Coming off a 9-3 season, a trip to the NCAA postseason playoffs, and its first Patriot League title since 1991, Holy Cross football must now learn about life without quarterback Dominic Randolph. The talented Randolph took career totals of 1,131-of-1,786 passes for 13,455 yards and 117 touchdowns, to preseason with the New York Giants, leaving behind a gaping hole. HC senior Ryan Taggart is heir apparent following a preseason camp battle with juniors Mark Tolzien, and Kevin Watson.
“One way or another we know that each of the three is going to be involved in the offense very significantly in one way or another,” said HC head coach Tom Gilmore. “They’re all unique ... I’m not sure we’ll be rotating them in, or anything like that. At least, that’s not the plan, right now. But, we have a lot of confidence that if something happened to one we have two others that we could go with.”
So as the season opens Saturday at Fitton Field against Howard, here are a handful of questions facing the Crusaders:
1. How will Holy Cross make up for the graduation loss of Dominic Randolph?
For the moment, senior Ryan Taggart , who is 2-for-2 for 3 yards in his career, is No.1. Juniors Mark Tolzien, and Kevin Watson, neither of whom has thrown a pass in competition, wait in the wings.
“In a way, we’re trying to tell ourselves this is a good situation because we have three guys that are going and competing consistently at a high level every day,” Gilmore said.
“All three have unique styles and different physical abilities,” Gilmore said during camp. “So, the unsettling part for me is depending upon who the starter is, our offense is going to be a little bit different, not only different from last year but different depending upon which starter it is.”
2. After winning the Patriot League and advancing to the NCAA playoffs last season can HC again reach the postseason?
“What we did last year creates a lot of confidence,” said Walpole senior wideout Luke Chmielinski (63 catches, 4 TDs). “We’re going into this season with high hopes and ready to defend our championship. ... We feel like we have enough fuel in the engine to defend the title and that’s our biggest goal.”
Gilmore said his players have shown a good mindset.
“You always worry about being the fat cat, too, and I don’t get that sense,” Gilmore said. “We’ve had good practices. I think these guys have put last year on the shelf. These guys have set high goals for themselves as a team and as individuals and they’re really focused on obtaining those goals, achieving those goals and that’s the most important thing. What happend last year might have given them an inner confidence, a little swagger, but I don’t see it as being a negative thing.”
Photo by Ted Fitzgerald
3. Senior end Mude Ohimor of Stoughton, finds himself as the Vince Wilfork[stats] of the HC three-man defensive front. Is Ohimor up for the challenge?
The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Ohimor is chomping at the bit and eager to prove prognosticators, who have picked HC fourth in preseason Patriot League polls, wrong.
“Once you lose a player like Dominic Randolph, a lot of the coaches, I guess, figure that once you take away a piece that was that large a piece of the puzzle, that it might crumble. But, obviously, we’re working hard right now to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have a lot of pieces of the puzzle still in place,” said Ohimor, who finished with 34 tackles, 7 sacks a year ago.
4. Can a deep receiving corps, including Luke Chmielinski, Freddie Santana, Bill Edger and Rob Koster, come through without Dominic Randolph at the controls?
“It’s definitely a change,” Chmielinski said. “When I came in freshman year I was nervous and I’m sure every other wideout was nervous playing with Dom, because even in his sophomore year he was starting. He was like the main man on campus. Then, finally, after playing with him for three years, this will be my first year without him. It’s different. ... We have to help out the new quarterbacks and find a new strategy or a better way.”
5. Will the kicking game be strong behind punter Don Lemieux and placekicker Rob Dornfried?
Dornfried (7-of-9 FGs, 40-of-41 PATs), was First Team All-Patriot placekicker. Gardner’s Lemieux was Second Team All-Patriot punter (25-for-960 yards, 38.4 ypp).
“This year we have a lot of guys in camp that are all capable of doing great things,” Lemieux said. “It’s been a great competition out there. When you look at the flags, they’re blowing one way. When you’re standing on the field, they’re blowing another. When you’re standing on the sideines, it’s blowing another. So, you kind of can’t pay attention to it because it gets in your head and that’s one more thing to think about,” said Lemieux about kicking at Fitton Field.
While Randolph is gone and can't be replaced, this year's team will highlight the TEAM, the TALENT, and the DEPTH Coach Gilmore and staff have stockpiled over the last few years.
Bring on Howard...!!
Kevin Doyle '11