Date Posted:09/19/2005,  1:30PM

2005 Bowdoin College Football Preview

HEAD COACH: Dave Caputi (6th season)

LEADING RETURNERS: QB Ricky Leclerc (898 yards passing, 3 TD's), WR Jeff Nolin (28 rec., 227 yards), RB Matt Boyd (212 yards, 3 TD), DB Brendan Murphy (4 INT), LB Shaun Kezer (84 tackles), LB John Regan (70 tackles)

KEY LOSSES: RB Rob Patchett (784 yards), WR Brian Durant (29 rec., 396 yards), LB Lucas Guarino (49 tackles), Greg Berry (OT), Shaun Gagnon (OG)

2004 RECAP:
It proved to be a season of close calls for the Polar Bears, who won two games but lost three nailbiters- including two in overtime to finish 2-6. Bowdoin started the year by battling a tough Middlebury squad on the road (L, 31-17) before mounting an epic comeback only to fall to Amherst in overtime (34-28) in week two. A strong defensive performance gave Bowdoin their first win of the season in week three (14-12) over Tufts, but another overtime loss in week four (51-48) to Hamilton stymied the Bowdoin momentum. Bowdoin rebounded two weeks later with their strongest showing of the year in a 21-0 thumping of Bates. In the end, Coach Caputi's Polar Bears established themselves as a NESCAC contender with a promising core of young players that will look to take the next step in 2005.

OFFENSE: Starting quarterback Ricky Leclerc will look to shake the injury bug that has plagued him in the last two seasons. Leclerc has the strong arm capable of carrying an offense and will be counted on to deliver consistently in his senior campaign. Leclerc will have a plethora of weapons at his disposal, led by a trio of talented backs. Senior Matt Boyd (6-foot-1, 245 lbs) will be Bowdoin's go-to back in short-yardage situations, while classmate Ahron Cohen (5-9, 197 pounds) will use his lightning speed to complement. Sophomore Jeff Smith will also look to get some carries in what promises to be a running-back-by-committee. The receiving corps is loaded as well, led by two senior flankers in Scott Brisson and Jeff Nolin. Tight ends Mike Hickey and Jared Prichard give Leclerc two more large targets for the passing attack. The squad did suffer a significant amount of turnover on the offensive line, and how the unit develops may tell the tale of the Polar Bear season. Converted defender Dave Diamond will be the starting center, while the left side features sophomore tackle Matt McCall and junior guard Ryan Fletcher. The play of the right side of the offensive line, which will start the year with Russell Stevens and Rogan Donelly, will play a large role in the success of the 2005 Polar Bears.

DEFENSE: Bowdoin returns a large contingent of their defensive corps and expects improvement from a unit that ranked 10th in the conference in total defense in 2004. Up front, the Polar Bears return All-NESCAC performer Mike Stratton, as well as the team-leader in sacks (5.5) Zach Hammond at the tackle positions. Dylan Brix moves from linebacker to defensive end, while Michael Vitousek will handle the other defensive end position for a group that will combine speed and strength to pose problems for opposing offensive lines. An extremely strong group of returning linebackers is led by All-NESCAC honoree Shaun Kezer, who led the team with 84 tackles last season. Veterans Dave Donahue and John Regan will hold down the outside linebacker spots, while first-year Damon Hall-Jones will use his athleticism to see time as a pass-rusher this season. Good hands are aplenty in a defensive backfield that has three veteran starters. Led by Brendan Murphy, who paced the team with four interceptions last year, the squad also includes Steve Curwen (three interceptions) and Mike Minogue. Rookie cornerback Sean Welch will likely join the unit as a starter to begin the year.

SCHEDULE: The Polar Bears open the season at home on September 24 against the Middlebury College Panthers, who beat Bowdoin 31-17 in the season-opener a year ago. Bowdoin will then hit the road for two straight weeks, at Amherst and revenge-minded Tufts, who fell to the Polar Bears in Brunswick last fall, 14-12. Bowdoin will welcome a return engagement with Hamilton College on Homecoming Weekend (October 15), where the Polar Bears will look to return the favor of a 51-48 double-overtime loss last fall in Clinton. After a pair of contests against Connecticut schools (at Trinity, Oct. 22; home vs. Wesleyan, Oct. 29), the Polar Bears finish with traditional rivals Bates (in Lewiston) on November 5 and Colby (in Brunswick) on November 12.