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In the FCS Huddle: 2013 Northeast Conference Preview

Bryant wide receiver Jordan Harris, judging by his past standards, had a down year in 2012. His yards per catch, believe it or not, actually dropped to 20.4 last season.

That should be a quick indicator of how valuable his pass-catching ability is to the Bulldogs offense. Harris enters this season on the Walter Payton Award Watch List, and rightfully so. As a junior, he hauled in 15 touchdown catches a year ago.

Here's another one for you: you'd have to go back to the first game of the 2012-13 season to find the last time Harris didn't have a scoring reception.

Harris is one of the many playmakers in the Northeast Conference capable of taking over a game, or even an entire season. Linebacker Dorian Bell has the same game-changing ability, just on the defensive side of the ball for Duquesne.

But teams will need more than just one impact player on their roster if they look to challenge defending NEC champ Wagner.

Last year, the Seahawks became the first NEC team to win an FCS playoff game (the NEC champion started receiving an automatic playoff bid in 2010). Wagner defeated Patriot League champion Colgate, then bowed out to eventual national semifinalist Eastern Washington.

Coach Walt Hameline's crew was a very well-rounded squad in 2012. Thus, the playoff berth and first career playoff victory. His Seahawks were picked to top the NEC yet again in 2013 with returning impact players like Dominique Williams and Jarrett Dieudonne. The Seahawks' depth could cause some concern throughout the rest of the league.

Legendary Robert Morris coach Joe Walton is retiring at the end of this season, and his Colonials will likely make a push for the top spot while rallying behind him in his final go-around.

You can't even count out St. Francis' struggling program as running back Kyle Harbridge returns from injury to join a slew of solid defenders.

The likelihood that one team runs away with the NEC in 2013 is slim to none.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2013 Northeast Conference race.

The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:

1. Wagner

2. Robert Morris

3. Duquesne

4. Central Connecticut State

5. Bryant

6. Saint Francis (Pa.)

7. Sacred Heart

Team-by-team capsules:

1. WAGNER SEAHAWKS

LOCATION: Staten Island, N.Y.

COACH: Walt Hameline (213-127-2 in 32 seasons at Wagner)

LAST SEASON: 9-4 overall, 7-1 NEC; No. 21 in TSN Final Ranking

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (7 offense/4 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Dominique Williams, Sr. (263 carries, 1,328 yards, 13 TD; 26 receptions, 277 yards, 2 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Jarrett Dieudonne, R-Jr. (48 TT, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 8 PD, 1 FR, 3 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Matt Misely, R-Jr.

QB Chris Andrews, R-Fr.

RB Matthais McKinnon, Fr.

WR Anthony Carrington, Jr. (27 receptions, 491 yards, 4 TD)

WR Tyree Watkins, Sr.

TE Bryant Watts, R-Jr. (6 receptions, 83 yards, 2 TD)

LT Brett Buzzard, R-Jr.

C David Fredrickson, R-Jr.

RG Kevin Messier, R-Jr.

DE Yamir Ortiz, Sr. (22 TT, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 PD)

DT Davon Johnson, Sr.

DT Daevonte Barnett, R-So. (34 TT, 2.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 1 FF)

OLB Jarrid Williams, R-So.

FS Blake Bascom, R-Jr. (17 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PBU,1 PD, 1 FF)

PK David Lopez, Sr. (16-of-21 FG, 32-of-35 PAT, long 51)

BIG LOSSES: QB Nick Doscher (131-of-241, 1,794 yards, 13 TD, 1 INT; 168 carries, 571 yards, 5 TD) and CB Torian Phillips (51 TT, 11 PBU, 14 PD, 3 INT, 1 BLK)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 174.77 (37 in FCS, 4 in NEC); Passing Offense, 147.77 (107 in FCS, 8 in NEC); Total Offense, 322.54 (94 in FCS, 7 in NEC); Scoring Offense, 22.46 (84 in FCS, 7 in NEC); Rushing Defense, 142.69 (44 in FCS, 3 in NEC); Passing Defense, 177.38 (19 in FCS, 2 in NEC); Total Defense, 320.08 (18 in FCS, 1 in NEC); Scoring Defense, 17.54 (9 in FCS, 1 in NEC)

