Gannon Golden Knights (4-7, 3-4 PSAC West)
Season Opener: Thursday, August 30 @ Lake Erie College (GLIAC)
Offensive/Defensive Starters Returning: 5/6
Key Returnees: QB Daniel Tapscott (Sr.), DL Ian Jeffers (Sr.)
When Jim Kiernan resigned in May, Gannon didn’t have to go far to find their replacement. Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Brad Rzyczycki takes the reins of a team that, after a pair of over-.500 season, fell to 4-7 last season.
After a 2011 season of inconsistency at the quarterback position, sophomore Daniel Tapscott would appear to have the inside track as the starter this season. Tapscott, who started nine games last season for the Golden Knights, recorded the fifth-best season in school history with 1,613 passing yards.
Tapscott will have a relatively inexperienced group of receivers to work with this season, though senior Jonathan Jones led the team in receiving yards two seasons ago. Sophomore Justin Caliste and junior Michael Tomko are also expected to be key targets for Tapscott this season.
Sophomore running back Alex Papson accounted for 74 percent of the team’s carries last season, gaining 369 yards on 251 attempts. Junior Jansen Jones led the team with 481 yards, including 128 yards in the Golden Knights’ 33-27 win over Slippery Rock, an outcome that arguably was a factor in keeping The Rock out of the NCAA playoffs.
Three returnees – senior Josh Williams, junior Alex Davis and sophomore Kelson Patterson – anchor Gannon’s offensive line, which is expected to boost a run game that was second-worst in the league last season (85.8 yards per game).
On defense, the Golden Knights finished in the middle of the pack statistically, ranking seventh in the PSAC in allowing 349.5 yards per game. Senior Ian Jeffers is the lone starting defensive lineman returning for Gannon this season.
The defensive backfield, however, has some experience, led by senior Khayree Connors-McChristian and sophomores Ta’Von Bailey and Mike Phillips. A pair of seniors, Will Giles and Jon Petrigac, anchor the linebacking corps for the Golden Knights.
PREDICTION: Only two of the Golden Knights’ losses last season were within single-digit margins – Lake Erie (13-10) and Clarion (28-21). It’s very unlikely that much will change, seeing as Gannon has a pair of road games at West Chester and Slippery Rock in the next two weeks, then travel to Bloomsburg in Week 5, which starts a four week stretch against quality opponents, including Edinboro, Mercyhurst and California. It would be fair to say that Rzyczycki will have some rough sailing in his first season.