2007 Season Preview

Team

2006 Season Recap

The 2006 Amherst College football team recorded its tenth consecutive winning season under the tutelage of head coach E.J. Mills. With a 5-3 record for the second straight season, Amherst finished ranked No. 8 in the New England Division III Football Poll, up one spot from 2005. Amherst once again ranked among the nation’s leaders for Division III in a number of statistical categories. The Lord Jeffs finished the season tied for first among DIII schools in the nation in fewest fumbles lost (2) and tied for third in fewest turnovers lost (10) and eleventh in the nation in scoring defense (11.3 ppg). Characteristic of a Mills team, Amherst excelled on the defensive side of the ball, leading the NESCAC in turnover margin (+7) and red-zone defense. The Jeffs also topped the conference in kickoff returns (19.8 yds/att) and punt return average (11.7 yds/att). The Amherst offense was also ranked in the top three in the conference in red zone offense (80.0%), scoring offense (18.2 ppg), passing offense (193.4 ypg), total offense (312.4 ypg), pass efficiency (114.6), first downs (133) and fourth-down conversions (41.7%).

Amherst opened the 2006 season 2-0, with a dominating 31-6 win over visiting conference foe Bates on a cold and rainy day at Pratt Field, before traveling to Maine the following weekend for a 20-7 drubbing of Bowdoin. On the road in week three, Amherst fell to Middlebury 7-3, in a defensive grind. The game saw neither team run for 100 yards or register 225 yards in total offense. The Jeffs bounced back with a three-game winning streak, kicked off with a 38-3 pounding of Colby. Thirty-eight points was the highest single-game output for the Amherst offense on the year, which saw senior quarterback Nick Kehoe post career numbers. The gunslinger passed for 330 yards on 21-of-31 passing for three touchdowns. Amherst maintained its winning ways with a 23-0 shutout of Wesleyan on the road, and a 24-6 defeat of Tufts at home on Family Weekend. Through six games, Amherst sat at 5-1 and boasted a defense which had surrendered just 4.83 points-per-game. The Jeffs unfortunately could not escape a loss at the hands of perennial powerhouse Trinity College in week seven to set up a NESCAC title game on Homecoming Weekend against undefeated Williams. In the “Biggest Little Game in America,” Amherst fell to Williams 37-7 to finish the season at 5-3.

Amherst placed a handful of players onto the season-end All-NESCAC Teams and also had players named Offensive Player, Defensive Player and Rookie of the Week during the 2006 campaign.

Nesmith

Key Losses

Amherst says goodbye to 14 seniors who graduated from Amherst last May. Leading the very strong Class of 2007 was a core of senior quad-captains. The Jeffs lose a pair of captains on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Nick Kehoe and wide-out Mark Hannon on offense and defensive lineman Brendan McKee and safety Mike Salerno on defense. Amherst’s offense will have a new face behind center for the first time since the 2004 season with the strong-armed Kehoe leaving large shoes to fill. In two seasons as the starter, Kehoe led Amherst to 10 wins while earning accolades from around the league, including a second-team All-NESCAC tag in 2006 and an Offensive Player of the Week honor for the week of Oct. 14. Hannon will be missed in many different areas, as he was a First-Team All-NESCAC selection at wide receiver and as a return specialist. Hannon was named to Don Hansen’s Football Gazette Third Team All East squad and was an ECAC Division III Northeast All Star. Defensively, McKee and Salerno set the tone for the top Amherst stoppers, as both finished in the NESCAC ranks for tackles. McKee, a First-Team All-NESCAC honoree, was also named to Don Hansen’s Football Gazette Third Team All East side for his 3.5 sacks and 46 tackles in 2006. Salerno finished tied for the NESCAC lead in fumble recoveries with three, and 10th in tackles with 57.

Graduating alongside the quad-captains on the offensive side of the ball were three linemen: Ryan Smith, Matt Mascioli and Nate Riccardi. Smith was a d3football.com preseason Second-Team All-American who led by example on the field and in the classroom, where he was a NESCAC All-Academic honoree. Mascioli was named to Second-Team All-NESCAC, while Riccardi joined Smith on the All-Academic squad. The Jeffs offense also loses a pair of skill position players in running back Will Beeson and wide out Justin Macione.

On defense, Amherst graduated a pair of outside linebackers in Dakota Jones and Idris McClain. Jones finished 15th in the NESCAC in total tackles-per-game (6.8), while McClain provided valuable experience off the bench. Also departing from the defense is inside linebacker Greg Muecke, who chipped in with 27 tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. The Jeffs also wave goodbye to kicker Mike Quirk, the only senior departing from the special teams.

