New head coach Rob Ambrose will need to accomplish a lot of work in order to have any hopes of turning the slumping Tigers around in the 2009-10 season. The team lost their last five games of the 2008-09 season to finish with a disappointing 3-9 record that consisted of only one win in conference play.
To add insult to injury, the Tigers suffered some key loses over the offseason. The most notable of all these is quarterback Sean Schaefer who threw for 3,286 yards with an impressive completion rate of 66%. Schaefer started at quarterback all four years of his career and will be an incredibly difficult asset to replace. As of now it looks like the University of New Mexico transfer, Blair Peterson, will take on the starting quarterback role, however Ambrose has yet to announce anything definite. The Tigers will also lose standout wide receiver Marcus Lee, who like Schaefer was a four-year starter for the Tigers. He was a regular member of the All-CAA team and caught 58 passes for 461 yards and 6 touchdowns during his senior year. The upside to the loss of Lee is that the Tigers have an abundance of receivers to take his place. The best candidate to step up to the task is Hakeem Moore who led the team in 2008 with 527 receiving yards.
The Tigers are also going to take a major blow on the defensive side of the ball as they lose two All-CAA players in linebacker Jordan Manning and defensive back Drew Mack. Manning recorded a team high of 105 tackles along with 2 sacks. Despite missing 3 games Mack racked up a total of 82 tackles, which is an astonishing 9.1 tackles per game.
Ambrose will need strong play from his young defensive back, Danny Collins, in the upcoming season. Last year Collins was a big playmaker in the Tigers secondary and recorded 52 tackles. The rest of the secondary is very young and inexperienced, however there is no question that they possess great talent. The first couple games will be very difficult for the Tigers defense; however once they gain more experience they should be one of the top units in the CAA.
The new coaching staff has a lot of obstacles to overcome before the Tigers stand atop the Colonial Athletic Association. Ambrose brought along a wonderful supporting cast of coaches to help tap into his young teams potential. Expect the Tigers to show signs of brilliance throughout the year but also to make many frustrating mistakes that are commonly found in a young team.