant, Mo./Lutheran North) healthy after missing his freshman season. Both are expected to push for playing time, while freshman Zacciah Saltzman (Athens, Ohio/Athens) will also work to earn playing time early in his career. Senior fullback Nathan Avery (Houston, Texas/St. John’s) will look to replace Troye Bullock, who had a breakout senior season for the Hoyas.
COACHES TAKE: “We have very high expectations for this group,” Neuberger said. “We’ve got two guys in Alex Valles and Isaac Ellsworth taking reps with the ones that played a lot of snaps for us last year. We’ve got two guys in Christian Bermudez and Carl Thomas that showed in the spring that they have the ability to be factors in what we do.”
WIDE RECEIVERS: The receiver group could be a position of strength for the Georgetown offense, Hill returning after finishing among the PL leaders in touchdown receptions (6) and yards per catch (13.8). He finished last season with 636 yards on 46 catches and enters his final season seventh on GU’s career receiving list (1,302 yards).
Junior Luke Morris (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School) was impressive in the slot late in the season, posting a six-reception, 76-yard performance with his first collegiate touchdown at Lehigh. Junior Jimmy McLaughlin (Fairfax, Va./W.T. Woodson) and sophomore Brandon Williams (Germantown, Md./Northwest) both earned starts last season, with Williams finishing with 174 yards on 17 catches and one touchdown.
The unit will get stronger with the return of junior Justin Harrell (New Orleans, La./Newman), who was expected to start in 2015 before suffering a season-ending injury and senior Tommy Jesson (Orlando, Fla./East River), who also missed 2015 due to injury. Seniors Myles Braxton-Johnson (Bradenton, Fla./Southest), Patrick Finnegan (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif./Loyola) and sophomore Winston Jackson Jr. (North Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) will all push for playing time, while freshmen Michael Dereus (Hyde Park, Mass./Williston Northampton) and Cole Miller (Logansport, Ind./Crown Point/Heritage [Va.]) will push for playing time.
COACHES TAKE: “We have a talented group who have played a lot of games in the Patriot League, and a few who maybe haven’t played at receiver, but have gained game experience on special teams,” wide receivers coach Thurston Childrey said. “So we have a very experienced group and then freshmen that we’re very excited about that provide some extra depth.”
TIGHT ENDS: Buckman, a Preseason All-Patriot League selection, highlights the group, as GU’s second-leading receiver after finishing his junior campaign with 251 yards on 32 catches with four touchdowns. Buckman broke out last season and will provide Barnes with another experienced option downfield.
Junior Jacob Sweitzer (Perryopolis, Pa./Belle Vernon) was behind Buckman on the depth chart, starting one game last season, while making four catches for 19 yards as a sophomore. Junior Jack Graffagnino (Lynbrook, N.Y./Chaminade) and sophomore Nathan VonderHaar (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Priory) will battle for playing time with senior John Oblachinski (Cranford, N.J./Cranford), who made the move from safety on the first day of training camp.
COACHES TAKE: “We’ve got a nice group led by Matt Buckman, who has a lot of playing experience,” Neuberger said. “Jake Sweitzer has also played a significant amount and we’re expecting a lot out of Nathan VonderHaar. We’ll be utilizing multiple personnel groups that will get all of those guys involved in what we’re doing.”
OFFENSIVE LINE: GU’s offensive line boasts five players with starting experience and a talented group of underclassmen to give the unit more depth than it has been accustomed to during the past two seasons, where it ranked among the youngest groups on the team.
Junior tackle Nick James (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny) and junior guard Michael McFarlane (Frostproof, Fla./Frostproof) have been starters in each of their two seasons at Georgetown and will continue to bring stability and leadership to the unit. Junior Dominic Scarangella (Newtown, Conn./Newtown) returns from injury after showing promise as the team’s starting center in the first two games of 2015. Junior Matt Houpert (West Hartford, Conn./William H. Hall) made the seamless transition from defense to offensive line during last season’s training camp and started nine games at guard. Sophomore Randy Crystian (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) also earned significant playing time, starting twice late in the season.
Sophomore Micah Smith (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Westminster Academy) was named the Robert Paul Dahut Most Improved Player during spring ball and will compete for a starting spot at tackle. Junior Milan Urukalo (Chicago, Ill./Loyola Academy) and sophomores Jared Horne (Woodbridge, Va./CD Hylton) and Tower Menning (Madison, Wis./Poynette) are all back and will battle for playing time.
The Hoyas welcome a talented group of freshman led by Nick Sweitzer (Perryopolis, Pa./Belle Vernon), who joins his brother, Jacob, on the Hilltop. Ryan Jelinek (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny), Stewart Keehner (Towson, Md./Gilman) and Justin Wood (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Loyalsock Twp.) will provide depth to the group.
COACHES TAKE: “This group has been young for so many years it seems and now we have a large number of juniors and 46 games worth of starting experience between the guys on the offensive line,” said offensive line coach Brian Miller. “This group is still young, but they move well, they’re coachable and we’ve got the ability to be pretty good up front.”