By Dylan Balsamo
Over the last three years or so, Fordham football has not been much to cheer about. Sitting unbothered on the island that the FCS of Division I college ball can sometimes be, the program has had a rough go of it, with multiple coaching changes, an influx of injuries, and a two-win season last year. But in the gridiron world, the climax of summer heat and the beginning of the end for the leaves on the trees symbolize a type of spring (perhaps a sign of the sport itself), and for the Rams, we all might have to admit that in 2019, things may just now be getting better.
In 2018, Fordham finished tied for fourth in the Patriot League, but their overall record was 2-9. Their first year under the new head coach Joe Conlin, the nine losses consisted of some close calls, but also a handful of games that were not as close, most notably a 41-0 home loss to eventual conference champion Colgate. The Rams were a young and inexperienced team in many ways, and they paid the price for it. However, with these losses came a trait that comes only with time: experience.
The offensive line, which was good enough to allow Fordham to lead the Patriot League in passing yards per game with 200.7 yards, was made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores, and in 2019, they will presumably all return with a year under their belts, ready to hold down the fort again.
At the quarterback position, the injury of Austin King and the loss of him last season allowed then-freshman Tim DeMorat to start eleven games, set the school freshman record with eleven touchdown passes, and earn the conference’s Rookie of the Week honors three different times. In 2019, the Rams will have a great problem to have: a senior and a proven sophomore ready to take the snaps.
Fordham’s running game is in a similar situation. The first two games of 2018 saw great offensive production from Zach Davis, with 94 yards on 26 carries before suffering a season-ending injury. Enter Tyriek Hopkins, a transfer from Florida who led the Rams with 476 rushing yards and even had 71 reception yards. This year, Hopkins, now a senior, will be joined by Davis for what they can only hope will be a full season.
All of that aside, the Rams’ strength in 2019 might actually end up being on the other side of the ball. While Fordham may have graduated All-Patriot League cornerback Dylan Maybin, the preseason All-Patriot League team for this year includes Fordham senior corner Jesse Bramble, and senior defensive back James Biggs-Frazier will be returning to the team after missing all of 2018. The linebackers will also have some star power in 2019, including two 2018 All-Americans: Ryan Greenhagen and another member of last year’s All-Patriot League first team Glenn Cunningham.
The Fordham football Rams of 2019 will be entering the season with a considerable amount of talent and a coach that now has his first year under his belt, and they have been picked in preseason polls to finish fourth out of the seven in the Patriot League. Perhaps this is the year Fordham will finish above our expectations and remind the football world that the Seven Blocks of Granite was no architectural fluke.