PSAC: The Best Football Conference You've Never Heard Of

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PSAC: The Best Football Conference You've Never Heard Of

The PSAC, or Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, is home to some of the best Division II football in the country. It is comprised of 16 teams, split into two conferences, East and West, including a wide variety of schools.

Tiny private schools. Public schools with over 14,000 in enrollment. Schools from New York. Schools for African-Americans. Yes indeed, the PSAC has it all.

Some of these schools are separated by distance in yards. Recruiting in the PSAC has become an art form. But why pay attention to some Division II football when we have the Big Ten and the ACC? The Pac-10 and the Big 12?

I first took interest in the PSAC when I attended a game with a couple friends of mine. The 18th-ranked Edinboro University Fighting Scots versus the 16th-ranked Indiana University Crimson Hawks. That's Indiana, PA, not that school that plays at Memorial Stadium down in Bloomington.

My friend told me that Indiana and Edinboro was one of the bigger rivalry games in the PSAC. So I thought rivalry, like Backyard Brawl - couches being burned in the streets, rioting everywhere, that sort of frivolities.

It didn't quite live up to my expectations, but a rivalry on the field it was indeed. The two Top 20 teams in the country in Division II played each other til the final horn sounded. I would swear a number of the guys should be playing Division 1. Maybe they did at some point.

I also didn't know what to expect upon having my ticket punched at the gate of Sox Harrison Stadium. For five bucks, who knows. A modest crowd of about 5,000 packed the house, although the sound of the crowd seemed double that.

Ever since that game, I took more of an interest in Division II. What's not to like about a real playoff system in college football? 

So without further babbling, here are my projections for the 2009 season of the Western Conference. I will attend to the Eastern Conference in a few days.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. EDINBORO FIGHTING SCOTS (9-2, 5-2, AFCA Final Poll: 20)

Head Coach: Scott Browning

2008 Playoffs: Finished 7th in Super Regional One and missed the playoffs.

Key Returning Starters

  • Senior QB Trevor Harris (6'3" 215 lbs. Waldo, OH): 2780 Passing Yards, 26 TD
  • Junior WR Gary Nolen (5'11" 170 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA): 328 Receiving Yards, 3 TD
  • Senior RB Houston Brown (5'9" 200 lbs. Westerville, OH): 552 Rushing Yards, 2 TD
  • Sophomore CB Branden Williams (5'10" 175 lbs. Lakewood, OH): 3 INT, 2 Defensive TD
  • Senior DE Jeremy Appell (6'2" 230 lbs. Webster, NY): 3.5 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles

Key Newcomers

  • Sophomore WR Maurice Williams (6'1" 180 lbs. Erie, PA): Transfer from Pitt
  • Sophomore WR/RB David Bostic (5'11" 180 lbs. Tavares, FL): Took 2008 Off, 963 All-Purpose Yards in 2007
  • Junior WR/KR Josh Brown (6'0" 160 lbs. Sheperdstown, WV): 384 Receiving Yards, 3 TD, 176 Return Yards

Preview

Senior Quarterback Trevor Harris, a Harlon Hill Finalist from 2008, has annihilated school records for passing in his three years, topping 3000 yards and 30 TDsin his sophomore campaign. The Fighting Scots aerial attack is impressive, andonly figures to get better with the addition of Pitt transfer Maurice Williams. Houston Brown has had injury problems in the past but is a very good running back while healthy.

The defense has improved step by step over the past several years, especially in the secondary. Anchored by cornerback Branden Williams and safety Dan Skelton, who played alongside Penn State S Drew Astorino in high school.

2009 Season Projection: 10-1

 

2. CALIFORNIA (PA.) VULCANS (12-2, 7-0, AFCA Final Poll: 6)

Head Coach: John Luckhardt

2008 Playoffs: Finished 2nd in Super Regional One andadvanced to the NCAA Semifinals. Lost to eventual Division II Champion Minnesota-Duluth.

Key Returning Starters

  • Junior RB Windell Brown (6'0" 205 lbs. Duquesne, PA): 593 Rushing Yards, 7 TD
  • Senior WR A.J. Jackson (6'6" 230 lbs. Lehigh Acres, FL): 706 Receiving Yards, 10 TD
  • Senior FB Freddy Bacco (5'11" 225 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA): 376 Rushing Yards, 6 TD
  • Senior CB Terrence Johnson (6'0" 195 lbs. Braddock, PA): 5 INT, 2 Forced Fumbles
  • Junior DT Sam Fikaris (6'2" 280 lbs. Mayfield Heights, OH): 1 Sack, 5 TFL

Key Newcomers

  • Freshman LB Dillon Voss (5'11" 220 lbs. Garfield Heights, OH)
  • Freshman ATH Jawan Bryant (6'1" 175 lbs. McKeesport, PA)
  • Sophomore WR Josh Gumbert (6'2" 195 lbs. Beaver Falls, PA): 397 Receiving Yards, 1 TD
  • Junior TE Chase DeCarlo (6'5" 240 lbs. Beaufort, SC): 217 Receiving Yards, 1 TD

Preview

This California team will once again have to replace it's starting quarterback, but that hasn't been a problem for them historically. Sophomore Zach Grossi from Tampa Bay figures to take over the starting role, but he will have a fine supporting cast. Towering Wide Receiver A.J. Jackson will be a major help as will a powerful running attack.

