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A Positional Look at Football’s Freshman Class

Senior wideout Justice Shelton-Mosley has averaged 4.4 receptions per game in his three seasons for the Crimson.
Ivy League football does not have quite the same level of pageantry and fanfare that accompanies playing in a Power Five conference, to say the least. Rabid fans do not obsess over online message boards, games are not always played in front of impressive crowds, there isn’t round-the-clock TV coverage, and rivalry games are not scheduled a decade in advance. 

However, here at The Crimson we hope to provide some semblance of preseason chatter about Harvard football. Just over a week from the team’s home opener, we’ll briefly dive into the makeup of the newest members of Harvard’s squad and investigate which groups will be most crucial to the Crimson’s plans this fall.

Coach Tim Murphy and his staff brought 28 rookies on board as the Crimson looks to rebound after a disappointing 2017 campaign. The team finished 5-5, including a 3-4 record in conference play with wins against Brown, Dartmouth, and Columbia.

For a team that relied heavily on a deep senior class on the defensive end in 2017, Harvard football brought in a bevy of recruits to replenish its defense heading into 2018. The class is comprised of 12 offensive players, 14 on the defensive side, one kicker, and one punter. 

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In a preseason conference call, Murphy downplayed the immediate impact his freshmen will have, instead opting to describe the team as one that is characterized by senior leadership and skilled upperclassmen. Surprises do abound during any given slate of 10 games, so these first-years could be making contributions sooner than anticipated.

Quarterbacks: Luke Emge (Lancaster, Pa.), Pat Holly (Princeton, N.J.)

If sophomore Jake Smith cements himself as the team’s starter for the foreseeable future and one of his classmates (Camden Bohn or Owen Holt) steps into a backup role, Emge and Holly will be understudies for a time. That is not to mention senior Tom Stewart, who may win the starting role this season and was 30-for-51 passing in 2016 before missing time last season due to injury.

Running backs: Daniel Abraham (Randolph, Mass.), DeMarkes Stradford (Waxhaw, N.C.)

Harvard has a deep cache of running backs, but injuries can easily crop up and force younger players into crucial roles. Seniors Charlie Booker and Semar Smith and sophomores Devin Darrington and Aaron Shampklin can be expected to receive the majority of touches this season—at the outset, opportunities for Abraham and Stradford should be few and far between, but that could change in an instant.

Wide receivers: Kym Wimberly (Slidell, La.), Joe Young (Bethlehem, Pa.)

Officially there are 13 wideouts on Harvard’s roster, and Murphy enjoys incorporating his tight ends into the passing game, so like the backfield, this position is also crowded for this year’s pair of freshmen. 

Tight ends/Halfbacks: Kyle Klink (Middletown, Md.), Adam Shepherd (Little Rock, Ark.)

The Crimson returns a seasoned group at one of the key positions in Murphy’s offense. Klink and Shepherd will need to work their way up the ladder as well.

Kickers/punters: Jonah Lipel (Tarzana, Calif.), Jon Sot (Clark, N.J.)

Lipel suits up behind last year’s go-to kicker, junior Jake McIntyre. The lefty McIntyre has two seasons of experience, playing all 10 games each year and nailing 81 percent of his field goals and 92 percent of his extra point attempts. With the departure of Zach Schmid, the punting spot is up for grabs, and Sot will compete with sophomore Sean McKeogh to earn that job.

Offensive line: Tom Aicardi (North Easton, Mass.), Will Christiansen (Valencia, Calif.), Spencer Rolland (Burnsville, Md.), Patrick Walsh (Sterling, Mass.)

At the risk of sounding repetitive, the offensive line is yet another position with a number of trusted and established starters, one of whom is preseason All-American Larry Allen.

Defensive line: Logan Clifton (Austin, Texas), Justin Kakala (Manteca, Calif.), Anthony Nelson (Tampa, Fl.), David Schwartz (Longmeadow, Mass.), Chris Smith (Detroit, Mich.), Jacob Sykes (Kansas City, Mo.)

This year’s defensive line is slightly younger than its counterpart on the other side of the ball. Of the 18 players listed as defensive linemen, only two are juniors. Though a senior core—including familiar names such as Stone Hart, Richie Ryan, and Alex White—remains, these freshmen will likely get significant looks this season in preparation for larger roles in ensuing seasons.

Linebackers: Jake Brown (Fredon, N.J.), Solomon Egbe (Loganville, Ga.), Truman Jones (Atlanta, Ga.), Brandon Won (Fullerton, Calif.)

This is another deep positional group. Injuries have plagued Harvard’s linebackers in recent seasons, so Murphy opted to bring in another four linebackers to match the number of sophomores at the position. Last year, the four current sophomore linebackers saw game action for at least five games each.

Secondary: Michael Burrell (Dacula, Ga.), James Herring (Dallas, Texas), David Spitz (Shelton, Conn.), Khalid Thomas (Youngsville, N.C.)

Officially, there are 14 players listed as defensive backs and four as safeties. Two of those four safeties are rookies (Burrell and Herring). This positional group is in a bit of flux following the departures of several key seniors, such as Tobe Ezeokoli, Tim Haehl, Tanner Lee, and Raishaun McGhee.

—Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at jack.stockless@thecrimson.com.

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