Thursday, January 22, 2015

Player News - McCartney in BSN Showcase

Golden Ram quarterback Sean McCartney is set to participate in the Beyond Sports Network's 2015 Showcase, a national scouting combine. The event is scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 7 in the Cole Student Activities Building on the campus of the University of Maryland in College Park, MD. At the invitation only event, McCartney will be tested in combine drills from noon to 1:30 pm and then position drills and 1-on-1's from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

At West Chester, McCartney went from not knowing what position he was going to play as a freshman to finishing as one of the best quarterbacks to don the purple and gold. This past season, he threw for 3,744 yards and a Division II best 42 touchdowns, both single season West Chester University records. He was named Offensive Player of the Year by the PSAC East, ECAC, Daktronics in Super Region 1 and Don Hansen's Football Gazette in Super Region 1. He was also named first team Beyond Sports Network All-Super Region 1 and second team Beyond Sports Network All-American.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Team News - Projecting 2015

With signing day soon approaching, questions have been pouring in on the Golden Rams’ needs for next season. While most players’ names that will be announced in the coming weeks won’t see significant time on the field until the 2018 season, it is fair to examine what the 2015 squad might look like. Of course this is based on the guys on the current roster, since it’s extremely difficult to project the comings and goings of players which happen for a myriad of reasons.

Offense

Concerns – Receivers and offensive line

Quarterback

While Andrew Derr’s 2014 statistics – 15 of 27 for 243 yards and four touchdowns with one interception – look more typical for those of a single game, there’s little doubt that he will be the starter. While his role this past season was mainly mop up duty in games that had already been decided, he led West Chester’s comeback win at Shippensburg in 2013 as a redshirt freshman and played the fourth quarter in West Chester’s playoff game at Concord. He was also used as a wildcat, so unlike many quarterbacks, his ability to run isn’t a last resort. Although Pat Moriarty has yet to throw a collegiate pass, he’s only one year behind Derr in experience in the system and should prove to be a reliable backup.


Receivers

One of the potential obstacles to an effective passing game may be the receiving corp. The big three in 2014 – tight end Tim Brown, and wide receivers Mike Doty and Erick Brundidge - accounted for 55% of the receptions, 66% of the receiving yards and 78% of the receiving touchdowns. While Doty and Brown both appear to still have another season of eligibility left, it’s unclear if they will return. Both graduated high school in 2009 and they may be looking to get on with life. However, Brown has the size, skill, production and awards to be a legitimate pro prospect, so an additional stellar college season may further that cause for him.

So the top returning receivers are Shannon Mayer (25 catches, 247 yards, 3 TD’s), Adam Dempsey (21 catches, 171 yards, 1 TD) and Jim Hurley (6 catches, 143 yards). Only 5’9” Dempsey will be a senior and he’s best known for making the tough catches over the middle. Marcus Sydnor and Jordan Banks provide two more options, but neither has a catch and providing some size could be 6’2” Jr. A.J. DePietro and 6’3” R-Fr. Jared Reed., but they’re two more guys that have yet to register a collegiate reception. After recovering from an injury, DiPietro was in uniform at the end of the season, but did not receive any action.

Also at tight end is Shawn Driggins who is primarily used as a run blocker. Although he had six catches for 69 yards and three touchdowns, he’s not the downfield threat that Brown is. Further clouding matters at that position is the fact that Bill Ford doesn’t participate in spring football since he’s catching for the Golden Ram baseball team.

Running Backs

The story is much better at running back as the top three backs - Brandon Monk (first-team All-PSAC East), Eddie Elliott (second-team All-PSAC East) and Jarel Elder - are all back. So there’s plenty of talent, experience and depth at that position.

It will be interesting to see the evolution of the H-back position. That's technically how Driggins was listed on the depth chart, but this past season was the first one utilizing that position. But two players - John Derr and Ryan Fay - are actually listed as H-backs on the roster. They both took their redshirt year this past season and should be ready to play this fall. With their size - Derr is 6'4", 215 and Fay is 6'3" 230 - maybe the Golden Rams will have a new, power approach to those short yardage situations that have been troublesome in recent years. Time will tell.

