Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Experienced Hoyas Look to Take Next Step in 2009

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Junior slotback Keerome Lawrence will add versatility to the Georgetown offense.

As summer comes to a close and the Hilltop welcomes back its residents, a group of Hoyas is already in the midst of preparing for its fall schedule.

The Georgetown football team returns to action on Sept. 5 against Holy Cross, which sits atop the 2009 Patriot League Football Preseason Poll. The Hoyas, despite being predicted to finish last in the seven-team league, are setting their expectations much higher, as they will enter this year with a much more experienced team. Last season, the Georgetown roster included 13 seniors and 32 freshmen. In 2009, the Hoyas will carry 22 seniors and bring in 27 freshmen. The Blue and Gray will also return 19 starters, the most of any team in the Patriot League, making for a more battle-tested unit with significant game experience.

On both sides of the ball, more experience usually leads to fewer penalties, which is good news for the already-disciplined Hoyas. In 2008, Georgetown recorded eleven fewer penalties and 158 fewer penalty yards than its opponents.

“It’s something that we work on, and if we get the little things right, then the big things will come,” senior center and captain Dan Matheny said. “A lot of guys have taken a lot of snaps, so it’s a nice change [this year].”

It is especially nice for the Georgetown staff, led by Head Coach Kevin Kelly, who is entering his fourth season at the helm; hence, the class of 2010 is the first senior class that Kelly recruited.

“It’s a pleasure to coach them,” he said. “The senior leadership is excellent. They’ve been running the team and setting the tone and you can see it in practice.”

As for the newest members of the squad, they seem to be fitting in well without many issues.

“They complement the team,” Kelly said of his 27 freshmen, who hail from 15 different states.

Although the Hoyas have only won a combined three games the over the last two seasons, this year’s unit believes that 2009 will be much different.

“The expectations are way higher,” junior linebacker and captain Nick Parrish said. “Everyone has their hands up, ready to go. This is the most cohesive unit we’ve had. Everyone’s hungry.”

Parrish led the team last year with two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns. He also had two sacks and led the team with 73 total tackles, nine of which were behind the line of scrimmage.

Parrish will lead a defensive unit that includes senior safety Travis Mack, a preseason all-Patriot League pick who racked up 69 tackles in 2008, senior safety and captain Chris Rau, who excels at bringing down ball carriers in the open field, and senior defensive end and captain Chudi Obianwu, who last year tallied five tackles for a loss and two sacks. Also look for sophomore cornerback Jayah Kaisamba (one blocked kick, seven pass deflections) and junior defensive lineman George Cullen (five tackles for a loss) to contribute to a unit looking to wreak havoc.

“We’re being really aggressive in the backfield and across the board forcing [opponents] into something unpredictable,” Parrish said.

The Georgetown defense forced 19 turnovers last year and recorded 18 sacks, while the Hoya offensive line allowed just 13 sacks on Georgetown quarterbacks.

“That’s one of our goals, to allow less than one sack per game,” Matheny, who heads the list of five returning O-line starters, said. “We have a lot of weapons, so the offense will vary from week to week.”

The offense returns eight starters, including senior running back Charlie Houghton, who was limited to just three games last season because of an injury. He led the team in rushing two years ago, however, with 458 yards on 109 carries. He’ll be joined by Philip Oladeji, a junior running back who had the Hoyas’ only 100-yard rushing game last year in a win against Marist and who averaged an outstanding six yards per carry.

“They’re two excellent running backs,” Kelly said.

Houghton and Oladeji are just two pieces in a large set of very good skill players, which is led by junior slot-receiver and former quarterback Keerome Lawrence, who threw for 481 yards, rushed for 517 yards and racked up six total touchdowns.

With the running skills of Houghton, Oladeji and Lawrence, as well as a battle-tested offensive line, expect the Hoyas to focus their offensive attack on the ground rather than through the air, as most of last year’s receiving leaders have graduated.

That doesn’t mean the Hoya air attack has completely vaporized. Sophomore quarterback James Brady returns looking to improve on a season in which he threw for 690 yards and three touchdowns while sharing offensive snaps with Lawrence.

“There was a decent balance in the first scrimmage, so we’ll see,” Matheny said.

While executing an offensive game plan and forcing three-and-outs are important, team chemistry is an integral part to any team’s success or failure. For the Hoyas, cohesiveness on and off the field is the best it’s ever been under Kelly.

“It’s been terrific, the best in my four years,” Kelly said. “There have been very few issues, especially under the senior leadership.”

As a grueling offseason comes to a close, Matheny hopes that the pieces are in place for the Hoyas to rise above the expectations that many have set for them.

“The coaches are extremely happy,” he said. “We’re a lot better than in the past. The intensity is way up.”

Although all signs point to Georgetown eclipsing its win total from a year ago, a difficult schedule will be an obstacle for a team that has taken its lumps over the past two seasons. Still, the suddenly experienced Hoyas have a chance to become a factor in the Patriot League.

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