Later today, Marist Football will kick off the 2023 season today at 12:30 p.m. with a matchup in the nation’s capital against Georgetown. As preseason camp came to a close, we asked some of our writers for their thoughts on the upcoming season.
What are your initial thoughts on last year’s team?
Eugene Barbieri, Contributor: Last year’s season was disappointing. While the offense had many flashes of excellence, you just can’t ignore that -91 point differential. The defense struggled to keep opposing teams in check, and the offense struggled with turnovers. In critical situations, the Red Foxes always fell flat. Despite this, they managed to finish 4-4 in conference play, proving that there is potential to make noise with a fine-tuning.
Luc Most, Contributor: Last year, the team struggled on all fronts. Whether it be the amount of points they let up every game or the struggle with turnovers. On a good note, the team finished with a .500 record in the conference. There is hope that they can maximize this and use it for this season. However, it also feels like the team’s star players all departed the team leaving mediocrity behind with them.
Jimmy Tsiantoulas, Assistant Editor: There were several games that should have been won, but the Red Foxes could not handle business in the final quarters of games. There were definitely some bright spots about the team that I’ll discuss in this piece, as they were able to remain afloat and finish at .500 in the conference.
Sam McNamara, Contributor : When you look at the stat sheet of last year and you see three guys that are at the top and 2 of them are special teams players, it leaves you scratching your head. One positive thing to come out of this past season is that the Red Foxes managed to finish at a .500 record in conference. There was a lot of talent shown last season, but that talent must rise to the occasion this season.
Dan Aulbach, Editor-in-Chief : Finishing tied for sixth doesn’t come with any prizes. The team couldn’t compete with the top talent in the PFL and lost their last two conference games of the season to bring them back to a .500 record. Just because the season went south doesn’t mean there weren’t positives. Marist had three first-team-PFL defenders. The problem is two of them are departing (Clay Fields III and Aaron Acosta), along with honorable mention and longtime corner Teddy Wright. There are holes to be filled, but the foundation for success is being laid out for Marist with a restructuring of their offense and Brock Bagozzi at the helm.
After an up-and-down year, the Marist Red Foxes finished at an even 4-4 record in the conference and a 4-7 record overall. What gets them over the .500 hump in the PFL season?
EB: Offense wins games, defense wins championships. If the Red Foxes can’t fortify the defense, they will continue to hover in the limbo of mediocrity. Losing some core components from the backfield certainly isn’t making their case easier. The offense on the other had some extremely promising moments last season, but their biggest issue other than the turnover crisis is the team’s overall consistency. Marist only had one game last season that ended within a single score (Marist 30, Drake 25). They also never won or lost more than two games in a row. This team is hot and cold; if they can iron out the kinks and catch fire, I have no doubt they can cruise past .500.
LM: The area that needs the most improvement is their defense. There was only one game last season where the Red Foxes allowed less than 20 points (37-7 win against Presbyterian). Offensively, one thing that needs to be addressed is turnovers. Marist was one of the five schools in the conference with a negative turnover margin. If the Red Foxes can improve on red zone defense and their ball control, I can see them having a record way over .500.
JT: The team had several problems on both sides of the ball this past season. Having six games with 30-plus points scored against is a mood killer. Their offense absolutely had its struggles, as turnovers were a commonplace drive killer. However, despite losing graduates and transfers, Marist has been able to stay relatively the same year to year. The offense and defense have had another off-season to grow, which could help propel them to a much better 2023 season.
SM: This team has to focus on defense and let Brock rock. Giving up 30 scores on 35 red zone opportunities in conference is not acceptable for this team as they need to have a better “bend, don’t break” approach on their defense. They let up 21 touchdowns and 9 field goals in the red zone last year in conference, which means 153 of their 222 points scored against were in the red zone. Looking at the offense, Brock Bagozzi showed flashes of being a good quarterback last year, but he needs to find consistency.
