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Thursday, January 31, 2013

2013 Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference Preview

By Ted Hardy

This coming weekend, the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference (SCRC) kicks off their 2013 conference schedule with four games on tap. The SCRC is currently comprised of 11 teams split into two divisions… East and West. The University of Florida is the reigning SCRC champion having defeated Tennessee 22-14 in the inaugural SCRC Championship game last April. LSU and Alabama served as the other conference semifinalists.

Although the SCRC has 11 teams competing in conference play this spring, the conference actually has 11 full members and 3 associate members. The associate members are Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas A&M. All of which are expected to compete at the 2013 SCRC Olympic Rugby Championship. All teams save for Vanderbilt and Arkansas competed at the 2012 event.

East Division: Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky

West Division: LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State

Here’s a look at the SCRC teams and how they are shaping up for the 2013 conference season. Team are not listed in any particular order.

East Division

Vanderbilt University

Coaching Staff: Jim Snell (Head Coach)

2012 Record: 8-7 (2-4 in SCRC)

Top returning players (Position/Class):
Alec Coston (Wing/Senior)
Taylor Coston (Fullback, Senior)
Austin Moore (Lock/Senior)
Tyler Stanley (Outside Center/Junior)
Scott Trench (Flyhalf/Senior)

Promising newcomers (Position/Class):
Erik Allen (Inside Center/Junior)
Tony Osorio (Flanker/Freshman)
Austin Wortley (Flanker/Freshman)

Outlook: Vanderbilt is still going through some of the growing pains that come with moving up in competition level. This will be the Commodores second season in Division I-AA. Vanderbilt offers a well-balanced attack and has some overall team speed to create problems for their opponents. With a year of learning experience under their belts and a good amount of upperclassmen leadership in the squad, Vanderbilt may be able to improve upon their record from last season. It won’t be easy though. The Commodores open up the season with two road games before coming home to face Florida.  

“Our second year as a division I-AA team will be tough, and all of our wins will be hard-fought,” said Head Coach Jim Snell. “Consistent tackling and strong offensive rucking will be critical. The team is up for this challenge.”

Team website and/or Twitter Account:  

 
University of Kentucky

Coaching Staff: Tony Vince (Head Coach), Gary Anderson (Asst. Coach), Vince Gross (Asst. Coach), Jan DeBeer (Asst. Coach)

2012 Record: 1-5 in SCRC

Top returning players (Position/Class): 
Shane Kelley (Fullback/Senior) Honorable Mention SCRC 2012

Promising newcomers (Position/Class):
Troy Miller (Flyhalf/Sophomore)
Eric Nasson (Flanker/Freshman)

Outlook: Kentucky is another squad still going through the pains of a jump up in competition. With leadership in place as well as structure to the team, Kentucky has a five-year plan in place to become competitive in the SCRC. The squad is young and looks to use a strong lineout as a platform on offense and aggressive play on defense. The team will look to All-SCRC Honorable Mention fullback Shane Kelley for leadership. Kentucky will be put to the test early with trips to Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee in the first five weeks of the season. 

“We are still a very young team and we tend to get rushed in our decision making,” said Assistant Coach Vince Gross. “We struggle at times turning a quick fluid aggressive style of rugby into a rushed frantic style. So, if we stay poised, aggressive at the breakdown and in the tackle we can compete.”

Team website and/or Twitter Account:
www.kentuckyrugby.org

 
University of Tennessee

Coaching Staff: Marty Bradley (Head Coach), Andy Allen (Asst. Coach), David Codevilla (Asst. Coach), Josh Holt (Asst. Coach), Michael Weldon (Asst. Coach), Joe Siragusa (Asst. Coach), Mark Donaldson (Asst. Coach)

2012 Record: Conference: 11-2 (7-1 in SCRC)  

Top returning players (Position/Class):
Nick Vigder (Flyhalf/Senior)
Matt Johnson (No. 8/Senior)
Mason Howard (Wing/Senior)

