The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

51° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Stony Brook football headed for rebuild after worst season ever

The Stony Brook football team lines up on defense against Rhode Island on Thursday, Sept. 1. The Seawolves finished with their most losses ever this year and are set to lose many impact players. TIM GIORLANDO/THE STATESMAN

After suffering through a lost year that was riddled with injury, poor play and disappointment, the Stony Brook football team is now in one of the worst spots it has ever been in.

The Seawolves won four of their last five games to end the 2021 season, allowing them to enter 2022 with a sense of optimism. Many players thought the team had a chance to return to its former glory, but were ultimately proven wrong once the season began. Stony Brook had mediocre expectations from the rest of the league, as it was picked to finish in seventh place in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

The Stony Brook football team that was picked to finish seventh was a much healthier and talented version than the one that took the field in 2022. Several star players, ranging from running back Ty Son Lawton to middle linebacker Tyler King to all of Lawton’s backups, missed significant time due to injury. After watching most of their top players get bitten by the injury bug, the Seawolves wound up going 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the CAA, finishing in last place out of 13 teams. The nine losses were a single season program record.

The most notable injuries happened at the running back position, which had a ripple effect on the whole rest of the team. Without Lawton and company, Stony Brook finished towards the bottom of the CAA in almost every single statistical category on both sides of the ball.

Head coach Chuck Priore said that injuries hamstrung the team’s functionality this year.

“Some of those injuries certainly changed our ability to do some things,” Priore said in an interview with The Statesman. “One of the ways you have to approach [offensive football] is the ability to get the ball into manageable situations. The ability to win third down has to do with having a great first and second down. Certainly with those guys not being available … it puts a lot more pressure on the quarterback.”

After winning the CAA rushing title in 2021, Lawton was named the 2022 CAA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Backup running backs Roland Dempster and Seba Nekhet were also due to play large roles in the offense this year after contributing frequently in 2021. Running back Jayden Cook was expected to contribute to both the running game and the passing attack, while running back Jadon Turner was expected to fill in when needed. Given the fact that Stony Brook had zero quarterbacks on the roster with starting experience, these five running backs were supposed to take a majority of the pressure off whoever wound up playing under center.

That, in fact, never materialized. Dempster suffered a season-ending foot injury and Nekhet tore his ACL during training camp. In the second game of the season at the University of Massachusetts, Lawton suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the next three weeks. The next week, in a 51-7 loss at Richmond, Cook and Turner both left with ankle injuries, forcing sixth-string running back Ross Tallarico to become Stony Brook’s lead back.

Priore believes that losing those five backs prevented them from doing way more damage on offense.

“That’s another five or six first downs, that’s a couple more third down conversions, that’s a couple more red zone touchdowns, that’s a couple of big runs, and that’s points,” Priore said.

Though Tallarico filled in admirably and became a feel-good story for the Seawolves, they struggled to run the ball effectively without their other guys available. Stony Brook netted just 105.7 rushing yards per game — the fewest in the CAA. Not being able to move the ball on the early downs forced the team into a lot of unfavorable third down situations. The team wound up converting just 25.7% of its third downs, which was the worst mark in the CAA by almost 11%. As a result, the offense was unable to stay on the field, finishing just 10th in time of possession per game and last in first downs per game (14.9).

By not being able to run the ball, Stony Brook’s other flaws were even further exacerbated. The Seawolves’ offensive line allowed 32 sacks, which were the second-most in the conference.

Naturally, with poor protection and no running game to lean on, the Seawolves did not throw the ball effectively. Quarterbacks Daron Bryden, Charlie McKee, Josh Zamot and Drew Guttieri all combined to complete just 51.3% of their passes for just 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. McKee played the best out of all of them, completing 60% of his passes for 806 yards, six touchdowns and seven picks. He also led Stony Brook to its first win of the year, engineering an exciting comeback on homecoming against Maine en route to earning an FCS National Rookie of the Week honor.

However, after McKee turned in a bad performance at Albany and started the Morgan State game poorly, Priore benched McKee and went back to Bryden, who was benched during the New Hampshire game. Priore stuck with Bryden for the rest of the year, and he continued to struggle. Overall, Bryden led the team with 954 yards passing in nine games played (six starts) while completing just 49.1% of his passes. He also threw more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (seven). Stony Brook wound up finishing with the second-worst passing offense in the CAA, averaging just 175.3 yards per game.

Based on how inexperienced the quarterbacks were, Priore felt the success of the team was predicated on the health of the running backs.

“If you asked me if I would’ve rather had my starting quarterback hurt or my running backs hurt, this year, I would’ve said ‘Let me have my running backs,’” Priore said. “We were playing an inexperienced quarterback regardless of who it was, so not having them changed some things.”

Even when Stony Brook did march down the field, it did a poor job capitalizing on its rare opportunities. The Seawolves only made 23 trips to the red zone in 2022 and scored on just 78.3% of those opportunities, which was the fourth-worst figure in the CAA.

All in all, Stony Brook finished with both the worst total offense (281 yards per game) and scoring offense (15.1 points per game) in the CAA. The next-worst total offense was Towson, who averaged 41.8 more yards per game than the Seawolves. In regards to scoring, Hampton was the second-worst offense, averaging 4.9 more points per game.

The only real standout on Stony Brook’s offense wound up being Tallarico, who finished the regular season amongst the CAA’s top 10 leading rushers. He did it all for Stony Brook, rushing for 602 yards and four touchdowns while also catching 13 passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns. His 171 touches, 712 scrimmage yards and seven total touchdowns all led the team by wide margins. He also threw a 55-yard touchdown pass on a trick play at New Hampshire.