OUTLOOK: The Seahawks are coming off their first postseason experience, becoming the first NEC team to record an FCS playoffs victory. Wagner gave Eastern Washington a good run for a little over half of the second-round playoff game last season, and will be determined to make it back to the Big Dance. Despite losing Doscher under center, the Seahawks will return the bruising tailback Williams, who racked up over 1,300 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns in 2012. There's no doubt the focal point of the offense will be Williams as either Misley or Andrews takes over and adapts to the role of starting quarterback. The ground game could be so much more versatile if Otis Wright was still with the Seahawks, though, but the junior is no longer a part of the team after an offseason arrest. Still, the Seahawks return enough talent to be named the favorite entering the 2013 season.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - vs. Georgetown

Sept. 7 - vs. Merrimack

Sept. 14 - at Syracuse

Sept. 21 - at Delaware

Sept. 28 - vs. Bryant

Oct. 5 - at Sacred Heart

Oct. 12 - at Duquesne

Oct. 26 - vs. Robert Morris

Nov. 2 - vs. Central Connecticut State

Nov. 9 - vs. Monmouth

Nov. 16 - at St. Francis (Pa.)

2. ROBERT MORRIS COLONIALS

LOCATION: Moon Township, Pa.

COACH: Joe Walton (109-86 in 19 seasons at Robert Morris)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 3-5 NEC

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: LT A.J. Dalton, Sr.

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Marcelis Branch, So. (58 TT, 6 PBU, 9 PD, 2 FF, 1 FR, 3 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Paul Jones, Jr. (Penn transfer)

QB Derik Abbott, So.

RB Evan Taylor, Sr. (183 carries, 847 yards)

FB Ryan Thermil, Jr. (36 carries, 111 yards, 2 TD)

WR Donte Jeter, Sr. (37 receptions, 631 yards, 5 TD)

WR Duane Mitchell, Jr. (27 receptions, 437 yards, 6 TD)

TE Andrew Smith, Sr.

LG Max Robertson, So.

C Nick Faraci, Jr.

RG Vince Mongelluzzo, Sr.

DE Chris Thompkins, Sr. (31 TT, 6 sacks, 9 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 2 QBH)

NG Farren Mason, R-Sr. (54 TT, 3.5 TFL, 3 QBH)

OLB Mark Centofanti, Sr.

ILB Mike Cook, R-Sr. (88 TT, 3 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 PD, 4 QBH, 1 FF)

CB Antwan Eddie, Jr. (37 TT, 1 TFL, 2 PBU, 4 PD, 2 INT)

P Tony LaMancusa, Jr. (66 punts, 38 average, 53 long)

BIG LOSSES: QB Jeff Sinclair (122-of-242, 1,710 yards, 15 TD) and DE Nolan Nearhoof (76 TT, 10.5 sacks, 13 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 11 QBH)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 131.45 (83 in FCS, 7 in NEC); Passing Offense, 172.45 (89 in FCS, 5 in NEC); Total Offense, 303.91 (102 in FCS, 8 in NEC); Scoring Offense, 18.36 (102 in FCS, 8 in NEC); Rushing Defense, 160.09 (59 in FCS, 4 in NEC); Passing Defense, 215 (64 in FCS, 6 in NEC); Total Defense, 375.09 (58 in FCS, 4 in NEC); Scoring Defense, 26.64 (59 in FCS, 5 in NEC)

OUTLOOK: This will be Walton's final season as head coach of the Colonials. He has been a fixture of the program since the school adopted a football team back in 1994, and now the team will make one last run at an NEC championship under him. This is a very strong team, with key returners at nearly every position. There has an open competition for the starting quarterback job, but Jones is a touted transfer from Penn State and he should have success in this talented offense. The Colonials return both of their top receivers in Jeter and Mitchell, a veteran offensive line and their feature back from a year ago in Taylor. Defensively, the situation is very similar. Aside from Nearhoof, the core of last year's fourth-ranked total defense comes back for one more run with Walton at the helm. The Colonials are no stranger to the FCS playoffs, having led North Dakota State at halftime in their 2010 first-round game. Let's see if the Colonials can whip up some Walton magic and return to the playoffs.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 29 - at Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 7 - vs. Morgan State

Sept 14 - vs. Dayton

Sept. 28 - at VMI

Oct. 5 - at Monmouth

Oct 19 - vs. Duquesne

Oct. 26 - at Wagner

Nov. 2 - vs. Bryant

Nov. 9 - at Central Connecticut State

Nov. 16 - vs. Sacred Heart

Nov. 23 - at St. Francis (Pa.)