Offensive Line

The story isn't as good on the offensive line which goes from young to younger. Like coming into 2014, the 2015 O-line will have only two starters returning. However, in 2014, those two returning starters were seniors and one of the new starters was a senior. This year, the “elder statesman” of the unit will be rising Jr. Doug Gilbert. Gilbert was first team All-PSAC East at left tackle and there’s no reason to think that he won’t be stationed there for the next two seasons. The other returning starter is right tackle Vince Lostracco. With so many of West Chester’s games last year getting decided before the clock hit triple zeros, the non-starting youngsters got a decent amount of playing time. Center Devan LaBau, left guard Alex Host and right guard Tyler Drob saw plenty of action, with Drob getting one start due to an injury to Antoine Bland. About the only depth of note going into 2015 is Michael Unger who saw time at tackle last season. Vying for time will be Evyn Stadulis, J Kraiza, Shane Kraynik and Jake Duncan.


Defense

Concerns – Linebackers and secondary

Defensive Line

Six of the eight guys who played in the four-man front rotation return. Defensive end Andrew Cohen has stated personal and team goals and is a player who has the determination to achieve them. He registered 10.5 sacks in 2014 which is the most by a Golden Ram defender since 1992 and just 2.5 off the single season of 13.0 last achieved by Pat Ellis in 1988. The likely Gene Upshaw Award nominee has 20.0 career sacks and the West Chester record is 21.5 set by Doug Jacobs from 1980-83. John Dubyk and George Shipp are the other returning defensive ends. Last season, the coaches moved Mike Culbreath from linebacker to a standup defensive end. If the coaches liked the role, Grant Garbutt might fill that same position. However, if the move was done strictly to get a senior playing time, then Garbutt will likely return to linebacker and 6’4” Ch'aim Smith might take the other end position. The good news at defensive end is Cohen is one of the best ever to play the position at West Chester, the bad news is that the other three ends have 33 tackles combined.

At the defensive tackle position, starters Barry Lyons and Shaquil Ryder return as does backup Josh Ganzelli. After that, are players that will be seeing the field for the first time in Ben Smith or Stephen Harrison. Joe Matcovich saw some action in 2014 and is listed as a defensive lineman, but his 6’2” 235 size appears better suited to linebacker.


Linebackers

With the two top tacklers for the past few seasons finally out of the way, Ralph Reeves gets to start. Next to him will likely be either Dan Sherry, who saw action in seven games last season, or the aforementioned Garbutt. Sean Steinmetz got pressed into action last year as a true freshman when Ronell Williams got hurt at Seton Hill, so it’s possible that he will redshirt this coming season. Depth at linebacker will rely on guys with little or no experience in Kevin Duggan, Steven Denby or Steve Marrazzo.

Secondary

First is the certain - Brandon Pepper at free safety, Blaise Schieler at one corner and Drew Formica at either free safety or shark or maybe both. After that, things appear to be wide open going into the spring. One thing is clear though, the balance of the secondary will be young and/or inexperienced. Hopefully Byron Cooper can return to shark after his season ending injury. And Brandon Spatz should be back after redshirting last season and Lehigh transfer Russhon Phillips should be ready. Pete Galiano, John McGilligan, Kevin Malone and Pat McCabe all saw time at safety and Jeremy Irving saw action at shark. But it’s not clear who among this large group will step up to start at the other corner position and complement Formica at shark or the other safety spot.


Special Teams

Concerns – Kicker, punter and punt returner

Last season’s recruiting class including three guys to kick or punt, but none saw the field. Prior to 2014, kicker Shawn Leo missed four PAT’s in his entire four year career. In last season alone, Rich Bruno missed nine PAT’s and he was the Golden Rams’ best option at kicker. Bruno was an effective punter throughout his entire time at West Chester, however. But as of now, the Golden Rams are without a player who has booted a ball in a college game in any way, shape or form. The good news is that it’s not a position that requires experience to learn the game plan, so it’s quite possible that someone not even on the roster might step right in.

Despite Monk’s punt return for touchdown at Indiana, that aspect of the special teams was a challenge. There was a lot of indecision and it cost West Chester valuable field position and sometimes possession of the ball. If a young player wants to get some action on the field, he should volunteer to catch every punt in every practice and scrimmage to prove that he’s willing and capable to do it in every game in 2015. Even fair catching every single punt would be an improvement and return yards will be a bonus. Kick returns may not change with Elder and Monk being the main two handling that task.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Player News - Shabazz Competes in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

West Chester's Al-Hajj Shabazz started at cornerback and played special teams in the 2015 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl held at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. His National team shut out American 17-0.

