Week 8: October 21st @ Monmouth
Head Coach: Kevin Callahan
2016 Record: 4-7
Last season was a difficult one for the Hawks. Due to stadium construction, they sacrificed most of their home games while traveling a tiresome EIGHT times out of West Long Branch. Ironically, Monmouth is nowhere near the geographical location of the Big South Conference which meant they traveled to Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina twice (we will throw Coastal Carolina in there) over the course of their last five games. It is no surprise they went 0-5 to close the season. But 2017 looks to be different for the Hawks as Kessler Stadium is now complete. Their schedule is much more balanced and in their 4th year as a Big South member, Monmouth hopes to make some waves.
The Hawks look to replace two key players on the offensive side of the ball. With QB Cody Williams graduating, sophomore Kenji Bahar is set to take the starting role. Last season Bahar saw playing time in all 11 games, three of those being starts. He threw for 964 yards and 4 TDs. At the running back position, Monmouth’s leading rusher in Lavon Chaney is now gone. With his departure, both Michael Jolly and Darren Ambush will likely have a more prominent role in the backfield. Together they rushed for 232 yards last season. Though Ambush had just 53 of those yards, he is a receiving threat. He caught 49 passes for 588 yards, 2nd on the team behind one of the best receivers in the Big South, WR Reggie White Jr. White highlights the offense this coming season and will be an important part of Bahar’s success.
Monmouth’s defense has struggled against Liberty’s offense, giving up an average of 37 points a game. Last season they gave up a whopping 681 total yards to the Flames, given the Hawks were on their 3rd straight road trip. With the loss of prominent linemen Darnell Leslie, they will look to Manny Maragoto to lead in the trenches. Their secondary looks good with Teddie Martinez, Kamau Dumas, and Mike Basile all returning. Omitting Leslie, these were the top three tacklers for the Hawks last season. The big question mark for Monmouth on defense is their linebacking core after losing Payton Minnich and Brendan Wharton. Deigo Zubieta and Evan Powell are some guys to consider when crowding the box this coming season.
The only time the Flames played the Hawks in West Long Branch, things didn’t go so well. We’ve seen Liberty drop away games that they shouldn’t have in recent years.
Despite Liberty’s embarrassing loss to Monmouth in 2015, the Flames have seen sustained success against the Hawks going 3-1, all being double digit victories.
The run game is a big question mark this season for Monmouth. By the time the Flames visit, they should have it together. But as it stands now, that could be a huge weakness.
Keep an eye on Monmouth’s linebackers.
Players to Watch:
WR Reggie White Jr.-White was the Big South’s leading receiver last season.
DL Manny Maragoto-This edge rusher lead Monmouth’s defense last year in both sacks and tackles for loss.
DB Mike Basile-A leader in the secondary, Basile returns after having the most tackles on the team last season.
Kickoff @ Monmouth