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PU Football prepare for pre-season as they prepare to kick off the season at Stetson


SCORING FORWARD: Princeton University head football coach Bob Surace leads the way during a game last fall. Surace guided Princeton to a 9-1 overall record and a 6-1 record in the Ivy League last fall to tie Dartmouth for the league title and win its fourth Ivy crown in the past eight seasons. The Tigers kick off their 2022 campaign by playing Stetson (2-0) on September 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

JPractice scans tell Bob Surace that his Princeton University football team is gearing up for the 2022 campaign.

“We do a lot of measuring, we wear these straps that show our speed and our distances,” said Princeton head coach Surace, whose team starts the season heading south to play Stetson ( 2-0) on September 17. “When I look at the numbers and the data, it’s whoa, we’ve got so many guys running over 20 miles an hour. We’ve had some really good teams, but we haven’t been as athletic, the good thing is.

Along with that speed, the Tigers are bringing intensity to their preseason camp.

“Our ball running, our chasing, our effort, they’re doing a great job with that and that’s a good sign,” said Surace, whose side went 9-1 on aggregate and 6-1 Ivy League l fall to tie Dartmouth for the league title and claim their fourth Ivy crown in the past eight seasons.

“We put more pieces into play because we make more schematics. The fact that their level of effort is there and that they are doing a good job of staying together is really nice. I think we are doing very well. We had a real spring ball this year, we missed it last year. Both of our skill sets are working really well. We are deep on the lines, the competitiveness on the lines has been really good.

While there is cause for optimism, Surace acknowledges that there are areas of concern.

“We are inexperienced in the defensive backfield, we show a lot on offensive formation and with movement; communication so far has been really good,” Surace said. “I will have a much better idea of ​​this group as we put everything in place. That’s how they handle that part, but they digest it, they communicate. This part was really good. The attack always takes a little longer to set up. We send them a lot and they take care of it.

At quarterback, junior Blake Stenstrom (44 passing yards, 74 rushing yards, 2 TDs in 2021), senior Joe Hutchison, second Blaine McAllister and second Niko Vangarelli (30 rushing yards, 3 TDs) are vying for the starting spot to handle the offense.

“Blake entered the field last year and did very well. he had a very good spring and he kept it,” said Surace. “Joe was the classic freshman, lost as a quarterback, just like our freshmen are right now. Her sophomore year was lost due to COVID. In his freshman year he took that leap and now he’s throwing the ball and making decisions really well. Blaine made the freshman/sophomore jump. These three guys really stood out. Niko did a great job with some situational things. He had three touchdowns last year and some big first downs.

A pair of senior wide receivers, Andrei Iosivas (41 receptions for 703 yards and 5 touchdowns) and senior Dylan Classi (35 receptions for 621 yards and 3 touchdowns), as well as senior tight end Carson Bobo (17 receptions for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns) character to play a big role in the Princeton Air Attack.

“With guys like Andrei, Classi and Bobo, we’re going to want to throw it,” Surace said. “These guys were all at some level of all conferences last year.”

Other options at receiver include junior JoJo Hawkins, second AJ Barber, second Tamatoa Falatea and senior Mike Axelrood.

“We are losing Birm (Jacob Birmelin), but JoJo and AJ stood out. Tamatoa has returned from a Mormon mission. He played in first grade. It’s rusty but it’s starting to shake the rust there. Mike is in great shape, he pushes to enter the field.

Iosivas has the athleticism and skills to become the Tigers’ next big receiver.

“He came in last year as a much higher level road runner, not just an athlete anymore,” Surace said of the 6’3, 200-pound Iosivas, a heptathlon All-American in room for the Tiger track team.

“We have a number of guys that scouts are looking to see; we probably won’t have many practices where there isn’t a scout watching him, he just got put on the Senior Bowl watch list.

At running back, an injury to star running back Collin Eaddy in last season’s Dartmouth game has given a number of young players some experience that should pay off this fall. Sophomore John Volker (126 rushing yards, 2 ID), sophomore Ja’Derris Carr (119 rushing yards, 1 TD), and senior Davis Kline (34 rushing yards) have all shown lightning in 2021.

“John really stood out and Ja’Derris did a really good job,” Surace said. “It allowed them to expand their games. Davis filled a role.

The group of senior Henry Byrd, senior Connor Scaglione, junior Jalen Travis, senior Blake Feigenspan and senior Zack Zambrano will anchor the Tigers offensive line.

“If they end up being the starters, we’ve got some young guys who will end up in the rotation who are looking pretty good,” Surace noted.

On the defensive line, senior Cole Aubrey and senior Uche Ndukwe will lead the charge.

“Our D line is really deep right now,” Surace said. “Cole was a high sack guy last year. Uche was a high sack guy before he got injured. We have young guys doing a jump so it was fun to see.

At linebacker, Princeton faces a huge void with the graduation of remarkable Jeremiah Tyler, winner of last year’s Bushnell Cup as Ivy Defensive Player of the Year who earned All-American honors. Senior Anthony Corbin, Senior Joseph Bonczek, Junior Liam Johnson, Junior Ozzie Nicholas and Senior Will Perez will lead this unit.

“Our competition at inside linebacker with Anthony and Joseph is good, they both played a lot,” Surace said. “Liam and Ozzie have been playing on special teams, they’re pushing really hard right now. Will’s had a really good spring. There’s only one JT, nobody’s going to fill their shoes, so we’re going to use multiple guys. This guy played the run like JT, this guy is good in coverage, or this guy blitzes. We’re gonna have to get that one through the committee.

While the secondary is a work in progress, Surace is confident in this group.

“These guys are athletic,” Surace said. “The one thing we didn’t have last year with all that experience is you didn’t see the big play. Maybe a guy gave up a pass because he was physically They weren’t mental mistakes and we have to come to this because you can’t give up easy yards.

Surace and his coaches like to bring the players up to speed on the preseason, savoring the teachable moments before embarking on the weekly routine of the regular season.

“When we prepare for Stetson, we plan the game and focus on Stetson and you kind of lose your role as a teacher,” Surace said. “Right now it’s being a teacher, that’s really what our coaches love to do. Right now it’s the fundamentals, seeing young guys who were freshmen and now are sophomores. This part is really exciting.

The Tigers are hoping for an exciting and productive trip to Florida this weekend as they take on an undefeated Stetson side (2-0) to kick off the 2022 season.

“You want to have different games on the road, but playing in parts of the country where we have alumni and we’re recruiting is important,” said Surace, whose side beat Stetson 63-0 last year in the second game of the season. “This year it’s Stetson and I think next year it’s San Diego and next year it’s Mercer, so we have three in a row.”

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