From an outsider's perspective, Loyola's hopes for an undefeated season and MIAA A conference championship appeared in jeopardy when quarterback Leon Kinnard went down with a broken leg in an October win over Mount St. Joseph.
The Connecticut commitment had led the Dons to a 7-0 record. They were outscoring opponents 301-42. But in Kinnard's absence, junior Connor Bruns emerged.
The first-year transfer student from Fargo, N.D. threw for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, leading Loyola to wins in the final four games of the season, including a 35-0 victory over Calvert Hall in the Turkey Bowl.
Bruns will be back under center for the Dons this fall. Loyola coach Brian Abbott says he has all the tools you'd want in a Division I quarterback.
"He's 6-3, 200 pounds," Abbott said. "He's a 4.7 kid speed-wise, he has a great, accurate arm, a big kid in the pocket. Those are the big things. After he goes to some camps, I'd suspect he gets offered."
Bruns' brother lived in Baltimore, and the rest of the family decided to relocate from North Dakota, in part so that Connor would receive better exposure athletically. While he's only played in four varsity games, Bruns has popped up on several DI schools' radar.
"Boston College, UConn, Rutgers and Maryland have been through," Abbott said, "but everyone is pretty much waiting to see him at camp. He'll probably hit five DI schools. He hasn't really decided which ones to go to yet. He's a kid that could go Ivy League also, because of his academics."
Loyola also loses running back/safety Terence Garvin off its 2008 squad. The West Virginia-bound standout will be replaced in the backfield by Vince Snarski, who started last season at safety, while also seeing time at wide receiver, kick and punt returner.
"Vince is 5-9, 190 pounds," Abbott said. "He does everything. He's a 4.5 kid. But it'll be his first year starting at running back. That would be the position he ends up playing in college."
Snarski has received interest from several Colonial Athletic Association and Patriot League schools.
"At 5-9, 190, he packs a punch," Abbott said. "He's got great hands, so he can be a third down type of guy. He'll return punts and kicks, so he's kind of a jack of all trades."
On the offensive line, the Dons will be led by center Ben Cranston. The 6-foot-1, 280-pounder, who also plays defensive tackle, will be a three-year starter for Loyola.
"Ben's gotten a lot of Ivy League [interest] and some other higher academic schools because he's a 3.9+ student," Abbott said. "He's really looking to go to an Ivy League school or the Patriot League because of his grades. Yale, Penn, Cornell; all those schools have inquired about him."
While Loyola's replacing plenty of Division I-bound talent, Abbott thinks the players in place are up to the task.
"I think they're primed and ready," Abbott said. "The big thing is we're bringing up a lot of young guys. We'll have a young team, with a lot of sophomores playing. It's really going to [come down to] what we do the next nine weeks in the weight room."
Baltimore Sun photo of Connor Bruns by Gene Sweeney Jr. / November 19, 2008