Stony Brook Football 2000 Season Preview

Menendez enters the 2000 season only 490 yards away from becoming the school's all-time leading rusher
 
Menendez enters the 2000 season only 490 yards away from becoming the school's all-time leading rusher
 
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Aug. 22, 2000

Stony Brook, N.Y. - Surprise!! The 1999 Stony Brook football team made many teams in the Northeast Conference stand up and take notice last season. Predicted to finish sixth in the conference before the start of last season, the Seawolves posted a 4-3 conference record, good enough for fourth place in its inaugural Division I-AA campaign. However, as the Seawolves ready for their second season at this level, they will have to make many adjustments to a team that looks much different than last November.

Since the 1999 season ended, the Seawolves have undergone a major overhaul both in player personnel and the coaching staff. Fifteen seniors graduated last spring, many of whom were major contributors to Stony Brook football in the last half of the decade. In addition, the departure of the offensive and defensive coordinators were two of four coaching changes that took place last spring. Coach Sam Kornhauser has brought together perhaps his finest recruiting class ever to offset the losses with the hope that the second season in the NEC will be even better than the first.

Stanley Takes Charge The quarterback position should receive some stability in 2000. Last year, Brian Stanley and Oscar Alcantara split time as signal caller, each starting five games in 1999. During spring practice, the coaching staff decided on Brian Stanley to take the reins this fall, a departure from the two-quarterback system in `99. Stanley, a true pocket passer, will return for his fifth season at Stony Brook and displayed poise and playmaking ability when inserted into the lineup last year. Stanley threw for 879 yards and 10 TDs in five starts, posting an impressive quarterback rating of 108.7.

Redshirt sophomore Scott Bard returns and looks to lock up the backup quarterback spot. He may receive some competition from freshman Dave Rodriguez. The 6-1, 200 lb. Rodriguez is a highly-touted recruit that starred for Long Branch High School in Long Branch, N.J. and the coaching staff expects great things from him in the future.

Ralph on the Run Workhorse running back, Ralph Menendez, returns for his fifth and final season with the Seawolves. At 5-10, 210, Menendez possesses the size to run over tacklers and the athletic ability to make them miss as well. He piled up 849 yards on 156 carries (5.4 ypc.) and a career-high eight touchdowns. Against Sacred Heart, he turned in one of the best performances in school history, racking up 217 yards on 15 carries, including touchdown runs of 74 and 41 yards. Who will back up Menendez is still up in the air as the departure of veterans James Crawford and Rob Vitucci leaves coach Kornhauser without an experienced backup. Kwaku Osei-Tutu and Phil Lombardi, both of whom redshirted last season, will try and fill that role. Freshmen Clinton Graham and Jalal Lamb may push for significant time this season.

Cool Hands Luke Wideouts Lucas Niskanen and Kevin Csoka were a formidable 1-2 duo at the receiver position last year. Niskanen, a 1999 preseason All-NEC selection, caught 41 passes for 506 yards and six touchdowns. He was one of the most prolific receivers in the conference, ranking third in receptions per game (4.1) and sixth in receiving yards per game (50.6). Csoka also impressed in his first season, hauling in 23 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns. In the last game of the season, the two hooked up on a scoring pass as Niskanen fired a 57-yard strike to Csoka on a trick play to help Stony Brook defeat St. John's. Courtenay Mitchell and Chris McGovern return after a year abscence in `99 to give this unit a boost.

OFFENSIVE LINE Up front, four starters return to a unit that should improve this season. At guard, steady Tom Marshall will start for the third straight year on the right side while veteran Chris Durante is slated to start at right tackle. Returning this season will be Lynsert Walcolm who was lost for the season in game two of `99. Walcolm, last year's starting center, will be moved outside to left tackle which leaves the center duties to Adam Sabia. Sabia filled in admirably for Walcolm after the injury, starting eight games at center. Offensive line coach Andrew Dees may have a new face to count on in Wilhelm Hueck, a big lineman out of the state of Florida. Depending on his stage of development, Hueck could see time very quickly in a Seawolf uniform.

