Greetings, folks. Jason Mackey here. I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve done some local college coverage here at the Trib. With Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia receiving most of the attention on this blog, I thought maybe I could provide a chance of pace.
First off, look for my story on Duquesne and Robert Morris in this past Sunday’s paper (Here’s the link: http://trib.me/rcvLnN), which focuses on how the two rivals have altered the hierarchy of the nine-team Northeast Conference. (Outside of Robert Morris’ 2010 title, the league crowned a champion from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut from 2001-09. Both, though, are expected to do big things this fall.)
In the meantime, how ’bout some additional notes from around the area:
>> The two top teams to follow at the Division II level at California (Pa.) and Mercyhurst. Cal U has made four straight NCAA playoff appearances but was upset by Mercyhurst last year, snapped the Vulcans’ 24-game winning streak in PSAC West play. The two meet on homecoming this year at Cal U, Oct. 22. Mercyhurst had a Cinderella season in 2010. Picked to finish fifth, the Lakers … ended up winning the conference. Go figure.
>>Two interesting stories to watch at Cal U revolve around wideout Thomas Mayo and quarterback Peter Lalich. I actually covered these two when I lived in Northern Virginia, and it should be interesting to see what kind of impact they have. Mayo was a two-time All-American at Concord (W.Va.). Lalich was a big-time recruit out of high school and chose Virginia over UCLA, Oklahoma, Michigan and Miami, saying at the time he wanted to stay close to home. But after stints at Virginia and Oregon State, Lalich has landed at Cal U.
>> Slippery Rock linebacker Zach Sheridan recorded a team-high 102 tackles as a senior last fall when he became the first Rock defender to eclipse the century mark since 1999. Slippery Rock has plenty of talent back and could, along with IUP, jump into the Cal U/Mercyhurst fracas.
>> Speaking of IUP, the Crimson Hawks have a running back worth keeping an eye on in junior Harvie Tuck, who rushed for 1,134 yards and four touchdowns. Tough to steal attention away from Slippery Rock’s Akeem Satterfield, who’s widely considered to be the conference’s best back, but Tuck is a good one.
>> Also keep an eye on Slippery Rock running back Jimmy Zubik, a transfer from Mount Union. An All-PIAA and All-WPIAL standout at Avonworth, having he and Satterfield in the same backfield certainly won’t hurt.
>> Is there a bigger Division II offensive tackle than West Liberty’s Larry Wriedt, a 6-foot-7, 320-pound transfer from Sacramento City College? (I pity the poor school’s cafeteria staff.) The Hilltoppers have one of the area’s best offenses, and Wriedt surely has a lot to do with that. Not so surprisingly, Wriedt has been picking up several preseason accolades; he’s been named an All-America by Lindy’s and several other respectable publications. Will be interesting to see whether he’s courted by NFL scouts.
>> Bethany is a team to watch in the PAC. In the first two years of coach Tim Weaver’s tenure, the team finished 4-6. The next two: 3-7. But last fall, Bethany was 5-5, its first .500 season since 2001. Weaver has 19 starters back, including the entire backfield and 80 percent of the offensive line. Bethany was picked to finish fourth in the PAC, behind Thomas More, W&J and Waynesburg. Thomas More has dominated the PAC, winning the past three titles, and has 19 starters back, but you never know.
>> Here are a couple other players to watch this season:
LB Aaron Nauer, Jr. Westminster — A hybrid defensive end/linebacker type, he had 61 tackles — 17 for a loss — seven sacks and six pass breakups while earning second team All-PAC honors last fall.
LB Nick McGahagan, Sr., Seton Hill — Underrated playmaker had 97 tackles in 2010, with a WVIAC-best 27 for a loss. Also had two sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery. A first team All-WVIAC player.
QB Cody Harris, So. Edinboro — Harris assumed the starting role last year and will open the season under center, making this the sixth straight year a member of his family started at quarterback for the Fighting Scots. (Brother Trevor starred from 2006-2009.)
DE Barrington Morris, Sr., Clarion — Led in the PSAC in sacks last fall with 10.5. A talented pass-rusher on a team that could surprise some folks.
WR, Chedrick Cherry, Sr., Cal U — Led the PSAC with 13 touchdown receptions last fall. Also an explosive return man, averaging 25.4 yards per kick return a year ago.
WR, Akeem Moore, Jr., Duquesne — This Brentwood High School graduate is the Dukes’ top returning wideout, as their top two from 2010 graduated. Moore had a team best 14.6 YAC.
QB Andrew Cappucci, Jr., W&J — Presidents have posted 27 straight winning seasons, and a bunch of those have come with a standout signal caller. Expect Cappucci to be the next.