On American's second play of their first series, they threw a quick out Hajj's way that was high and slipped through the receivers hands. After a short run, American then completed an underneath pass to the tight end and Hajj came off his receiver to make the tackle and force the punt. On American's second series, on second and long, his receiver was the primary target on a stop-and-go route. Hajj stuck with him and forced the quarterback to pull it down and scurry for a three-yard run. Hajj then gave way to the other cornerbacks for the remainder of the first half.


Hajj made his presence known on the opening kickoff of the second half when he made a solo stop of the return at the American 15-yard line. He also made a tackle on a running play and stopped a short pass completion short of the first down on the last play of the third quarter. Hajj was officially credited with six solo stops, second most tackles on the National squad.

But that was just the game action. Anyone who tuned in early enough to catch the opening of the telecast saw Hajj using his electric personality in the center of the defensive huddle getting the troops fired up for the contest.



The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is a premiere post-season all-star game for draft-eligible college players. The week-long schedule provides participants with a first-class professional experience while introducing them to the business of the National Football League. Founded in 2012, the annual game gives prospective NFL players the best opportunity to showcase their talents to potential employers and fans.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Player News - McCartney, Eight Others Named to Regional Team

Senior quarterback Sean McCartney was named Super Region One Offensive Player of the Year by the Don Hansen Football Gazette. Also named to the first team offense were junior tight end Tim Brown and junior Brandon Monk as an all-purpose player. Named to the first team defense were senior linebacker Ronell Williams and senior cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz.

Named to the second team offense was sophomore left tackle Doug Gilbert. The third team offense listed senior center Derek Schatz and senior left guard James Colivas while the defense identified junior defensive end Andrew Cohen

Super Region One consists of schools in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, Northeast-10, Mountain East Conference, and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. West Chester's five players on the first team were the most from any one school. Those five players now advance to the national ballot. The Don Hansen Football Gazette 2014 NCAA Division II All-America team will be announced later this month.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Player News - Shabazz to Play in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

West Chester cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz has been selected to play in the 2015 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl to be held at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA on January 17. Shabazz will wear #22 for the National Team which will be coached by former St. Louis Rams' head coach Mike Martz. The cornerbacks for the National Team will be coached by former NFL cornerback and broadcaster Ron Pitts.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is a premiere post-season all-star game for draft-eligible college players. The week-long schedule provides participants with a first-class professional experience while introducing them to the business of the National Football League. Founded in 2012, the annual game gives prospective NFL players the best opportunity to showcase their talents to potential employers and fans.

The game, scheduled for a 4:00 pm ET kickoff, will air live on ESPN2. In addition, American and National Team practices on January 14 and 15 will be televised live on ESPNU. The game and practices will also be available via WatchESPN.


In the first game of the season, with West Chester holding a narrow 21-16 lead, Shabazz recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown. Then in the fourth quarter after an hour long lightning delay, the Chargers were looking to regain the lead. Trailing 35-30, they advanced to the Golden Ram 37, but their second down pass was intercepted by a diving Shabazz at the 18. On New Haven's next possession, he blocked the Charger punt to give West Chester the ball at the New Haven 21. Shabazz also had four tackles in the game and was named PSAC East Co-Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

In week six at Kutztown, with the Golden Ram offense managing only a field goal in its first three possession, Shabazz intercepted a Golden Bear pass and returned it 20 yards for the first touchdown of the game. In West Chester's 35-24 victory at East Stroudsburg, he intercepted a pass at the West Chester two and returned it 33 yards to not only prevent a Warrior touchdown but also give the Golden Ram offense good field position. And in the second round of the playoffs, Shabazz made a beautiful over the shoulder pick at the Golden Ram goal line early in the third quarter to maintain West Chester's 28-27 halftime lead.


Shabazz finished the season third in the PSAC in interceptions (5), seventh in pass breakups (11) and third in passes defended (16). He also logged 28 solo tackles and 39 total stops this season. He was named first team All-PSAC East, first team Daktronics All-Super Region 1, first team Beyond Sports Network All-Super Region 1, second team Beyond Sports Network All-American, ECAC Division II Football All-Star and a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Team News - 2014 Football Banquet

The Golden Ram Football Club will be sponsoring the 49th annual team banquet to honor the 2014 Golden Rams players, coaches and staff on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 5:30 pm at the Concordville Inn in Concordville, PA. Anyone interested in attending ($50) or sponsoring a player ($50) or table ($125, includes two seats) is asked to e-mail the Golden Ram Football Club by January 23, 2015 for further information.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Team News - ECAC Names WCU Team of the Year

For the second consecutive year, the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) has announced that the West Chester University Golden Rams were declared the ECAC Division II Team of the Year. Besides last season, West Chester previously received this honor five other times, all under current head coach Bill Zwaan, in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The ECAC will host its annual Eastern College Football Awards Banquet on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands.

