Friday, August 4, 2017

2017 Opponent Preview: Cornell

Dalton Banks


Cornell got out of the gate with a 3-0 start last year, capped off with a stunning 39-38 win over Colgate on the road. Then the bottom fell out with losses in six of their final seven games, the only win coming in a squeaker against Columbia.

But the Big Red season wasn’t as inconsistent as it may seem by just looking at wins and losses. Cornell was generally a good offensive team and that could continue this year thanks to some key returning players. The defense is another story.

Now in his fifth year as head coach, David Archer has some of his own recruited talent to work with in hopes of getting the program’s first winning season since 2005.


Resist the urge to throw salt on Cornell QB Dalton Banks. He’s the real deal after having a break out sophomore year in 2016. He’s just a great passer and doesn’t rely on any one or two receivers to get his completions. He spread the ball around and doesn’t take too many sacks either.

Fellow junior RB Chris Walker is also very good, as he proved against Columbia last season. But I’m not convinced that he’s as potentially special  as Banks.

Most of Banks’ top receivers are gone to graduation, including standout TE Matt Sullivan. But again, Banks really spread his passes around last year leading me to believe he’ll simply find some good new targets this season.

Much more troubling is that four of Cornell’s starting five offensive linemen for 2016 have graduated. That includes their best OL, John Foster. And that’s a serious question mark that needs to be answered. I can’t think of any Ivy team or any other Columbia opponent with as much work to do on the O-line as the Big Red is facing.


The Cornell defense has 1st Team All Ivy Safety Nick Gesualdi returning for his senior year.

And that’s about it.

Okay, it’s not that bad.

Junior LB Reis Seggebruch is back after totaling 74 tackles and two sacks last season. And fellow LB Kurt Frimel is back too after leading the team in tackles for a loss with six in 2016.

DB’s Justin Solomon and D.J. Woullard return after picking off three passes each in 2016. The problem is, even with Gesualdi, Solomon and Wollard, the Cornell pass defense was the worst in the Ivies. That was probably more a result of a meager pass rush that only netted 18 sacks all season, but the Big Red gave up an average of 272 yards passing per game and almost eight yards per pass.

This overall defensive unit needs to find some young talent to change the script this season or the likely feats of Banks and company on offense won’t amount to much.


Junior Placekicker Zach Mays should be back after missing most of last season to an injury. He’s a solid kicker on accuracy and distance and one of the best in the league if healthy. Nickolas Null was fine as his backup last year, but will probably sit if Mays is ready.

Perpetual top Ivy League Punter Chris Fraser has finally graduated, so the defense won’t be able to count on his help this year.

The Cornell returners did not make any noise last year.

The Big Red are a hard team to figure. They looked like world beaters early last season, but couldn’t keep it going. Now, they have a legit star at QB. But they also have to retool their offensive line almost from scratch. And the defense still needs a lot of work too.

But I do expect this team to be exciting, and that’s something the fans in Ithaca can count on. 

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