Questions arise as Spring Game looms
It seems not too long ago that the Shippensburg University football team came crashing down after a historic season.
The loss in the second round of the NCAA playoffs was as disappointing as ever for the Raiders, but that loss did not personify this team — no this team that took to Seth Grove Stadium during the 2012 season was a team to remember.
The team roared through its schedule, garnering illustrious victories against West Chester University, Kutztown University and Bloomsburg University. The record books shattered with Zach Zulli commanding a Mike Yurcich-led spread offense.
A defense that had shown to be porous at key situations the year before was staunch when it mattered most. This Raiders team was the real deal.
Now, like every spring, questions arise. These questions plague the offensive side of the ball where SU will need to replace its leading receiver Jacob Baskerville; its leading rusher Mike Frenette and adjust to a new offensive system under first-year offensive coordinator Joe Davis.
Davis will bring a slew of first-hand experience coming into Seth Grove Stadium. Davis was a star quarterback for Adrian College, tallying eight school records and then followed that up with stints in the National Indoor Football League and the Arena Football League.
More importantly, however, is that his style of offense mirrors what SU has been running for the last two seasons — with one caveat, a tad more plays run in the I-formation. With every new coach comes new verbiage, new terminology and new signals, but to bring Zulli into a new offense during his senior year would have been a catastrophic mistake.
“I have really learned a lot from [Davis] in his short time here,” Zulli said in an interview earlier this winter. “I’m excited to get to work.”
Zulli will have familiar faces to throw to this year as Trevor Harman and Alex Kuljian return. Look for Kyle Kush and Ravone Cornish to battle for the No. 2 slot at receiver with Daniel Wheeler spelling Kuljian at tight-end.
The defense remains mainly intact entering the Spring Game. The Raiders lose one of the team’s leading tacklers in Cody Fleming and lose an inside presence with the departures of Mark Kahlil Smith and Saeed Khateeb, but their line-backing core and secondary remain virtually intact.
Brian Sourber, James Brennan and Sean Sadowsky will look to head man the linebacking core for the Raiders, as all three played in every game last year with Sourber leading the team in tackles (103).
Mike Goode, James Cooper, Tyrique Kershaw and Avery Coleman give the Raiders a veteran presence in the secondary and will be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. The group amassed 12 interceptions and showed that they were not afraid to hit, as each registered more than 50 tackles during the 2012 season.
This will not be a rebuilding year for the Raiders but a retooling period. The weapons are in place for SU to make another run at a PSAC championship and we will get to see it first-hand on Saturday.
The spring game will be held at Seth Grove Stadium, Saturday at 1 p.m. Attendance is free for all fans.