Football Adjusts to New Roster, New Schedule

With a summer of off-season workouts and training camp over, the Hawks are finally back on the football field for the start of the 2013 season. However, this season will have a different feel and look to the schedule.

The Hawks are no longer a member of the Northeast Con­ference (NEC) for the first time since 1996. They declared their independence before resum­ing conference play in 2014 as a member of the Big South Con­ference.

Even though the players will have to adjustment to new op­ponents, no one will have a more difficult transition than Head Coach Kevin Callahan.

Entering his 21st season as head coach of the Hawks, Cal­lahan and his team will swap their Wagner and Robert Morris rivalry to those such as Coastal Carolina and Liberty.

“The program, since 1993, has come a long way since Eastern Massachusetts and Stonehill College and I think what we’ve seen over the first 20 years is steady growth and periods of growth,” Callahan said.

Familiar Hawks such as four year quarterback Kyle Frazier have departed due to graduation, so the Hawks will have a different look in terms of players. After none of the four potential quarterbacks took hold of the vacancy as the new signal-caller, the job was seized by Brandon Hill, a transfer QB from University of Massachusetts.

“There was no clear-cut winner, no clear-cut leader at the position,” Calla­han said of his quarterback vacany in the spring. “I think the four guys that were with us this spring all worked extremely hard and they all improved, they all got better. When Brandon [Hill] transferred in, that added a fifth guy to the competition as we went into the preseason period, but I think what ultimately made him become the number-one guy was the fact that he performed more consistently than the other guys in the position did.”

Hill’s addition made such an im­pact with the Hawks that he was named one of the team’s captains during the offseason.

Defensively, the Hawks added an­other transfer in senior cornerback, Tevrin Brandon, from the Univer­sity of Connecticut.

“I think on defense, Tevrin [Bran­don] is a dynamic cover corner. I think he showed that last Thursday night [Monmouth’s season opener at Montana State]. I think he got his hands on four balls with four pass breakups. He’s going to give us a very reliable corner and cover guy in the secondary,” Callahan said.

Even though the Hawks return a lot of talent on offensive side of the ball with junior receiver Eric Sumlin, junior running back Julian Hayes, senior running back Kwa­bena Asante, senior receiver Lamar Davenport and fifth-year senior tight end Mike McLafferty, the Hawks are fortunate to have a healthy go-to guy in senior receiver, Neal Sterling, who was sidelined by an ankle in­jury last season that required offsea­son surgery.

As a first-year starter two seasons ago, Sterling was a finalist for the Jer­ry Rice Award, given to the nation’s top freshmen, after hauling 57 recep­tions for 677 yards and five scores.

Despite being slowed by an ankle injury in 2012, he still managed to grab 33 passes for 386 yards and 5 touchdowns.

“He was kind of hampered all sea­son long by an ankle injury. It was an ankle injury that occurred the first day of practice in the preseason and he just never really was 100 per­cent after that,” Callahan said. “Af­ter having a small surgical proce­dure in the spring, he looks as good as ever now. He hasn’t lost anything in terms of his speed. As a matter of fact, I think he might be a little faster right now.”

Sterling said, “A lot of people have doubted me after last season getting hurt and I feel like a lot of people have forgotten my abilities and po­tential and what I’ve done on the field before.”

He also talked playing with a chip on his shoulder and said he feels like he is the same player from his break­out season two years ago. In his view, he is close to being completely healthy and healed from his ankle injury.

This season, the Hawks will be playing an independent schedule and one that is very challenging. The Hawks opened the season on the road against No. 2 Mon­tana State, who most polls have ranking in the top five of the FCS (Division 1-AA). Against a tough opponent, the Hawks fell to the Bobcats, 42-24 for their first game. They continued their los­ing streak as they lost to Liberty University, 45-15. As of now, they currently stand at 0-2 with their next opponent being Lehigh Uni­versity.

The schedule features oppo­nents from the Big Sky confer­ence, Patriot League, Ivy League, Big South, and the NEC confer­ence as well as eight games on the road.

“Every game is a game that we have to win to get that at-large bid,” said Pat O’Hara, senior de­fensive lineman and co-captain of the Hawks. O’Hara also men­tioned that playing on the road brings the team closer together.

Co-Captain Elijah Phillips, senior defensive back who has recently transitioned into one of MU’s wide receivers also said that he personally likes away games.

Phillips also said, “I feel like it’s our team versus the world. We have nobody to depend on but the people that we practice with ev­ery day, the people that we’re in the meetings with every day.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Willis Glaskow