HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Merrimack.
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Merrimack (5-5 IN 2018)
NEC (This is Merrimack's 1st year in the FCS)
COACH: Dan Curran – At School: 8th year (29-35) Overall: Same
2018 OFFENSE: 24.3 ppg (98th in D2)
2018 DEFENSE: 27.8 ppg (96th in D2)
KEY GAME: Sept. 7 @ Central Connecticut: The Warriors take on their first D1 opponent of the season and it's against one of the top teams in the Northeast Conference. This is a great test to see how well Merrimack can compete in its first season in the FCS.
SUM IT UP: Merrimack College is the newest FCS team along with fellow NEC member Long Island University. Both are making the move up from Division 2 and the NE10 conference. Merrimack has hovered around a .500 record these last few years and now plays eight FCS opponents on its 11-game schedule. The Warriors faced Bryant, an NEC program, back in 2017 and lost a tight one 49-41.
The 2019 squad will be an experienced one. Christian Carter is a fun player to watch at the quarterback position and he's just a sophomore. Carter threw for 1,681 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions last year and also led his team with 465 yards rushing. Merrimack's top running back Jamari Venter is also back after running for 461 yards. He'll run behind an offensive line that returns four starters. Erick Browne leads that unit and is an extremely talented left tackle who will be a four-year starter. The Warriors lose their top pass catcher, but Marquis Spence, Johnny Rosario and Anthony Norcia combined for 1,278 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns in 2018.
The defense has a ton of production coming back. Eight of the 11 top tacklers return, including tackle-leader Michael Mercuri at linebacker. Defensive backs Jovan Grant and Caleb Holden along with linebacker Jake Ragusa are leaders on the defense as well. There will also be a few players who missed last year due to injury that will have a big impact on the team.
OUR TAKE: Unlike Long Island, who's had a string of successful seasons lately, Merrimack isn't exactly a Division 2 football power making the jump up. The school has had plenty of success in other sports, though. The football team has a lot of veterans on it who are hungry to show they can compete at the Division I level. That close loss to Bryant in 2017 shows they can. While taking some lumps this season is to be expected, look for the Warriors to push some NEC teams and show they belong.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: So./QB Christian Carter (1,681 passing yards, 16 TDs, 3 INT, 465 yards rushing and 2 TDs)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./OL Erick Browne (Set to be a 4-year starter at LT); Sr./WR Marquis Spence (49 rec. for 634 yards and 7 TDs); So./WR Johnny Rosario (31 rec. for 455 yards and 5 TDs); Jr./LB Michael Mercuri (Top tackler last year with 81); Jr./DB Jovan Grant (53 tackles); Jr./DB Caleb Holden (30 tackles, 4 INT, 7 PBUs)
THE QUOTE: "I am extremely excited for our players and our staff to be entering our first year reclassifying to the Division I level and as a member of the Northeast Conference. In addition to our NEC slate of games, we will have a very competitive out-of-conference schedule, as well, with opponents from the CAA, Big South, Patriot League, and the MEAC. The 2019 schedule will certainly be the most difficult schedule in program history, and I know I speak on behalf of the entire program when I say that we are looking forward to the challenge." — Head Coach Dan Curran said
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