Promising newcomers (include position & class):
Will Holland – Center – Freshman – Chicago, IL - St. Ignatius High School
Jack Donlon – Lock – Freshman – Memphis, TNWhite Station High School
Nicholas Duklewski – Scrumhalf – Freshman - Germantown, TNGermantown HS
Jake Murphy – Prop – Freshman - Knoxville, TNBearden High School
Collin Thul – Prop – Freshman - Chattanooga, TNChattanooga School of Arts and Sciences

Outlook: The Volunteers graduated 16 seniors from a squad that lost in the SCRC Championship and went on to reach the Division I-AA semifinals before being eliminated by San Diego State. Do not confuse the turnover with rebuilding, Tennessee is just reloading and may not miss much of a beat. The young team is going to be put to the test in Week 1 as they take on Division rival Florida at home. The winner will have pole position on the division crown.

“We need to mature. Quickly,” said Head Coach Marty Bradley in regards to his team’s outlook for the season. “While young, we have a lot of experience as most of our freshman class comes to us with three to four years of rugby experience in high school.”

Team website and/or Twitter Account:
www.tennesseerugby.com 
Twitter @tnrugby        

 
University of Georgia

Coaching Staff:  Doug Porter, Brian Lake

2012 Record: 7-2 (4-2 in SCRC)

Top returning players (Position/Class):
Sam Trammel (Scrumhalf/Senior)
Austin West (No. 8/Junior) #8

Promising newcomers (Position/Class):
Will McFadden (Center/Sophomore)
Casey Davidson (Prop/Freshman)
Nathan Driggers (Prop/Freshman)
Justin Rey (Wing/Sophomore)

Outlook: After a strong first season in the SCRC, Georgia may have a tough time in 2013. The team graduated seven starters and may have lost Wing Jon Ross and Center Will Farrell for the entire season due to injuries. Fortunately, an influx of young talent may shorten the rebuilding process for the Bulldogs.

“We have some exciting athletes and have a chance to have a strong team, but it’s very much a rebuilding year,” said Georgia Coach Doug Porter. “Being as young as we are, we’ll make mistakes, but we’re athletic enough that if we stick together as a team and support each other, we have a chance to do some good things.”

Team website and/or Twitter Account: 

 
University of South Carolina

Coaching Staff: Mark Morris (Head Coach), Steve Darnell (Asst. Head Coach), Sam Patterson (Asst. Coach), John Bayard (Asst. Coach), Calvin Storey (Asst. Coach)

2012 Record: 10-7 (2-4 in SCRC)

Top returning players (Position/Class):
Matt Berenato (Wing/Junior)
Tim Holkenborg (Scrumhalf, Flyhalf/Senior)
David Mysona (Utility/Junior)
Rob Davila (Flanker/Senior)
Josh Walsh (Flanker/Senior)
Michael Rudzinsky (Center/Sophomore)

Promising newcomers (Position/Class):
Mike Mahon (No. 8/Freshman)
Brian Keown (Scrumhalf/Freshman)
Luke Bolembach (Flyhalf, Wing/Freshman)

Outlook: After a disappointing 2012 SCRC campaign, South Carolina is going all in and is after the title in 2013. Bolstered by an incoming class of experienced Freshman players, South Carolina was able to easily fill some holes in the lineup. The Gamecocks boast a deep pack of forwards and good team speed that is boosted by All-SCRC 7’s players Matt Berenato and Tim Holkenborg. Team MVP Josh Walsh is also back and anchors the back row. The Gamecocks can set the pace for their season in Week 1 as they are on the road to face East Division contender Florida in a must-win game.

“Our team speed and depth in the forwards should provide us the ability to play fast ball this season. Our backs have outstanding speed and chemistry and several outstanding runners,” said Gamecock Head Coach Mark Morris. “We need to continue to work on our offloading and run lines to make the line breaks so we can use our team speed.”

