Garrett reflects on 2013, looks ahead to next season

By: Carl Stoffers

Head football coach Dan Garrett isn’t accustomed to losing, so when his team finished with a 2-8 record in 2013, he relied on an unusual source of inspiration that is a testament to the program he’s built at Kean.

“Five years ago, I might not have been able to handle this type of season,” Garrett said. “But because of the types of kids we have in this program, it helped me sustain my positive approach every day. It was a credit to the kids around me.”

Now that the season, which Garrett called “gut-wrenching,” is complete, the coach has started looking ahead to 2014. Despite the Cougars dismal record this fall, he sees many reasons for hope heading into next year.

“The offensive line, always the most overlooked position. We have Darrin Love and Mike Orlando coming back as three-year starters,” the coach said. “At the skill positions, Robbie Meade, our quarterback, has six starts under his belt, Tahj Hammary, who brings big-play capability, and at running back you have Will Ingram and Damian Corredor.”

In 2013 Meade, a sophomore, stepped in for the injured Christian Bailoni in the third quarter of the Cougars’ week four loss to SUNY Cortland. He led the offense for the remainder of the year, throwing just one interception in 154 attempts, while logging four touchdown passes. Meade was second on the team in rushing, recording 388 net yards and scoring three touchdowns.

Hammary, a freshman, led the team with a 16.9 average yards per reception while gaining 355 yards for the season. The wide receiver was named NJAC offensive rookie of the week for his 3-catch, 155-yard performance in week six vs. William Paterson.

On the defensive side of the ball, a strength of the 2013 Cougars, Garrett sees more reason for optimism.

“Defensively, we have core leaders like James Leavy in the secondary, who’s a phenomenal person, a phenomenal leader,” Garrett said. “You got guys up front like Dave Ricca and Da’Quan Kenney, who played lot for us this year, a big physical force.”

Garrett is fully focused on recruiting now, as well as hoping that the underclassmen, roughly 75 percent of the 2013 team, come back next season.

“We hold our breath at the end of the semester that everyone can still afford to come back to school,” he explained. “We’re getting everything in order to go on the road full-time recruiting for the month of December, anywhere between 220-240 schools. We’re going to pound the pavement and find the players we want here.”

Garrett has built a brand at Kean by recruiting what he refers to as ‘character kids.’ He’s the most successful football coach in the university’s history and 2013 was just his first losing season since taking over the program in 2006. He insists he’s not about to deviate from the formula that has brought so much success to the school.

“I’m still going to recruit character kids who want to go to school and who can play football, in that order,” he said. “Because I think that’s how you sustain some things and build a program. It just confirms the things I believe in we’re going to stay true to, because we’re not far off.”

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