The defense has lead the Vulcans to two straight appearances in the NCAA Semifinals. Many of the former starters have departed, including all-world linebacker Darren Burns who has declared for the NFL Draft. They will still possess a very strong unit in 2009, headed by All-American CB Terrence Johnson.

2009 Season Projection: 10-1

 

3. INDIANA (PA.) CRIMSON HAWKS (8-2, 5-2, AFCA Final Poll: 21)

Head Coach: Lou Tepper

2008 Playoffs: Finished 9th in Super Regional One and missed the playoffs.

Key Returning Starters

  • Senior QB Andrew Krewatch (6'3" 225 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA): 2449 Passing Yards, 22 TD
  • Junior RB Tobias Robinson (5'11" 190 lbs. Lebanon, PA): 1203 Rushing Yards, 13 TD
  • Junior WR Mychal Skinner (6'3" 210 lbs. Vandergrift, PA): 494 Receiving Yards, 4 TD
  • Senior CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (6'1" 190 lbs. Columbus, OH): 8 INT, 1 Defensive TD
  • Junior CB Andre Henderson (6'1" 200 lbs. Erie, PA): 2 INT

Key Newcomers

  • Sophomore WR Roy-al Edwards (6'1" 185 lbs. Media, PA): 91 Receiving Yards
  • Freshman LB Brandon Walker (5'11" 205 lbs. York, PA)
  • Freshman WR Michael Scott (5'11" 170 lbs. Philadelphia, PA)
  • Freshman DE Ross Nicholson (6'1" 200 lbs. Kane, PA)

Preview

IUP returns several of it's best offensive players including senior Quarterback Andrew Krewatch. He loses several of his main targets, but will still have some decent receivers. The PSAC leader in rushing yards, Tobias Robinson, will be back for another season.

The defense loses first team All-American linebacker Terrence Jackson to the NFL Draft, but the core is still good. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in Division II, and he can also return kicks. His partner in crime Andre Henderson, who has experience quantum leaps in the last few games of 2008, will be back as well.

2009 Season Projection: 9-2

 

4. CLARION GOLDEN EAGLES (3-8, 1-6, AFCA Final Poll: Unranked)

Head Coach: Jay Foster

2008 Playoffs: Was unranked and did not qualify.

Key Returning Starters

  • Junior WR Jacques Robinson (6'3" 180 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA): 849 Receiving Yards, 8 TD
  • Junior ATH Alfonso Hoggard (5'5" 155 lbs. Philadelphia, PA): 1517 All-Purpose Yards, 2 TD
  • Senior QB Tyler Huether (6'1" 205 lbs. Irwin, PA): 1028 Passing Yards, 7 TD
  • Senior TE Matt Foradora (6'5" 240 lbs. Falls Creek, PA): 367 Receiving Yards, 3 TD
  • Junior S Shawn Sopic (6'2" 210 lbs. Curwensville, PA): 3 INT, 2 TFL

Key Newcomers

  • Freshman TE Adam Bostick (6'3" 210 lbs. Lancaster, PA)
  • Freshman S Matt Long (6'2" 195 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA)

Preview

This unit has underachieved for the past several years, but finally they have shown signs of breaking out. The offense has worked together for three seasons now, and they may have the best wide receiver in the PSAC in Jacques Robinson. "I can do everything" utility spark Alfonso Hoggard was named a 2nd-team All-American in 2008. Tyler Huetherwill need to step up his play if they want to truly compete with the powerhouses of the West.

The defense has some question marks, and most of them were not addressed in the recruiting class. They have decent safeties, but they will need more to slow other teams down. The defensive line loses a big playmaker at defensive tackle in Jimmy Simmons, who had 14 tackles for loss and five sacks during the 2008 campaign.

2009 Season Projection: 7-4 

 

5. MERCYHURST LAKERS (7-4, 5-2, AFCA Final Poll: Unranked)

Head Coach: Marty Schaetzle

2008 Playoffs: Was unranked and did not qualify.

Key Returning Starters

  • Senior RB Ben Jennings (5'7" 180 lbs. Washington, PA): 571 Rushing Yards, 4 TD
  • Senior QB Garrett Kensy (6'0" 210 lbs. Cheektowaga, NY): 1276 Passing Yards, 9 TD

Key Newcomers

  • Freshman S Justin Austin (5'10" 175 lbs. Youngstown, OH)
  • Freshman CB LaQuan James (5'11" 180 lbs. Chatham, VA)
  • Freshman CB Karlos Marshall (5'10" 165 lbs. Springfield, OH)

Preview

Mercyhurst will be losing close to all of it's roster from the 2008 season, but head coach Marty Schaetzle has done a great job at retooling. The loss of star running back Richard Stokes will hurt the offense considerably, especially option-run quarterback Kensy. He still will have diminutive Ben Jennings to lean on, andhe did a nice job in 08 at second running back.

