Cal U gets second spot in PSAC poll
California University football coach Mike Kellar usually goes chalk from the previous year when it comes to preseason polls.
However, going into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Media Day Monday afternoon at Slippery Rock University, the third-year Cal U mentor had other ideas this time.
Instead of picking defending champion Slippery Rock to win the West Division, he cast his vote for his own team.
The Vulcans earned three first-place votes and were picked to finish second overall behind Indiana.
“I usually do just look at the previous year's standings and go from there,” Kellar said. “But I picked us to win it. I want the team to know I believe in them.
“I'm not too sure how smart it is to say it in public, but that's what I did.”
Cal U, which went 7-4 last season and finished in a tie for third in the division for a second-straight year, returns 15 starters this season, including seven on offense. Among the top offensive returning starters are quarterback James Harris (94-171, 1,294 yds, 8 TDs), receiver Kowan Scott (26 rec., 389 yds, 1 TD) and offensive lineman Jack Abercrombie.
Another player, Jeff Knox Jr., started in the backfield a year ago, but has been moved to defense.
Defensively, Cal returns several key players, including linebacker Branko Busick (45 tackles, 1 sack) and defensive back Aaron Terry (36 tackles, 4 int).
The Vulcans were in the PSAC West race a year ago, but faded down the stretch, losing their final two conference games to Slippery Rock (35-17) and Mercyhurst (23-20).
IUP was the preseason favorite in the PSAC West after garnering the remaining five first-place votes. Slippery Rock was selected third and Mercyhurst and Gannon ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. Edinboro, Clarion and Seton Hill rounded out the preseason poll.
Kellar said he wasn't shocked that his team was picked second, but he said maybe slightly surprised is a better term.
“We all seem to vote on recent history and over the years. Year-in and year-out it's pretty much been us and IUP (in the West),” Kellar said. “It's a guessing game. But there are some pretty good teams and players in the division. I'm not shocked at all, but a little surprised.”
In the PSAC East, West Chester was the overwhelming preseason favorite with seven first-place votes after advancing to the NCAA Semifinals last year. East Stroudsburg was picked to finish second and received the remaining first-place vote. Defending-PSAC Champion Bloomsburg finished third in the preseason poll and was followed by Shippensburg and Kutztown. Lock Haven, Millersville and Cheyney completed the poll.
The PSAC Championship will be played on Nov. 15 at the site of the top team in the PSAC West standings. Beginning this fall, league-scheduled crossover games (Sept. 12, 19) will be reflected in the divisional standings with the exception being games on Nov. 15.
Cal U opens the season by hosting Virginia State of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association on Sept. 6 at Adamson Stadium.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.