The Ivy League is growing up. Last season, the “Year of the Quarterback” came to pass. And while many quarterbacks are quite adept at making plays with their legs — like Penn’s own Billy Ragone — tossing the pigskin remains the most important part of a quarterback’s job.
This season, we take a look at the other side of the Ivy aerial attack: the wide receivers. Ivy secondaries have struggled to defend a multiplicity of talented wide receivers. These pass-catchers will determine whether or not moving the ball through the air continues its upswing in the Ancient Eight.
Cornell: According to Penn cornerbacks coach Jon Dupont, Cornell returns “the best receiving corps in the league, hands down.” Indeed, Cornell’s receivers ran up and down the field with relative ease in the season finale while quarterback Jeff Mathews set an Ivy passing record. “They got [Shane] Savage coming back, who just absolutely wrecked the league last year, and they’ve got the best quarterback that’s come through the league in a number of years, so that’s the scary part,” Dupont said. Savage was named a third-team All-American, but Cornell’s group of wideouts goes far beyond one player. Kurt Ondash, Grant Gellatly and Luke Tasker are all top-tier Ivy WRs. Teams will struggle to cover them, especially with Mathews delivering the ball.
Yale: Chris Smith, Yale’s active career leader in catches and receiving yards, will be out for the season for personal reasons. Junior Deon Randall, who led the Bulldogs in receptions a year ago, returns. Look for Yale to try to get Randall even more touches than last year. Though he’s principally a pass-catcher, Randall will line up in the backfield and get some carries as well.
Brown: With the graduation of multiple receivers, Brown’s offense will likely be sporting a new look. The Bears of recent years have employed a spread offense with four or five receivers on the field on most plays. This season, that will change. Coach Phil Estes has indicated the team will play mostly with three wideouts on the field, namely junior Jordan Evans and seniors Tellef Lundevall and Jonah Fay.
Harvard: Sophomore Seitu Smith was named a preseason first-team All-American kick returner after averaging 30 yards per return as a freshman. Teams tend to find ways to get their explosive athletes touches, and Crimson coaches will no doubt look to expand Smith’s role in the offense as a receiver. Outside of Smith, Harvard’s passing attack may be tight end-heavy. Senior Kyle Juszczyk (second-team All-American) and junior Cam Brate (honorable mention All-American) make up the best tight end duo in the Ivies. “Harvard’s always got the speed, they’ve got the height, they have prototypical scholarship wide receivers size-wise, so I’d expect them to be pretty decent,” Dupont said.
Penn: The Quakers are as deep at the wide receiver position as they’ve been in years. Joe Holder, a red-shirt senior, appears poised for a big year. Conner Scott will make his return to the field after missing all of last season due to injury. Junior Ryan Mitchell will look to stretch the field with Ryan Calvert gone. Dupont has been impressed with what he’s seen so far. “Our receivers run great routes and they’re in and out of cuts, so we’re challenged every day by facing our own guys for sure,” he said. “Conner Scott probably has the best hands that I’ve ever seen. Ryan Mitchell: straight speed. Joe Holder is a very good receiver as well.”
Columbia returns talented QB Sean Brackett, but their leading returning wideout is junior Louis DiNovo, who caught just 17 passes last year.
Dartmouth returns its top two receivers from last season, Kirby Schoenthaler and Bo Patterson. There’s potential for improvement over their combined 49 catches for 528 yards last year.
Princeton looks to be in for another tough season. The Tigers’ QB situation remains unclear, which will put pressure on senior Shane Wilkinson and sophomore Matt Costello, who were the top two receivers for the Tigers in receptions and yards last year.
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