Patriot League spring outlook


STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - The Patriot League is seeking a bounce-back season, and it probably will get one with a competitive title race.

Colgate was the only team to finish with a winning record last year, and none of the teams had one going into November. With the most returning starters in the league, the Raiders are the team to beat in 2018.

Two of the seven teams, Fordham and Holy Cross, have new coaches just one year after Lafayette made a change.

Following is a look across the Patriot League with spring practices underway in college football:



HEAD COACH: Joe Susan (37-51, eight seasons; 47-51 overall)

2017 RECORDS: 5-6, 2-4 Patriot (6th)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 23-April 22

WHAT TO KNOW: While Bucknell always has one of the league's better defenses, there's a lot to replace with the losses of leading tacklers Ben Richard and Mark Pyles and All-America defensive tackle Abdullah Anderson. Still, the Bison's excellent defensive package is expected to foster success for the emerging players. The offense, which returns seven starters, is installing new packages to try to improve its production. Quarterback John Chiarolanzio and running back Chad Fresnock both enter their junior seasons. Senior Alex Pechin is one of the nation's top punters.



HEAD COACH: Dan Hunt (26-21, four seasons)

2017 RECORDS: 7-4, 5-1 Patriot (Tie/1st)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 20-April 21

WHAT TO KNOW: After tying for the league title last year, the Raiders are the favorites as they return nine starters on each side of the ball. Championship-level ingredients are there with the run game (the offensive line and running backs James Holland Jr. and Alex Mathews) and the defense. T.J. Holt, who was starring when he was lost in the fourth game, is a difference-maker at linebacker, as is Nick Wheeler, who led the league in tackles for loss (15 1/2) and sacks (11 1/2). The Raiders have to improve on third downs, both offensively and defensively. As a sophomore, quarterback Grant Breneman will keep growing into a leader.



HEAD COACH: Joe Conlin (first season)

2017 RECORDS: 4-7, 3-3 Patriot (Tie/3rd)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 19-April 28

WHAT TO KNOW: Conlin, who arrives from a Yale staff that led an Ivy League champion last season, has the misfortune of replacing veteran running back Chase Edmonds and quarterback Kevin Anderson. Zach Davis and D'Angelo Palladino, who gained a lot of experience while Edmonds (5,862 career rushing yards) was injured for 4 1/2 games, are ready for larger roles, and Luke Medlock and Austin King will battle to become the starting signal caller. The Rams also are retooling on both lines of scrimmages. While the defense gave up too many points last season, they return three starters in the secondary and sophomore linebacker Glenn Cunningham is a building block.



HEAD COACH: Rob Sgarlata (11-33, four seasons)

2017 RECORDS: 1-10, 0-6 Patriot (7th)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 13-April 20

WHAT TO KNOW: The scholarship-less Hoyas have found it harder to remain competitive after the rest of the league fully went to scholarships in 2013. They return only half of last year's starters (five on offense and six on defense). The silver lining is a number of players, such as Kristian Tate and Wesley Bowers on defense, gained playing time early in their careers. Dual-threat quarterback Gunther Johnson must improve as a passer, but the return of top wide receivers Michael Dereus and Brandon Williams helps.



HEAD COACH: Bob Chesney (first season; 67-25 overall)

2017 RECORDS: 4-7, 3-3 Patriot (Tie/3rd)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 12-April 14

WHAT TO KNOW: Chesney was a head coach on the Division II (Assumption) and III (Salve Regina) levels before making the jump to the FCS. Many positions are up for grabs as the coaching staff implements its new systems. The offense returns only three starters, with quarterback Peter Pujals the biggest loss, while the defense returns six players despite losing leading tackler Nick McBeath. Four of the team's top five receivers are back, led by Blaise Bell and Martin Dorsey. Ryan Brady and Andre Chevalier make linebacker the strength of the defense.



HEAD COACH: John Garrett (3-8, one season)

2017 RECORDS: 3-8, 3-3 Patriot (Tie/3rd)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 20-April 21

WHAT TO KNOW: A 3-8 record may not sound like much for Garrett's first season, but the Leopards started 3-1 in league play to jump into the title picture before they suffered two losses to close the season. Their goal is to advance from being relevant to significant. While they return seven starters on defense, two of the losses are huge - linebacker Brandon Bryant and cornerback Phillip Parham. Their new leader should be senior linebacker Jerry Powe, a potential conference player of the year candidate. The offense was turned over to clutch quarterback Sean O'Malley last season and he should keep getting better as a sophomore. He benefits from the return of offensive lineman Kevin Zataveski, who sat out last season.



HEAD COACH: Andy Coen (82-56, 12 seasons)

2017 RECORDS: 5-7, 5-1 Patriot (Tie/1st)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 23-April 21

WHAT TO KNOW: The Leopards didn't win out of conference, but it didn't prevent them from securing a second straight Patriot League title and automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Their offense has two of the better players at their positions in the FCS in quarterback Brad Mayes and running back Dom Bragalone - both seniors. The overwhelming priority of the spring is to improve on defense after being awful a year ago. Two key defensive backs, team captain Sam McCloskey and Donavon Harris, will be returning from injuries.

Updated March 6, 2018

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