WALTHAM, Mass. – Bentley University football coach Bill Kavanaugh and his staff expect to greet nearly 100 players, including a dozen who started at least six games last fall, when the Falcons return to campus Sunday for the opening of the preseason camp.
Bentley, coming off a 6-4 season that included a pair of victories over teams that were ranked nationally in Division II, will have 25 days to prepare for the Aug. 30 season-opener against West Chester University.
Among the returnees are two players who were first-team All-Northeast-10 honorees in 2017, sophomore wide receiver Austin Ryan (Foxborough/Foxborough HS) and senior safety Nick Athy (Holliston/Holliston HS). Also back is two-time second-team All-Northeast-10 corner Pete Thorbahn (Norwell/Xaverian Brothers HS).
Athy led the Falcons in tackles last year with his 76 stops second most among NE10 defensive backs in 2017. He has a nose for the ball as indicated by his three interceptions, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles a year ago.
Thorbahn, a starter in every game the last two seasons, enters the year with career totals that include 22 pass break-ups, seven interceptions and two pick-6's. He's one of three Falcon returnees who had least 50 tackles last season, joining Athy and senior linebacker Andrew Carmichael (Wayland/ Wayland HS).
Freshmen played a major role for the 2017 Falcons on offense with four earning a spot on the NE10 All-Rookie Team. In addition to Ryan, that quartet included quarterback Stephen Sturm (Collegeville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley HS) and linemen Sean Mitchell (Park Ridge, N.J./Saint Joseph Reg. HS) and Tim Leonard (Rumson, N.J./Rumson-Fair Haven HS).
Ryan had a standout year with his 16 TD catches the most by any NCAA freshman last year, regardless of division, and the most by a Division II freshman in at least a decade. He averaged better than 25 yards per catch and totaled 1,242 receiving yards.
Eleven of Ryan's TD catches were delivered by Sturm, Bentley's starting QB in the season's final four games. The left-handed Sturm set school records for passing completion (.731) and passing efficiency (189.31) while throwing for 1,375 yards and 12 TDs.
Another player who showed potential as a freshman last fall was Andrew Brazicki (Franklin Park, N.J./Bishop Ahr HS). He led the team in rushing with 479 yards, six TDs and a 4.8 per-carry average.
In addition to Ryan, Bentley returns four others who caught at least 15 passes last year. Senior slot receiver Drew Mahoney (West Suffield, Conn./Suffield Academy) led the 2017 Falcons in receptions with 51 in seven games before suffering a season-ending injury. Seniors Michael Correia (Fall River/Durfee HS) and Jordan Zlogar (Clifton Park, N.Y./Shenendehowa HS) had 19 and 18, respectively, and junior Ryan McCarthy (Holden/Wachusett Reg. HS) followed with 17.
Bentley's 97-man roster includes 12 seniors, 26 juniors, 27 sophomores and 32 freshmen. The players hail from 14 different states, including California and Florida, and the Canadian province of Quebec.
After the non-conference home opener, Bentley's first Northeast-10 game will be Thursday, Sept. 6, at Southern Connecticut State.