Team website and/or Twitter Account:
Facebook - Men’s Rugby at University of South Carolina
Twitter- uscrugby
Website: www.uscrugby.org

 
University of Florida

Coaching Staff:  Ken Simmons, Gary Byrne

2012 Record:  14-5 (7-1 in SCRC)

Top returning players (Position/Class):
Lucas Baistrocchi (Flyhalf/Junior)
Rob Roux (Hooker, No. 8/Senior)
Josh Nicdao (Utility Back/Senior)
Fernando Carlo (Scrumhalf/Senior)
Ryan Gilbert (Flanker/Sophomore)
Jason Lentz (Inside Center/Senior)

Promising newcomers (Position/Class):
Paul Rice (Utility Back/Sophomore)

Outlook: As the defending SCRC Champion, Florida comes into the season with a huge target on their back. Florida is another team reloading after losing 15 seniors from last year. With a deep squad, the players stepping into bigger roles have already had some seasoning. One area of concern is that the Gators lost some team size and will need to make up for it in other areas. Florida will be challenged right out of the gates as they host South Carolina and then follow with a trip to face Tennessee. Florida is also on the road to face LSU in mid-March.

“I am very comfortable with the skills and abilities of the players at this point in time and fully expect UF to have a successful season,” said Florida Head Coach Ken Simmons. “To make up for the loss in size, we will need to focus on strength and conditioning as well as taking better advantage of team speed than we have in the past.”

Team website and/or Twitter Account:
www.ufrugby.com


West Division

 
University of Alabama

Coaching Staff: Mark Seitz, Malcolm Croft

2012 Record: 11-5 (4-3 in SCRC)       

Top returning players (Position/Class):
Simon Bedoya (Flyhalf/Junior, Vice Captain)
Matthew Schick (Lock/Sophomore)
John Solter (Fullback/Senior)
Shawn Branham (No. 8/Junior)
Josh Oriez (Flanker/Sophomore)
Patrick Sequeira (Wing/Senior)

Promising newcomers (Position/Class):
Zach Carmello (Scrumhalf/Freshman)
Dave Hockenberry (Lock/Freshman)

Outlook: Alabama return all but two players from a team that finished in 2nd place in the West Division and pushed Tennessee before falling 31-22 in the SCRC semifinals. The Crimson Tide has plenty of experience and talent in their squad. The team returns their top scorer (Sequeira) and two top try scorers (Branham and Oriez) and have to be a solid favorite to return to the SCRC playoffs. Alabama opens up the SCRC season on the road to face division rival LSU in a game that could set the tone for their season.

“We have an experienced team with great team chemistry,” said wing Patrick Sequeira. “We need to play together as a team and take advantage of opponent’s mistakes.”

Team website and/or Twitter Account:
http://www.Rugby.ua.edu   
https://twitter.com/AlabamaRugby

 
Mississippi State University

Coaching Staff: Renaldo Arroyo, Randy Pannell, Brad Krock

2012 Record: 2-5 (2-4 in SCRC)

Top returning players (Position/Class):
Omar McClendon (Fullback, Flyhalf/Junior, Backs Captain)
David Dickerson (Lock/Senior, Forwards Captain)
Joe Pongetti (Utility Back/Sophomore)

Promising newcomers (Position/Class):
Dentay Daniels (Wing, Center/Freshman)
Derrick Mitchell (No. 8/Junior)

Outlook: After dropping their first four SCRC games in 2012, Mississippi State finished strong with two wins including a win over their rival Ole Miss. The Maddawgs are inexperienced, but should be competitive in the West Division. Mississippi State relies on a strong pack and good team defense. The squad opens with Ole Miss and then hosts Alabama in Week 2. They’ll need to win both of those games if there is any hope of reaching the SCRC semifinals.

“We have a very young and inexperienced team this season. We will be very competitive but it depends on how quickly the new guys adjust to rugby and the gameplan,” said MSU Coach Renaldo Arroyo.