Scola
Offense

Amherst enters the 2007 season with a pair of senior tri-captains leading a young but talented offensive squad which hopes to improve on a 5-3 season from last year. Tri-captains Chris Gillyard and Dan Guariglia will set the tone for the Jeffs, providing heart and leadership at their fullback and offensive-line positions. Gillyard will pave the way for Amherst’s one-two punch of feature backs highlighting junior Eric NeSmith and sophomore Aaron Rauh. NeSmith finished fifth in the NESCAC in rushing (58.0 ypg) in 2006, while Rauh was named the NESCAC Rookie of the Week on his way to 48.8 yards-per-game. Junior Anthony Fuller will back up Rauh and NeSmith in the halfback rotation as well.

Handing the ball off for the Jeffs heading into this season will be sophomore Lucas Loeffler, who saw time last season as the back-up quarterback. Loeffler showed serious promise in his first season at Amherst, with a strong arm and great athleticism. The second-year quarterback leads a wide-open group of four returning players and six first-years at the position. Joining Loeffler are sophomore Vincent DiForte and senior George Read, while sophomore M.J. Fandl moves back to quarterback after a year on defense.

Whoever emerges from the pack as the starter at quarterback will have a number of very talented targets to choose from. Senior Mike Myers returns, after missing the last two weeks of the 2006 season with an injury, to lead juniors Jim Eckenrode and Taylor Brown as wide receiver. Rising sophomores Brandon Bullock and Will Lawton will provide depth at wide out along with a group of five first-years. At tight end, senior Matt Dunleavy tops the depth chart with junior Jay Hebb, sophomore Dan Savage and first-year Reggie Fugett. Fugett is the son of Jean Fugett ’72, one of five Amherst graduates to play in the NFL.

Up front for the Jeffs, senior tri-captain Dan Guariglia leads a talented core of offensive linemen. The four-year starter is joined by junior center Justin Wiley, junior guard Tim Rose and junior Sam Rudman, who returns to right tackle after ACL surgery. Also in the mix are senior Bobby DiGiovine and sophomores Ryan Bone and Wyatt Moss.
Eberhart

Defense

Amherst returns eight starters on the defensive side of the ball from last year’s team, lead by tri-captain Rob Grammer, who is the top defensive back returning from last year’s squad, with six pass break-ups and two interceptions. The senior leader of the secondary is joined by classmate Chris Mottau (4 INTs) and junior A.J. Scola (2 INTs) to form a solid pass defense. The Jeffs lost DB Mike Goldsticker to a torn meniscus during preseason; pending surgery will keep him out for the year.

Amherst brings back both starting inside linebackers from 2006, in Mike Flanagan and Nick Boehm. Flanagan racked up 35 tackles in 2006, including 3.0 sacks and two pass break-ups. Boehm pairs with him at backer, bringing to the table his 25 tackles and a single sack from 2006. They will be backed by junior Preston Puryear sophomore Mike Taylor, who paired for 54 tackles last season, including 2.0 tackles-for-loss by Puryear and an interception by Taylor. In the mix at rock for Amherst are Guy Matisis, Jack Ewen and the returning Jake Spadafora.

Stopping the run and trying to get behind the line of scrimmage at defensive line are returnees Jon Attridge, Greg Smith, M.J. Smith, Mike Meola, Edwin Urey and Eric Pender. Attridge and Greg Smith lead the pack of experienced defensive linemen, as the pair combined for 47 tackles, including 3.5 sacks in 2006.

Special Teams

Sophomore kicker Matt Eberhart and senior punter Keith Erzinger will provide a top one-two punch for Amherst’s special teams game in 2007. Eberhart finished last season second in the NESCAC in PAT kicking (94.1%) and tied for third in field goals (7) and fourth in kicker scoring (37 pts.). Erzinger split time in the punting game last season and will look to provide leadership as a senior this year.

2007 Schedule

Amherst opens its eight-game slate on Sept. 22 at Bates College. The Jeffs hope to repeat on last year’s 31-6 win in the season opener before heading home for back-to-back games against Bowdoin and Middlebury. The Jeffs will alternate home and away games from week four on, including Homecoming on Oct. 20 and the 122nd meeting of the “Biggest Little Game in America” at Williams on Nov. 10.
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