3. DUQUESNE DUKES

LOCATION: Pittsburgh, Pa.

COACH: Jerry Schmitt (47-37 in eight seasons at Duquesne; 75-58 overall)

LAST SEASON: 5-6 overall, 3-5 NEC

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Gianni Carter, Sr. (57 receptions, 865 yards, 7 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Dorian Bell, Sr (92 TT, 6.5 sacks, 12 TFL, 2 PBU, 3 PD, 3 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT in eight games played)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Marty Mitchell, Sr.

QB Dillon Buechel, Fr.

RB Ryan Ho, Jr. (45 carries, 184 yards, 1 TD)

WR Sean Brady, Sr. (51 receptions, 619 yards, 6 TD)

WR Noel Oduho, Jr.

LG Bryan Small, Sr.

C Nick Redden, Sr.

RG Frank Balmaceda, Sr.

DE Reggie Eiland, Sr. (40 TT, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 4 QBH, 1 FR)

NT Zach Zidian, So.

OLB Christian Kuntz, So. (38 TT, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 PD, 1 QBH, 2 FR, 1 INT)

FS Rich Piekarski, Jr. (65 TT, 2.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 6 PD)

CB Brandon Martin, Jr. (54 TT, .5 TFL, 6 PBU, 6 PD, 1 FF)

CB Devin Williams, Jr.

BIG LOSSES: QB Sean Patterson (198-of-341, 2,359 yards, 17 TD, 10 INT) and RB Larry McCoy (256 carries, 1,070 yards, 11 TD)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 141.18 (70 in FCS, 6 in NEC); Passing Offense, 216.73 (54 in FCS, 3 in NEC); Total Offense, 357.91 (72 in FCS, 4 in NEC); Scoring Offense, 27.09 (54 in FCS, 4 in NEC); Rushing Defense, 178.27 (79 in FCS, 6 in NEC); Passing Defense, 199.18 (40 in FCS, in 4 NEC); Total Defense, 377.45 (61 in FCS, 5 in NEC); Scoring Defense, 24.55 (51 in FCS, 3 in NEC)

OUTLOOK: The Dukes feature one of the best players defensively in the nation in Bell. Bell, who transferred back home to the Pittsburgh area and Duquesne after he was suspended in the Ohio State tattoo parlor scandal in 2010, played in eight games last year with the Dukes, recording a blistering 12 tackles for loss in that span. Despite losing key offensive pieces from last season, the Dukes are still poised to make a run at their first NEC crown since the conference was given an automatic bid in 2010. With senior leadership on the offensive line, including all-conference selection Redden, the Dukes can take the projected tailback starter Ho and create some holes on the ground, which should in turn open up the airways for Carter to catch some passes. The Dukes open with former NEC contender Albany, now in CAA Football, and travel to face Youngstown State in the third week of the season (after they have an open weekend Sept. 14).

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - vs. Albany

Sept. 7 - at Dayton

Sept. 21 - at Youngstown State

Oct. 5 - vs. West Liberty

Oct. 12 - vs. Wagner

Oct. 19 - at Robert Morris

Oct. 26 - at Bryant

Nov. 2 - vs. St. Francis (Pa.)

Nov. 9 - at Sacred Heart

Nov. 16 - vs. Central Connecticut State

Nov. 23 - at Monmouth

4. CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE BLUE DEVILS

LOCATION: New Britain, Conn.

COACH: Jeff McInerny (44-33 in seven seasons at Central Connecticut State)

LAST SEASON: 2-8 overall, 2-5 NEC

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (7 offense/9 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB/RS Rob Hollomon, Jr. (213 carries, 1,104 yards, 5 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Chris Linares, Sr. (27 TT, 10 PBU, 2 INT, 2 BLK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Andrew Clements, Sr. (110-of-188, 1,266 yards, 10 TD, 6 INT; 112 carries, 340 yards, 7 TD)

QB Nick SanGiacomo, So.

