Slippery Rock – The Rock (8-3, 6-1 PSAC West co-champions)
Season Opener: Thursday, August 30 vs. Seton Hill (WVIAC)
Offensive/Defensive Starters Returning: 6/6
Key Returnees: RB Akeem Satterfield (Sr.), C Austin Fedell, DE Jeff Thompson
There’s some unfinished business at Slippery Rock this season.
After falling short in the State Game against Kutztown, missing out on an NCAA playoff berth in the process, The Rock hopes to eliminate all doubt about whether they can hang with the elite of the PSAC and the region.
The Rock’s non-conference schedule, save for future PSAC member Seton Hill, is the toughest in the league, featuring Bloomsburg, Shippensburg and a rematch with Kutztown. Only Millersville has a tougher overall schedule in Super Region One (PSAC, WVIAC, Northeast 10 and CIAA).
With the duo of senior Akeem Satterfield and junior Jimmy Zubik anchoring The Rock’s rushing attack, head coach George Mihalik will be breaking in a new quarterback. A pair of sophomores – Jared Buck and Caleb Vescovi – are battling to fill the hole left by Cory Endres’ graduation.
All-conference center Austin Fedell is one of three returning linemen, while junior John Schademan is expected to become the go-to wide receiver with the graduation of Devin Goda, who had been in the Baltimore Ravens training camp before being released earlier this week.
The Rock boasted one of the top defenses in the nation, holding teams to 80 rushing yards and 181.2 passing yards per game. Senior defensive tackle Jeff Thompson (60 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, four sacks) is the team’s leading returning tackler with the graduation of Jake Wickline and Zach Sheridan.
Junior Quindell Dean is The Rock’s lone returning linebacker; several other underclassmen, including junior Aaron Moul and sophomores Bob Westerlund, Gary Allen and Jake Myers, are expected to step in for The Rock.
Juniors Anthony Saunders and Brandon Burley, one of three players to return an interception for a touchdown, anchors a defensive backfield responsible for 20 picks last season. As is the case with the linebackers, several underclassmen are expected to see significant playing time including a pair of redshirt sophomores, Admire Carter and Isaiah Coleman.
PREDICTION: Motivated by what was perceived to be a snub by the NCAA playoff selection committee, despite tough road losses at West Chester and Gannon, The Rock appears motivated to prove their skeptics wrong. Being picked third in the PSAC West pre-season coaches’ poll could also be another motivator. However, with games against three solid PSAC East opponents, plus California (Pa.) and Indiana (Pa.) looming, a return trip to the State Game may be a long shot for The Rock. That’s not to say they won’t be good this year.