Defending Patriot League champion Colgate returns 18 starters this season and two 2014 regulars are back after missing last season because of injury.
But head coach Dan Hunt has nonetheless cautioned his players that no team is the same from year to year — that the ball never bounces the same way, that health is never guaranteed.
“One of the things I’ve said to them many times is this isn’t boxing,” he said. “What I mean by that is, we don’t own a championship right now, going into next year. We don’t have any more claim to it than anyone else in the league.”
To drive that point home, he had T-shirts made up for his guys to wear in winter conditioning, each of which had a target stenciled on the back. Because every other PL team will surely be taking aim at the Raiders.
“The hardest part to me after having a great year,” Hunt said, “is hitting that reset button and realizing, ‘All right, that’s in the past. We’ve got to do it all over again.’ … Hopefully the kids that have been there and have gone through it understand that. I think they do.”
Quarterback Jake Melville, Colgate’s offensive MVP in 2015, returns after rushing for 1,073 yards and throwing for 2,552, while generating 11 touchdowns each way. James Holland picked up 732 yards on the ground and scored 16 TDs, and as a team the Raiders ran for a PL-best 206.4 yards a game.
But Colgate also led the league with 36 sack, and had the top individual sacker in defensive end Pat Afriyie, with 9.5. Linebackers Kyle Diener and Chris Morgan collected 129 and 93 tackles, respectively.
They are among notable ASN-affiliated returning players — not including quarterbacks and running backs.
RETURNERS TO WATCH
- WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee: Earned first-team Freshman All-American honors by the FWAA, USA Today and Athlon Sports after finishing with 108 receptions for 1,346 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming the second player in school history to reach 1,000 receiving yards.
- OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky: Did not allow a tackle and just 11 quarterback pressures while also anchoring a line that finished the year No. 19 nationally in Sacks Allowed, with just 16 despite 554 dropbacks,
- S Kishawn McClain, North Texas: Had 110 tackles to lead the Mean Greem, including a Conference USA-leading 77 solo stops, also the most UNT defensive back since Aaron Weathers (113) in 2005.
- TE Jonnu Smith, Florida International: The school's all-time leader in receptions (136), yards (1,495) and touchdowns (14) by a tight end earned All-CUSA honorable mention despite being limited to eight games because of injury.
- WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech: Coming off a 99-catch season in which he registered 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns with seven 100-yard game.
- WR Brian Brown, Richmond: Finished third in FCS with 1,450 yards receiving, along with six touchdowns, to earn first-team All-CAA Football and third-team STATS FCS All-American.
- DB Dee Delaney, The Citadel: Earned first-team STATS FCS All-American and second-team Associated Press All-American honors after recording 46 tackles, five interceptions, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick.
- DE Anthony Ellis, Charleston Southern: Emerged as one of the dominant defensive lineman in FCS last season led the Big South with 18 tackles for loss, and finished tied for second with 7.5 sacks.
- DE P.J. Hall, Sam Houston State: The Bearkats’ all-time leader in tackles for loss (52 career stops for 205 yards) earned first-team All-Southland Conference, second-team STATS FCS All-American and third-team Associated Press All-America honors.
- OL Corey Levin, Chattanooga: Earned the Southern Conference’s Jacobs Blocking Award for the second consecutive year after paving the way for 1,000-yard rushers Jacob Huesman and first-team all-conference running back Derrick Craine.
Above: Linebacker Kyle Diener led Colgate with 129 tackles last season. (Courtesy of Colgate Athletics)