With contributions from John Legend
In the 2011 USA Ultimate College Championship Series, the Florida Gators emerged victorious in the quest to capture the lone bid from the Southeast Region. The Regional restructuring was both a blessing and a curse for these newly organized Southeast teams. While they no longer had to contend with the programs from North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia for Nationals berths, their Southeast region did not have enough depth or competitiveness to garner more than one bid to Boulder.
Looking forward into the 2012 season, a number of established powerhouses and growing programs will be looking to dethrone the Gators. Here is a glimpse of some of the top contenders:
Charlie Herrig and the Athens boys are hungrier than ever after a heartbreaking finish to their 2011 Series campaign. Despite dropping a game to the rival Georgia Tech Tribe at Regionals, Jojah avenged a Conference loss to Tennessee in the championship bracket and earned a spot in the Regional championship game against Florida. Jojah played Florida as closely as any team had up until that point in the season, but their efforts came up short in a 10-12 loss. This marked the first time that Jojah had missed Nationals since the 2004 season.
Jojah did lose some talented and intense contributors in Josh Lowell, Michael Young, First Team All-Region standout Matt Bailey, and the colorful Michael Slade. But as an established program, Jojah knows how to use the fall to develop and incorporate its young talent as well as anyone.
If he can get/stay healthy, Charlie Herrig should be one of Jojah’s best leaders, both on and off the field. Elliott Erickson, last year’s Freshman of the Year, has an incredible season of experience with Atlanta Chain Lightning under his belt that should help him become a more dominant force in the college game. Caleb Edwards, who had a strong case for Freshman of the Year in his freshman season, should be another downfield playmaker for Jojah. Fletcher Hartline covered Cole Sullivan as well as anyone last year and can be counted on to be a game-changing defender.
Georgia used Wolfpack as a tryout tournament and posted a 5-2 record, with losses to Virginia Tech and Appalachian State.
Georgia Tech Tribe
After missing out on the championship bracket at 2011 Regionals due to point differential, the Tribe has reloaded for another aggressive Series charge. Nick Lance, the dynamic handler of NexGen Tour and Chain fame, leads the Tribe with throws and release points that you haven’t thought of and would never dream of attempting. EJ Layne spent this past summer playing with Seattle’s Voodoo (coached by Ben Wiggins), and you can expect him to operate as a downfield cutting force. GT also picked up Tufts E-men alumnus Jason Clark, a versatile cutter with two years of eligibility left. Thus far, Clark’s addition to the Tribe has been a huge boost to their offensive unit. He provides another dangerous and dynamic scoring threat to complement Lance.
Georgia Tech went 4-3 at Wolfpack Invitational and 5-2 at CCC.
UCF Dogs of War
This program has been on the rise since the heydays of Cameron Amey and current coach Andrew Roca. With just three losses heading into last year’s Southeast Regionals, the Dogs of War also missed out on the miniscule championship bracket due to point differential. UCF posted impressive fall results, with wins over Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia and just one loss to Jojah (Watch their games from CCC here). The Dogs rely on the intimidating size of their cutters to propel their offense; sophomore Mischa Freystaetter is listed at 6’8”, and senior 2nd team All Region cutter Michael Hickson is listed at 6’5”. Andrew Roca’s coaching also appears to have improved their defensive/break efficiency.
Tennessee Agent Orange
After an up-and-down regular season, Agent Orange started clicking on all cylinders by the time of the Series. They shocked the Southeast by winning their section (taking down Georgia Tech and Georgia along the way) and advancing to the semifinals of the Regional tournament, before losing to a surging Jojah squad. Though 1st Team All Region stud Phil Brock is gone, this team still has talent with big game experience. Many of its core players, including cutter Richey Ward, defender Trey Williams, and handlers Matt Pirkle and Jody Lewis, have logged valuable minutes with Tanasi in its trips to Nationals in the previous two club seasons. If they can translate the consistency and strategy from their Tanasi success to the Agent Orange playing fields, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them fighting for their Conference and Regional title again.
Tennessee finished with a 6-7 fall record.
At last, we get to the defending champs. It’s important to note that they lost a lot with last year’s graduating class. Top Callahan candidate Cole Sullivan is out of eligibility, along with partners in crime Alex Hill and Nathan Sage.
That being said, Florida is another established program that knows how to cultivate and develop its talent. From what little we saw of them in the fall season, it appears that Florida is sticking with the three-man attack. After it was the Brodie Smith, Chris Gibson, and Cole Sullivan Show, it became the Cole Sullivan, Nathan Sage, and Alex Hill show. Now, it’s time to see how the Travis Catron, Jason Silverman, and Josh Hurwitz show can hold up on the regional and national stage. Travis is not quite the playmaker or game changer that Cole was, but he has the size, patience, and disc skills to effectively distribute the disc. Silverman is the player who will make plays downfield, having mastered his defending skills against the likes of Grant Lindsley and other explosive cutters last season. Josh Hurwitz is working to step into Alex Hill’s role as the team’s top throwing threat. Alan Baird is also returning to the Gators, and if he can stay healthy, he can be another big playmaker downfield and in the air.
Score Reporter indicates that CCC was Florida’s only fall tournament, where they went undefeated until they met Pittsburgh in the finals, a team whose offensive line was not broken the entire weekend. The Gators’ first test will come at the Warm Up tournament in the first weekend of February.
What to Expect in 2012
Expect Florida, Georgia, or Central Florida to take home the Regional title. The onus rests squarely on these top five teams to rack up quality out-of-region wins and earn another bid or two for the Southeast. They’ll be stronger against the Atlantic Coast this year than they were last year, but they should face stiffer competition from the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, and North Central Regions.
Players to Watch
- Charlie Herrig (Georgia)
- Elliott Erickson (Georgia)
- Fletcher Hartline (Georgia)
- Nick Lance (Georgia Tech)
- Jason Clark (Georgia Tech)
- Mischa Freystaetter (UCF)
- Michael Hickson (UCF)
- Matt Pirkle (Tennessee)
- Jason Silverman (Florida)
- Alan Baird (Florida)
As always, we welcome your feedback and are eager to learn as much about the region as possible. Who’s on your Freshman of the Year radar and why? Who’s traveling to what tournaments? Share some updates with us in the comments, and we’ll do our best to give you the best coverage we can throughout the season.