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Sullivan ready to return to Monmouth field
Dan Sullivan remembers everything about the play in the first quarter against Robert Morris.
How could he not?
There was the pain in his left shoulder, and constant replays on the big screen inside Joe Walton Stadium back on Oct. 9, 2010.
“It was a bootleg, so they fake one way and bring the quarterback around the other way,” said the Monmouth University linebacker. “I was running toward him and got within reaching distance of him.”
It was as close as he would get, because in an instant his freshman season came to an end. A 5-9 receiver with a 20-yard head of steam blindsided him before he could register his first career sack.
“I got right back up, but I knew my shoulder was dangling out of its socket,” said the former Manasquan standout, who suffered a torn scapula.
Fast forward to the scene last week at Kessler Field, as the Hawks went through their first week of summer practice, a month before the start of a brutal five-game stretch to open the 2011 season.
Sullivan, who was just starting to see his playing time increased when he got injured, is in a battle with fifth-year senior Chris Mastrangelo for the starting middle linebacker spot.
And even if he’s not the starter on opening day when they host Lehigh, he is expected to be a major contributor for a defense looking to reduce the 25.7 points-per-game it surrendered last year.
“He knows he’s in a battle for playing time,” said head coach Kevin Callahan. “He closed the gap a great deal early on last season and then got hurt, so he missed a season of growth and that valuable experience on the field that makes every player better. But he had a very good spring. He has the all the physical tools to play that position.”
At 6-2, 225 pounds, Sullivan ended his freshman campaign with just six tackles, one for a loss, in three games before his injury. His emergence could be a key as the Hawks try to strengthen themselves inside.
“Last year was definitely frustrating, especially after I got injured, because I did so well early in the game before I got injured,” Sullivan said. “I was getting more and more time every game. And then the game I got hurt I was in on the third play of the game and then was in for 15 straight plays on two straight drives, and then getting hurt right there. It was a huge letdown.”
The Hawks will have to hit the ground running defensively, opening the season on Sept. 3 when they host Lehigh, the preseason favorite in the Patriot League, followed by a trip to face Villanova, a national power. After games against Central Connecticut and Robert Morris, two of the Northeast Conference favorites, they host Colgate.
“We didn’t lose that much due to graduation on the defensive side of the ball,” added Sullivan. “I feel like this year we can only go up. That’s the only option.”
By Stephen Edelson, Asbury Park Press