District college football preview: Division III
W&J returns wealth of talent
In the face of the most emotionally jarring situation in program history, Washington & Jefferson managed to persevere, claim a share of the Presidents' Athletic Conference title and earn a spot in the Division III playoffs.
The Presidents, who dealt with the midseason death of running back Tim McNerney better than anyone could've imagined, are unlikely to encounter a scenario even remotely as difficult. Their collection of returning talent, responsible for W&J's No. 21 preseason ranking in Lindy's national poll and their No. 19 spot in the Sporting News' poll, can focus on the field.
Senior quarterback Matt Bliss, who completed 198 of 326 attempts for 1,974 yards and 13 touchdowns, will be able to look for senior receiver Alex Baroffio, a preseason second-team All-American who caught 78 passes for 679 yards and five TDs last season.
All-PAC linemen Zach Wildey, a senior right tackle, and senior guard Andrew Pingitore anchor an offensive line that will block for senior Dion Wiegand, who earned second-team all-conference honors as McNerney's replacement.
Senior safety B.J. Monacelli is the keystone of a defense that returns four starters. He had 59 tackles and three interceptions.
Teams to watch
With 17 returning starters — eight on offense, nine on defense — from a team that went 6-5 last season, CMU might secure a University Athletic Association title before it departs for the PAC.
Senior quarterback Rob Kalkstein should thrive with senior receiver and UAA first-teamer Tim Kikta.
Graduation depleted much of the backfield, but the Tartans' ball carriers can trust that their line, which has three returning players, will create running room.
Defensively, senior inside linebacker Akwasi Brefo returns after making 103 tackles.
No PAC offense averaged more yards per game last season than Geneva. The Golden Tornadoes produced 402.5 yards per contest. With senior quarterback Zack Hayward and senior multithreat Rocco Colavecchia back, the offense might be just as potent.
A 10-1 record in 2012 represented Waynesburg's best mark since 1966, when it finished 11-0. While the Yellow Jackets lost the running backs that fueled their offense, which led the PAC in rushing yards per game (201.9), they return enough other playmakers to challenge for PAC supremacy.
Senior safety Bryan Gary and senior defensive lineman Brandon Fedorka, a Hopewell alumnus, are headaches for any offense.
Who to watch
Washington & Jefferson, senior, WR
With just 15 receptions, Baroffio, a Bethel Park graduate, will surpass David Ravida to become W&J's all-time leader. He enters the season with 178 receptions. He also needs 1,003 yards to take the top spot in the Presidents' career receiving yards; he has 2,153.
Waynesburg, senior, S
A first-team All-PAC safety, Gary finished as the tackles leader (69) for Waynesburg despite missing three-plus games with a leg injury. The Shaler grad was named first-team all-conference in each of the past three seasons.
Carnegie Mellon, senior, QB
Kalkstein, a Gateway grad, was named the University Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year in 2012. He set single-season CMU records in passing yardage (2,148) and completions (136). He needs about 1,400 yards to become the team's career leader in passing yardage.
Who to watch
Thomas More at Washington & Jefferson
The Presidents traveled to Thomas More with heavy hearts and endured a 54-18 loss — their only PAC setback — two days after Tim McNerney's death. They have a score to settle against the perennial power.
Waynesburg at Washington & Jefferson
This game, held during the final week of the regular season, decided the PAC playoff qualifier last season — W&J won, 31-14, to claim the head-to-head edge for first place. Expect just as much drama this fall.
Case Western at Carnegie Mellon
Case Western and Carnegie Mellon say goodbye to the University Athletic Association after the game. The UAA, which has four football teams, will lose the schools to the PAC in 2014.