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Wagner College Gets Little Respect
No harm. No foul.
At least that’s the front Wagner College football coach Walt Hameline put up following Thursday’s surprising announcement that his Seahawks were tabbed to finish seventh in the Northeast Conference’s annual preseason poll.
With eight returning offensive starters, including former All-NEC first-team quarterback Nick Doscher back for his senior season, and coming off a strong 2011 finish that included a season-ending three-game winning streak, the Seahawks were expecting a little respect on the eve of the new campaign.
They got the Rodney Dangerfield treatment, instead, when the ballots from the nine head coaches were tabulated at NEC headquarters.
“I think a lot of it is based on the previous years and seniors graduating,” said Hameline. “At the end of the day, so many things depend on how you start out and how things roll with injuries. I think if we were ranked No. 1, I’d be all pumped up. We’re ranked seventh, so it’s almost like ‘Hey, that’s OK. Let’s move on and take care of business and do what we need to do.’ ”
Rubbing some salt into the wounds, only one Wagner player — senior offensive lineman Steve Ciocci — was selected to the 25-player All-NEC preseason squad.
Defending champion Albany was picked No. 1 with six first-place votes. The Great Danes were followed by, 2) Duquesne (one first-place vote); 3) Bryant (two first-place votes); 4) Central Connecticut State; 5) Monmouth; 6) Robert Morris; 7) Wagner; 8) Sacred Heart; and 9) St. Francis, Pa.
“I think the kids look at it for a day, maybe, I don’t know,” said Hameline, coming off a 4-4 NEC finish. “Then all of a sudden you come into camp (Sunday) and they’ll forget what poll they’re in pretty quickly. It’s going to be about getting better each and every practice and focusing on what we have to do to become a better football team.
“We’ll probably throw (the poll) at them at the first meeting. You know, ‘This is what everybody thinks you should be, now bottom line what do we have to do to get to the top of the heap.’ ”
Hameline said he’s excited about the team’s prospects for the first winning campaign since Doscher led the 2009 Seahawks to a 6-5 finish – and tied for third in the NEC with a 5-3 mark – during his record-setting freshman season.
Along with Doscher, the school’s all-time career yardage leader, Wagner returns veteran running back Dominique Williams and senior wide receiver David Crawford, who missed last season with a shoulder injury. The Seahawks return most of their offensive line and recruited solid depth at the quarterback position.
“I think right now, Nick Doscher is 100 percent healthy and that’s a big plus,” said Hameline of the former professional baseball catcher and Moore Catholic multi-sport star. “He was such a major part of what we were doing the last couple years (operating a spread offense), he basically just got beat up a little bit. I mean he was like a running back for us. He looked like an old NFL guy who had been in the pros for five years. His ankle is great now and he’s worked out all summer and is moving around great.
“And as far as throwing the football, we suffered a little bit there. You throw David Crawford into the mix … we really didn’t have a big-time threat out on the perimeter after his shoulder injury. He’s potentially as good as anybody I’ve ever had as a receiver. He’s a big kid and he has worked extremely hard to get back to 100 percent.”
Wagner opens the season Aug. 31 at Florida Atlantic of the Sun Belt Conference. The game will mark only the second NEC contest against an NCAA FBS member. Central Connecticut State played Western Michigan in 2007.
Hameline pointed out the excitement generated by three defensive players from the 2011 squad currently competing for jobs in NFL training camps. Outside linebacker Julian Stanford, in fact, has been receiving positive early reports out of the Jacksonville Jaguars camp. Defensive back Jeremiah Brown (Jacksonville Jaguars) and defensive end Quintin Anderson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) are also trying to beat the odds faced by undrafted free agents.
But for Thursday, the focus was on the NEC poll and preseason all-conference team.
“Obviously, if you’re No. 1, you have to feel pretty good that others have such a high opinion of you,” said veteran Monmouth coach Kevin Callahan. “If you’re not where you think you should be in the poll, then you might be motivated a little bit more to prove others’ opinions wrong.”
It probably would be safe to place the Wagner Seahawks squarely in the latter category.
By Jim Waggoner, Staten Island Advance/Hilton Flores