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Seton Hill football looking to rebuild

| Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

For Isaac Collins, the idea of jumpstarting a dormant football program is nothing new.

Collins, recently named Seton Hill's third coach, previously resurrected the once-proud program at Widener into a national contender. He's faced with a similar challenge in Greensburg, where NCAA Division II Seton Hill is transitioning membership into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference from the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“There are enough good (high school) players in the region to build a foundation,” Collins said. “Because we're a private school, you can reach out to places outside of the region — Ohio, Maryland, the trek everyone does to Florida and Georgia.

“There is a good blueprint here with academics and Roman Catholic roots.”

And an abundance of scholarship funding.

“How you spend that money is key,” said Collins, who led Widener in 2012 to an 11-1 record and a No. 15 ranking in the American Football Coaches' Association NCAA Division III poll.

“You've got to have the ability to go out and find athletes who are high academic guys. Our mission right away is to look for guys and evaluate them.”

Seton Hill sponsors 21 varsity sports, including 19 for conference play, and beginning with the 2013-14 season will offer the maximum number of scholarships (125) allowed by the PSAC for its athletics program, of which 35 — or one under the limit — will go to football.

Collins, a former associate head coach at Division I FCS Holy Cross, coached Widener to a three-year record of 25-8. He replaces Joel Dolinski, who led Seton Hill into the Division II national rankings and a spot in the playoffs in his first season but was fired after four straight losing seasons, including 0-11 in 2012.

“We've got some people to build around, but recruiting is certainly pivotal,” Seton Hill athletics director Chris Snyder said.

Seton Hill's returning players include quarterback Andrew Jackson and first-team Daktronics Division II All-America linebacker Tyler Zimmer.

Jackson completed 54.4 percent of his passes and finished with 2,131 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Zimmer led the Griffins with 121 tackles, including 10 sacks.

“My expectation,” Snyder said, “is for us to field a competitive football team that I see improving each week. I'm not interested in quantifying wins and losses just yet. We need to perform better and add recruits with character and the ability to excel in academic performance.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dmackall@tribweb.com or 412-380-5617.

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