Rock spring game happens April 22
Two-time defending PSAC champion Slippery Rock will return to the field for the annual Green vs. White spring game at 5 p.m., April 22. Admission and parking are free.
April 21, 2016
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The two-time defending Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference champion Slippery Rock University football team will return to the field at 5 p.m., April 22 for the annual Green and White spring game at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium. Admission is free.
The spring game will be played in a non-traditional format that puts the offense (white) against the defense (green) over two 30-minute running clock halves. Normal timing rules will apply to the final four minutes of each half and both teams will have three timeouts per half.
The offense will score points in a normal manner, while the defense will begin each half with 17 points and can add to its total only by interception or fumble returns for touchdowns.
There will be no kickoffs and all punts will be fair catches. Each drive will reset at the 30-yard line.
The Rock's spring roster includes all returning athletes that will be available in the fall, as well as a host of mid-semester transfers and some walk-ons that are using the spring as a tryout in an effort to make the team for the fall.
The spring game will mark the first public viewing of new SRU head coach Shawn Lutz on the sideline. Lutz, who served as defensive coordinator for the last 10 years, was named head coach in February. The only addition to the staff was new offensive coordinator Justin Roper, who spent the last two years as the quarterbacks coach at Valdosta State. Changes to the staff include Domenick Razzano being promoted to defensive coordinator, Chris Conrad adding recruiting coordinator to his duties and Marc Hull adding special teams coordinator to his duties.
SRU put up one of the best seasons in program history in 2015, finishing the year with a 12-2 record - tied for best in program history - and reaching the NCAA Division II quarterfinals. The Rock finished the year ranked No. 7 in the final AFCA Division II national rankings and claimed their third straight PSAC West and second straight outright PSAC title along the way. SRU has now won four of the last five PSAC West titles.
With all that said, let's take a deeper look at SRU's roster heading into 2016:
- Quarterbacks: The quarterback battle this spring will carry over to the fall and get some more firepower as SRU has signed two freshman quarterbacks as well. Don King III and Zack Newsock are projected to be the top two options at QB this spring. Ryan Williams could also see snaps in the spring game. Nathaniel Musselman and Augustus Necastro will join that trio in the fall.
- Running backs: SRU returns All-American Shamar Greene, who has his sights set on becoming the all-time leading rusher in program history. He's coming off back-to-back 1,400+ yard seasons. Greene will sit out the spring game, which will make room for Isiah Neely and Dominic Dingle to get most of the carries. Nassir Weaver will also get carries and could factor into the slot passing attack. The Rock will bolster their running back group in the fall with high profile signee Dontez Rash.
- Wide receivers: There will be no shortage of wide receivers April 22 as SRU will dress 17 receivers, many of them students that walked on this spring. The talent at the top of that group is undeniable as SRU returns Cornelius Raye, Leroy McClain, Drew Scales and Taishan Tucker. The Rock also welcomes back Marcus Johnson, Carnel Harley and Tavarus Sample and will get a bump from Massey, Yeartie and redshirt freshman Mike Merhaut.
- Offensive line: The biggest question entering the spring was on the offensive line, after SRU lost four senior starters, including one of the best linemen in the nation in Cory Tucker, who has a realistic shot at finding himself in an NFL camp in a few months. Those questions won't all be answered after this week, as a strong group of recruits are already signed for the fall, but SRU will see some experienced veterans step up. All-Region center Joe LoSchiavo will lead the unit and will be joined by Michael Williams, Dean Ketterer, Jim Popa, Aaron Gillis and Austin Fields as men that saw time on the field last year. Redshirt freshmen Chris Larsen, Chris Richardson, Jake Whitehurst and Colten Raabe are itching to see the field and there's a chance we could see Steve Gaviglia move from the defensive side of the ball.
- Tight ends: SRU returns three tight ends and signed another top prospect in Dylan Stapleton for the fall. Brian McNally leads the group after seeing a good deal of time in pass catching situations last fall. Zach Cirillo also returns after seeing time last year before suffering an injury and Bishop Gethers will switch from the defensive side of the ball to the tight end position.
- Defensive line: There is little doubt about which unit SRU will boast the most depth of high-end talent next fall. The defensive line is loaded and will return three starters from last year's squad that ranked second in the nation against the run. All-American Marcus Martin is poised to shatter the all-time SRU sack record in leading the group. Opposite him is Cody Conway, who somehow has gone three years at SRU without earning a postseason award. That could change in 2016 as Conway and Martin look to be among the best 1-2 punches at the end positions in the nation. The Rock also welcomes back All-Region performer Joe Phillips in the middle and will have Mike Kope and Tony Twillie II battling at the nose guard position, where both saw time last year. Factor in YSU transfer Zach Bader and redshirt freshman Rahdezz Henderson and this group is loaded, all of that without considering that Woodland Hills standout Wilford Clark will join the team in the fall and Steve Gaviglia could stay on the defensive side of the ball.
- Linebackers: SRU will need to replace two of its three starting linebackers from last year's team as All-American Teven Williams is off to play pro ball in Australia and Mike Grata is set to join the team's coaching staff. All-Region performer Bob Vernick will anchor that unit from his middle linebacker spot. JT Joint, Cody Allen and Erik Johnson all saw time on the field last year. Redshirts Louie Derloni and Adam Ottaviano will be looking to get their first crack on the field and Jerrell Hoston, Joe Lyberger, Reilly Sullivan, Ron Savoia and Alexander Beards will all be looking to see time.
- Defensive backs: SRU returns both starting cornerbacks from last year in Titus Howard and Alfon Cook, who combined to put up some of the best passes defended numbers in school history. Also returning for his senior year is Derrick Fulmore, who earned All-Region honors in 2013 and was well on his way to a big year last fall before suffering a season-ending injury before the midway point of the year. Kris Williams, Delmar Henderson, Kyle Hall, John Conglose, William Monono and Brandon Sacco all saw time on the field in various roles last year, as did Anthony Williams and Steve Hill. Redshirt Roman Denson will be looking to make his mark and find a spot on the depth chart.
- Special teams: One of the biggest question marks this offseason was the special teams game as kicker Mike Wainauskis and punter/kicker Andrew Huska both finished their careers. That question will likely be answered by Plum High School standout Jake Chapla, who has signed with the team for the fall. However, at the spring game, Gannon transfer Ty Mooney will have his chance to stake an early claim to the kicking game.
A live statistical feed of SRU's spring game will be available at: http://www.sidearmstats.com/sru/football/.
The spring game will be the kickoff to a trio of weekend events for the football program, which will include the retirement of former Rock standout Brandon Fusco's jersey in the Smith Student Center immediately following the game. The annual Rock Football Golf Outing, 11 a.m., April 23 at Oakview Golf Club, rounds out the weekend.
The Rock will officially kick off the 2016 season at home against the University of New Haven at 1 p.m., Sept. 3. SRU will play six home games and five road games in 2016.
MEDIA CONTACT: Jon Holtz | 724.738.4925 | firstname.lastname@example.org