DA: I’ll go with an answer less statistics-based: Defining roles. After speaking with Parady this week, it was clear that one of their key focuses during preseason camp was how players rose to the occasion. The loss of Glenmour Leonard-Osbourne in the backfield means Amin Woods will have to work with a new counterpart in Triston Shannon, a redshirt junior who shined in camp. The receiving core took a hit in the offseason, losing receiving leader Brett Landis to a knee injury, so the lower-string units from last season need to be ready to go. If units like the rushing and receiving core learn to play off each other, they could turn around their struggles from prior games.
One of the newest first-year captains is starting quarterback Brock Bagozzi, who earned the role last year after flashes of stellar play, including a 30-25 win over Drake with a passing, receiving, and rushing last year in the same game. What’s the expectation for the captain this year?
EB: With almost 2200 passing yards, a 113.5 passer rating, an All-PFL honorable mention, and a PFL Offensive Player of the Week under his belt, it’s no secret expectations are high for Bagozzi. The quarterback struggled with interceptions, firing off an equal amount of picks and touchdowns. With this in mind, only two of the 11 interceptions were thrown during the four final games, both of which came in the same game. Perhaps the tail end of his 2022 season could be an indicator of progress toward a successful 2023 campaign? Nevertheless, expectations are fairly high.
LM: Brock Bagozzi showed flashes of excellence last season, which granted him the well-deserved role of starting quarterback. However, Bagozzi’s main issue is consistency. Bagozzi ended the season with 13 total touchdowns and 11 interceptions, finishing with a little over 2100 yards. Of course, it is easy to say that Bagozzi needs to improve on raising the touchdown numbers and lowering the interception numbers, but with getting a season’s worth of experience at the starting quarterback job, one can hope that Bagozzi will become more disciplined with the ball. I believe Bagozzi will have a much better season this year after getting better acquainted with his offense. So, my expectation for this year is that he improves heavily as the season progresses.
JT: Bagozzi needs to come out this season with a fire in his eye. Although he certainly earned his starting and captain spot, he needs to tidy up parts of his game. Ball security is a top priority, as he threw 11 interceptions compared to his 11 passing touchdowns. To truly take this team to the next level, he must be more poised in the pocket and feel out what the defense gives him. That being said, he completed over 55% of his passes and had a passer rating of 113, which led the team. If he can expand on those flashes of success, I believe he can turn this team around.
SM: The theme for the offense is to let Brock rock. Coming into the season, Coach Parady needs to have enough trust in Brock to let him run this offense and make the offense go through him. There are concerns with his ball security, but that is something that can be developed in practice. He needs to tweak some things up, but you can still see his natural talent game to game. He is a great playmaker with good arm talent and has proven he can lead this team to wins. The QB1 is here to stay and we will see Brock rock the PFL.
DA: Bagozzi is a competitor, and where competitors thrive is when there’s a threat. This past season, that threat was not the clear starter at the beginning of the season in 2022. He struggled to start the season, sure. In the first two games, Bagozzi looked uncomfortable and a little frantic against the two non-conference opponents and barely made half of his pass attempts with a few picks. With fire under him, he sprung to action in their first PFL game and win of the season by letting the ball fly and letting his playmakers do the work. Not only that, but he WAS the playmaker for the offense in their first PFL win against Drake, after getting a passing, rushing, and receiving touchdown of his own in that game. Bagozzi proved something other than his competitiveness: he’s an athlete. And after spending time in the off-season putting on some serious muscle, Brock could be the playmaker for this team.
After finishing 3rd to last in total offense, the Red Foxes took a big hit this year with speedy running back Glenmour Leonard Osbourne out of the picture this season. With a new offensive coordinator in Casey Tosches, who in the skill positions rises to the occasion this year under his guidance?
EB: Marist has an extremely young running back core this year; while they further develop their skills, it will be Amin Woods who rises to the occasion. The powerful back led the Red Foxes with seven rushing touchdowns and 427 rushing yards last year with notable performances against Bucknell, St. Thomas, and Stetson. To add on, Woods was second on the team in receptions with 38, fortifying his dual threat capabilities. Expectations should be high, as Woods exudes elite potential under Casey Tosches’ leadership. With Woods taking control as the clear RB1, the redshirt junior Tristan Shannon will take a heavier workload in the backfield. It should also be noted that the Red Foxes have a highly talented wide receiver pool loaded with talent. Expect Brett Landis, Will Downes, Matt Stianche, and the new transfer Mohamed Diawara to establish strong connections with Brock Bagozzi this upcoming season.
