Sept. 1, 2012 marks a new year for the Shippensburg University football team as it looks to improve on its 7-4 mark a season ago and forge ahead in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s (PSAC) upper echelon.
SU returns 20 of its 22 starters from a year ago and is looking to make a statement after getting picked fifth in the East division of the PSAC’s preseason rankings.
However, SU players and coaches know that preseason predictions rarely come to fruition throughout the season.
“It does not matter where we are picked to start the season. I am only concerned about where we finish,” said SU head coach Mark Maciejewski.
The 2012 campaign is poised to make a huge splash this year. The Raiders, led by quarterback Zach Zulli and tailback Mike Frenette, blazed through the record books in 2011, demolishing single season passing and all- purpose yard records. The duo along with leading receiver Trevor Harman will look to add to those numbers this upcoming year.
Zulli was largely underestimated by PSAC foes in 2011, but will face tremendous pressure this year as teams will look to scheme more against the talented righty. Defenses will be looking to contain the run, and make Zulli a pocket passer, a position in which he has struggled a little in the past.
The summer camp has brought positives along the defensive side of the ball. With its defensive line returning, a talented line-backing core and a speedy secondary, SU’s defense has looked better and better throughout camp.
The line-backing core surrounded by Cody Fleming and up-and-coming James Brennan has all the talent needed to sure up the run defense.
“I have high expectations for our line-backing core this year…,” said Fleming “Coach has been testing our mental toughness throughout camp.”
This mental toughness, has also been an aide to helping prevent the big plays that plagued the defense in the 2011 season. However, with returning starters in the secondary, there will be a more cohesive unit and it should limit the big plays, according to Fleming.
The defense also returns a defensive line that is ready to take it to the next level. The defensive line wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks, especially against PSAC rival Millersville University last year and look to continue its impressive performance this year.
The 2012 Raider squad looks tremendous on paper. With 20 of 22 starters returning this year, SU will have the leadership it will need to make a run at the PSAC title.
The Raiders open up their season Saturday, Sept. 1 at 1 p.m. against Shepherd University at Seth Grove Stadium.