Back to work: CUA begins spring practice on Tuesday

WASHINGTON – Following several months of intense weight lifting and conditioning sessions, the CUA football team is set to begin its spring segment of practice.  The Cardinals will hit the field for the first time on March 15 and conduct 16 total practice sessions over the course of four weeks.

CUA is coming off a 4-6 season in 2010, including a 2-4 mark within the ODAC.  The Cardinals had a large number of underclassmen play pivotal roles and Head Coach Dave Dunn is now looking for those youngsters to take the next step, beginning this spring.

“We feel much better heading into this spring than last year,” Dunn said.  “There aren’t nearly as many question marks.  If you look at our two-deep on offense, we have 11 out of a possible 12 guys at the skill positions returning so that’s exciting.”

He continued, “A lot of the stuff we’ll be throwing at them the first couple of days should be review, whereas last year it was brand new to so many of them.”

Rising sophomore Mike Pitsenberger had a terrific first year for CUA, earning Rookie of the Year accolades from the ODAC.  Pitsenberger ranked fourth in the conference with 901 rushing yards, which he totaled in just nine games.  He topped the century mark three times during the season, including a high of 186 vs. Hampden-Sydney.

Along with Pitsenberger the Cardinals return a slew of players at the skill positions, including quarterback Greg Cordivari, running back Nick Cortese and wide receivers Alonzo Cooke, Lawrence DeSimone and Jason Howard.

One area to be addressed during the spring is the offensive line where Dunn lost a pair of starters in three time all-conference performer Rich Brennan and the ever-steady Chris Scotti.

“We counted on a lot of freshmen last year on offense, and while many of them performed at a high level it’s nice to have veteran guys coming back,” Dunn said.

Like the offense, the CUA defense returns a great deal of talent for the upcoming season, including a bevy of players along the line.  Vinnie Cortese, Alex King, Rob Schaetzl, Kirk Kasa, Anthony Albanese and Dean Barr all saw action in 2010 and will anchor the defensive line moving forward.

At linebacker the Cardinals lose all-conference performer Christian Pavik, who led CUA in tackles last season, but the cupboard is far from bare with Conor Stueckler, Marc McEvoy, James Fuccilo, Aaron Cornwell and Joe Tretter among others back for another year in the black and red. 

Stueckler came on strong towards the end of last season with 38 tackles in the last five games, including a season best 11 in the finale vs. Bridgewater. 

Dylan O’Shea was the leader of the secondary last season, but he will be lost to graduation, so the Cardinals will look to a new group to lead in 2011.  Aaron Thompson and Ryan Klein return after starting at cornerback last year, with Scotty Braswell and Mike DeAngelis also coming back.

At safety O’Shea’s younger brother Colin had a solid campaign in 2010 and he is joined by Cole McDonough as returners at the safety position.

“Similar to the offensive side, on defense we lose a couple of very good players, but overall we return a lot of talent and experience,” Dunn said. 

“The nice thing is we can take our system we ran last year and begin to tweak things.  Last year we were trying to get the nuts and bolts down, but now we can take that next step.”

Throughout CUA’s spring segment Dunn is looking for plenty of competition out of his players. “Competition definitely makes the spring better.  No job is safe and our kids know that they have to come to work every single day.”

He concluded, “We’re coming off the best winter segment we’ve had since I’ve been here.  The kids really worked hard in the weight room and they understand that if we want to take that next step as a program, we need to outwork people everyday."