Aug. 10, 2010

Courtesy of Harvard Athletics

Harvard was voted as the league favorite in the 2010 Ivy League preseason media poll, released Tuesday as part of the league's annual football media day.

Harvard received 10 of the 17 first place votes and finished with 128 points. Penn received six first place votes and 124 points while Brown was third in the voting with 95 points. Yale also received a first place vote in rounding out the upper division selections in fourth place with 83 points. Those four teams were picked in the same order for the second straight season.

Harvard takes to the road against both Brown and Penn this season; the Brown game coming on Sept. 25 in a 6 p.m. game and Penn on Nov. 13 in Philadelphia, Pa.

This marks the fourth time in the last five years that Harvard has been tabbed the league favorite at media day.

Now entering its 137th season of football, Harvard looks for a fresh start to a new decade after a decade of dominance from 2000-09. During those 10 years under the tutelage of Tim Murphy, the Thomas Stephenson Head Coach for Harvard Football, the Crimson posted the second highest national winning percentage in the Football Championship Subdivision and seventh highest in all of Division I. Harvard's .768 winning percentage from 2000-09 trailed only Montana while FBS schools Texas, Boise State, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Florida were the only schools to finish ahead of Tim Murphy's Crimson. Rounding out the national top 10 in the decade was LSU, USC and Appalachian State.

Harvard claimed four Ivy League championships in the decade including back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009 and three championships in the last six years.A year ago, Harvard posted a 7-3 overall record and a 6-1 mark in the Ancient Eight."The bottom line is, regardless of where we are in the poll, we have high expectations and set the bar very high," said Crimson football coach Tim Murphy, who begins his 17th year on the Harvard sideline. "The good news from 2009 was that we came within a couple of plays of winning a third-straight Ivy League championship; we're really proud of that consistency as a coaching staff. But at the end of the day, we weren't quite tough enough, physical enough and good enough to win it."

A total of 10 Harvard players were named preseason All-Ivy League by Phil Steele's Football Preview while captain and free safety Collin Zych has garnered preseason All-America honors by every publication.

Harvard returns 11 starters with five on offense and six on defense.

Looking at his offense, Murphy highlighted the skill positions, where Harvard has illustrated a routine surplus of talent over the past decade. "We've got good depth at wide receiver in Chris Lorditch, Marco Iannuzi, Adam Chrissis and Mike Clark to name a few ... same thing at tight end with Nicolai Schwarzkopf and Kyle Juszczyk," said Murphy. "Our concern is at offensive line where we only have one starter coming back at that position."

Talking about the program's defensive strengths, Murphy sighted his defensive line. "I think the defensive line could be the strength of our football team," said Murphy. "Last year we lost Ben Graeff and Ryan Burkhead right before the opener and we had to throw some young guys in there. That should be a benefit this season with Chuks Obi, Josue Ortiz and Nnamdi Obukwelu that we think can be All-Ivy caliber players. Throw in Graeff, Burkhead and John Lyon and we feel very good about those six guys as the foundation of our defense. We will have more depth on the dl than we had last year, that's for sure."

Answering questions about Harvard's quarterback situation, Murphy gave praise to returning All-Ivy League signal caller Collier Winters and Andrew Hatch, who returns to the field after sitting out a season following his re-enrollment at Harvard from LSU. "I think there will be a lot of competition at every position on our team in general. We have a returning all-league QB in Winters," said Murphy. "I think that Collier did a wonderful job last year; he is very tough, very athletic and a solid leader. In his first season, he did an excellent job in taking care of the football." "Having (Andrew) Hatch is good news for us obviously. What we've got to find out as a coaching staff is, how is his decision making and can he take care of the football?"

Murphy was asked about the difficulties inherent in a potential two-quarterback situation and managing team morale with QB changes. Murphy last utilized a two-QB situation in 2008 with Winters and Player of the Year Chris Pizzotti who is now with the Green Bay Packers. "We always consider the intangibles of our players in any personnel move that we make," said Murphy. "The player who welcomed (Andrew) Hatch back (the most) and is our team leader is Collier Winters. If (Hatch) is the guy who can help us win, our players will support that. We'll do what it takes, if that means playing two guys we will, but our number one guy right now is Collier Winters."

Harvard's success in producing NFL quarterbacks in recent years was also high on the minds of the media members. "We've been very fortunate at the quarterback position; we've done a good job of evaluating kids in the recruiting process," said Murphy. "If you look at Neil Rose, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chris Pizzotti, all three were offered NFL contracts."

Circling back to an earlier statement, Murphy was asked about his lone returning offensive linemen and also piqued the interest of the media with a statement about one of his projected new starters. "The offensive linemen coming back is Brent Osborne," said Murphy. "We think he's one of the top players in the league. He is in his third year as a starter and is very versatile."

"I do think we have some ability (on the offensive line) but its always a concern because you need some work to get there and we haven't had that."

"One of the surprises of our team will be at left tackle. A lot of people in the league were glad to see James Williams leave (for the NFL)," said Murphy. "Kevin Murphy, we think, is a better pro prospect. He possesses great size, is very athletic, very tough and very committed. He has a chance to be as good an offensive linemen as we've had since Matt Birk who has had a long NFL career."

Harvard opens its season Sept. 18 with a 7 p.m. home game against Holy Cross.

2010 Ivy League Football Preseason Media Poll

1. Harvard (10) 128
2. Penn (6) 124
3. Brown 95
4. Yale (1) 83
5. Columbia 61
6. Princeton 55
7. Dartmouth 39
8. Cornell 27

Media Day Notes:

Tuesday's media day was held via conference call for the second time ... Executive Director of the Ivy League Robin Harris made opening greetings ... The day began with the Ivy League's director of officiating, Jim Maconaghy, who outlined the rules changes for college football in 2010 ... The most significant rules change came in regards to the "wedge" on kickoffs. Teams will only be allowed to utilize two players should-to-shoulder on kickoff formations. Should more than two players be within two yards of each other, a 15-yard penalty will be assessed.