LM: Losing one of the team’s most talented skill position players is a big hit. However, with the introduction of a new offensive coordinator, there also comes the introduction of new players into the Marist system. One of these players is wide receiver Mohamed Diawara, who spent last season at Bates College. Diawara put up impressive numbers for Bates, gaining 527 yards and scoring 7 touchdowns, which led Bates. Through his 2022 play, Diawara showed that he could stay consistent and prove to be a very reliable receiver for quarterback Brock Bagozzi. I will definitely be looking forward to the Bagozzi-Diawara connection this season.
JT: My mind immediately goes to redshirt junior and returning running back Amin Woods. He was the leading rusher on the team last season with 447 yards compared to Leonard Osbourn’s 422, which opens up the avenue of the main back in this offense. He should expect to see an even higher usage, and potentially rush for 750 to 800 yards, while also leading the team in rushing touchdowns again. Offensive coordinator Casey Tosches has experience coaching several skill positions as he steps into his new role, and he should be able to make the most of what he has.
SM: The guy I instantly thought of with this question was redshirt junior wide receiver Matt Stianche. He has a build that is similar to NFL star CeeDee Lamb at 6’3 188 pounds coming into this season. He had 25 receptions for 359 yards on a outstanding 14.4 yards per catch. Bagozzi has now had a lot of time to get experience with Stianche and he will predictably get a lot more reps after the performances he showed toward the end of last season. His quickness and overall athleticism will be crucial for this football team. The 6’3 receiver will have a lot to prove this year and his stock is definitely up.
DA: With Amin Woods locking down the rushing room, I want to talk about the offensive skill positions. I’m interested to see what comes from Matt Stianche, who I mentioned earlier as a key leader in bringing the receiver core up a notch from the prior season. Parady had high praise for Stianche filling in for Landis during his absence in the spring, and while he only caught one pass in four of the first five games, his receptions steadily trended upward in the later half of the season.
Bagozzi has now had plenty of time to work with the 6’3 receiver from Pennsylvania. His first and only touchdown of his career against Presbyterian was on a freakily athletic jump over an opposing back in the corner of the end zone to catch a lob from Bagozzi. I’m expecting more of those this season.
Also departing the Red Foxes on defense are Clay Fields, Teddy Wright, and Aaron Acosta; three of the key leaders on the squad have departed. However, Marist football now has its first ever three-year captains in program history in linebackers Mike Arrington and Arthur Pinckney. How will those two help manage the Red Foxes on defense?
EB: Mike Arrington is an absolute force, plain and simple. Last season, he lit up the stat sheet like a Christmas tree leading the team with 93 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and finishing second on the team with 3.5 sacks. Arthur Pinckney, the other component to this dynamic duo, has also built himself a more than adequate resume with his physical power and high football iq. Third team all PFL is certainly nothing to scoff at. Despite the critical departure of Fields, Wright, and Acosta, I do believe the three year captains have the experience and ability to truly ignite a fire in the locker room, and help the newer guys reach their highest potential.
LM: One thing that is crucially important for captains to have is a good sense of leadership on the team. With the heavy hits to the defense, it’s the captain’s job to step in and boost the morale of the team. With having captains who have been on the team for as long as they have, they can instill traditions to the newer players and overall make the team a good environment to work as a unit, which is the main job of a defense. If anything, having the seniority in the locker room will help unite the team even further and bring great success to the defense.
JT: Mike Arrington and Arthur Pinckney were just as important to that defense as the three-headed monster of Clay Fields, Teddy Wright, and Aaron Acosta. Arrington led the team in total tackles, tackles for loss, and was second on the squad in sacks. Pinckney had himself a great year as well, having one interception, one forced fumble, and three pass breakups. These two guys will immediately step in as the top dogs of the unit, and they should be able to vocalize exactly what they need to do in order to turn this defense around. Just by being there, they will have an indefinite impact on what happens even before the snap. This should in turn allow for other guys to shine as teams turn their focus on these two.