RB Darius Lee, Jr.

WR Denzell Jones, Sr. (35 receptions, 337 yards, 2 TD)

WR Nick Bacarella, Sr.

TE Eric McGlone, Jr.

C Blaise Rosati, Jr.

RT Taylor Fuller, Sr.

DE Josh Alaeze, Jr. (50 TT, 1.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR)

DT Darnell Benjamin, Sr. (35 TT, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 PBU)

LB Pat Atkinson, Sr. (81 TT, .5 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 1 INT)

LB Chris Abner, Jr.

FS Antwione Reese, Sr. (89 TT, 4 TFL, 1 FR)

K/P Steven Calitri, Jr.

BIG LOSS: WR Deven Baker (42 receptions, 609 yards, 6 TD)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 179.10 (33 in FCS, 3 in NEC); Passing Offense, 165.30 (102 in FCS, 7 in NEC); Total Offense, 344.40 (81 in FCS, 5 in NEC); Scoring Offense, 23.50 (75 in FCS, 5 in NEC); Rushing Defense, 214.50 (107 in FCS, 9 in NEC); Passing Defense, 177.80 (20 in FCS, 3 in NEC); Total Defense, 392.30 (76 in FCS, 7 in NEC); Scoring Defense, 38.10 (110 in FCS, 9 in NEC)

OUTLOOK: The preseason all-conference selection Hollomon will lead a veteran returning group, which includes both quarterbacks who saw game action last season, Andrews and SanGiacomo. Both signal callers are likely to split time at the position again in 2013. The loss of Baker as a primary weapon hurts, but with Jones and Bacarella returning to the lineup, the aerial attack will survive. The Blue Devils rely heavily on the run game, however. In 2012, the team averaged 179.1 yards per game on the ground (110.4 rush yards per game came from Hollomon alone). The goal this season will be to halt the opposing offensive attack, which was a weak point a year ago. CCSU game up an average of 38.1 points per game. The good news is that the Blue Devils only lost two starters on defense, and now have an experienced group to lead them into 2013.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - at James Madison

Sept. 7 - at Lehigh

Sept. 14 - vs. Holy Cross

Sept. 21 - at Albany

Sept. 28 - at Rhode Island

Oct. 5 - vs. St. Francis (Pa.)

Oct. 12 - at Sacred Heart

Oct. 26 - Salve Regina

Nov. 2 - at Wagner

Nov. 9 - vs. Robert Morris

Nov.. 16 - at Duquesne

Nov. 23 - vs. Bryant

5. BRYANT BULLDOGS

LOCATION: Smithfield, R.I.

COACH: Marty Fine (57-39 in nine seasons at Bryant; 72-44 overall)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 4-4 NEC

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (8 offense/9 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Jordan Harris, Sr. (61 receptions, 1,243 yards, 15 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Jeff Covitz, Jr. (58 TT, 8 sacks, 17 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Mike Westerhaus, Sr. (167-of-327, 2,384 yards, 19 TD, 13 INT)

RB Ricardo McCray, Jr. (38 carries, 272 yards, 3 TD)

WR Chad Ward, So.

TE Ryan Barrett, Jr.

LT Justin Corrales, Sr.

C Charles Argast, Sr.

RG Doug Flink, Sr.

NT Connor McNamara, Sr. (46 TT, 7 sacks, 12 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT, 1 BLK)

DT Ryan Schermerhorn, Sr.

LB Sam Sammons, Jr. (65 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 FF, 1 FR)

LB Aaron Dixon, So. (61 TT, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 FR, 1 INT)

CB/RS Jeremy Woodson, Sr. (54 TT, 1 TFL, 9 PBU, 1 FR, 2 INT, 1 BLK)

CB Chuckie Wingate, So.

FS Bobby Rutland, Jr. (56 TT, .5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 INT)

PK/P Dom Kozlowski, So.

