As the start of the 2008 season fast approaches, there is no question that the football team’s passing game needs to improve if it wants to add another Ivy League Championship after last season’s one-dimensional offense ran out of gas in The Game.
The question is: Who will be leading that passing game after the graduation of Matt Polhemus ’08? The answer should come soon enough, given Georgetown’s upcoming visit to the Bowl.
Heading into camp, head coach Jack Siedlecki decided to make it an open three-man competition between Ryan Fodor ’09, Richie Scudellari ’10 and Brook Hart ’11.
And now there are two.
In an e-mail, Siedlecki confirmed that the race is down to just Fodor and Hart after their impressive performances in last Friday’s scrimmage at Princeton.
“Ryan Fodor and Brook Hart both stood out in the Princeton scrimmage and are competing hard in practice,” Siedlecki wrote. “Right now the starting QB is listed on the depth chart as Ryan Fodor or Brook Hart.”
With much riding on the scrimmage against the Tigers, Fodor and Hart shined. Scudellari seems to have taken himself out of the running. All three quarterbacks were given equal time under center, but Fodor got the “start” in the five-quarter exhibition and completed four of his six passes for 122 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown strike to Ken Ebeling ’09.
Hart completed six of nine for 62 yards, while Scudellari connected on half of his 12 attempts for 72 yards and threw two interceptions.
Neither of the two finalists has started a game under center for the varsity team. Last season Fodor played in two games and completed two of his five attempts, while Hart played on the junior varsity team.
Although he has not had much game experience, Fodor has been the second-string quarterback for two years already and got reps with the varsity offense last season. Several players have indicated that his experience may put Fodor over the top, and he appears to be the front-runner.
Even if that is the case, simply competing for the spot has been beneficial for Hart.
“The competition has made me a better player because I have got to play with and against better players,” Hart said. “Also, the older players, like [Fodor] and [Scudellari], have helped me a lot with deciding when to go where and when not to force the ball and just take what you can get.”
With one of the nation’s best rushing attacks, the coaching staff isn’t looking for either of the two to carry the squad.
“I think overall the coaches are looking for someone to move the ball and team efficiently down the field, with a premium on completion percentage and taking care of the football,” Fodor explained. “The starter is not going to have to carry the bulk of the play-making responsibilities because of our very strong running game and defense.”
Still, with the position comes scrutiny, especially on a team with the talent and high expectations of these Bulldogs.
“I think that no matter what the situation is, the quarterback is going to be scrutinized heavily. It is the nature of the position,” Scudellari said. “No matter what the circumstances, people look to the quarterback to be a leader, and this case is no different.”
Whoever does ultimately win the job will look to improve on a passing game that struggled mightily in 2007. Although the Bulldogs had the Ivy’s second-ranked scoring offense at 29.4 ppg, the passing game ranked last in the league in yards per game (108), touchdowns (4) and completions (83) — and all by a substantial margin.
The Bulldogs were, however, a run-first offense — the Elis only threw the ball a total of 179 times, while rushing the ball 517 times. When the rushing game couldn’t move the ball down field against a stout Harvard defense, the Bulldog offense stalled while the Crimson built an insurmountable lead.
The Bulldogs don’t expect that to be the case this season.
“I expect our passing game to be much improved from last year,” H-back John Sheffield ’10 said. “The passing game was the major focus of our team in spring ball, and I think that hard work will show. In the past years we have run the ball exceptionally well. That is still going to be the case, but hopefully we can be a little more balanced this year, too.”