SM: Mike Arrington and Arthur Pinckney are coming into this season with a huge chip on their shoulder. It is their time to lead this defense and lead by example and they know it. Arrington’s 80 total tackles and 1.5 sacks are just an addition to his leadership that he has shown time and time again. He is a great athlete that has a tremendous knack for being an excellent leader that makes everyone around him play to their best ability that they know they can play at. While Arrington is a great Mike linebacker, Arthur Pinckney brings everything else you need from your Sam linebacker. When he needs to he will bring the heat as we saw with his two sacks last year, while still being a great cover linebacker with his 3 pass deflections and interception. These two stud linebackers bring their leadership, experience, and overall great athleticism to a team that needs all three of those things in order to be successful.
DA: Arrington leads by example; not only is he a premier defender in the PFL, but he makes everyone around him better. As a defensive line, knowing I have a pair of veteran linebackers behind me to help on both the run and pass rush would make me play better. Not only does Arrington have an impact on defense, but also on the punt team. Arrington has full trust in Jim Parady, and leading by example gives this entire team trust in his coach. More importantly, the players picked these two captains– the first three-year captains in Parady’s tenure– to lead by example. With Arrington and Pinckey causing mayhem for the opposing ball handlers, everyone else will obviously play with passion.
Final thoughts and record prediction for the 2023 Red Foxes?
EB: The 2023 Red Foxes have their work cut out for them. My prediction is that the season will feel like a repeat of last. The big issue at hand lies in the defense, which needs to drastically improve to change the current narrative. Marist lost three titans on defense, making the future uncertain on that front. That being said, the three year defensive captains have the opportunity to get the ball rolling early. On the offensive side of things, its breakout candidates galore in the forms of Brock Bagozzi, Amin Woods, and Mohamed Diwara just to name a couple. This team can get boiling hot quickly, but I have a hard time seeing the defense pulling a complete 180 to complement the offense without the veterans of last year, and that is why I predict a final record of 4-4 in conference play, (6-5 overall).
LM: Overall, I believe that the Red Foxes have a lot to work on to see success this season. On both sides of the ball, there is work to be done and improvements to be made. However, I believe that the most important thing is the growth from season-to-season and how well the team is able to adapt to the changes in the offseason. If the Foxes can improve in all fields throughout the course of the season, then I can see them having a positive record. I feel that there is too much to work on in a short period of time, making me think that the output of this season will be similar to what it was last season. I predict a final record of 5-6, a one game upgrade from last season.
JT: Overall, I think the Red Foxes are slowly moving in the right direction. Although they have several glaring holes on both sides of the ball, that should in turn open opportunities for other guys to shine and prove why they should be playing. If everything goes right, I believe they could finish with a record of 6-5. But if the team regresses anymore or at least stays on the same track as last year’s squad did, a 4-7 or even a 3-8 record is not out of the question.
SM: The Red Foxes have put themselves in a position to improve from last year. Yes, they lost some guys from last year’s team but one thing a lot of this team has gained is experience. Bagozzi is suiting up for another season under center which will be huge for this offense, and the defense looks to be more solid. Under the new offensive coordinator, I think we will see a lot of improvement from Bagozzi and the rest of the offense, as the highs will shine a lot more than the lows. I predict the Red Foxes will go 5-6 this season. As always, let Brock rock.
DA: It’s really hard to say what direction this team will go this season, but it feels like the right one. One thing is for sure: change is happening. I’m excited about the offense; I think there is potential to have a leg up on opposing PFL opponents who won’t know what to expect around Tosches’s offensive scheme. The defense has too many positions that need immediate filling, and I’m guessing they will have their hands full at the beginning of the season against Georgetown followed by Davidson for the home opener. This is a “prove it” year for the offense to do its job and for the veteran captains to lock it down and lead by example. This team can get hot, which is why I believe they can finish with an in-conference 5-3 record (overall 5-6) after a slow start to the season.
Edited by Ben Leeds and Marley Pope