Middlebury will hope to maintain its offensive prowess in '10, after leading the league a year ago in total offense (450.5 yards/game) and scoring offense (29.9 points/game). The Panthers got off to a rough start last season, closing the year with four straight victories to finish with a 5-3 mark overall. Ten starters were lost to graduation, including the school's fourth all-time leading tackler Eric Kamback, who led the league a year ago with 103 stops. Other key losses included Erik Rostad (444 yards total offense, 12 touchdowns), three-time All-NESCAC specialist James Millard (3,333 career all-purpose yards), and All-NESCAC offensive lineman Paul Bennett.
"This is the most competition we have at several positions in a long time," said head coach Bob Ritter, who is now in his 10th season at the helm. "I hope this will continue to raise our level of competition and we can hit the ground running as the season begins."
NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year Donald McKillop returns for his senior season to lead a passing offense that ranked third in the nation a year ago. McKillop led the league in attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdowns and pass efficiency a year ago. His top two targets were lost to graduation, with tight end David Reed and receiver Matt Rayner leading the returners. Aside from McKillop's yards on the ground, just 78 of the team's 616 rushing yards return from a year ago, with a host of young players vying for carries.
Defensively, the Panthers boasted the NESCAC's third-best passing defense (208.1 yards/game) in '09. Middlebury was in the middle of the pack in scoring defense and will have some key holes to fill this season.
"We have a very large and experienced senior class who knows how to win," added Ritter. "I'm looking to build on our solid finish last season and get off to a great start in '10."
Middlebury opens its eight-game NESCAC schedule on September 25 at home vs. Wesleyan. The Panthers will also host Amherst, Bates and Tufts, while visiting Colby, Williams, Trinity and Hamilton.
McKillop returns as the team's starter for the fourth straight season owning 13 of the school's 14 all-time passing records entering his final year. A year ago, the co-captain went 262-405 (.647) for 2,873 yards with 22 touchdown passes and a league-leading 136.77 efficiency rating. He led the nation with 32.8 completions/game last year, while ranking second with 359 passing yards/game.
Backing up McKillop will be senior Jack Kramer, who filled in admirably for McKillop in the final two games of the '08 season with a pair of wins.
Several players will look for carries this season, after Rostad carried the majority of the load a year ago. Junior Phillip Cutler (9 rushes, 37 yards) and sophomore Remi Ashkar (3 rushes, 13 yards) will compete for a starting role. Senior Andrew Plumley (14 rushes, 32 yards), will also challenge for the spot after missing several games a year ago.
Junior Matt Rayner (35 rec., 331 yards) started at times last season and returns with the most experience in the group. He averaged 9.5 yards/catch last season, scoring five touchdowns. Junior Alex Englert (11 rec., 111 yards, TD) and sophomore Zach Driscoll (8 rec., 78 yards, TD) both saw quality time at wide-out a year ago and will compete for a starting role.
Senior tight end David Reed (40 rec., 450 yards, TD) returns at tight end after an All-NESCAC season a year ago. He had two 100+ yard games a year ago and returns as the team's leader in receptions.
Three members with quality game experience return from a year ago to anchor the line. Seniors John Poulson (6-5, 265) and Sam White (6-3, 280) return as the leaders, with quality support from junior Ken LeStrange (6-4, 270). All three players started at tackle at some point last season and will be expected to be in starting roles in '10.
A good group of experienced players return to anchor Middlebury's defensive line. Senior Paul Carroll (26 tackles), junior Chris Dola (21 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and sophomore Andrew Ackerman (8 tackles) all return with quality game experience and will compete for time at defensive end.
Sophomore Keegan Ashley (20 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) and senior Carl Culicchia (26 tackles, 4.5 TFL) put up some big numbers at defensive tackle last season and will return in starting roles. Junior Patrick Downey (four tackles, 2 TFL) is also expected to be in the mix after a solid sophomore season.
Seniors Andrew Durfee (46 tackles, 3.5 TFL) and Andrew Poulin (57 tackles, 10 TFL, 2 sacks) are back as starting linebackers to lead the group. Poulin is the team's leading returning tackler from '09, while Durfee was fourth on the squad in stops a year ago.
Juniors Matthew Cawley (3 tackles) and Zach Roeder (11 tackles) both saw action at linebacker last season and are expected to compete for starting jobs.
Senior co-captain Connor Green (48 tackles, 3 INT, 4 PBU's) will lead the corners after a big season a year ago. His three interceptions were second on the team, while he ended the year third in tackles. Seniors Charlie Taft (19 tackles, 2 INT) and Alex Kennedy (16 tackles, 2 INT – '08) both have seen quality time at corner and will battle for a starting job this season.
Junior Michael Bilodeau (45 tackles, INT) returns as the team's most experienced safety, finishing fifth on the squad a year ago in tackles. Juniors Patrick Pembroke (6 tackles) and Murphy McCurdy are expected to see quality action in '10.
Senior Anthony Kuchan returns as the team's kicker, after earning All-NESCAC honors a year ago. Kuchan made 30 of 31 extra points last season, connecting on three of five field goal attempts. He is also expected to return as the team's starting punter after averaging 30.2 yards/boot a year ago with 11 boots inside the 20.