In the Ivy League, it all starts at quarterback starting on Saturday
Especially at quarterback.
"If you look across the league," said first-year Penn coach Ray Priore, "there are a lot of talented quarterbacks. That's where it all starts."
The season starts Saturday for the Ivy League, where quarterbacks are a primary reason the Ivy has gone from a two-team league to what Cornell head coach David Archer said is "an 'anyone's league.'"
Six of the league's eight top-rated quarterbacks return this season, and that doesn't include Cornell's Robert Somborn, who finished with an efficiency rating of 140.4 after emerging as the Big Red's starter.
While Princeton may be the only team without a returning starter at quarterback, the situation is hardly settled everywhere.
[caption id="attachment_2810" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Harvard’s Scott Hosch. (Gil Talbot Photography)[/caption]
At Harvard, Scott Hosch replaced injured senior Conner Hempel last season and passed for 1,428 yards and eight touchdowns. The Crimson went 10-0 and extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 14 games. But Hosch had to beat out junior Joe Viviano for the starting job.
Viviano, who saw limited action in five games last season, received most of the reps with the No. 1 offense during the spring. Hosch and Viviano then alternated at starter during practices.
“The competition, I thought, would go right down to the wire; it was outstanding,” head coach Tim Murphy said. "I'm pretty confident we can win with either guy."
Murphy said on Wednesday that Hosch will start Harvard's opener on Saturday at Rhode Island. The Crimson, who again top the league's preseason poll, also appear on three of ASN's seven Ivy League telecasts this season.
Not surprisingly, Columbia will start with a new quarterback after finishing 0-10 despite a strong finish by Trevor McDonagh (see chart below).
“On offense, I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens at quarterback," said first-year Lions coach Al Bagnoli, who left Penn for Columbia. "We had a transfer, Skyler Mornhinweg, who’s been here pretty much the entire summer. Between him, Anders Hill and Trevor McDonagh, gives us three kids that we can take a look at and see what happens there.”
Mornhinweg transferred from Florida, where he started the final three games in 2013, all losses, completing 44 of 63 passes for 344 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He did not play last season, but Mornhinweg and Hill are "penciled in as the No. 1 quarterback."
At Yale, another FBS transfer emerged as starter last season. Former Clemson quarterback Morgan Roberts set school records for completion percentage (.668), completions (248) and passing yards (3,220) and tied the record for touchdowns (22) while leading the league with 323 yards per game.
"He has a body of work last year that was good. We think he can play better," Reno said. "The thing I've seen out of him the last five months that's impressed me most is leadership. His work ethic is tireless."
Another bonus: "It's the first time we've had a returning quarterback since I've been here," Reno said.
[caption id="attachment_2814" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Penn’s Alek Torgersen. (University of Pennsylvania Athletics)[/caption]
Returning quarterbacks also reign at Brown with Marcus Fuller and Penn with Alek Torgersen, who finished third in FCS with 26 completions per game as sophomore. "I think we have a real, real talented quarterback," said Quakers coach Priore.
At Cornell and Princeton, it's not just a question of who will start at quarterback. Instead, said Tigers head coach Bob Surace, it's also a question of "who, how many, all those things."
Somborn finished as Cornell's starter, but Jake Jatis started five games as a freshman and twice earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honor. Kyle Gallagher also played as a freshman last season and incoming freshmen Dalton Banks and Garrett Cloer join the mix. Both players have the dual-threat ability that could help them challenge for playing time.
At Princeton, senior Kedric Bostic, junior Chad Kanoff and sophomore John Lovett replace last season's departed starters, and all of them likely will see playing time depending on who has the hot hand. "I don't like the idea of my best player standing next to me (on the sideline)," Surace said.
The best player in the Ivy League might be Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams, who completed 67.5% of his passes for 2,119 yards and 21 touchdowns with only three interceptions, the best ratio in team history. He's a reason the Big Green finished second only to Harvard in the league's preseason poll, their highest preseason ranking since 1996 when they went 10-0 for a league-leading 17th title.
Williams is the only Ivy League player on the preseason watch list for STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year, formerly known as the Walter Payton Award, and has benefitted from Dartmouth's use of STRIVR (Sports Training in Virtual Reality).
"He's received some attention from the NFL as a mobile quarterback," Teevens said. "He has all the tools. We have high expectations for him."
League of quarterbacks
The Ivy League's seven returning starters at quarterback in order of their passer-efficiency rating:
Dalyn Williams, Jr.
Morgan Roberts, Jr.
Robert Somborn, So.
Scott Hosch, Jr.
Marcus Fuller, Jr.
Alek Torgersen, So.
Trevor McDonagh, Jr.
Above: Dartmouth's Dalyn Williams is the only Ivy League quarterback on the preseason watch list for STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year. (Courtesy John Risley)