By Edward Kensik
The Gazette (Hawthorne Edition)
Ryan Hollis had a tough freshman season in college football.
But with a year under his belt, his sophomore year in 2013 for the Skyhawks was entirely different.
Hollis played in all 11 games as a rover on defense or a hybrid of linebacker and defensive back. He accumulated 27 tackles as well as assisting on 28 tackles and added a sack for good measure. He also chipped in two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Hollis helped lead the Skyhawks to a share of the Northeast-10 Conference regular season title, the first in the program's history. The school finished with an 8-3 record, just a win away from a NCAA Division II playoff berth.
"I was just more confident with the system and learning the defense," said Hollis about his second season at the Easton, Mass., school that is 22 miles south of Boston.
He added that learning the playbook was tough in such a short amount of time as a freshman. Hollis explained that playing spring football (2013) contributed to a great sophomore campaign.
"With spring football behind us, it really helped," he said.
Stonehill College head coach Robert Talley agreed with Hollis that spring football helped and that his weight training attributed to his success in his sophomore year.
"His work in the offseason and during spring practice has really helped him in this regard, now he is able to use the strength and power he has to defend blocks," said Talley. "He has also gotten extremely comfortable in our defense which has enabled him to anticipate plays and react faster to offenses."
Talley especially likes Hollis' commitment to get better.
"The thing I like best about Ryan is that you know you can count on him to do everything in his power to get better," added Talley. "He is a very intelligent person and he is able to grasp our concepts quickly and plays with a very high motor. He is willing to do whatever you ask of him and he continues to improve every day."
For Hollis, who majors in biology, one of his big individual highlights came against Assumption last September. In overtime he sacked Assumption quarterback Bobby Jordan on a third down and three. Assumption had to kick a field goal instead of going for the touchdown.
On the next possession Stonehill scored a touchdown to defeat Assumption, 41-38.
"It was one of our blitzes and I got free," said Hollis. "I had other chances (for a sack), but just missed getting to the quarterback."
While he plays defense full-time in college, Hollis was an All Passaic County quarterback with Hawthorne and admits he thinks about being on the other side of the ball.
"I just miss having control over the whole game," he said.
Hollis said when the Stonehill coaches were looking at his tape before coming to the Massachusetts school that the offensive coaches wanted him to play on offense. But the defensive coaches took control and got the shot to have him on their side of the ball when he arrived in Easton.
With him being ensconced on defense, Hollis has been working this past summer on being stronger and quicker.
More importantly for Hollis, the Skyhawks are looking to win a Northeast-10 Conference title and gain a trip to the NCAA Division II tournament this upcoming season.