Reily Radosevich ’20 and his offensive linemates won’t hear their names called much this year. But the Princeton football team’s success depends as much on them as the more recognized skill-position players.When the Tigers open the season at Butler 6 p.m. on Sept. 15, they will roll out one of the deepest defensive units in memory, but they have to replace a couple of big pieces from the country’s third-best scoring offense in 2017.
“We do have a lot of guys who have been very successful in previous years coming back on the offense,” said Princeton head coach Bob Surace ’90. “We do have some holes to fill.”
Princeton must replace a record-setting quarterback and three starters from the offensive line. Chad Kanoff ’18 won the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year after setting the Princeton career passing yards record, the Princeton and Ivy records for single-season passing yards and single-season completion percentage, and the Princeton record for touchdowns in a season.Quarterback isn’t as much of a question mark as the offensive line: The Tigers have the luxury of replacing Kanoff with another Bushnell winner as John Lovett ’19, who missed all of last season due to offseason surgery, rejoins the team. Lovett earned first-team All-America accolades and claimed the Bushnell Cup as a junior in 2016.
“I feel like I’ve gotten bigger, stronger, faster,” said Lovett, who reported at over 230 pounds after playing at 220 pounds in 2016. “It’s all good weight. I’m ready to have a good season.”
Lovett will have at his disposal the Tigers’ top three rushers from a year ago led by running backs Charlie Volker ’19 and Collin Eaddy ’21. Every Princeton player who caught a pass last year returns as well, led by standout wide receivers Jesper Horsted ’19 and Stephen Carlson ’19 and tight end Graham Adomitis ’19.
Home games in CAPS
Sept. 15 – Butler, 6 p.m.
Sept. 22 – MONMOUTH, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 – Columbia, 6 p.m.
Oct. 6 – LEHIGH, 1 p.m.
Oct. 13 – BROWN, 1 p.m.
Oct. 20 – Harvard, noon
Oct. 27 – CORNELL, 1 p.m.
Nov. 3 – DARTMOUTH, 1 p.m.
Nov. 10 – Yale, 12:30 p.m.
Nov. 17 – PENN, 1 p.m.
“I feel good right now,” Lovett said. “We did a lot of hard work this summer. All our receivers were here and our entire offense was here so we’ve been working hard as a team.”
Lovett, who is a stronger runner but less of a thrower than Kanoff was, needs time in the pocket, and the running backs need holes. That’s why Radosevich and his linemates are so critical to the Tigers’ prospects.
“It’s very, very important, especially with the guys we have coming back this year,” Radosevich said. “We’re looked to as the group that’s going to be depended on to get things done. With everyone returning, with John Lovett and the wide receiver group that has an immense amount of talent, and the running backs we have, the offensive line is where we lost three spots. We’re going to be looked at to be dependable in the run game and pass game.
“We know we have this pressure on us. We’re going to face that pressure and go forward with it.”
Radosevich and left guard George Attea ’19 return for a line that graduated left tackle Mitchell Sweigart ’18, center Richard Bush ’18, and right guard Erik Ramirez ’18.
“Mitch Sweigart was the best left tackle maybe in Princeton since Chris Theiss ‘93, and you’re going back to the early 1990s,” Surace said. “There have been some really big holes to fill, and I love how the guys are jumping up into those positions and the work they’re putting in.”
Radosevich has developed into a leader for the line after emerging as one of the top linemen in the conference over his first two seasons. He was honorable mention All-Ivy as a freshman and a second-team All-Ivy right tackle last year.
“The guys who are filling the spots — Brent Holder ’20, Alex Deters ’20, and Andre Guest ’20 — are really stepping up and have come a long way since the spring,” Radosevich said. “They made huge jumps in the spring with weightlifting. Once we got to spring ball, they were working on technique. They’re really doing well. Now that we’re in camp, they’re starting off where they left off in the spring.”
Getting back into preseason camp has given the new-look line a stern test. The line has come together thanks to intrasquad practice challenges.
“They’re going up against some outstanding defensive linemen who have played a lot of football, and they’re doing well,” Surace said. “It’s been great competition between those two lines.”The Princeton defense brings back defensive lineman Kurt Holuba ’19 and linebacker Mark Fossati ’19 after both had season-ending injuries early last year.
“With both of those guys, it’s experience; strong, fast, great knowledge of the game, good team football players,” said Princeton defensive coordinator Steve Verbit. “You’re going to improve in each and every category when you have two guys like that back on defense.”
Linebackers Tom Johnson ’19, John Orr ’20, Jackson Simcox ’19, and James Johnson ’21 all have experience to build on this season. Safeties Ben Ellis ’19 and T.J. Floyd ’20 are the leaders in the secondary.
“We’re deep,” Verbit said. “We’re deep up front, we’re deep in the second level. We have a lot of bodies where you need bodies.”
Princeton also brought in the No. 1 recruiting class in FCS according to HeroSports.com and 247sports.com. It’s highlighted by quarterback Brevin White ’22, who received a much-publicized offer from national-champion Alabama, and defensive lineman Tola Banjoka ’22, a pass-rusher from Canada who played at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.“They’re very talented, but they’re still learning how to pick up the offense or the defense or the special teams,” Surace said. “The thing I keep stressing with them is the growth.”
Princeton will welcome their talent and depth. The Tigers are looking to make more plays down the stretch in games. Despite their offensive numbers last year, Princeton finished 5-5 overall and 2-5 in Ivy League play. Four of their losses were by four points or fewer.
“It was a great season, and we look at it as a great offensive season, but we still finished 5-5,” Radosevich said. “That’s our chip on our shoulder.
“We have to be five percent better and score on one more drive. That’s where we can improve – we don’t punt as much, we don’t kick field goals, we score. … That’s our offensive mentality.”
Radosevich is looking to do his part to help. He came in without as much offensive line experience as some recruits, after playing tight end the final half of his senior season of high school at nearby Manalapan.
“I still watch film from when I was a freshman and my coach likes to call me the baby deer Reily,” Radosevich said. “I was just so awful with what I was doing. It’s definitely freshman spring when I started to learn the ins and outs of the offense and I carried it over to sophomore year. That’s why I can work on technique now, because I’ve pretty much got the offense down.”
Now he’s a leader for the Princeton offensive line that could be the key to this season. Radosevich is confident they’ll do their job.
“We like to block for people who are going to make big plays,” he said. “We have faith in the skills of the running backs like Charlie Volker and Collin Eaddy. They’re going to run their tail off to try to make the best possible play they can. That gives us added motivation to block our best and pass protect at our best. With John back there, nobody knows what’s going to happen. It’s a lot of fun.”