July 15, 2009

2009 Season Preview

Some coaches like to look at an upcoming season from a positive, the glass is half-full, perspective, while others take the opposite the glass is half-empty view. For coach Danny Hale, the positive viewpoint is always the preferred way.

As Hale and the Huskies approach the start of another season, BU's head coach can see that a lot of important personnel from last year have left. But rather than dwell on the negative, Hale looks to what he does have returning this fall.

"We have a lot of returning starters, some in their fourth year, so expectations are high for us," said Hale who led the Huskies to an 11-2 record last season and a berth in the NCAA playoffs. "I believe we have a good nucleus of players back and that we can make another run at a PSAC East title and maybe beyond that to the NCAA playoffs. Anything less would be disappointing."

OFFENSE

A coach and team is sometimes only as good as the player taking the snaps under center. For Bloomsburg one of the best to ever wear the uniform at that position is Dan Latorre, now in his fourth year as the starter. Latorre, who graduated as a triple major in the spring and is now in grad school, can beat you with either his arm or legs. "Look for Latorre to be even more of an on-field leader this year," said Hale. "He is more relaxed and is really looking forward to this season. As a tri-captain, he leads us on and off the field."

QUARTERBACK

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Dan Latorre

Latorre took 19 credits last fall in the classroom and did not get as much practice time as he would have liked due to class conflicts. With a lighter load this semester, a more relaxed Latorre will be an even more dangerous threat. Latorre, who was named first team All-PSAC East last year, heads into the 2009 season third all-time in school history in both yards passing and touchdowns and is the all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback. Backing up Latorre will be sophomore Mike Wagner, transfer Pat Carey and freshman Clark Morris.

RUNNING BACK

The Huskies are deep and talented at both tailback and fullback. At the tailback spot is PSAC East Rookie of the Year Derrick Price with Kenny Domzalski, a second team All-PSAC East selection, joining him. The duo combined for over 2,000 yards rushing a year ago and is the best 1-2 punch in the conference. Behind them are Marc Best and James Sweeting III, two very capable backups that give Bloomsburg incredible depth at the position. At fullback, Stefan Adams had a great spring and, as one of the tri-captains, has shown great leadership in the spring. Adams can also be a threat to carry the ball and has shown he has the speed to break off a long run. Matt Cox will be the backup.

WIDE RECEIVER

An area of concern for the Huskies after the graduation of leading receiver Kyle Ream and his 47 receptions, but look for Jordan Weisman and Cory Stiger to have break out years. In addition, Tyler Guise and Brandon Wright have both been working hard and are ready to contribute for the Huskies. Along with that group Keter Crosby and Matt Marchioni are making progress, while Chris Tressler and Christian Boyer are trying to battle back from injuries.

TIGHT END

Over the years the tight ends for the Huskies have played a vital role in the offensive success of the team. That will not change in 2009 as Ben Weaber and Dylan Manni have proved to be very valuable members of the unit. Weaber caught 11 passes, despite missing time with an injury, while Manni has gotten better with each game. Joining the pair as backups are Luke Nagy and Mark Daniels.

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Justin Walker

OFFENSIVE LINE

One of the strengths of the Huskies year in and year out is the O-line, and despite losing some key players to graduation, the outlook is bright for this group of players. Matt Truscott and Daryl Kurtz will get the nod at the tackles with Justin Walker and Pat Casey starting at guard. Tyler Azzalina takes over at center and is coming off a solid spring season. Alex Buchert will backup Azzalina at center, while Brian Clarke, Mike Finnerty, Marc Francola and Courtney Kimp will provide depth on the line.

DEFENSE

Last year the Huskies defense proved itself to be a very solid group posting two shutouts, while in two other games they held opponents to just one touchdown. The 2009 group is also very talented with players who can execute the team's game plan.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Alphonso Nathan and Justin Presley will be the rush ends putting pressure on the opposing team's quarterback with Marcus Zimmerman and Todd Givler and Dave Huot providing the inside push. Among the other players in the rotation on the end will be Dave Onorato and Josh Chromiak, while inside Kenny Orlando will also see time. Adding depth to the group is Mike Schlauch, Shaun Moore and Tyree Dudley.

LINEBACKER

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Mike Varanavage

Another area historically strong for the Huskies is linebacker and 2009 will be no exception. On the outside Mike Varanavage, who played for the BU men's basketball team last winter, and Thomas McFarland will get the starting nod. Both players are very athletic and keep getting better. In the middle Anthony Smith saw a lot of time last year and is ready to move into the starting role. Backing up Smith in the middle will be Jarrett Pidgeon, while Ryan Feldman, Pat Michael and Sean Clift will provide depth on the outside.

DEFENSIVE SECONDARY

On the defensive side of the ball this is the most experienced area for the Huskies. As a group they are quick to the ball, hit hard and made 12 interceptions a year ago. Leading the group is tri-captain Jesse Cooper who will be a four-year starter. A pre-season All-American, Cooper, a cornerback, is one of the most exciting players in all of Division II and has the ability to score any time he touches the ball. Joining Cooper on the corner will be Oscar Rivera, while Mark Scattene, Vince Browning and Andrew Flogel provide depth. The safeties will be returning starters Alex Landis and Domenique Price with Dan Oliver, who was in the rotation a year ago, backing up. Nick Ciccone and Justin Rivera will also see time at the position.

SPECIAL TEAMS

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Jesse Cooper

Jon Koenig, a first team All-PSAC East selection, returns as the team's placekicker. Koenig is the school's all-time career leader in extra points and also saw duty last year as the team's punter. Mark Keeley will be the snapper for the third year. Handling all punt and kick returns will be Jesse Cooper. A year ago Cooper led the PSAC and was ranked in the top 10 nationally in kickoff return average.

OVERALL

"I am definitely pleased with how the spring practices went for us and how that will carry over with us to the fall," said Hale. "We have a good group of kids with good attitudes. Barring injury I feel we have the talent to win the PSAC East title and earn a spot in the NCAA playoffs."

"Of course to win a PSAC East title we'll need to beat some very talented teams," Hale continued. "The entire division is tough and there are no easy games for us. Overall, we have a brutal schedule with games against nationally-ranked Ashland and California (on the road) to open the season followed by road games at Mercyhurst and Kutztown. We also have a road game at West Chester so the schedule makers have not done us any favors."

Bloomsburg will open at home on Thursday, Aug. 27 against Ashland, the first night game in the newly renovated Redman Stadium.