MEDFORD - With four straight winning seasons and a 25-9 record during that stretch, the Jumbo football team is enjoying a run of success that they look to continue in 2019. Tufts opens its new season on Saturday at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field against Trinity College.
|Senior co-captain linebacker Greg Holt is a three-time NESCAC All-Conference 1st team honoree.|
A majority of the starters from last season's defense which allowed just 13.3 points and 258 yards per game is back. Leading the group is co-captain Greg Holt, one of the best linebackers the Tufts program has ever had who is now in his senior season.
The offense took some losses to graduation, including New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Co-Player of the Year Ryan McDonald at quarterback. However, the Jumbos have enough skill pieces returning including co-captain Mike Pedrini (11 touchdowns in two seasons) at running back.
Holt, named to the prestigious New England Football Writers Association Division II-III All-New England team last season, is a three-time All-NESCAC first team pick. He enters 2019 with 254 career tackles. Senior Tylor Scales, who battled injuries last year after a sophomore season in which he had 7.5 tackles for losses, and classmate Stephen Timmins (five sacks in 2018) join Holt for what could be one of the top linebacker groups in Division III.
Starters Kevin Quisumbing and Tom Baker return on the defensive line. Both are poised for big senior seasons. Quisumbing earned All-NESCAC a year ago when he recorded 7.5 tackles for losses. Baker had two of Tufts' 25 sacks in nine games last season. Senior Conor Chepenik and sophomore Jovan Nenadovic were contributors here as back-ups last fall who and are expected to play bigger roles.
The secondary lost All-Conference selections Tim Preston and Alex LaPiana from a pass defense that allowed just two touchdowns through the air last season. However, seniors Miles Shipp – who was third on the team with 41 tackles - and junior Michael Mughetto return as starters, and senior Robert Jones saw a lot of time here in '19. Sophomore corner Brandyn Jones is an exciting talent new to the starting line-up this fall.
The offense is bolstered by the return of Dom Borelli and Frank Roche for extra years of eligibility. The backfield is deep with Pedrini and seniors Andrew Sanders and Jay Tyler leading the way. Senior Jack Donohue returns as one of the top tight ends in NESCAC and classmate Winton Blount has been a contributor in the tight end / fullback role since day one.
|Running back Mike Pedrini was elected as a junior captain of the 2019 Jumbos.|
It could be a break-out year for Pedrini, a junior who was elected a co-captain of this year's team by his teammates. One of the strongest players on the team, he's churned out 821 yards on 180 carries (4.6-yard average) with 11 touchdowns (eight as a freshman) in two seasons. Borelli led the team in all-purpose yards a year ago, running for 309 and receiving 304. Sanders and Tyler have both held key roles for the team in their careers, making the depth at running back a major strength.
The pass game enters the new season with some unknowns, whereas the Jumbos were so deep with seniors here last year. Two quarterbacks are likely to see time. Like Ryan McDonald, senior Jacob Carroll combines a big arm and good legs. Borelli – a high school QB – will also play here when the Jumbos opt for different looks.
Donohue is a big target at tight end who caught three touchdown passes last fall. Roche averaged 13.1 yards per catch in '19 and OJ Armstrong looks ready to emerge after a sophomore season with 14 catches. Junior Brendan Dolan – younger brother of Jack Dolan, who had 12 receiving touchdowns at Tufts in the 2017 and 2018 seasons – will play an increased role. The Jumbos will also utilize their backs, who combined for 58 receptions last fall including 34 by Borelli and 21 by Pedrini.
The starting offensive line will be new after graduating five seniors from an attack that averaged 29.8 points per game last year, second-best in NESCAC. The Jumbos aren't without some experience though, with juniors Dylan Daisey, Khalif Jeter, Nick Kranjac and Mark Mulvaney as well as sophomores Ciaran Hourihan and Nick Swift often seeing time in reserve roles last season.
Special teams is also an area of experience. Armstrong, Jones and Sanders helped the Jumbos average 24.1 yards on kickoff returns, while the coverage gave up just 15.4 yards per attempt last fall. Junior kicker Matt Alswanger broke a Tufts record with 31 extra points a year ago and is nine for 12 on field goals in his career. He will also punt for the Jumbos.
Tufts will be home for five of their nine games this year. They were undefeated (4-0) at the Oval last season and are 16-5 here since the 2014 season.
For the first time since the early 1990s, the NESCAC schedule was revised for 2019 and the Jumbos will be tested early. After opening against three-time defending league champion Trinity on Saturday, Tufts will face a rising Williams College team on the road next Saturday and then host an always-staunch Amherst College squad in two weeks.