After a disappointing campaign in their inaugural season in the CAA, Colonial Athletic Association, the Seawolves aim to get back to their winning ways. Stony Brook ended the 2013 season with a 5-6 overall record, and finished tied for eighth in the CAA going 3-5 within the conference.
The transition from the Big South to the CAA proved to be a tough one as the Seawolves lost more conference games in their first season in the CAA, 5, than they did in their last four years in the Big South, with a combined conference record of 21-3 in that span.
Despite being picked to finish ninth out of twelve teams in the CAA this season in the preseason poll, the Seawolves are a better team than that ranking may suggest for one main reason. The CAA is the best conference in the FCS and the eight teams ahead of the Seawolves are eight of the best in the nation. Six of the eight: New Hampshire, Towson, Villanova, Maine, William & Mary, and Richmond, are ranked as one of the top 25 teams in the FCS by an FCS preseason coaches poll. And the other two teams ahead of Stony Brook, Delaware and James Madison, both received votes to make it into the top 25. Add on the fact that Stony Brook will play the UConn Huskies, which is an FBS team, the strength of schedule will be one of the factors playing into the uphill battle for the Seawolves this season.
Another concern is that Stony Brook will be starting a new quarterback and neither of their top two choices have any in-game experience at the college level. Seawolves starting quarterback from last season, Lyle Negron, recently graduated after struggling last season partially because of a right shoulder injury. There still isn’t a clear cut favorite in the QB battle going on at training camp right now between junior Conor Bednarski, who redshirted last season after transferring to Stony Brook from Fullerton College, and senior John Kinder, who recently graduated from Syracuse University where he played two seasons at QB, but didn’t get any playing time at the position.
Bednarski has a better understanding of the playbook, being on the team longer than Kinder, and is coming off an impressive performance in Stony Brook’s spring game where he went 16-29 passing for 183 yards. In contrast, Kinder is a dual threat quarterback and his running ability would be a great asset to Stony Brook’s already dangerous running game.
The Seawolves will see their top running back, senior Marcus Coker, return from an abdominal injury after rushing for 1018 yards and nine touchdowns two seasons ago before he got injured with an abdominal injury last year. Stony Brook will also welcome back their leading rusher from last season senior James Kenner, who rushed for 829 yards and five touchdowns.
Kenner is one of the six returning starters on offense for the Seawolves along with: (WR) Adrian Coxson, (OL) Mike Lisi, (TE) Tanner Nehls, (OL) Cody Precht, and (TE) Will Tye. Also returning for Stony Brook are six starters on defense: (DB) Naim Cheeseboro, (DL) Kevin Hauter, (DL) Victor Ochi, (DB) Christian Ricard, and (DB) Jaheem Woods.
The defense will also see the return of star cornerback Davonte Anderson who was redshirted last season to recover from injury.
“It’s been a huge process for me, my body has been struggling a little bit this past year but I feel really good right now, I’m really healthy…I’m ready to be out there on the field with my team again,” said Anderson in an interview with Jeff Bernstein of WUSB Sports. Anderson was a second team All-Big South selection two seasons ago, leading the team with six interceptions and nine pass breakups.
Even with so many key and impact players returning the Seawolves still need to look to their younger players to step up and fill in key roles on the team. Stony Brook added a quality wide receiver in their new recruiting class with freshman Julius Wingate, who will be a good asset to have in the passing game along with weapons like Adrian Coxson and Will Tye. And 12 redshirt freshmen will be battling it out on defense for playing time and a chance to help the team win games.
The second time may or may not be the charm for Stony Brook this season, but two things are clear: 1) The key for Stony Brook on offense this year will be their running game like it was in their two straight seasons making the second round of the FCS playoffs. 2) The Seawolves struggled in closing games in the fourth quarter last season and the inexperience on both sides of the ball, especially defense, will not help that cause.
Stony Brook’s first test will be against the Bryant Bulldogs on August 28th at 7:00PM at LaValle Stadium.