The defense loses a lot of senior leadership on the line especially. But the pride of the recruiting class, the secondary, will have a huge improvement. Connecticut recruit and 3-Star cornerback LaQuanJames will make an instant impact along with Justin Austin.

2009 Season Projection: 6-5

 

6. SLIPPERY ROCK (5-6, 3-4, AFCA Final Poll: Unranked)

Head Coach: Dr. George Mihalik

2008 Playoffs: Was unranked and did not qualify.

Key Returning Starters

  • Junior RB Ryan Lehmeier (5'11" 200 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA): 905 Rushing Yards, 10 TD
  • Sophomore WR Devin Goda (6'4" 185 lbs. Monongahela, PA): 175 Receiving Yards
  • Junior WR Jermale Cromerdie (6'1" 185 lbs. McKeesport, PA): 109 Receiving Yards, 2 TD
  • Sophomore CB Ryan Webb (5'11" 190 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA): 5 INT, 1 Defensive TD
  • Sophomore LB Zach Sheridan (6'2" 215 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA): 7.5 TFL, 3.5 Sacks

Key Newcomers

  • Sophomore CB Andre Freeman (6'1" 190 lbs. Pittsburgh, PA): Transfer from Hofstra
  • Sophomore WR JaMar White (6'5" 180 lbs. Aliquippa, PA): Did not play in 2008

Preview

The Rock has fallen very far from it's prime in 2006-2007. But they are slowly rebuilding with a new core of players, and could get very good very quickly. The wide receiver trio of Goda, Cromertie, and White would make most quarterbacks happy, and youngster Brandon Frohnapplewill need to find any way to get them the ball. Workhorse power back Ryan Lehmeier will also need to improve on his already stellar 2008 season.

Defense will be the main issue for the Rock. They will field two very good cornerbacks in Webb and Hofstra-transfer Freeman, and Zach Sheridan will anchor the linebackers. The rest of the positions however, are mostly toss-ups.

2009 Season Projection: 6-5 

 

7. GANNON GOLDEN KNIGHTS (4-7, 2-5, AFCA Final Poll: Unranked)

Head Coach: Jim Kiernan

2008 Playoffs: Was unranked and did not qualify.

Key Returning Starters

  • Senior RB Jon Richardson (5'11" 205 lbs. Warren, OH): 914 Rushing Yards, 9 TD
  • Sophomore WR Brig Van Etten (6'4" 200 lbs. Novelty, OH): 255 Receiving Yards, 1 TD
  • Junior QB Bob Bartley (6'4" 205 lbs. Allison Park, PA): 1049 Passing Yards, 4 TD
  • Sophomore CB Chris Cook (5'8" 170 lbs. Cleveland, OH): 5 INT
  • Junior LB Kevin Minor (6'2" 195 lbs. South Euclid, OH): 11.5 TFL, 1.5 Sacks

Key Newcomers

  • None

Preview

Gannon is in a scenario of having the skill players to compete, but just not enough depth to win games. Jon Richardson is one of the best backs in the PSAC, but until Bartley or another quarterback can step up and make the passing game effective, they will remain one-dimensional. Brig Van Etten is a young, undervalued talent that could have a breakout season if he gets the ball thrown his way.

The defense can also be susceptible at times andthey simply don't have the depth. CornerbackChris Cook can make plays against the best receivers in the league, but he is the only one capable of doing so. Their recruiting class didn't add much depth, either.

2009 Season Projection: 3-8 

 

8. LOCK HAVEN BALD EAGLES (0-11, 0-7, AFCA Final Poll: Unranked)

Head Coach: John Klacik

2008 Playoffs: Was unranked and did not qualify.

Key Returning Starters

  • Junior RB Ibrahim Smith (6'0" 190 lbs. New Bloomfield, PA): 270 Rushing Yards, 3 TD
  • Sophomore QB Jarryd Burkett (6'2" 190 lbs. Altoona, PA): 595 Passing Yards, 3 TD
  • Senior CB Dean Tortorice (5'11" 190 lbs. Delmont, PA): 3 INT, 5.5 TFL

Key Newcomers

  • None

Preview

Lock Haven is to the PSAC what Washington is to the Pac-10. These two, Smith and Burkett, were the season-long starters and put up those numbers. The offense is punchless. Ibrahim Smith is the only player that could even cause problems, but teams can play for the run. Burkett improved by a small margin by the end of the season, but still wasn't enough to make a splash.

The defense is more embarrassing. Let's just leave it at that. 

2009 Season Projection: 1-11

 

Well there you have it. The Western Conference of the PSAC.

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