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Bears look to experienced offensive unit to continue winning ways

QB Donnelly and WR Lundevall are among players to receive preseason accolades

As it aims for a sixth-straight winning season, the football team will rely on a heavily experienced offense this fall, possibly starting seniors at all 11 positions — including seven who will return from an offense that ranked fourth in the Ivy League last season for total yards per game.

Spearheading Bruno’s attack will be quarterback and co-captain Patrick Donnelly ’14. The field general was the third-rated passer — both in passing yards and by quarterback rating ­— in the Ivy League a season ago, and his return brings the Bears experience leading the offense, said Head Coach Phil Estes.

“Patrick Donnelly is the key to what we do,” Estes said. “We’ve got to be able to execute our plays, and it starts with the quarterback.”

Donnelly will be joined by his two favorite targets from last year — receivers Tellef Lundevall ’13.5 and Jordan Evans ’14. Lundevall is a first-team All-Ivy selection and enters his senior campaign with 155 career receptions, the fifth most in Brown history. Estes called the 6-foot-4 receiver a “physical” specimen who will be a key target in the team’s passing game.

Donnelly said Lundevall’s presence makes his job easier. “He’s the guy that I trust,” he said. “Whenever I throw it to him, I have 100 percent confidence that he is going to catch it.”

A group of newcomers — Stian Romberg ’15, Brian Strachan ’15 and Reily Higgins ’15 — will complement Lundevall and Evans in the receiving corps. The trio had a strong spring and will compete for playing time throughout the season, Estes said.

Bruno also returns experience at the tight end position with Andrew Marks ’14 and Alex Viox ’15. The ends combined for 17 catches and four touchdowns last year.

Returning starters are plentiful in the passing game, but before Donnelly and Lundevall can break any records through the air, the Bears will have to prove their ground attack, Estes said.

“The biggest thing about any game is you need to go in and establish the run,” he said. “If you can establish a run game, it opens up everything else.”

The Bears graduated their top three backs — Spiro Theodhosi ’13, Jeffrey Izon ’13 and Mark Kachmer ’13 — leaving a hole in the backfield. But other returners show promise. Jordan Reisner ’14 ran for 256 yards last season, the most for any returning back. Reisner wowed Brown Stadium last October with an explosive 193-yard performance against Cornell, but he was sidelined by an injury for much of the season.

The running game will get a boost from the return of John Spooney ’14. The lightning-fast Spooney placed second on the team in rushing with 375 yards two seasons ago but didn’t play last season to focus on his decorated track career. Spooney’s return is a major addition for the ground game, and he is expected to get most of the carries early in the season, Estes said.

“Spooney’s a guy that can break open a ball game,” Estes said. “Easily, he is the best running back we have.”

Controlling the line of scrimmage will be up to the team’s experienced offensive line. Returning tackles Cole Hooper ’14 and Clayton Paino ’14 anchored last season’s front line, which did not allow a single sack in the season’s final four games. Joining them is all-Ivy guard Dan Austin ’14. The middle of the line will be controlled by center Nathan Svensson ’14, while Ryan McCourt ’14, Abe Dube ’15 and Nicholas Codrea ’15 will add depth to the unit. Donnelly said the experienced offensive line was “all you could ask for as a quarterback.”

Not to be overlooked is Bruno’s biggest scoring threat: All-Ivy placekicker Alex Norocea ’14. The kicker is a valuable weapon for the Bears, leading the team in points with 51 points and the league in field goal percentage at 81.8 percent last season.

The Brown offense will take the field next Saturday with a combined 43 years of college football experience, five preseason All-Ivy team selections, and the fastest man in the Ivy League in the backfield. The offense is more experienced than last year’s squad, so they can build off what they did last season, Donnelly said.

All that remains is “execution,” Estes said. “Execution will make it go.”


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