Over the four years of this blog companion to HoyaSaxa.com, we've posted some thoughts as to the pending questions for the offense each season. This year, depth has answered many of the more pressing questions.
The Hoyas enter the 2012 season with arguably the most depth since the club which rolled through the 1999 season en route to a 9-2 record. Strength at quarterback, depth on the line, and players ready to step up in the defensive backfield were all strengths of one of the best teams of the modern era at Georgetown, one that set the table for the move from the MAAC to the Patriot League.
Is 2012 ready to join this company, and complete a four year turnaround not seen on the Hilltop in generations?
To start, here are five questions.
1. Quarterback: Who's Number 2? Three years ago, Isaiah Kempf replaced James Brady late in a 28-3 loss to Lafayette--it was Brady's last game on the field in a Georgetown uniform and the first of three seasons of Kempf platooning at alongside Scott Darby. With Darby graduated, the starting role is all Kempf's, but a one quarterback setup is increasingly uncommon for Georgetown. Excepting Matt Bassuener in 2007, one would go back to J.J. Mont in 2000 for the last season with a dominant quarterback all season.
Kempf figures to be the starter this season, but his backup (and possible successor) bears watching. Underclassmen Aaron Aiken and Stephen Skon had no pass plays in 2011, with Aiken managing six yards on two wildcat formations. That Aiken wasn't moved to another position as a junior a la Keerome Larwrence or Tucker Stafford is a sign he's still in the mix, while Skon needs to step up in practice to be a legitimate #2 prospect. While three freshmen figure to spend 2012 studying game film, Aiken and Skon need to be ready if the call comes in or if Kempf is hurt. It's worth watching if either gets some fourth quarter time in the opening games against Davidson and Wagner to burnish their in-game credentials.
2. Can The Rush Game Step Up? 2011 was a productive year for a Hoya ground game which has struggled mightily in recent years, yet its leading rusher failed to reach 500 yards on the season in a running-back-by-committee model under former coordinator Dave Patenaude. With Vinny Marino at the helm, he's going to have to work among some similarly-sized RB candidates (Wilburn Logan, Dalen Claytor, Brandon Durham, Joel Kimpela ,etc.) and settle on a starter to the position, while relying on Nick Campanella and freshman Troye Bullock to drive the fullback position to its advantage--a skill lost in some colelge sets these days. With just under 150 yards a game last season, this is a group poised for even more on the ground.
3. Can The Offensive Line....Stop right there. This year, no question: the OL will be fine.
4. Who Leads The Receiver Corps? A lot of coaches would like to have eight returning receivers, but Georgetown needs one or two go-to receivers in 2012. It ought to come from any of the four seniors, including Max Waizenegger, who led the team in receptions last year, or senior Jeff Burke. I'm also holding out hope that a pair of talented players whose college careers were interrupted can make their senior years special: Brandon Floyd and Kenneth Furlough. Each has the talent to have a big year and have to work to get it.
5. What Is The Marino System? With new offensive coordinator Vinny Marino, this will be an early point of emphasis this season. Marino's 2011 team at Columbia finished last in the Ivy League and 108th nationally in total offense, but this was Columbia, after all, and the Lions have long struggled in that category. Marino inherits a veteran team capable of considerable firepower on the field, so it will bear watching how Marino adjusts the sets frequented by Patenaude and how the Georgetown offense adapts to his game plan. Control the game plan, control the turnovers, and control the red zone, and memories of a 7th place finish at Morningside Heights will be ancient history.
Next week, five questions for the defense.