FARIFIELD, CT (August 23, 2011) - As 2011 Sacred Heart football training camp enters its final week before the start of the regular season, we talk with Offensive Coordinator Kevin Bolis and Defensive Coordinator Dave Wissman to preview the Pioneer offensive line and tight ends and the defensive backs.
Offensive Line / Tight Ends
A trio of three-year returning starters are back in 2011 to anchor the Pioneers offensive line in senior tackle Justin Martel (Manchester, NH), r-junior guard Bill Romaniello (Monroe, CT)and senior center Dylan Larson (Barnegat Light, NJ). Romaniello and Martel, who moves from right to left tackle this fall, will hold down the left side of the SHU offensive front as Larson returns to his center position after battling back from a knee injury at the end of last season.
R-Sophomore Paul Link (East Greenwich, RI) is slotted to start at the right guard position versatile r-sophomore Jake Cuneo (Cohasset, MA)moving over to a tackle spot. Cuneo also saw time at center last season. Bringinning depth to offensive line is r-junior tackle Desmond Mighty (Windsor, CT) and r-sophomore tackle Ben Eedle (Weston, CT) who both saw plenty of game action last fall.
The Pioneers offense is looking to find more balance in 2011 after featuring the NEC's top-rated passing attack but lowest ranked rushing offense the past two seasons. The SHU offensive line helped lead a team that was one of three to amass 4,000 yards last season (4,055 - 368.6 ypg). The unit also set a new school record for yards passing (2,956) and first downs (232) last fall and posted the third highest total yards (4,055) in program history.
At tight end, the Pioneers are led by senior Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA), their leading receiver from a year ago. Rossi, who earned an All-Northeast Conference nod splitting time at wide receiver and tight end last fall, hauled in 51 catches for 704 yards, both ranking him second among league leaders. He averaged 4.64 catches per game and was tied for the team lead with five touchdowns.
As first year defensive coordinator Dave Wissman installs his schemes and packages in the final weeks of training camp, the one position area where the Pioneers have the most youth and competition for playing time is in the defensive backfield.
Senior cornerback Ahmad Covington (Clementon, NJ) carries the most experience into the season as a two-year returning starter. But Pioneer fans can expect to see the trio of r-junior Rueben McIntosh (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), r-freshman Jean-Daniel Rouseal (Pawtucket, RI) and freshman Stephan Thomas (Egg Harbor Township, NJ)all vying for time on the field this fall.
Covington has been a mainstay in the Sacred Heart secondary since his sophomore season, making 20-straight starts at corner. He had 41 tackles in 2011, 29 solo stops, and had a pair of picks among his six pass break-ups. He came up with a key interception and 54-yard return to set up a score in the Pioneers 26-25 upset win at Monmouth last season. Covington posted 44 tackles in 2009 and heads into his senior season with 97 career tackles and five career interceptions.
McIntosh saw action in five games last year, starting the first two, collecting five tackles, one for a loss, with a pair of pass break-ups. Rousell came on strong in the spring coming up with an interception during the annual Red-White Game. Thomas is a true freshman out of Egg Harbor Township, NJ where he was an all-conference defensive back as a senior.
At safety, sophomore Alex Aitkens (Wood Ridge, NJ) moves over to free safety this season. Last season, he collected eight tackles and had an interception in the win over Georgetown. Freshmen Gordon Hill (Sicklerville, NJ) and Connor Candito (Shrewsbury, MA) have been competing in camp for the starting strong safety spot.
Check back on Wednesday for the final installment of Preseason Pass as we look at the training camp battle for the starting quarterback job between sophomores Tim Little and Luke Wischnowski and preview the SHU Special Teams.