Senior Nick Brown couldn’t help but learn valuable lineman lessons as a sophomore starter two seasons ago.
He was surrounded by seniors — tackles Dan Naples (a redshirt freshman now playing at Albany) and Tanner Thexton (a sophomore now playing at Penn), guard Matt Bruskin (a student at Pitt) and senior tight end Billy Schwartz (a sophomore now playing at The College of New Jersey).
“I really saw how hard they worked and what it took to be a good lineman for Somerville and how it all paid off for them,” said the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Brown.
All of those players made All Mid-State Raritan Division first team either on offense or defense with junior center Adam Roche (who graduated in June and is now a student at Northeastern) and Brown making second-team offense.
“They had expectations (of a sophomore starting), but they said I stepped up and performed,” added Brown.
Brown made second-team defense in the reconfigured Raritan Division last season, watching the team drop to 2-8 after going 5-4 in 2011. Skip Fuller was hired in May of 2012 to replace longtime head coach and assistant Greg Arakelian.
The transition took time and the Pioneers suffered lumps in the deep division led by unbeaten North 2 Group III champ Summit, which opened the season by beating Somerville 41-7 on its way to a 12-0 year. Pioneer opponents went a combined 56-35-2 with seven of the 10 making the NJSIAA playoffs.
“Last year was a whole new Somerville team, but we’re ready to turn things around this year,” said Brown. “We all do. We want to have a winning season, especially the seniors.”
Brown is clearly a key as he moves back to his natural postion at guard from tackle, in addition to his role as defensive end.
“He’s going to do a lot for us,” said Fuller. “He’s going to be doing a lot of pulling. He gained 15 pounds since last year and worked hard.”
Fuller, a former longtime strength and conditioning coach at Rutgers, said Somerville should be stronger and faster, especially in the skill positions. Brown and fellow guard John McIntyre will be leading the backs out, while center Kyle Ammerlan and tackles Ross Mescher and Jake Belardo open the inside game.
This will be Brown’s third offense in three years. Two years ago, it was the Wing-T with some single-wing spin series mixed in. Somerville ran a Power-I and some spread last season, but will be back to Delaware Wing-T with some spread this year.
“I was glad to hear (about moving back to guard) and I’ll be pulling a lot as a guard, which makes me happy knowing I’ll be a big part of the offense,” Brown said. “This will be my third offense, but so far I got this one down.”