RMU football coaching candidate: Slippery Rock’s Shawn Lutz

With the recent resignation of RMU football head coach John Banaszak, RMU Sentry Media examines the candidates who could be the third head coach in the program’s history


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Logan Carney, @SentryCarney

If the Colonials look local for their next head coach, then one possible candidate could be current Slippery Rock head coach Shawn Lutz.

Shawn Lutz has spent the past 22 seasons coaching The Rock. He spent his first 20 years as an assistant coach under George Mihalik, spending four years as associate head coach and eight years as defensive coordinator. During that time frame, Slippery Rock has won eight PSAC-W titles and, since the PSAC started a conference championship game in 2008, have won two conference championships in back-to-back seasons in 2014-2015. They also had a .638 winning percentage, which was the best mark under one head coach in school history. The team has had a winning record in 11 of their last 12 seasons, including doing that each of the last eight years.

Coach Lutz was handed the job of head coach when George Mihalik retired following the 2015 season. Since then, Slippery Rock has gone 7-4 (2016) and 8-3 (2017), giving coach Lutz a career record of 15-7 and a .682 winning percentage in his two years as head coach.

In his first season, The Rock featured one of the nation’s top defenses as they finished sixth in rushing yards allowed (82.5), ninth in interceptions (21) and 27th in sacks (32). They led their conference in rushing yards allowed and finished third in interceptions, fifth in sacks and fourth in total yards allowed per game (360.3).

This past season however, the defense lost a little bit of their muster. They finished 152nd out of 165 D-II teams in yards allowed per game (457.3) and 126th in points allowed per game (32.6).

But Robert Morris has always featured a great defense, and still they have struggled. How can we expect Shawn Lutz to improve the team? And didn’t his defense fall off significantly from one year to the next? How can we expect that to not happen here?

Even though his defense posted stats significantly lower than his first season, Slippery Rock still improved their record to 8-2 on the year,

Not to forget, this past year Coach Lutz had the fifth-ranked passing offense (335.4 ypg) in all of D-II football. That kind of passing attack has been the biggest thing missing from the John Banaszak era.

As far as recruiting goes, Shawn Lutz is seen as an energetic recruiter and has consistently recruited well to the defense that he ran for eight years.

His defenses have consistently been ranked among the nation’s best. This includes The Rock’s magical 2015 season that saw them not only win the PSAC conference but also make the quarterfinals of the D-II football playoffs. That year, The Rock had the number two rated rush defense in the country, allowing just 2.2 rushing yards per carry and 71.7 rushing yards per game on the season. The Rock were also first in takeaways with 47. Specifically, they finished first in fumble recoveries with 23 and third in interceptions with 24.

Another key thing from Shawn Lutz is his commitment. This could be both good and bad for Robert Morris. Lutz has been with Slippery Rock for 22 years, which shows that he is willing to stay for the long haul for his programs. That could be a good thing if Coleman and Co. are looking to hire a coach that will not jump ship immediately to a better program once Robert Morris is fixed.

But you also have to ask the question, is he too committed to leave Slippery Rock?

Slippery Rock is more than a successful D-II school, they have one of the top college football programs around Pittsburgh. Their alumni and fans have a sense of pride around their team that is reminiscent of one in Happy Valley. In other words, it’s a good place to work at. The Rock has an extremely strong fan and alumni base for a D-II team, not to mention they’ve had a lot of success recently, and Lutz is obviously comfortable since he’s been there for over 20 years.

If Shawn Lutz decides to make the jump from D-II to D-I, then expect him to be a serious candidate for the Colonials’ head coaching position. Even though he has shown that he can be trusted to stick with a program, I imagine any jump to Robert Morris would lead to a jump to a much larger program, maybe even an FBS power five school.