ShareThis Page

Robert Morris' Walton settles in for final season

| Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 10:39 p.m.

Robert Morris' Joe Walton is the dean of Northeast Conference football coaches, with more than 40 years in the profession.

One thing he hasn't mastered: Making preseason prognostications.

“People always ask ‘What kind of season are you going to have?' I say ‘I don't know. I don't know how good the other teams are going to be. They have a tendency to get better, too,' ” Walton said during an NEC coaches event Monday.

Walton, 77, will retire after the season, capping a 20-year run with the Colonials that started with the launch of the program in 1994. His final task is trying to lead Robert Morris to a seventh division title.

NEC coaches predicted the Colonials will finish fourth in the seven-team FCS league, which saw Monmouth and 2012 co-champion Albany leave since last season. Wagner, the other co-champion, was picked to repeat, and Duquesne was chosen second.

Robert Morris, coming off a 4-7 season, features five preseason all-conference selections, including sophomore cornerback Marcelis Branch, the reigning NEC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Perhaps the most interesting training camp battle is at quarterback, where Penn State transfer Paul Jones (Sto-Rox) is competing with sophomore Derik Abbott to replace four-year starter Jeff Sinclair (Highlands).

Jones, a redshirt junior who was a five-star recruit, spent three rocky years with the Nittany Lions. Last season, he fell to No. 3 on the QB depth chart and was briefly moved to tight end. He never threw a pass during a game for Penn State.

A change of scenery seems to be benefiting him.

“Paul is really doing well,” said Walton, whose team opens the season at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 against Eastern Kentucky. “ I'm excited about him. He has a great arm. He has good leadership ability and seems very comfortable with our team, which is a big plus. He's right in there. The only thing Derik Abbott has on him is a little more experience with the offense.”

Duquesne, which went 5-6 last season, also will be breaking in a new QB following the departure of three-year starter Sean Patterson. Senior Marty Mitchell is competing with redshirt freshman Dillon Buechel (Montour).

Also gone is three-time 1,000-yard rusher Larry McCoy, but the good news for the offense is three starting receivers return, including senior Gianni Carter, who is one of the team's three preseason all-conference selections.

The centerpiece on defense will be senior linebacker Dorian Bell (Gateway), who is a Sports Network preseason All-American. Bell led the Dukes with 92 tackles and 6½ sacks last season despite missing three games with a hand injury.

“He's done a great job this offseason improving in the weight room and improving as a leader,” said Duquesne coach Jerry Schmitt, whose team's opener is 12:10 p.m. Aug. 31 against Albany. “We're excited about having him and seeing what will happen with our defense.”

Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.