Bears in the Air
It'll be bombs away in Providence (CREDIT: Brown Athletics)
Think Columbia threw the ball a lot last year? Well, Brown threw it more and it looks like it will do the same thing again this season. And why not? All that passing led to Brown averaging 31 points per game last season, best in the league.
Of course, the Brown people point to the return of running back Derek Knight, who missed just about all of last season after an injury. They say he'll lead a more balanced attack in 2008. I don't believe it. Knight had one good game against overmatched Duquesne, and I don't think he'll be getting more than 15 carries a game.
No, Phil Estes is going back to his pre-Nick Hartigan roots and will use his assets that include the Ivies best QB in Michael Dougherty, a super wide receiver in Buddy Farnham, a top tight end in Colin Cloherty, and a all-around lethal weapon in flanker Bobby Sewall.
The offensive line lost some key starters, but still has some experience because Estes started so many different players on the line last season. I expect the Bears to focus on pass blocking, and thus lighten the load for the realtively younger players on the line. The Bears did such a good job at pass blocking last year that Dougherty often just stood still and looked for targets. We'll see him do that a number of times this season as well. The teams that pressure Dougherty effectively will be able to beat Brown. The ones that don't are in trouble.
So what else is new? Brown is another team with no real strength on the defensive line. Brown was sixth in rush defense, giving up more than 180 yards on the ground per game. But the news isn't all bad. They do have three starters returning, including second team All-Ivy James Develin. And the Bears were second in the league in sacks last year.
But the real strength in the Brown defense is at linebacker. John May, Steve Ziogas and Frank Nuzzo are all top notch players. May and Nuzzo were All-Ivy. None of them are as good as former Brown linebacker Zak DeOssie, but together they make a formidable group.
The secondary poses more questions with the loss of talented defensive backs Matt Mullenax and Jose Yearwood. Darrell Harrison is back and he will be the leader against the pass. Brown is hoping the returning Nkosi Still, who missed 2007, will give Harrison some help. But this group is one of the most suspect defensive backfields in the Ivies; look for opposing teams to go to air against them almost as much as the Bears do on the other side of the ball.
One of the best kickers in Ivy League history is Steve Morgan... and he's gone to graduation. That leaves Brown with huge holes to fill at both kicker and punter. I don't think this will be a disaster scenario for the Bears as Estes has pretty much always recruited solid kickers, but it's hard to believe it will an area of strength in 2008.
On returns, Farnham did a pretty good job as a punt returner last season but will he get the job again this season when he means so much more to the offense? The good news is there is a lot of team speed, and someone is likely to step up.
Brown won't sneak up on anyone this year as everyone knows to expect a varied passing attack. The Bears are riding some good momentum after winning three of their last four games in 2007. As usual, a huge amount rides on the Harvard game in week 2. Brown hasn't defeated the Crimson since 1999.
Jake's Overall Take
Brown games are going to be exciting this season, because the Bears will pass the ball like crazy, and so will most of their opponents. Brown will win most of the shootouts, but the teams that can control the line of scrimmage and the clock like Harvard and Yale, will be able to muscle Estes' boys aside. There's always a chance the Bear defense will make some strides, but there's too much inexperience there to really think Brown will win the title.