Ever since joining the Colonial Athletic Association in 2013, Stony Brook Football has yet to produce a winning record. The Seawolves boasted a top-ranked FCS defense last season yet still missed their third straight CAA playoffs. It is not difficult to deduce which side of the ball fell short of expectation: offense.
Last year saw the loss of starting redshirt junior running back Stacey Bedell to a shoulder injury, coupled by a quarterback battle that lingered to the end of the season. Neither then senior quarterback Conor Bednarski nor current redshirt sophomore Joe Carbone could string together consistent performances and the starting role was decided on a week-to-week basis. As expected with redshirt freshmen, Carbone was interception-prone and known for scrambling over his pocket poise. But with a year under Carbone’s belt and the starting job firmly solidified as his, head coach Chuck Priore believes a deep, more experienced depth chart will produce more scoring than a 2015 squad that averaged a mere 17.3 points per game.
“Joe’s the quarterback. You’ll see him play one, you’ll see him at the end of the game,” Priore said. “I think we have more overall depth as a football team, specifically offensively and maybe a little more weapons to be able to be more efficient on that side of the ball,” he added.
Stony Brook’s deepest offensive position may be at the wide receiver position. Two Boston College transfers, junior wide receiver Sherman Alston Jr. and graduate student Harrison Jackson were added to the crew. Alston Jr. nabbed 23 receptions for 252 yards, ran for 388 yards and was a featured punt returner last year for the Golden Eagles. The pair, along with Western Michigan transfer and graduate student Tim Keith, will help round out a receiving cast led by preseason all-CAA junior receiver, Ray Bolden. Bolden notched 765 yards on 68 catches last season and is the favorite to emerge as Carbone’s favorite target.
Transfer guards — redshirt freshman Mason Zimmerman from Maryland and sophomore Jonathan Haynes from West Virginia — will crouch next to preseason all-CAA junior tackle Timon Parris. Keeping pressure of a young Carbone as well as creating workspace for running backs in Priore’s run-loaded offense will be key factors in the offense’s success.
If Carbone shows more comfort in the pocket and develops a pass-first mentality, the running game will open up for a salivating Bedell. A veteran receiving core may help do just that. Consistency in the quarterback position is key in establishing chemistry and a dual pass and run threat will help keep defenders honest. A sound, reliable passing game could open the play action and give the Seawolves an improved and more diverse scoring arsenal.
Player to Watch: Stacey Bedell
After a summer of rehab, feature running back Stacey Bedell will return to the gridiron from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the final seven games of last season.
“It’s just going to be fun getting back out there on the field,” Bedell said. “This offseason I was definitely focused on rehabbing my shoulder that I hurt and putting on more weight and becoming stronger. I put on about 10 more pounds, 10-15 more pounds. I feel 100 percent right now.”
Fortunately for him, his transition is eased by the pickup of Boston College transfer, Jordan Gowins, a 5-11, 225-pound Bellport native who won Newsday’s 2013 Hansen Award for the top high school football player in Suffolk County. Gowins, as well as last year’s leading rusher, sophomore Donald Liotine, will split workload and offer a downhill compliment to Bedell’s shifty style of running.
Given Priore’s run-heavy offense, expect all three backs to receive consistent touches with Bedell taking the lion’s share. “Stacey, Jordan and Donny [Liotine] will all play,” Priore said. “They all do something a little differently and play their roles as their strengths.”
With a sound defense in place, Stony Brook’s success is predicated on its offensive production. You cannot win games if you cannot put points on the board. If the Seawolves were to make the playoffs, Bedell would need to return to 2014 form, a year that culminated in 1,070 yards, nine touchdowns and 5.5 yards per carry. The William Floyd High School alumnus would then take pressure off of a developing Carbone and provide some desperately sought after offense, something hard to come by these past three years.