When tight end Graham Adomitis ’20 took his position in preseason practices this year, it was hard to ignore what was missing on the line of scrimmage: Stephen Carlson ’19 and Jesper Horsted ’19, Princeton’s towering receiver tandem that combined for 18 touchdowns and more than 1,700 yards last year for the undefeated Tigers, had moved on to new challenges in the NFL, leaving Adomitis as the Tigers’ most experienced receiver.
“It’s definitely different — not only their presence on the field, but they’re two of my best friends,” said Adomitis, one of three team captains this fall. “So it’s different, but it’s also kind of exciting. I know Andrew Griffin [’20] and Andrei Iosivas [’22] and Dylan Classi [’22] and a couple other guys have been waiting their turn, working hard, [and] taking the right approach.”
The same could be said for Adomitis, even though he’s been a starter for two years. He was an All-Ivy player last year, mostly on his strength as a blocker, and the senior should play a more prominent role in the passing game this year.
“He’s a really good athlete,” said head coach Bob Surace ’90, “for a guy who’s 6-foot-5, 255 pounds. [We want to] take advantage of the matchups and his athleticism a little more.”
Who will be throwing to Adomitis and his fellow receivers after the departure of two-time Bushnell Cup-winning quarterback John Lovett ’19? Four candidates seem to be in the mix: Kevin Davidson ’20, who was impressive in his lone start last year, a 48-10 dismantling of Brown; Brevin White ’22, a highly regarded recruit who passed up an offer to join Nick Saban’s juggernaut Alabama squad; Zach Keller ’20, who was a perfect 13-for-13 on pass attempts in limited duty last year; and Cole Smith ’21, who has impressed coaches in the preseason.
Surace did not have much to say about who would be in the starting role, telling reporters on Media Day that he didn’t see much to gain from sharing that information before the Sept. 21 opener against Butler. He added, “That’s one position I’m not losing sleep over.”
Davidson said the offense had a productive offseason, with players practiced passing routes in workouts under the winter “bubble” at Princeton Stadium and early-morning sessions on campus over the summer. “All of the quarterbacks have developed a tremendous trust with our core group of wide receivers,” he said.
Other strengths for Princeton include the corps of running backs, led by Collin Eaddy ’21 and Ryan Quigley ’20. Eaddy had a breakout game against Yale last year, running for 266 yards and three touchdowns in Princeton’s 59-43 win. Quigley is, in Surace’s words, the “Swiss Army knife” of the Tigers’ attack, equally equipped to handle receiving, running, and blocking assignments.
Princeton’s offensive line, anchored by center Alex Deters ’21, has experience as well, thanks in part to the rotation of players in Princeton’s up-tempo attack. “We play a lot of linemen, because of the number of plays we run,” Surace said, so even the new starters this year have played 20 to 25 plays per game in backup roles.
Home games in CAPS
* – at Yankee Stadium
Sept. 21 – BUTLER, 5 p.m.
Sept. 28 – Bucknell, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 – COLUMBIA, 1 p.m.
Oct. 11 – LAFAYETTE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – Brown, 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 – HARVARD, 1 p.m.
Nov. 1 – Cornell, 7 p.m.
Nov. 9 – Dartmouth, 3:30 p.m. *
Nov. 10 – YALE, 1 p.m.
Nov. 17 – Penn, 1 p.m.
The Tigers return an exceptional defense, with eight starters back from a unit stocked with speed and athleticism.
Free safety TJ Floyd ’20 intercepted six passes last year — the most by a Tiger since All-American Jay McCareins ’06 picked off nine in 2005. Linebacker Jeremiah Tyler ’21 showed his versatility as a disruptive force in the opposition’s backfield (five tackles for losses) and a solid contributor in the defensive backfield (two interception). On the defensive line, Jake Strain ’20, a team captain, and Joey DeMarco ’20 lead the returning group. Princeton ranked fourth among FCS schools in points allowed last year, with only two Ivy opponents (Harvard and Yale) scoring more than 14 points.
Linebacker John Orr ’20, also a team captain, said that the expectations are the same across the field, regardless of position or experience level. “In our defense, it takes 11 guys, and everyone has to be on it,” Orr said. “Everyone has their job to do, and we feel like we’ll be successful if everyone executes that role.”
Adomitis had a similar take from the offensive side of the ball, but the Tigers’ greatest asset may be its toughness, he said: “It’s a tough team that’s hungry. We know what we did last year, but this group here wants something for itself as well.”
Tiger Stripes Meet Pinstripes
The plan lost momentum, amid changes in the coaching staff and athletic department leadership at Rutgers, but Surace said the Yankees were still interested in hosting a Princeton football game. Dartmouth, which is celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding this year, turned out to be a willing partner. So on Nov. 9, 150 years and three days after kicking off an American phenomenon, Princeton football will be back in the national spotlight — this time in a matchup of the top two teams from the 2018 Ivy League season.
“I think that game will really represent the 150th well, it will represent the league well,” Surace said. “Whether people like or don’t like the Yankees, there is an excellence there. … They recognize their tradition and their excellence. And to me, any time we can allow our players to do something like that and be part of that, that’s something we should support.”
For the record, Surace is a Yankees fan. He threw out the first pitch at a game in July, alongside Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, and had a chance to meet one of his childhood favorites, Reggie Jackson, on the field.
Surace’s players share his excitement. “That’s everyone’s dream, to go play at an awesome, iconic, historical stadium in front of a big crowd in a rivalry game,” co-captain Graham Adomitis ’20 said. “It is going to be special.”
“We’re very proud to be part of the team where it all started,” added co-captain Jake Strain ’20. “We don’t forget that.”