Richmond football will open its season Saturday in the Robins Stadium against Morehead State.
The Spiders are coming off an up-and-down season, in which they won only half of their games but finished strong with four straight wins to end the season. During the offseason, there was a quarterback battle, the departure of a record-setting kicker and a few minor coaching shifts to adapt to.
If the team wants to compete for a conference championship this season, they’ll need to first beat the Morehead State Eagles, and do it convincingly. The Eagles finished last season with a record of 3-9 and play in the Pioneer League, a conference considerably weaker than the CAA. The Spiders should come away with a lopsided victory if they play close to their potential.
Here are some things to watch for as the season gets under way this Saturday.
Many Richmond players have made it clear that last year’s quarterback, Michael Strauss, has outplayed fellow quarterback Michael Rocco and earned the starting job. This is good news, considering Strauss started last year and posted impressive stats. The hype surrounding Strauss following last year’s campaign has placed him on watch for the Walter Payton Award, given to the most outstanding player in the FCS. If Strauss can show improvement from last year, then the Spiders’ offense will be in good shape.
With former First Team All-CAA receiver Ben Edwards gone this year, the Spiders’ receiving corps has some big shoes to fill. Luckily, there is no lack of talent amongst this year’s group.
Senior Stephen Barnette is coming off an impressive year in 2013 during which he finished Second Team All-CAA and led the conference in most major statistical categories for receivers. Senior Rashad Ponder and sophomore Brian Brown will join Barnette in the lineup, both of whom boast unique ability and plenty of experience from last year. Rounding out the core of the group is junior Reggie Diggs, a physical phenom who showed flashes of brilliance last year and improved drastically this summer, according to some of his teammates.
This group will be exciting to watch, especially with a talent like Strauss under center. If all goes well, replacing Edwards should not be as difficult a task as it may seem.
Rushing to Win:
Coach Danny Rocco emphasized the importance of running the ball during spring practice. The Spiders’ rushing attack was average at best last season, which made it hard for the offense to control the clock and dictate the tone of games. With most of the team’s running backs returning this fall, including standouts Jacobi Green and Seth Fisher, there is optimism that the running game will improve on last year’s performance.
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Defensively, stopping the run was also a concern for the Spiders a season ago. The team was out-rushed by nearly 40 yards per game last year, a statistic both the offense and defense hope to improve. The defense allowed significantly more rushing touchdowns and yards than the offense was able to match, and that cannot happen again if this team wants to compete for a conference championship. Strauss and his receivers are certainly a lethal bunch, but they cannot do it alone, and both the run offense and run defense must step up from a year ago.
The Spiders’ game against Morehead State is 6 p.m. Saturday in Robins Stadium.
Contact reporter Charlie Broaddus at firstname.lastname@example.org
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