2011 Football Preview

Coming off a championship season in which the 2010 Colonial football team qualified for the Football Champion Series (FCS) Playoffs for the first time in Northeast Conference (NEC) history, Joe Walton and company will take the field this year with many new faces.

Last year’s squad featured seniors like all-time leading rusher Myles Russ and All-American offensive lineman Corey Konycki on offense, and All-NEC performers, linebacker Alex DiMichele and hard-hitting safety Mike Landers on the flip side. This year the Colonials were picked to finish third in the preseason coaches poll, with only one first-place vote, behind Central Connecticut State and crosstown-rival Duquesne.

Individual accolades weren’t as sparse as five Colonials were selected to the 2011 All-NEC Preseason Team. Quarterback Jeff Sinclair, center Logan Miles, tight end Shadrae King, defensive end Nolan Nearhoof and return man Anthony Coleman all earned spots.

Also, Nearhoof and King were named preseason All-Americans, and King, Miles and Coleman were selected to the 2011 FCS Senior Scout Bowl Player Watchlist.

Returning is the shifty junior Sinclair, but the question mark is who will join him in the backfield. Senior Jamar Cromwell looks to step up in the fullback position as sophomore Deonte Howard will take the majority of the carries at running back. Depending on academic eligibility, junior Monte Ashby could lighten the load for Howard, but for now freshman Duane Mitchell has impressed during camp and could get some carries.

Sinclair will have plenty of targets to throw to since seniors Coleman and Jamie Cobb are returning. Junior Rickeem Jackson will be a big red zone threat at 6’ 4” 215-pounds as junior Quinton Pirl will play out of the slot.

As for tight end, “The King” will look to have another stellar year as the Colonials will also have senior Paul Evans. Tyler Digby is back from injury and will be on the field for most three-tight end sets along with sophomore Andrew Smith, who saw significant playing time a year ago.

Upfront the Colonials are led by the All-NEC Miles with seniors Brad Rodgers and Brian Bevilacqua manning the guard spots. The biggest issue on the line is replacing their two four-year starters, Carlos Andrade and Corey Konycki, but sophomore A.J. Dalton has moved to left tackle after starting last season at left guard.

Sophomore defensive line-convert Jon Hill is looking to fill the right tackle spot, but junior Alex Kirsch saw playing time last year and could make a push. Depth is a concern also since junior Nate Lojek suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in camp, and Kirsch is the only back-up that saw the field last year.

On defense RMU lost seven starters including their whole secondary. Junior Ben Ridgeley looks to become the leader of the group as he was a special teams starter last season and also saw time at strong safety. Sophomore D.J. Meyers will take over at free safety with Eric Lowry a viable option for time as well. Junior College transfer Antwan Smith has been impressive since joining the team in spring and will take over at cornerback. Senior Alex Tarr will be opposite of Smith. Another JuCo transfer, Cameron Chadwick has shown he could fill in in the defensive backfield after picking up the defense rather quickly this camp.

The linebacking corps, without Elias Navarro and DiMichele, returns junior Brad Banas outside and senior Jon Krepps, who will make the move to the middle, alongside junior Kyle Cooper. The other outside spot will be between seniors Anthony Caperelli and Sanchez Fague.

The line is the defense’s biggest strength as the All-American Nearhoof and stud Steve Mitchell return at their defensive end positions. In the middle, Farren Mason, along with Sam Miller and R.J. Cook, will anchor the center at nose tackle.

Connor Sullivan, Corey Nolton and Chris Thompkins will also see a lot of playing time along the line as they rotate in frequently.

After losing kicker Garret Clawson and All-NEC punter Nick Schirtzinger to graduation, the Colonials special teams will look to junior Greg Langer and freshman Hunter Khaleghi to take over the kicking game.

RMU opens the 2011 season Sept. 3 when Dayton visits Joe Walton Stadium at noon. The Colonial home schedule will also include games against Bryant, Sacred Heart, Wagner and a 7 p.m. night game against Saint Francis on Oct. 8.