Sept. 10, 2015
WASHINGTON - Following Tuesday’s practice senior wide receiver Jake DeCicco (Kingston, N.Y./Kingston) and junior wide receiver Justin Hill (Pittsburgh, Pa./Montour) talked to a reporter about moving forward from the team’s struggles in the season opener at Saint Francis (Pa.). DeCicco and Hill echoed the sentiment from an offensive group that feels its best football is in front of it and remains confident about being able to put points on the board during the 2015 season.
“Our goal is to put 50 points on the scoreboard every week,” DeCicco said before shifting the conversation to consistency.
Georgetown is not without talent on the offensive side of the ball, but finding consistency will be the key for the offense to reach its own expectations. That could be easier said than done, as the schedule does not get any easier, but led by seven returning starters and a host of talented freshmen and sophomores; the Hoyas believe they have not yet scratched the surface of what they’re capable of under second-year Offensive Coordinator Michael Neuberger.
RUNNING BACK: Senior Jo’el Kimpela (Kinshasa, D.R. Congo/Euless Trinity) is the Hoyas’ only returning All-Patriot League player on offense. Kimpela rushed for 838 yards and three touchdowns last season, while averaging 5.3 yards per carry, the second-best total in the league. Kimpela had 10 carries for 60 yards in the season-opener, leading a rushing attack that averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
“Jo’el has become a lot more vocal of a leader over the summer,” Neuberger said. “Maybe it’s because of his confidence in himself and his ability, but he’s really stepped up in a leadership role. He’s also running extremely hard, his on-the-field play is what it was last year and only gotten better. We’re extremely excited to get the ball in his hands and get him a heavy load of touches.”
Senior fullback Troye Bullock (Suitland, Md./DeMatha) has primarily been a blocking back during his career on the Hilltop, but flashed some of the ability that made him a star at DeMatha in the Hoyas season-opener. Bullock had 29 yards on two carries, including a powerful 26-yard run.
Behind Kimpela, the Blue & Gray are very young featuring a pair of sophomores in Isaac Ellsworth (Belfort, Texas/Euless Trinity) and Alex Valles (Danvers, Mass./Danvers). The speedy Ellsworth impressed in game one, rushing for 29 yards on five carries, making two receptions and returning seven kicks for 213 all-purpose yards. Valles is the bigger back of the two and brings good hands, giving the offense a wealth of options.
“Isaac Ellsworth and Alex Valles will both get opportunities,” Neuberger said. “They each have a different skill set that we will hope to utilize this season and get them touches as we go.”
Freshmen Christian Bermudez (Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School) and Carl Thomas (Floirissant, Mo./Lutheran North) join the group in the backfield and are beginning to get comfortable with the system in their first season.
Quarterback: Senior quarterback Kyle Nolan (Branford, Conn./Branford[Choate Rosemary Hall]) has started at least one game in each of his four seasons on the Hilltop and will be counted on to run the offense. Last season Nolan completed 176-of-343 passing attempts for 1,763 yards and nine touchdowns, while spreading the ball around to 10 different receivers and rushing for 198 yards. This season Neuberger expects the senior to take another step forward.
“Kyle has come a long way,” Neuberger said. “It’s his second year in our offense. He’s gotten comfortable with our system and he’s able to make all of the adjustments we’re asking him to make, while also being a leader for us offensively.”
The Hoya offensive coaches have confidence in junior Tim Barnes (Oradell, N.J./River Dell Regional), considering their situation to be as good as any in the Patriot League behind center. Barnes has also seen his fair share of snaps in each of his seasons at Georgetown, including going 2-for-3 during the last drive at SFU.
“Timmy is not far behind,” Neuberger commented. “He is a very valuable player for us to have. He can step in and run the offense just as Kyle would. Because of that we had great competition all summer long and feel really comfortable with both of them there.
Freshmen Clay Norris (Charlotte, N.C./Myers Park) and Jowan Watson (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) will continue to get practice reps and learn the offense in their first season on campus, but both have shown talent through their first training camp.
OFFENSIVE LINE: No position on the offense was harder hit by graduation than the offensive line. Senior Kevin Liddy (Garden City, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) returns at left tackle after starting each game, but gone are all-league selection Mike Roland, captain Nick Quintans and two-year starter Mike Kasten. While senior guard Gerverus Flagg (Charleston, S.C./Mercersburg Academy (Pa.)) recovers from injury, GU started four sophomores with Liddy in the first game, with one more sophomore and a freshman rotating in with the unit. But the Hoyas are comfortable with the talent level of the group.
