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Cornell football will have a new look this year - literally. Coach Jim Knowles removed the "C" from the players' helmets in an effort to improve their effort and dedication.

He needed to do something after the Big Red finished seventh in the Ivy League last year with a 2-5 record and were physically dominated by most teams.

Knowles gets a big boost from the return of Luke Siwula, the powerful 1000-yard rusher from 2005 who missed most of 2007 with an injury. Siwula is one of 33 seniors returning for Cornell, but despite the Big Red's experience, expectations are low. They were picked to finish sixth in the conference in this year's preseason media poll.

Siwula, who played in just three games last year but still led the Big Red with six rushing touchdowns, will help take some pressure off senior quarterback and team captain Nathan Ford. Ford struggled through injuries and inconsistency last year but still finished with 1,902 passing yards and six touchdowns.

Ford has all the tools to improve on those numbers. In addition to getting Siwula back, he will have all his favorite receiving targets from a year ago, most notably senior wideout Zac Canty. Canty led Cornell with 49 catches, racking up 447 yards and three touchdowns en route to earning an All-Ivy honorable mention.

But the key cog in the Big Red's offense might prove to be junior receiver Bryan Walters. He led the team with 592 receiving yards and four scores, and when he wasn't blowing by corners, he was devastating teams with his punt returns. Walters led the Ancient Eight with 345 return yards (an average of 11.1 yards per attempt).

Defensively, Cornell has nine seniors starting. The unit will be led by safety Tim Bax, a 2007 second-team All-Ivy selection whose 100 tackles ranked him second in the league. Knowles feels Bax is one of the only pro prospects on his team.

Senior captain Graham Rihn will replace the team's former defensive anchor, Ryan Blessing, at linebacker. Rihn moved from defensive end to linebacker last year and registered 10 tackles for losses to lead the team.

As a team captain, Rihn will be counted on to help crank up the intensity and physicality for Cornell this year. Without it, the team will not earn its "C" back, and might not produce too many wins, either.

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