KINGSTON—For University of Rhode Island senior quarterback Bob Bentsen this is his last chance to make a positive impact before he exits the program.
It’s the type of pressure any starting quarterback coming off a winless season would feel but for Bentsen – who grew up in Warwick – it means a little bit more being a local guy.
“We want to play well for the state,” Bentsen says. “We’ve had a couple bad seasons and just to go out as winners and lay down the foundation [for the future] would be something special.”
As his head coach, Joe Trainer, notes, all eyes were – and likely still are – on them after last season’s 0-11 campaign.
“When you don’t have success the eyes go to two people; the quarterback and the head coach,” Trainer says, “but we definitely feel good about the supporting cast we’ve given Bob going into this season.”
Bentsen won’t be alone in his fight to restore the reputation of URI’s football program as a handful of Rhode Island products are poised to make major contributions.
The senior QB will be taking snaps from center Jeff Kennedy (Scituate) this season and more often than not could find himself handing the ball off to Robbie Delgado (East Providence).
“If [Delgado] is not starting for us at running back he’s another guy that will be involved at the running back position,” Trainer says, “and heavily involved in special teams.”
South Kingstown graduate Justin Favreau, a red-shirt senior, also figures to have a major role on this season’s team at both fullback and on special teams.
“Justin’s our starting fullback. He’s really blossomed into kind of a go-to guy for us.” Trainer says.
“He does a little bit of everything; he catches the ball out of the back field, he’s athletic for a bigger, boxier type of build as a 230-pound fullback and he plays a ton of special teams.”
Sophomore Elijah Saintfleur (West Warwick) has continued to impress at tight end and could very well play his way into a starting position this season.
“If not a starter he’s another guys who’s going to be an impactful player for us,” Trainer says. “He’s another guy who came in kind of unheralded and the sky is the limit for him.”
Defensively for the Rams you have to start with senior linebacker Doug Johnson (Toll Gate), while Greg Doutre (Johnston) should see a considerable amount of snaps at defensive end.
Senior David Hansen (La Salle Academy), senior Eric Thomson (Lincoln), junior John Greenhalgh (Ponaganset) and junior Daril Geisser (Moses Brown) have also each seen limited action so far in their URI careers.
FAVREAU A ROLE MODEL
For the handful of recent RI high school graduates who walked onto the URI football team this fall redshirt senior Justin Favreau is the perfect model for what it takes to succeed as a walk-on.
Favreau redshirted his freshman year, appeared in just two games as a sophomore but all the while got his work done off the playing field.
His hard work paid off last season as he appeared in all 11 games and this fall has the inside track to a starting spot at fullback.
“He’s become a scholarship player for us and was unheralded [coming out of high school]. That’s the thing about this level when you get here nobody cares how heavily or lightly you were regarded coming out of high school during the recruiting process,” Trainer says.
“Who’s going to get better once they’re there. It’s that incremental growth, it’s those guys that get better every single year they’re there [that succeed]. Guys that have success at this level tend to be the guys that keep progressing and keep progressing.”
As far as the advice Favreau would give to some of those young players trying to emulate his path it’s fairly simple.
“You just have to follow all the seniors and the upperclassmen and do everything you’re supposed to do,” he says. “Do all the offseason workouts, listen to your coaches and just keep trying hard and you’re going to get to where you need to get.
“[The weight room] is a big part of it but you have to have the right mind set. You have to want it and it’s the same as practice, you’ve got to be out there every day.”
The weight room is where freshman Dan Josloff (East Greenwich) – and just about every freshman entering a collegiate program – will be spending plenty of time this year.
“I really need to get into the weight room,” he says. “That’s the number one thing and since it’s my first year I need to learn everything, get everything under my belt and know everything. The biggest thing is definitely getting into the weight room, getting bigger and getting my size up.”
Josloff had offers to play at Merrimack and Plymouth State Colleges in his senior year at East Greenwich but elected to accept a preferred walk-on invitation to play at URI.
Now that he’s in Kingston, he couldn’t be happier with his decision.
“It’s the most fun I’ve had in my life. This is awesome,” Josloff says. “I didn’t expect to play football going into high school, started playing, loved it and now I came here luckily.”
Joining Josloff in the process are a pair of former Narragansett players – Jimmy Kershaw and Dillon Sheridan – and according to Trainer each are on similar tracks as they feel their way out in the program.
Another former Mariner, Mark Murphy, is off to a strong start in his sophomore year but is stuck behind a talented group of upperclassmen at defensive line.
“Murph is doing a great job. Unfortunately for him we have a lot of older guys at the d-line position so he’s a guys that’s going to be in that fringe area,” Trainer says. “Hopefully we can get him in on special teams but that’s probably going to be his role for right now.
“He’s developing nicely, he’s taken a huge jump from last year to this year but he’s probably going to be a special teams type of guy for us.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Last season South Kingstown’s Sean Conley and Narragansett’s Frank Castrovillari walked onto the URI football team as freshmen but are not back this fall. According to Trainer, both are still at the school but are not playing football.
LAST OF THE LOCALS
Rounding out the field of Rhode Island players suiting up for the Rams this season are sophomores Xavier Ferland (Cranston West), Angel Camilo (Cranston East), Frank Wiley (Middletown), freshman Charlie McKeeman (Porstmouth, Bishop Stang) and transfer Jessie Charette (Woonsocket).