Team website and/or Twitter Account:
www.msumaddawgs.org
https://twitter.com/MissStateRugby

 
Louisiana State University

Coaching Staff: Bob ‘Red’ Causey (Head Coach), Steve Hazel (Asst. Head Coach)

2012 Record: 14-4 (5-2 in SCRC)

Top returning players (Position/Class):
Allen Alongi (Flyhalf/Senior)       
Paul Rogers (Hooker, Lock/Senior)       
Will Middleton (No. 8/Junior)          
Morgan Mills (Wing/Junior)         
Wes Wesley (Flanker/Junior)

Promising newcomers (Position/Class):
Jeff Mauras (Outside Center/Freshman)
Christian Brower (Prop/Sophomore)

Outlook: LSU is on another level compared to their competition in the West Division. Another trip to the SCRC playoffs should be in order, the question is can they bring home the title. Expectations are high for LSU. The Tiger’s lineup is strong and most of the team has been together for a few years. The squad has also benefited from a strong pre-season build up. The Tigers will miss the services of Cameron Falcon who recently moved to Ireland to play for Trinity University. However, the squad returns flyhalf Allen Alongi who led the SCRC in points last season as well as Paul Rogers who was a U17 Eagle. LSU opens up with Alabama who may be their closest competitor in the division. LSU will be keeping one eye on their March 16th tilt with Florida.

“Our goal is to qualify for Sweet 16’s this year by winning the SCRC, nothing less will suffice,” said flyhalf Allen Alongi. “We need to practice harder each time we step on the field. Our mindset is to win every game we play but our focus is on defense. If we can control the opposition offense then nothing can stop us from scoring.”

Team website and/or Twitter Account:
Facebook - LSU Rugby
Twitter - LSU Rugby
Website: lsurugby.com

 
Auburn University

Coaching Staff: David Bess and Jim Smith

2012 Record: 0-6 in SCRC

Top Returning players:
Ben Winiarczyk (Flyhalf/Junior)
George Kasper (Flanker/Senior)
John Britt Easterling (Scrumhalf/Junior)
Sebastian Kamyab (Inside Center/Junior)
Aaron Martin (No. 8/Junior)

Promising Newcomers:
Nick Mangella (Lock/Sophomore)
Gage Sanders (Flanker/Freshman)

Outlook: Despite their winless 2012 SCRC season, Auburn was in every game aside from their loss to LSU. Auburn got a big lift via the SCRC 7’s tournament in the fall when the squad surprised everyone by beating LSU in the Quarterfinals and pushing eventual champ Texas A&M in the semifinals. The Tigers have strong upperclassmen leadership and a hard-nosed pack to rely upon.

“After our dismal 2012 season, we came into the SCRC 7’s tournament with a chip on our shoulder and fared better than others expected. We hope to take that momentum into this coming season and surprise our competition,” said Auburn Rugby President Dillon Rheuby.

Team website:

 
The University of Mississippi

Coaching Staff: David Chapman

2012 Record: 2-4 in SCRC

Outlook: Ole Miss is another team that was competitive last season despite their final record. The squad has a great opportunity to get the season off on the right foot with four straight games against comparable opponents. Getting off to a good start will be of the utmost importance for the team. Their home/away set against rival Mississippi State is one of the highlights of their schedule. The two teams split the series in 2012.

Coaches Poll

East Division
1. Tennessee
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. South Carolina
5. Vanderbilt
6. Kentucky

West Division
1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Auburn
4. Ole Miss
5. Mississippi State

Overall
1. Tennessee
2. Florida
3. LSU
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. South Carolina
7. Auburn
8. Vanderbilt
9. Ole Miss
10. Mississippi State
11. Kentucky

5 comments:

  1. Great article. Thanks for such detailed reporting on South Eastern College Rugby. As a UGA Rugger Alum its great to read about the current status of my team and others in the conference. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  2. WM,

    Thanks for the kind words. Glad that you liked the article. We're working hard to increase the level of coverage.

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  3. Very nice overview!

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  4. I saw that Kentucky beat UGA 15-0, it'll be interesting to see how they perform throughout the season

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  5. South Carolina had a big win over Florida and the young guys are stepping up in a big way! cant wait to see how this season unfolds!!!

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