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Deep receiving corps, complementary running backs promise fireworks for football team

Retention of many skill position players has Head Coach Estes P’18 excited about upcoming season

Returning six key starters to an offense that ranked fifth in the Ivy League by both points and yards per game, the football team seems primed to take a leap after a season in which all 11 starters were new.

Perhaps the most important of those returnees is the signal caller. Quarterback and co-captain Marcus Fuller ’15.5 was third in the Ivy League in passing yards and touchdowns last season. The black mark on his statistical resume is his 54.8 completion percentage, which was second-to-last among Ivy quarterbacks with at least 100 completions, but that can be explained by the Bears’ focus on the deep ball: Fuller’s 13.2 yards per completion led the league. His numbers are also skewed by his Ivy-record 71 pass attempts against Princeton, when the Bears trailed by 24 early in the second quarter and had to keep throwing to attempt a comeback.

Between this season and last, “there’s a big difference in terms of how I’m seeing things and how comfortable I feel in the offense,” Fuller said. “But the big thing is not just about me. It’s about the fact that we as an offense have a ton of experience together now.”

“Confidence in the game plan, confidence in the offense and, most importantly, confidence in each other is at an all-time high,” he added.

Having Fuller back to lead the offense is “huge,” said Head Coach Phil Estes P’18.

Estes said Fuller “became one of the better quarterbacks in the league” as the 2014 season went on and “could grow leaps and bounds” this year.

“He knows how to use these guys to make big plays,” Estes added.

“These guys” includes a lot of familiar faces for Fuller: The Bears return both of their top running backs and three of their top four wide receivers from 2014. In the backfield, last year’s starter Andrew Coke ’16 will share time with Seth Rosenbauer ’16, who converted from quarterback in the middle of last season and was a revelation in the backfield.

Rosenbauer was limited by injuries in the first few weeks of the season, but broke out in a big way against Penn — he rushed 30 times for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers were not skewed by a long rush or two: 12 of his 30 rushes went for at least nine yards. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Rosenbauer is not easy to stop.

“He’s a very valuable runner and very big and physical,” Estes said.

“He gives us a nice dimension to our offense,” Fuller added.

Another set of returning weapons for Fuller is his wide receiving corps. Leading receiver and All-Ivy second-teamer Brian Strachan ’15.5 brings back 56 catches for 668 yards and seven touchdowns, all of which led the Bears last season.

Strachan and Fuller, who are roommates, spent the summer in Providence working together and building on their rapport.

The most notable part of the summer for Strachan was his health. This summer was his first since coming to Brown in which he was fully healthy, enabling him to practice and work out without being hampered by injuries.

Across from him, deep threat Troy Doles ’16 also figures to start after catching 26 balls with a team-leading 17.7-yard average.

But the wideout Estes was most excited about was Alex Jette ’17. An electric All-Ivy kick returner as a freshman, Jette was the Bears’ fourth-leading receiver last year and seems poised to make a major leap in 2015.

Jette “is just going to be a dominant player,” Estes said. “He’s terrific. He’s really come back in great shape, and he can fly. We’re going to take advantage of that.”

“Jette’s going to be taking on a little bit more of a leading role in our offense,” Fuller added. He also spent the summer working in Providence with Fuller.

In the trenches, the Bears return their least glamorous but most underrated performer: center John Heile ’16. Estes called the co-captain “a huge asset to us.”

“He knows this offense really, really well,” Estes added. “Everybody has that safe feeling that when John’s in the game, everybody’s going to be on the right page.”

“Heile knows football as well as anyone I’ve ever met,” Fuller said.

Heile’s leadership in the middle will be needed as Bruno replaces both of its starting guards from last season, including first-team All-Ivy left guard Nick Codrea ’15. But new left guard Bruce Hall ’17 has starting experience, as does Andrew Terry ’16, who will share time with Clayton Eubank ’17 at right guard.

The Bears will also benefit from the return of tackles Matt Girard ’17 and Dakota Girard ’17, who are not related and whom Estes expects to be “much better” this season.

“Both Girards are very good, and having a year under their belts has made a big difference,” he added.

Bruno also returns kicker Grant Senne ’16, who made 80 percent of his 15 field goal attempts last season, tying him for third in the Ivy League. He also hit all 29 of his extra points.

Senne “did a terrific job with our field goals and extra points and was terrific with the punting,” Estes said. “The fact that we have him back this year is one less headache to think about.”

Brimming with talent and experience across the board, the Bears have high expectations for 2015.

“We should be one of the best offenses in the Ivy League,” Strachan said. “We have the best receivers in the Ivy League, we have the best quarterback and our offensive line’s one of the best offensive lines, so we should be putting up a lot of points every week.”

“We could be very explosive,” Estes said. “There’s a few more weapons that have established themselves than what we had last year.”

“All the tools are in place for us to have a lot of success,” Fuller said.

Bruno’s season opens Saturday at home against Bryant.




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