WILLIS PROMOTED TO OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR; CUEVAS AND ZARKOSKIE JOIN STAFF

  • February 18, 2020

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The Princeton football team has won four Ivy League titles in the last seven years, and its 18 wins in the last two seasons equal the most the team has had over a two-year stretch in 70 years. When you put up numbers like that, people will notice.

Included in that group of people who notice would be the coaching staffs at Power Five conferences. If there is a downside of all that success, it’s that Princeton coaches have become very attractive to the top level of the sport.

Princeton has lost two more assistant coaches to the Power Five, and Bob Surace, the Charles W. Caldwell Jr. Head Coach of Football at Princeton, has once again had to rebuild his staff a bit.

Mike Willis, who has been with Surace for nine years as a player and then a coach, has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Willis will retain his responsibilities as the tight ends coach as well, and he is also the assistant head coach.

Willis replaces Andy Aurich, last year’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, who has moved on to the coaching staff at Rutgers, where he reunites with Sean Gleeson, now the Scarlet Knights OC after holding that position last year at Oklahoma State and the year before at Princeton. Also on the Scarlet Knights staff is Jamel Mutunga, who was Princeton’s running backs coach a year ago.

“Mike is a young coach with a great future,” Surace said. “He’s been a huge part of Princeton football for pretty much my entire time here, and he’s definitely ready for this next step in his career. While losing coaches is never easy, I’m happy for the guys who are moving on and wish them the best. Having Mike here to move into this role will help our continuity, and I’m excited about what he’ll bring to the offense this season.”

Willis is a 2014 Princeton grad who played on the offensive line and was a member of the 2013 Ivy League championship team as a player. He was an intern for the 2015 season and then became the tight ends coach, adding the titles of assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator as well.

In his four years as the position coach, Willis has coached an All-Ivy tight end in each season.

There are also two new additions to the Princeton staff, both of whom spent last year at Lehigh.

Replacing Aurich as offensive line coach is Chris Zarkoskie, a 2013 New Hampshire graduate who has previous Ivy League coaching experience after spending the 2018 season at Brown. Zarkoskie coached for three years coaching tight ends at his alma mater before his year at Brown, where he coached the offensive line. He was the O line coach at Lehigh as well for his season there.

As a player Zarkoskie was a strong student-athlete, with major honors in both. He was a three-year starter, as well as an All-CAA selection and team captain as a senior. He also won the league’s first Chuck Boone Awards for “embodying the highest standards of leadership, integrity, teamwork and sportsmanship in his academic and athletic achievements.”

A psychology major, he was both a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and a two-time member of the FCS ADA Academic All-Star Team as a player, and he earned CAA Academic All-Conference Team honors and received the CAA Commissioner’s Academic Award three straight years (2010-12).

The new running backs coach is Brandon Cuevas, who was also a psych major, an all-league offensive lineman and team captain in college. Cuevas started 30 games on the line at Susquehanna, where he also was a preseason All-America, the Bob Pitello Offensive Lineman of the Year award winner and a Team Stars and Stripes All-American his senior year.

His first coaching stop was at Salve Regina, where he coached running backs and tight ends while also serving as video coordinator. He then coached at Susquehanna and Marist before spending two years at Lehigh, coaching running backs in 2018 and tight ends in 2019.

“We’re really fortunate to bring Chris and Brandon onto our staff,” Surace said. “They’re both impressive young coaches who have a lot of energy, and we’re excited about having them here as we think about spring practice and then the season this fall.”