These Were the Hot Guys Through a Bone Chilling Spring
BY JAY GREENBERG
During the coldest spring in memory, the task of underclass Tigers was to warm the coaches to the idea of getting onto the field this fall. With ten All-Ivy players among 18 returning starters, the 12 practices that concluded on Saturday were, this time especially, mostly about developing depth.
But first things first, Princeton needs three new starters on an offensive line that last season produced 1447 rushing yards and allowed only eight sacks for the season. So healthy advances had to be made by the front-runners—tackle Brent Holder, center Alex Deters and guard Andre Guest.
“Mitchell Sweigart was as good a lineman as we have had at Princeton in my thirty-plus years associated with this school,” said Coach Bob Surace. “Nobody is going to step in immediately to fill his shoes but I really thought Holder made strides.
“He is very athletic, has gotten stronger, and is making fewer errors. He is going to be a good football player.
“When Erik (Ramirez) was injured through most of (2017) training camp, Andre was our (starting) right guard. He is already close to Erik’s level. Like Erik was early in his career, Andre is so passionate that he wants to pancake a guy rather than just block him. That leads to calls for holding and other things but Erik grew out of that and I saw Andre this spring starting to mature in that aspect. With (senior-to-be) Stefan Ivanisevic being healthy, that’s a pretty good duo at right guard. I don’t think we are going to miss a beat there.
“Alex and Niko Ivanisevic are going to be a good one-two punch at center to play at a similar level to Dick Bush. And Bush, I thought, was near all-league level. Alex is a very smart player who has very good leverage and will develop more balance with more work. Niko is technically advanced for his age, just needs to get stronger.
“Jack Corso (the projected back-up behind returning starter George Attea) has missed a lot of development time with injury. But, knock on wood, when healthy Jack is a starting-caliber player. Watching him run, he probably is the best athlete we have recruited for the offensive line since I have been here.
“Spring ended about three practices too soon for Niko, Ryan Huth, and David Hoffman, all of whom made good jumps the last couple weeks. We count on our next month of weight room development to be critical to the success of all three. And in the freshman O-Line group that we will be able to talk about in a couple of weeks, there are going to be two or three of them able to push for playing time immediately. They are that good.”
Already more than good were All-Ivy receivers Jesper Horsted, Steven Carlson and Tiger Bech, all of whom return, seemingly leaving not enough footballs for some starting-caliber players developing behind them.
“Jordan Argue was having his best spring before he got injured and missed the last practice, although not with a major thing,” said Surace.
“A year ago Alex Parkinson was playing as well as Carlson and Horsted in training camp, then got hurt and missed the last week and never really found his footing again. He is a huge target who blocks well, catches well, and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. If we can just get him a little more explosive off the line, he has a chance to be in the impact category of the guys who excelled for us last season.
“Andrew Griffin has a lot of the qualities of Connor Kelley (‘15) – a consistent catcher, is physical, and one of the smartest players I have had, both on and off the field. In a year where we are going to need our third, fourth and fifth receivers to do a lot of special teams, I can see Griffin having a nice role.
“Jacob Bermelin is as quick a player as we have had; can be a real weapon for us. On the scout team during the last month of the season and through this spring he continued to make plays. We are going to have to find ways to utilize his skills. Tiger is surprisingly strong for a guy his size (5-9) and Jacob (5-9) is working to get there.
“Graham Adomitis was honorable mention All-Ivy at tight end, recognized for his blocking. But we saw his receiving ability jump in the last six practices. Graham never really had a healthy spring before. He can be an outstanding player.
“So, with some humongous targets and then some quick guys, it will be an interesting group. We are a better offense when we have ten guys touching the ball in a game; it makes us that much harder to defend. Through 10 games, hopefully we will have given all of them opportunities to be successful.”
There is one more receiver, albeit not by position description, that is in the process of creating a further role for himself.
“Through a big gain in the weight room. Ryan Quigley’s running ability has jumped up a notch from really good to a chance at the upper tier,” said Surace. “And he has really jumped as a pass catcher especially.
“Everybody in the NFL seems to have that guy who provides that spark—a good runner who is even better in the passing game. Year in and year out, the Patriots have lived by those guys. That’s where Ryan really has come on.”
HE’S THROWING THEM SOME COMPLIMENTS DEPT:
The Tigers never have been deeper in smart guys, flawlessly hand-signaling in the plays from the sideline, and oh yes, they can throw the ball and run with it, too. Further discussion of the quarterbacks on this site will have to wait until all are enrolled in the fall. But for now, be assured that the ones participating this spring will be able to do the job if/when called upon. As they compete to be QB1 someday, there are backups for even the backups.
“Kevin Davidson has always been able to throw the football, but we see his comfort level rising in pointing out protections, reading defenses, and making decisions quicker,” said Surace. “He is certainly by no means a finished product, but it is in two minute drills that you see a quarterback making progress. Similar to Johnny Lovett and Chad Kanoff (in 2016), you see the light coming on.
“Our culture at that position is as good as it can be. It started with Quinn Epperly, Connor Michelsen and Keddy Bostic and continued through Johnny Lovett and Chad. Now it’s Kevin, Zach Keller, Cole Smith and John Tracy. Those guys work so hard. Every single one of them has made a nice jump.
“John Tracy is more of Michelsen (drop back) type, but he has gotten more athletic. Cole Smith is very crafty with the ball. He is throwing it well, sees the game well. I like how both of those (sophomores-to-be) have progressed. When we add some other guys to our room next year that room will be a major plus for us.”
LOOKS LIKE THE WRIGHT GUY DEPT:
With so many defensive linemen recovering/rehabbing/re-enrolling, the group Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Steve Verbit had to work with this spring was considerably thinned from what he will enjoy in the fall. But promising work was being done regardless.
“Sam Wright (sophomore to be) is as talented a lineman that we have had; maybe the best one-on-one,” said Surace. “He is versatile, inside or outside, wins one-on-ones at probably the highest success rate since we have been here.
“Now we just have to work on 11-on-11, but his talent level is sky high and he has gotten a lot better this spring. When he stops thinking a little too much and we can just get him to play, Sam’s going to be very good.”