Wisconsin was tabbed the Division I Bowl Subdivision winner while New Hampshire was declared the Division I Championship Subdivision recipient and Wesley won the honor in Division III. The ECAC Team of the Year is chosen by the ECAC coaches within their respective division and members of the media.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Team News - Golden Rams Second in Final Lambert Meadowlands Poll

The Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) has announced the winners of the Lambert Meadowlands Awards for the 2014 season. After reaching the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs and finishing the season with an 11-2 record, the West Chester University Golden Rams finished second in the final Division II Lambert Meadowlands Poll.

Rutgers was declared the Division I Bowl Subdivision winner, New Hampshire was declared the Division I Championship Subdivision recipient, Bloomsburg received the Division II crown, and Wesley won the award in Division III. The Lambert Meadowlands Trophy recognizes supremacy in Eastern college football.


Ranking
School
Overall Record
1.
Bloomsburg
11-2
2.
West Chester
11-2
3.
Slippery Rock
9-3
4.
Gannon
9-2
5.
LIU Post
8-4
6.
American International
8-3
7.
California
8-2
8.
Mercyhurst
7-4
9.
Assumption
7-4
10.
Alderson Broaddus
7-4

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Team News - WCU Football Among DLN Top Stories of 2014

The Golden Rams' 11-2 season and advance to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs was among the Daily Local News top sports stories of 2014. It was the second consecutive appearance in the playoffs for West Chester and head coach Bill Zwaan picked up his 100th win at West Chester along the way.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Team News - 2014 Season Review - Overall

Okay, let’s be honest. When a college football team loses over 40% of its offense due to graduation, there’s concern going into the next season. Such was the case with the departure of Rondell White after the 2013 season who led the Golden Rams on both rushing with 1,989 yards and receiving with 843 yards. But the 2014 team firmly answered that question by setting a school record with 500 yards per game, finishing with a record of 11-2 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.


Offensively, sixth-year signal caller Sean McCartney was poised as usual and heavily used his three favorite receivers in Tim Brown, Mike Doty and Erick Brundidge. Brandon Monk provided good balance in the running game and Eddie Elliott continues to be a dual threat. The offensive line performed well despite three new starters with two of them being underclassmen.


The defensive review eluded to several teams not playing their best quarterback against West Chester. Let’s examine that more closely. In week two, Mercyhurst started redshirt sophomore Zach Emerick, and brought in junior Brendan Boylan after halftime. Boylan would go on to start the Lakers’ nine remaining games and become a Harlon Hill nominee. When Shippensburg came to West Chester for homecoming, redshirt freshman Ryan Zapoticky got his only start of the season, and when Chris Lawshe entered the game, he didn’t attempt a pass due to the injury that prevented him from starting.

East Stroudsburg Harlon Hill nominee Matt Soltes didn’t play against West Chester due to an injury he incurred two weeks prior against Kutztown. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana started redshirt freshman Eddie Stockett for the first time in 2014 in lieu of graduate student Chase Haslett who threw for over 2,000 yards this season. And in the first round of the playoffs, Slippery Rock was forced to play redshirt sophomore Zack Newsock over senior Jared Buck due to an injury Buck received in the PSAC championship game the prior week.

So what does all of that mean? Well on one hand, the Golden Ram defense got a break. Or five breaks to be exact. But on the other hand, it says something about the West Chester football program. Think back to 2010 when starting quarterback Mike Mattei got hurt and was forced to miss the nationally televised Thursday night game against Shippensburg. McCartney got his first collegiate start and threw for 444 yards and five touchdowns. Or in 2012, when the roles were reversed and McCartney suffered a season ending injury in the opener at Delaware. Mattei led West Chester to seven wins over the remaining ten games and finished among the top ten in the WCU record book in almost every single season passing category. And even last year at Shippensburg when McCartney went down early in the contest. First Drew Loughery and then redshirt freshman Andrew Derr came in to win the game. Obviously injuries happen and teams have to resort to backup players, but 2014 showed that at least five teams aren’t as deep or as prepared as what West Chester is. Having depth and preparation at every position is something that Golden Rams fans should not take for granted.

The bottom line is 2014 was a season with double digit wins and a trip to the playoffs, both of which happened for the second season in a row. And at Indiana, head coach Bill Zwaan earned his 100th win at West Chester.