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Editors Preview: Marist Spring Game
When I sit down with Jim Parady next Tuesday during my weekly meeting with the Marist head football coach, the first question I plan to ask has been penciled in my notebook since the end of the 2009 campaign.
“Coach, do you think that after this past season’s success, you’ve made the task of preparing for the 2010 year that much harder for you and your staff?”
I anticipate Parady’s answer to be a confident and resounding, “No", but I am still curious about how the 18 year head coach plans to fill some voids left by this year’s graduating seniors.
Chris Debowski will vacate the quarterback position, while the linebacking corps will be without Kevin Foley and Nick Andre. Starting center Neil Walsh and fellow offensive linemen Daniel Angelastro and Kevin Ulrich are also graduating.
Although Marist football fans and members of the media, myself included, will have to wait until the end of summer training camp to get definitive answers about who the new starters will be, a preview will be available soon.
That preview will be this coming Saturday, April 24 at 7 p.m. during the Marist football team’s Spring Game held at Tenney Stadium at Leonidoff Field.
The Circle will release a comprehensive 2010 season preview in a later issue, but here are three positions that fans should pay particularly close attention to on Saturday.
Sophomore Tommy Reilly has taken the majority of the first team snaps this spring, but Michael Gentile and Anthony Varrichione are close behind.
Gentile, who will be a junior in the fall, played extremely well during summer camp last season before suffering a season ending lower-leg injury. At 6′3′’, the Staten Island product has an excellent feel for the game and is more mobile out of the pocket than most give him credit for.
Noted for his toughness and ability to manage an offense, Reilly was the second quarterback last season behind Debowski. Reilly completed 37 of 55 pass attempts for 379 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in limited time.
The wildcard in the quarterback equation is the current freshman, Varrichione. At 6′4′’, Varrichione’s height and length certainly gives him an advantage over his two teammates. Also fairly athletic, Varrichione should be able to avoid much of the pressure that the Marist quarterback will face playing behind a depleted offensive line. Also, Varrichione is a player with an excellent pedigree. His grandfather, Frank Varrichione, played football collegiately at Notre Dame and was a five-time Pro Bowler in the NFL over his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams.
Without the benefit of having any of its incoming freshman class able to participate in the Spring Game, the Marist offensive line unit will certainly be searching for answers.
Walsh, Angelastro and Ulrich proved to be an undersized yet formidable trio of linemen that were able to provide consistent protection for Debowski and the Marist running game during the program’s first season in the Pioneer Football League (PFL).
With those three players gone, it will be interesting to see who will emerge and compete for time on the offensive line. It appears that junior Francis Journick will snap at center, but there are still several line spots open.
Injuries to freshmen Rocco Manfre and Phede Celestin, as well as junior Stephen Carretta have certainly aided in the depletion of this unit.
During their senior season, Andre and Foley combined for 179 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. That production will unfortunately be gone for Marist this season.
The next linebacker with the highest tackle total was junior Kees Coughlin with 66. Coughlin will anchor the unit, but he is surrounded by players who do not have experience in a starting role.
Isaac Sine, Pat Crann and Ryan Cronan are all returning contributors who will significant time at the linebacker position.
Early on during spring practices, there were whispers of safeties Rory Foley and John Van Aman moving to linebacker, but it does not appear that such a drastic move will be made. Both Foley and Van Aman have the tackling ability and pass protection awareness to play the position, but it appears that they will remain in the secondary.
Picked to finish eighth out of 10 teams in the PFL in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Red Foxes proved to be more than capable of competing on in a national conference. Finishing 5-3 in the PFL and 7-4 overall, Marist placed fifth in the league at the end of the year.
The Spring Game, like others before it, will be not be a true indicator of the squad that Parady and his staff will field at the start of next season.
Injured players, lack of freshmen presence and only 14 outdoor practices prior to the scrimmage will most likely not contribute to a perfectly polished product during the Spring Game.
It’s also unlikely that any major personnel changes or position decisions will be made at the conclusion of the game. For those decisions, we will have to wait until the end of summer training camp.
For now, the Spring Game is more than enough to pique our interest about the Red Foxes second season in the PFL after a very long winter without Marist football.
By Phil Terrigno, The Circle (Marist Student Paper)