BIG LOSS: RB Jordan Brown (242 carries, 976 yards, 7 TD)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 113.36 (102 in FCS, 9 in NEC); Passing Offense, 218.36 (51 in FCS, 2 in NEC); Total Offense, 331.73 (90 in FCS, 6 in NEC); Scoring Offense, 22.64 (82 in FCS, 6 in NEC); Rushing Defense, 187.36 (88 in FCS, 7 in NEC); Passing Defense, 223.82 (76 in FCS, 8 in NEC); Total Defense, 411.18 (89 in FCS, 9 in NEC); Scoring Defense, 31.27 (92 in FCS, 8 in NEC)

OUTLOOK: When you have a receiver like Harris on your team, and as a bonus have a guy throwing to him as good as Westerhaus, you're in for a good season offensively. Harris is one of the nation's top receivers, endorsed by his presence on the Walter Payton Award Watch List. The biggest loss was Brown, who could make defenses pay for keying on the 6-foot-2 receiver. Harris's 20.4 yards per reception in 2012 was, believe it or not, down from his 2011 campaign when he averaged 22.8 yards per catch. The Bulldogs also have a talented defense with some big playmakers returning in Covitz, Woodson and Sammons. The threat for Bryant this year is a tough schedule with out-of-conference opponents like recently added CAA contender Stony Brook, a Maine squad that has had up-and-down seasons in the past and Patriot League heavyweight Holy Cross. Get used to hearing "Westerhaus-to-Harris" a lot this season. It should be one of the more dynamic duos in the FCS.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - vs. Holy Cross

Sept. 7 - vs. Assumption

Sept. 14 - at Maine

Sept. 28 - at Wagner

Oct. 5 - at Stony Brook

Oct. 12 - vs. Brown

Oct. 19 - vs. Sacred Heart

Oct. 26 - vs. Duquesne

Nov. 2 - at Robert Morris

Nov. 9 - vs. St. Francis (Pa.)

Nov. 16 - vs. Monmouth

Nov. 23 - at Central Connecticut State

6. ST. FRANCIS (PA.) RED FLASH

LOCATION: Loretto, Pa.

COACH: Chris Villarrial (8-25 in three seasons at St. Francis)

LAST SEASON: 5-6 overall, 4-4 NEC

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (5 offense/10 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: LT Thurston Kino, R-Jr.

DEFENSIVE STAR: SS Jakob DeMedal, Sr. (88 TT, 5 TFL, 4 PBU, 3 FF, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Capri Thompson, R-Fr.

QB Max Ward, R-Fr.

QB Zach Drayer, Fr.

RB Kyle Harbridge, R-Sr. (Missed last season due to injury)

RB Khairi Dickson, So. (56 carries, 301 yards, 2 TD)

WR Dane Domonkos, Sr. (20 receptions, 255 yards, 2 TD)

WR Franklyn Williamson, Jr.

C Brandon Bunting, Jr.

RG Lloyd Hill, Sr.

DE Joe Laukaitis, Sr. (62 TT, 8 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF)

DT Terrace Bourne, Jr.

OLB Bishop Neal, Jr. (76 TT, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT, 1 SAF)

ILB Max Ma'afala-Maiava, So.

FS Ter'Shaudney Phillips, So. (61 TT, .5 TFL, 5 PBU, 2 INT)

CB DaQuan Minter, So.

BIG LOSSES: QB John Kelly (108-of-198, 1,351 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT; 171 carries, 923 yards, 3 TD) and K Josh Thiel (11-of-12 FG, 50 long, 36-of-38 PAT)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 235.45 (12 in FCS, 1 in NEC); Passing Offense, 128.09 (114 in FCS, 9 in NEC); Total Offense, 363.55 (65 in FCS, 3 in NEC); Scoring Offense, 27.91 (49 in FCS, 3 in NEC); Rushing Defense, 196.45 (99 in FCS, 8 in NEC); Passing Defense, 214.09 (61 in FCS, 5 in NEC); Total Defense, 410.55 (88 in FCS, 8 in NEC); Scoring Defense, 30.27 (84 in FCS, 7 in NEC)

OUTLOOK: The story line for the Red Flash entering the 2013 season is the return of Harbridge. He missed all of last season with an MCL injury he suffered during the 2012 preseason, so he medically redshirted and returns now healthy and looking to make an impact in his senior campaign. In the 2011 season, Harbridge set school records in single-season rushing yards (1,474), all-purpose yards (1,950), rushing touchdowns (14) and total points (90). The Red Flash finished with an even 4-4 conference record last season and look to build upon that, though a tough schedule in 2013 may put a damper on their goal of challenging the NEC elite. It doesn't get much tougher than an opening weekend matchup with Georgia Southern, not to mention a bounce-back week against James Madison. The core group of returning defensemen will have their hands full to start the year.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 7 - at Georgia Southern

Sept. 14 - at James Madison

Sept. 21 - vs. Lincoln (Pa.)

