The locker rooms were filled again Thursday morning at Merrimack College, with the college’s football program reporting for preseason camp. The Warriors open the regular season in about three weeks.
Nearly 100 student-athletes began to file in to North Andover for the start of the 2014 campaign; Thursday’s itinerary featured preseason compliance and sports medicine meetings before the group heads to the Strength and Conditioning Center for the first official workout of the year at 3:30.
Tomorrow, the team will lace up the pads and cleats on the gridiron for the first time beginning with a conditioning test in the morning followed by the first practice of the year at 3 p.m. at Martone-Mejail Field.
The Warriors will have nearly three full weeks of practice in preparation for the 2014 season. After finishing last fall with a 7-4 overall record, the highest single-season win total in four years, expectations are equally high this summer as second-year head coach Dan Curran turns to a new-look offense that will feature a new quarterback under center after the graduation of Joe Clancy this past season.
On the other side of the ball, three different players who finished with 60 or more tackles will anchor a defensive unit that is primed for a breakout year with the infusion of several talented playmakers from the incoming freshmen class, as well as transfers.
In total, three all-conference selections will return for the Warriors this fall, highlighted by Preseason All-American Jere Brown at wide receiver, as the Warriors look to reload and contend for a Northeast-10 Conference title.
Merrimack officially opens the 2014 campaign on Saturday, Sept. 6, traveling to Division I Bryant University for a road bout against their formal NE-10 mates. Last year, the Warriors upset reigning Northeast Conference (NEC) champion Wagner, 42-41, on the road to highlight arguably the program’s biggest win in school history.
This is a big year for the football program. They have to overcome the loss of Clancy at quarterback, but we thought the same thing when James Suozzo left the position vacant two years ago. Curran is entering his second year and is starting to put more of his fingerprints on the program. He had plenty of influence under John Perry, but everyone has their own way of doing things and through recruiting and some transfers, every year is becoming more of “his guys.”
They have enough weapons on offense that if the defense can just be alright, the Warriors should contend for an NE-10 title. Merrimack was first in the league in total offense last season, gaining 489 yards per game; the Warriors were seventh in defense, allowing 422 yards. Merrimack’s points allowed was third worst, and its offense scored the second most.
Merrimack does return a lot of playmakers on defense, though. The Warriors picked off 16 passes last season and forced a total of 27 turnovers (16 interceptions, 11 fumbles lost).