Thursday, September 1, 2016

A scouting report on the CCSU Blue Devils

When Central Connecticut State football coach Pete Rossomando was on a teleconference with Lehigh Valley media earlier in the week, he was asked by Brad Wilson of the Express-Times to give us a couple of players to watch.

His offensive choice was junior running back Cameron Nash, who isn’t even listed as a starter for the Blue Devils. Nash is the leading returning among the backs, having rushed for 676 yards and caught passes for another 218. His home town is listed as Smyrna, Del., but he played high school football at New Smyrna High. He started out and red-shirted at West Virginia but transferred to CCSU. Last season was his first with the Blue Devils. He ran 73 yards for one touchdown and was on the receiving end of an 84-yard TD pass play, so the Leopards will have to be keyed on him. Rossomando called him “a really special type of running back.”

For a defensive pick, Rossomando gave us junior strong safety Najae Brown. Brown also is a big-timer who had 88 tackles, ran back an interception 39 yards for a touchdown and also had a 95-yard kickoff return TD in 2015. Rossomando called Brown “a pretty good player … hie was as good as they came last year.”

Ironically, Rossomando didn’t cite Asia Bolling, the Devils’ 6-3, 210-pound senior defensive end. Bolling is definitely a disrupter. The stats we received in the game notes indicate that he had 64 tackles, ranking fifth on the team, but 22 of them were for losses. He also had a team leading seven quarterback sacks. But on the college website, the stats show he had 14.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. That's a pretty significant difference, but ee figures to be a handful for the Leopards’ offensive line. I'll be checking with the sports information people about which numbers are correct.

CCSU must have had problems similar to those at Lafayette last year. The team scored on 13 points all season in the first quarter and only 61 in the first half.  Rossomando said that “in the last game of the season we lined up our seventh tailback … we had a lot of injuries at wideout, too.” He said that this season, “I feel really good about our backfield. We’ve got four guys who had significant carries and snaps at the college level last year. Our quarterback is a returner,  and that makes things a little smoother on offense.”

Rossomando said that the Northeast Conference allows teams to have 63 scholarship equivalencies, but only 45 of them are athletic scholarships while the rest are awarded financial aid. The squad limit for the conference is 95, and CCSU is at 94. That’s going to look like a huge squad at Friday night’s game.

The Blue Devils must really get after it on defense. Last year, they racked up 115 tackles for loss – they ad 10 or more in seven of their 11 games.  But at the same time, they allowed an average of 176 yards rushing and 239.5 yards passing per game. Neew Hampshire put 57 points on them, and I wouldn’t be surprised that Lafayette’s defensive coordinator Art Link had a chat with some of his for UNH buddies about the CCSU offense.

Lafayette’s schedule this year has generated a lot of discussion about what caliber teams  the Leopards should be playing in the non-conference portion of the season.

It’s pretty obvious that the quality of play in the Patriot League has been elevated since everyone (Georgetown excepted) has four classes of athletic-scholarship athletes in the program. Colgate did a great job last year by defeating a pair of CAA teams, New Hampshire and James Madison, before losing to Sam Houston State.

Colgate opens its season tonight, too, at Syracuse, and the Raiders then have next weekend off. Lafayette goes from CCSU right into games with Delaware, Princeton and Villanova and then plays Army on Oct. 15. If the Leopards can survive those trials they should be thoroughly tested by the time the meat of the league schedule comes around.

The Leopards don't have a lot of history with the Northeast Conference. In fact, they are 8-6 all-time against NEC foes -- 4-0 against Wagner, 1-1 against CCSU and  Robert Morris, 1-2 against Sacred Heart and 0-3 against Duquesne. They've never played Bryant or St. Francis. CCSU popsted a 14-3 win in Neil Putnam's final year on College Hill, and Bill Russo's tenure opened with a rousing 51-0 victory over the Blue Devils. 

EXTRA POINTS – Central Connecticut State was once known as Teacher’s College of Connecticut … Arute Stadium, the site of Friday night’s game, is named after Jack Arute Sr., who, according to what I read on the Internet, was upset when the state of Connecticut wouldn’t come up to money for a stadium, so he built it himself – he owned a construction company. Arute’s grandson, Jack III, might be known to sports fans from his days as an announcer on NASCAR and Indy-car racing for ESPN and ABC. He now does NFL and college football on satellite radio … The game has no live television feed, but if you don’t mind watching via computer, you can get it for free on  I’m going to miss Gary Laubach and Mike Joseph … Lafayette practiced on Thursday in Easton and then bused to New Britain, Conn., last evening, arriving somewhere around 10 p.m. They’ll do their game-day walk-through in Arute Stadium, which is only about three miles from the hotel at which they’re staying.

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