After back-to-back 7-1 seasons in 2012 and 2013 and winning a share of the NESCAC title this past year, the Middlebury Panthers have maintained their tradition of excellence which dates back to 1893. In recent years, the Panthers have become one of the most respected forces in the New England region as well as in all of Division III. Besides winning the NESCAC in 2013, the Panthers also won the title in 2007 and 2001. Along the way, Middlebury players earned numerous all-conference, all-region and all-American status for both athletic and academic excellence. Panther coaches, including head coach Bob Ritter ’82 and Joe Early, received national attention. Ritter was twice awarded NESCAC Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Coach of the Year in 2007, while Early earned the AFCA’s award for National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2012.
By competing in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), a group of some of the most prestigious colleges in the nation, Middlebury has associated itself with schools possessing similar educational philosophies and athletic goals. Yes, there is a winning tradition at Middlebury, but more importantly, football has always been viewed as a unique educational opportunity in which the athlete is able to explore the limits of his own ability. Football provides the student with an opportunity for fun, excitement, and a special brand of camaraderie. A number of players also play a second sport, placing Middlebury in a unique position in this age of forced specialization. The Middlebury athlete continues to demonstrate that the pursuit of excellence on the football field is totally compatible with the pursuit of excellence in the classroom.
In recent years the offense blossomed into a record-breaking aerial assault. Since 2009, the Panthers’ passing game set numerous school and conference records, while holding several top-spots in national statistics. The concept is built around fast-paced tempo, where all 11 players are coached to make decisions that will allow the offense to flourish. Built around multiple formations and varied positional groups, the offense depends on talented athletes at all skill positions, who work behind a tough, physically dominant, offensive line. The passing game utilizes an equal amount of play-action, dropback, screens and sprint out passes which allowed the Panthers signal-callers to lead the nation for five-straight seasons (2009-2013) in completions per game. Middlebury also integrates a strong combination of running concepts that attack the interior as well as the perimeter. Zone and gap running plays highlight the running game from one or two-back formations. All this leads to an action-packed, explosive, crowd-pleasing offense.
DEFENSE: MULTIPLE SEVEN-MAN FRONT
Known for their aggressive, pursuit-oriented defense, the Panthers employ a multiple seven-man front and a four-deep secondary. The front evolves from a basic 3-4 scheme into a variable front, utilizing versatile three defensive linemen and four linebackers. The linemen range from run-stuffing tackles to pass-rushing defensive ends. The variable four-linebacker front includes hybrid players, who can stop the run and cover receivers in space, with traditional inside linebackers. Over the years the Panthers’ front seven have garnered several awards, including a national sack leader, all-conference and all-region players as well as NESCAC Defensive Players of the Year. The defense uses a wide range of stunts and blitzes to keep the opposing offense off-balance. Intensity and a tenacious pursuit to the ball have become trademarks of the Panther defensive team.