“The leadership is very strong and the unit is very strong,” Neuberger said. “Kevin Liddy runs that group very well. He’s making sure they’re doing the little things we want them to do and ready to compete every single day. Kevin is a guy that (offensive line coach) Brian Miller and myself go to with everything, so when he wants to talk to the guys and needs to motivate them, we let him take them and get them going.” Sophomore guard Michael McFarlane (Frostproof, Fla./Frostproof) earned starting time as a freshman, as did tackle Nick James (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny). Sophomore center Dominic Scarangella (Newtown, Conn./Newtown) earned his first start at center, while sophomore Aaron Miller (San Diego, Calif./Scripps Ranch) earned his first start at guard last Saturday. Converted defensive lineman Matt Houpert (West Hartford, Conn./William H. Hall) moved to offense during training camp and along with freshman Randy Crystian (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) earned time during the first week.
“We are fortunate that some of those sophomores played for us last year and we expect them to step up their game,” Neuberger said. “Nick James and Mike McFarlane played a significant amount for us last year, Dom Scarangella has matured significantly this preseason and is handling everything we throw at him very nicely. We have a lot of guys that have stepped in and impressed us, a couple of guys in the freshman class have shown that they can be guys that can step in and fill a role. Overall those guys are starting to gel and are playing fast.”
TIGHT END: Matt Buckman (Hasbrouck Heights, N.J./Saint Joseph Regional) had five catches for 45 yards in the first game, proving to be the sure-handed target he developed into last season. Neuberger sees even more from him going forward.
“Matt did a great job this offseason working on his body and working on his strengths,” Neuberger said. “He’s stronger and bigger than he was last year. He has the ability to do a lot of different things as a blocker and in the passing game.
Sophomore Jacob Sweitzer (Perryopolis, Pa./Belle Vernon) earned playing time in the season opener after playing behind Buckman during his freshman season.
“We have specific plays and packages that we’ll use Jake in where he really excels,” Neuberger said. “He’s done a great job this summer also transforming his body and understanding his role.”
Freshman Nathan VonderHaar (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Priory) and sophomore Jack Graffagnino (Lynbrook, N.Y./Chaminade) will provide depth at the unit, as VonderHaar continues to learn the system and Graffagnino works his way back from an injury that robbed him of his freshman season.
WIDE RECEIVER: The Hoyas will have plenty of depth and talent in the wide receiving corps, as DeCicco and Hill, the team’s two-leading receivers from a year ago both return. DeCicco had four catches in the first game, as Hill saw his snaps limited after recently returning to the field after an injury in training camp. Sophomore Justin Harrell (New Orleans, La./Newman) and senior Harrison Glor (Boston, Mass./Belmont[Deerfield Academy]) had both been limited at times during camp, but are expected to be a big part of the passing game going forward.
“We’ve got some seniors out there with DeCicco and Glor that have worked hard all summer and that showed during camp,” Neuberger said. “Justin Hill is a phenomenal athlete and is coming off a great season and Justin Harrell, who also played well as a freshman, so we have good depth on the outside.”
Sophomore Jimmy McLaughlin (Fairfax, Va./W.T. Woodson) and freshman Brandon Williams (Germantown, Md./Northwest) earned the start in the opener, giving the team a pair of tall targets on the outside. Sophomore Luke Morris (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School) also saw time in the slot behind DeCicco. Senior Marquis Wright (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./North Broward Prep) and converted quarterback Patrick Finnegan (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif./Loyola) also saw snaps in the first game of the season.
“Overall we’re really impressed with that group as a whole and what they’ve done,” Neuberger said. “We challenged Jimmy McLaughlin to step up and he’s filling in his role very well. Marquis Wright has been phenomenal all summer long in doing what he’s supposed to and leading those young guys. Brandon Williams is doing a great job for us, he’s very versatile, and he can stretch the field and has tremendous hands.”
Georgetown scored both of its offensive touchdowns in the second half at Saint Francis (Pa.). This week the Hoyas will look to get started on offense earlier when they host Marist in the home opener under the lights of Multi-Sport Field on Saturday.