By not being able to sustain drives on offense, the defense wound up getting exposed. The unit finished with the fourth-worst total defense (389.7 yards per game) and third-worst scoring defense (32.3 points per game) in the CAA. Opponents were also able to accumulate 21.3 first downs per game against Stony Brook, which was the second-worst mark in the conference.

The secondary was the weakest point of the defense, as it allowed the second-most passing yards per game in the conference at 251.3. Opposing quarterbacks completed 64.3% of their passes against Stony Brook while throwing for 26 touchdowns. The Seawolves’ secondary did not make a lot of plays, as the only defensive back who caught an interception was cornerback Quenton Porter.

One of the biggest flaws that Stony Brook’s defense had was the inability to generate splash plays, and in particular, takeaways. The team only grabbed three interceptions — five less than any other team. The Seawolves only recovered six fumbles on defense as well, leaving them with just nine total takeaways, which was the lowest total in the CAA. They were middle of the pack in terms of getting to the quarterback, as they were tied for sixth in sacks with 24.

Though the statistics are unimpressive, there were several highlights from Stony Brook’s defense in 2022. Outside linebacker Carthell Flowers-Lloyd was arguably the team’s best player and earned a spot on the 2022 All-CAA Third Team. Flowers-Lloyd played in 10 games this year and was second on the team with 70 total tackles. He finished the regular season in the top five in tackles for loss with 14 despite missing a game. The other four players on that list played in every game this season and also made the NCAA playoffs, earning extra opportunities to pass Flowers-Lloyd on the leaderboard.

Flowers-Lloyd also bookended his season with defensive touchdowns. On opening night, he scored the first points of the year for Stony Brook on a scoop-and-score play, where he strip-sacked Rhode Island quarterback Kasim Hill and ran the fumble back for six. In the final game of the season at Monmouth, Flowers-Lloyd caught his first-career interception and returned it for a touchdown. He totaled one pick, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble and two sacks to accompany his pair of defensive scores.

Flowers-Lloyd credits his performance to his mentality coming into the season.

“I know my why, and I know my want,” Flowers-Lloyd said. “I knew I needed a big year, and I knew that in my position, we make a lot of big plays for the team. And when those plays came to me, I was there to make them.”

Outside linebacker and team co-captain Reidgee Dimanche had arguably the best year of his career in 2022. He started the first nine games and led the team with 74 total tackles, including 4.5 for loss. His 8.2 tackles per game ranked seventh-best in the CAA. He also caught his first-career interception, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble this year. He made one of the biggest plays of the year for Stony Brook when, in the fourth quarter of the team’s first win, he and cornerback Shamel Lazarus combined to make a tackle behind the line to force a turnover on downs.

Dimanche said that human nature setting in plagued the defense, which contributed to the unit’s struggles.

“I feel we let the season get to us at times,” Dimanche said. “We let the wins and losses get to us, which really hurts. As a team, you just can’t let that happen. I feel that’s what we struggled with the most.”

Stony Brook had another couple of players from the front seven make splash plays, such as defensive end Eric Black, defensive tackles Dakar Edwards and Taylor Bolesta, and linebackers Aidan Kaler and A.J. Roberts. Black led the team with five sacks and also contributed seven tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Edwards was strong from the interior, totaling three sacks, seven tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Bolesta also made seven tackles for loss and recovered one fumble.

Kaler was thrusted into the starting lineup after King suffered a season-ending pectoral tear and did well. He recorded 60 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, while also leading the team with two fumble recoveries. Roberts made splash plays towards the end of the season, recording 3.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

The Seawolves’ front seven was its most successful feature as a team in 2022, allowing them to finish third in the CAA in run defense.

After all of that losing during the regular season, Stony Brook is expected to suffer from massive losses this offseason. A large sum of impact players are out of NCAA eligibility and will graduate this academic year.

At quarterback, McKee is transferring in hopes of finding a place to compete for the starting job. Zamot, who left the squad earlier in the year, is transferring as well. In the backfield, Lawton is transferring out after receiving an injury redshirt from the NCAA. Nekhet is in the transfer portal as well.

At wide receiver, Shawn Harris Jr. — the team leader in receptions (26) and yards (431) — is in the portal as well. Meanwhile, wide receivers Khalil Newton and Delante Hellams Jr. are both out of eligibility. Newton led the team with four touchdown receptions this year, and Hellams Jr. is a team co-captain. Tight end Tyler Devera is also transferring out after catching the second-most passes on the team (22) for 308 yards and three touchdowns.

Left tackle Cameron Lucas and four-time All-CAA right guard Kyle Nuñez are both graduating, while center Larry Ross Jr. is transferring. Left guard Cole Gambino may graduate too, as he is in his fourth year of college despite qualifying as a redshirt junior.

On the other side of the ball, the front seven is about to lose Black, Dimanche and Flowers-Lloyd to graduation. King and Edwards are both in the transfer portal as well. King was a Phil Steele Freshman All-American in 2021 and led the CAA in tackles that year. He was limited to five games in 2022, but still made 34 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a sack.

In the secondary, free safety and team co-captain Randy Pringle is graduating. Strong safety Akeal Lalaind, who was a full-time starter in 2021 but only played one game this year, is also out. Safety Jordan Jackson, who started this year in Lalaind’s absence, is in the transfer portal.

Stony Brook is also losing kicker Angelo Guglielmello to the transfer portal. He has been one of the better kickers in the CAA over the last two years.

To combat these losses, Priore confirmed that he will be utilizing the transfer portal actively this offseason. One position he will likely go scouting is quarterback, as Bryden is currently recovering from shoulder surgery that will keep him inactive until April.

With vast amounts of change coming to Stony Brook’s program, the Seawolves may very well be unrecognizable by the next time they take the field.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (0)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *