Skyhawks assistant head coach and defensive coordinator to be honored December 17 at Bob Whelan College Football Awards Night
EASTON, Mass. (November 23, 2015) – Stonehill College assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Eli Gardner has been named the NCAA Division II Assistant Coach of the Year by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston. Gardner will receive the honor at the Club's annual Bob Whelan College Football Awards Night on Thursday, December 17, at the Marriott Hotel in Burlington, Massachusetts.
Gardner, who also serves as defensive backs coach for the Skyhawks, is the first Stonehill assistant to receive the honor in the 16 years the Gridiron Club of Boston has given the award and he will be joined on the dais in December by senior safety Anthony Masucci (East Haven, Connecticut/Notre Dame-East Haven) who has been named the Division II "Swede" Nelson Award recipient.
Gardner is in his seventh year on head coach Robert Talley's coaching staff, having completed his second season as assistant head coach. Gardner has transformed the Stonehill defense into one of the premier units in the Northeast-10 over his five seasons as defensive coordinator. He directs a Stonehill defense which ranks second in the NE-10 and 11th nationally in Division II for total defense this fall, allowing just 279.2 yards per game, and second in the Conference for passing defense (17th nationally) at 158.5 yards per game. The Skyhawks lead the NE-10 (23rd) in rushing defense (120.6 yds/gm) and fourth (34th) for scoring defense (20.9 ppg). The defense also ranks eighth nationally for first down defense (14.4 allowed per game) and 15th for third down conversion defense (30.6%).
15 Stonehill defensive players have earned All-Northeast-10 Conference honors in Gardner's five seasons as defensive coordinator, with four also collecting All-Super Region 1 accolades and Jareed Gaines, '13, and Brian Harrington, '15 earning All-America status. Harrington had a record-breaking season for the Skyhawks in 2013 and was a finalist for the inaugural Cliff Harris Award for the top small college defensive player in the country, while also earning the Joseph P. Zabilski Defensive Player of the Year Award from the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston.
Stonehill has also emerged as one of the top defenses in Division II under his watch. The Skyhawks ranked in the top ten nationally in Division II for total defense (6th) in 2014, allowing an NE-10 low 284 yards per game, and rushing defense (10th), yielding a Conference low 94.7 yards per game. Stonehill also ranked 17th for red zone defense (NE-10 low 65.7%), 31st for scoring defense (19.6 ppg – 2nd NE-10) and 35th for passing defense (NE-10 low 189.3 yds/gm).
Gardner, a Milford, New Jersey, native, spent one year as defensive line coach and video coordinator at Western New England University, his alma mater, prior to joining the coaching staff at Stonehill in 2009. He is a 2008 graduate of Western New England, having earned his Master's Degree in Athletic Administration from Endicott College in 2014.
Stonehill finished 2015 with its second winning season over the past three years, posting a 7-4 record overall, including 5-4 in NE-10 play to finish fourth in the Conference standings. The Skyhawks capped the season with three wins over their last four after a 17-14 win at third place Merrimack College during NE-10 Championship Weekend.