Sept. 28 - vs. Fordham

Oct. 5 - at Central Connecticut State

Oct. 12 - vs. Monmouth

Oct. 26 - vs. Sacred Heart

Nov. 2 - at Duquesne

Nov. 9 - at Bryant

Nov. 16 - vs. Wagner

Nov. 23 - vs. Robert Morris

7. SACRED HEART PIONEERS

LOCATION: Fairfield, Conn.

COACH: Mark Nofri (2-9 in one season at Sacred Heart)

LAST SEASON: 2-9 overall, 1-7 NEC

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (7 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Keshaudas Spence, Jr. (145 carries, 816 yards, 6 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: S Gordan Hill, Jr. (68 TT, .5 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 9 PBU, 2 FF, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB R.J. Noel, So.

QB Evan Pittman, So.

RB Sean Bell, Jr.

WR Robert Dim, Sr. (22 receptions, 250 yards, 3 TD)

WR Greg Moore, Sr. (20 receptions, 150 yards; 118 carries, 388 yards, 2 TD)

TE Tim Goodwin, Jr.

LT Lamie Martinez, Sr.

LG Paul Link, Sr.

C Andrew Brigley, Sr.

DT Troy Moore, Jr. (57 TT, 6.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL)

NG Joe Tullino, Sr.

OLB Connor Candito, Jr.

ILB Matt Colucci, Sr. (71 TT, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 2 PBU)

ILB Kellen Sperduto, So. (42 TT, 2.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 2 FF)

FS Dennis Regan, Jr. (50 TT, 2.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 3 INT)

CB Stephan Thomas, Jr. (44 TT, 2 TFL, 6 PBU, 1 FF, 1 INT)

BIG LOSSES: DL Tyler Foehr (81 TT, 6.5 sacks, 13 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR, 5 BLK) and LB Justin Sexton (118 TT, 5 sacks, 15.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 4 FR, 3 INT)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 116.82 (98 in FCS, 8 in NEC); Passing Offense, 172 (90 in FCS, 6 in NEC); Total Offense, 288.82 (111 in FCS, 9 in NEC); Scoring Offense, 17.91 (105 in FCS, 9 in NEC); Rushing Defense, 173.64 (75 in FCS, 5 in NEC); Passing Defense, 163.09 (9 in FCS, 1 in NEC); Total Defense, 336.73 (30 in FCS, 2 in NEC); Scoring Defense, 26.55 (58 in FCS, 4 in NEC)

OUTLOOK: The Pioneers defense took a serious hit in the offseason after the team lost Foehr to graduation, and Sexton, the team's leading tackler, told Nofri he would not return to the team for his senior season. Other defensive stars like Moore will need to step up and be the leaders among the front seven. On offense, the Pioneers utilized a quarterback-by-committee strategy last year, with varying degrees of success. Neither of the two signal callers they used are back in 2013, so Noel and Pittman are the likely suitors to take the reins of the offense. The good news is Sacred Heart retains Spence, an explosive back who led the team in rushing a year ago. Behind an offensive line that loses three starters but gains a West Carolina transfer (the 6-9, 300-pound Dan Polaski), Spence should be able to boost the eighth-ranked NEC rushing offense from last year.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - at Marist

Sept. 7 - at Lafayette

Sept. 21 - vs. Chowan

Sept. 28 - at Bucknell

Oct. 5 - vs. Wagner

Oct. 12 - vs. Central Connecticut State

Oct. 19 - at Bryant

Oct. 26 - at St. Francis (Pa.)

Nov. 2 - vs. Monmouth

Nov. 9 - vs. Duquesne

Nov. 16 - at Robert Morris