A new defensive coordinator takes command of a unit that established itself as one of the best in the region and the nation during the tenure of former coordinator Dave Caldiero. Caldiero retired in December after 15 outstanding seasons with Stony Brook. Enter Andrew Cohen. A former graduate assistant at Stony Brook, Cohen spent the last five seasons as a member of the Bucknell coaching staff, playing a big role in helping the Bison emerge as one of the best defenses in the Patriot League. Cohen will install a more aggressive style defense, designed to make things happen on the defensive side of the ball.

YOUNG GUNS UP FRONT The Seawolves will have a long way to go to replace five players who made significant contributions to last year's defensive line unit. Last year's team MVP, George Karafantis, and Second-Team All-NEC selection, John Kostkowicz, were lost to graduation. The duo accounted for 127 tackles, five sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. Returning will be a trio of sophomores that Cohen will count on to make big contributions as interior lineman. Mike Puccio (six tackles), Sal Mancino (11 tackles, 1 sack) and Brandt Hausmann (14 tackles, 1 sack) will need to step in and carry the load at the point of attack. Mancino came on strong last year, displaying an endless motor that helped him start the last three games of the year. Hausmann (2 starts) and Puccio (1 start) saw significant time in their first seasons and should be ready to make their mark as sophomores. Junior Joe Cicero returns after a year layoff and should compete for time here as well. At the end position, Ted Jean, Joe Schiraldo and junior Keith Rippe (9 tackles) will also have the opportunity to step in as pass rushing ends on the strong side. Newcomers Will Cook and Dan Sable are among a host of new faces that will compete for time up front.

Johnny Be Good Last year, the linebacker trio of Dan Bertzos, John Phelan and Paul Thomas accounted for 23 percent of the total tackles in `99. The new defense has Bertzos and Thomas moving to the secondary. John Phelan, who started nine games, returns to his familiar inside linebacker position and will be counted on to make big plays in Cohen's defensive scheme. In `99, Phelan emerged as a playmaker, finishing third on the team in takedowns (67) and third in tackles for a loss (9). Alexis Ayala steps in next to Phelan as an inside linebacker. Ayala showed the ability to get to the ball as a sophomore, totaling 52 tackles, one interception and a fumble recovery. At the weakside linebacker position, Eric Martinez is slated to begin his first full season as a starter. Martinez, a backup linebacker and special teams performer last year, had 20 tackles, one sack and an interception in limited duty. Sophomore Aden Smith, primarily a special teams player last year, will backup both Phelan and Ayala.

SEConDARY Heading into the fall, it looks as though the Seawolves will have two new faces starting at the cornerback spot. Anthony Fiol and Jermaine Addison emerged in the spring on top of the depth chart as the best defensive backs for a passing defense that ranked second in the NEC last season. The revamped defense sees Paul Thomas moving to the free safety position and Dan Bertzos taking over at strong safety. Bertzos, a junior, spearheads the group after leading team in tackles (76) in just his second season. He ranked 12th in the NEC in total tackles in `99 and in just two seasons he is now on pace to set all-time school records in total and solo tackles. Thomas made 42 stops at the strong side position in `99 and will be the center fielder in Cohen's defense. Newcomers may also play a significant role in the secondary as coach Kornhauser expects good things from DBs Billy Buntin, Dwayne Golding, Shevar Whittaker and Eddie Cobbinah in the near future.

James Kandziolka will enter his sophomore season as the starting placekicker for the second straight year. He connected on 4-of-7 field goal attempts, including a 45-yarder, and a 21-of-26 PATs in his first season. Freshman David Moneuse is expected to step in right away and handle the punting duties.

It looks that 2000 might see several Seawolf newcomers make their presence felt. Coach Kornhauser beams when he talks about running backs Jalal Lamb and Clinton Graham. He thinks those two can be very special players at Stony Brook. Wilhelm Hueck, a 6-3, 265 lb. offensive lineman from Florida, may start in his first season with the Seawolves. In the defensive backfield, Buntin, Golding, Whittaker and Cobbinah also may have an immediate impact.