Rhode Island has reason to be optimistic heading into the 2011 season. Despite finishing 5-6 (4-4 CAA) last season, the Rams return a veteran group of players on offense, including a solid offensive line, and weapons across the running back and wide receiver position. Although the defense has been decimated by graduation, Rams head coach Joe Trainer has a talented group of young players ready to contribute.
Players to watch for (Offense):
STEVE PROBST (QB): The Hofstra transfer got pushed into action last year after projected starter Chris Paul-Etienne suffered an injury. The senior ended up passing for 1,876 yards and nine touchdowns. He also led the team with 600 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
AYO ISIJOLA (RB): Last season, Isijola finished with 455 yards and three touchdowns, although both Travis Hurd and Deontray Johnson figure to get some touches, as well. He’ll be running behind experience, as offensive linemen Kyle Bogumil and Jason Foster have played a combined 61 games with the Rams.
ANTHONY BASKERVILLE (WR): Probst will have plenty of options to pass to, among them, Anthony Baskerville. The senior led the Rams last year in both receiving yards (500) and touchdowns (three). Keep an eye out for Brandon Johnson-Farrell, who was second on the team with 400 yards, rebounding nicely from a turf toe injury he suffered during the 2009 season.
Players to watch for (Defense):
DAVE ZOCCO (LB): The Rams lost inside linebackers Matt Hansen and Joe Harris but will try to fill the void with Zocco. The sophomore broke out in the spring game, recording two interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown.
ALI MUHAMMAD (DL): Speaking of players who enjoyed stellar spring games, Muhammad had a stellar game of his own, with three sacks and four tackles for loss. He and Zocco will be part of a young core that will replenish a team that lost nine seniors from last year’s defense.
Fearless prediction: Ryan Nassib busts out in a big way against a very inexperienced Rhode Island secondary to the tune of 300-plus yards and three touchdowns. Antwon Bailey cruises to his first 100-plus yard game of the season as the Orange win easy.