Slippery Rock anticipating big year with QB Rivers leading large group of returnees |
District College

Slippery Rock anticipating big year with QB Rivers leading large group of returnees

Jeff Vella
Slippery Rock athletics
Slippery Rock’s Roland Rivers earned first-team All-PSAC West last season after throwing for 2,721 yards and 28 touchdowns.

The Slippery Rock football team isn’t sneaking up on anyone this year.

Not after reaching the NCAA Division II quarterfinals last season, and not with 6-foot-3, 235-pound quarterback Roland Rivers III.

“Going into this season, we know we have targets on our back,” said Rivers, whose team is ranked No. 10 in the American Football Coaches Association preseason poll. “It’s national championship or bust. That’s our mentality.”

Rivers has come a long way in a year. He didn’t arrive at Slippery Rock until the third day of training camp last summer after transferring from Valdosta State in Georgia. He began the season as the third-stringer before injuries forced him into action in Week 2.

“That’s a lesson everyone can learn,” Rivers said. “When it’s your time to make a play, you gotta step up and be ready.”

Rivers went on to throw for 2,721 yards and 28 touchdowns and run for 597 yards and seven touchdowns. He earned first-team All-PSAC West honors.

“I think he has all the intangibles,” Rock coach Shawn Lutz said of Rivers, who has drawn interest from NFL scouts. “He can run. He can just freaking throw the ball. The biggest thing with him will be decision-making. He has NFL potential.”

Slippery Rock ranked second in the PSAC with 458.4 yards per game last season and third with 37.2 points per game. Those numbers could go up under new offensive coordinator Adam Neugebauer, a North Allegheny graduate and former All-American QB at West Virginia Wesleyan.

“We’re a true air raid offense, and we’re going to be 100 miles per hour, so our quarterback has got to think pretty quick,” Lutz said. “If we get to 80-100 plays a game, we’ll try to do it if we can.”

Rivers will be throwing to a deep and talented receiving corps. Juniors Henry Litwin and Jermaine Wynn Jr. (Woodland Hills) combined for 102 catches, 1,586 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Rivers calls Litwin “just a trustworthy guy,” and said Wynn “has taken his game to another level with his explosiveness.”

Others expected to make an impact include Seton Hill junior transfer Cinque Sweeting, who led the Griffins with 672 rushing yards last season, 6-4 Tiffin junior transfer Victor Talley and Lincoln senior transfer Reggie Mays Jr.

The biggest challenge on offense will be replacing All-American running back Wes Hills, who ran for 1,714 yards and is competing for a roster spot with the Arizona Cardinals.

“You can’t just bring in another Wes Hills, but we’ve got a great stable of running backs,” Rivers said.

That stable features Rutgers transfer Charles Snorweah, junior college transfer DeSean Dinkins and junior Braden Fochtman. The most intriguing option could be Snorweah, who ran for 175 yards and two touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights’ spring game but transferred to Slippery Rock so he could get more playing time.

“What Charlie has is every time you give him the ball, you have to hold your breath because he’s a breakaway guy,” Lutz said. “He was the fastest guy on Rutgers. He can take it 80 yards. He’s a difference-maker. We just haven’t seen enough of him.”

Defensively, The Rock bring back 10 starters, including a pair of first-team all-conference players: senior linebacker Brad Zaffram and sophomore defensive tackle Jeff Marx.

Slippery Rock received six of eight first-place votes in the PSAC preseason poll — IUP and Cal (Pa.) received the others — so The Rock has the attention of the rest of the league, too. But Lutz said his team is ready to manage the expectations.

“We have to put it all together,” Lutz said. “I like where we’re at. I think we’re one of the powerhouses of Division II, but we haven’t done anything this year. We have to start over.”

Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | College-District
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.