Head Coach: Phil Estes, 19th season (108-71-0)
Biggest strength in 2016: If you’re competing on a team with Phil Estes as your head coach, chances are your big strength is going to be on offense, and the Bears’ starting five offensive linemen seem to be Brown’s biggest strength in 2016. Two bookend tackles, OL Matthew Girard and OL Dakota Girard (no relation), highlight this unit.
Biggest Challenge In 2016: You’d think that the biggest challenge for the Bears this season might be breaking a new quarterback, but the biggest point of emphasis for Brown has to be shoring up their defense, which gave up 32.9 points per game in 2015. There’s also the matter of turnovers – Brown was -15 in turnover ratio last season, something that needs to improve if the Bears have a chance to compete.
Biggest Departures: WR Brian Strachan and WR Troy Doles might not be household names, but they were Brown’s third-leading and second-leading receivers respectively last season, and were key members of the Bear passing attack, contributing with a combined 1,527 receiving yards and 9 TDs. Their presence took a lot of pressure off of…
Player To Watch: WR Alexander Jette, a guy universally lauded around the Ivy League as one of the best athletes in the League and a distinct possibility to land himself a spot in the NFL draft next season. There’s not much doubt that Jette is a huge talent – the question is, can he have the type of monster season he’s capable of without Doles and Strachan attacting their share of attention from opposing defensive backs.
Biggest Game: vs. Harvard, 9/24/2016. It can be spun as a blessing or a curse, Brown’s perennial Week 2 matchup against the Crimson. In one sense, it is a blessing that Brown faces off against Harvard so early, before Tim Murphy’s Crimson have a chance to get the engines fired up completely, but it’s also a curse in that a conference loss in Week 2 can be very detrimental to the losing side for the rest of the year. Either way, as eveyr year, Brown will need to be in mid-season form to knock off Harvard, and if they can, the sky’s the limit.
Rose-Colored Glasses Say: “No, really, who can stop us? Saint Estes always blesses us with an offense that can put points on anybody, no matter who is at QB or RB, and we have the best offensive player in the Ivy League in Jette. There’s little doubt we’ll put points on the board, so why not us?”
Glass Half Empty Says: “Remember that three-game skid right before the Columbia win, where we gave up 48, 41, and 34 points respectively? And that game where Harvard dropped more than 50 on us? What do you see in this season’s defense that makes you believe that will change this year? Until we can slow teams down to score, say, only 28 points against us instead of 50, will we be able to compete for the Ivy League championship.”
Brown In Two Sentences: Brown’s talented offense will mean they’re never totally out of any contest. But their defense will have to improve by leaps and bounds if they hope to compete for the Ivy League title this season.
CSJ Projected Ranking: 6th, Ivy League
Chuck has been writing about Lehigh football since the dawn of the internet, or perhaps it only seems like it. He’s executive editor of the College Sports Journal and has also written a book, The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series.
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