The Pioneer Football League has been trying for many years to get into postseason play. For four years, the PFL champion met the Northeast Conference champion in what was called the Gridiron Classic. But two years ago the NEC champion received a bid into the expanded 20 team Division I playoff field. This likely was concerning to the PFL schools as the PFL champion defeated the NEC champion in three of the four contests.
By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
The wait for another postseason berth now will be only through this season as a PFL team gets an auto-bid starting in 2013. The NCAA legislation expanded the playoff field from 20 to 24 schools and awarded the PFL champion an automatic slot into the national field.
This year, however, the PFL will have a chance to showcase some of its top schools against some of the nation’s other top schools as there are several out-of-conference contests including Drake hosting co-Big Sky champion Montana State, San Diego visiting Ivy League champion Harvard, Morehead State traveling to Ohio Valley playoff participant Eastern Kentucky, and Jacksonville visiting Southern Conference champion Georgia Southern. If the PFL team in any of these contests comes out with a victory, this might be a way the committee gives this conference an at-large bid.
The PFL will again be a ten team league but in the 2013 season, the league will welcome two new schools to the football-only conference. Mercer and Stetson—located in Georgia and Florida respectively—will expand the league to 12 schools.
This PFL title likely will be won with another battle between last year’s co-champions of San Diego and Drake. Jacksonville and Dayton should also have a say in this year’s race as well and to remind that Campbell defeated San Diego last year so this league does not have a lot of difference from the top to the bottom.
appears to have the talent returning to repeat as PFL champions this year. The Toreros finished last year with a 9-2 mark overall but lost to Campbell in conference to settle for a share of the PFL crown with Drake. USD also lost to UC Davis. The Toreros this year will have to overcome out-of-conference road contests with Cal Poly and Harvard, along with playing another road game against Drake in league play.
The USD defense was the key to the team a year ago in giving up just over 23 points per game. The team will lose 2010 PFL Defensive Player of the Year in end Mario Kuhn but will have another end in junior Blake Oliaro that received that honor a year ago. Oliaro ranked 4th in the FCS in sacks (1.36) and 10th in tackles for loss (1.77) a season ago. He finished with 57 tackles, 15 quarterback sacks, and 19.5 tackles for loss. He will be joined by senior linebacker Zach Dunaj as the defensive leader this year. Dunaj led the Toreros in tackles with 74 to go with 2.5 sacks and six tackles for loss.
The Torero offense will have to replace three All-PFL starters upfront on the line but will have junior quarterback Mason Mills back to lead this side of the ball. Mills threw for 2,370 yards and 22 touchdowns in his first year of starting since transferring from FBS New Mexico State. His main wide receivers should junior Sam Hoekstra, who led the team with 53 receptions and six touchdowns. He will also have All-PFL freshman of the year in sophomore Brandon White, who ranked second on the team in both receiving yards (561) and touchdowns (five).
The USD running game should also be experienced with sophomore Kenny James, who ranked second among all FCS players in all-purpose yards (210.3 yards per game) while totaling 1,151 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. James also added 20 catches for 334 yards and two more scores throw the air.
Last year’s co-champions of Drake
will look to duplicate that effort but like San Diego, the Bulldogs will need to overcome a strong out-of-conference slate with a home game against Montana State and a road game at Indiana State. The Bulldogs finished 2011 with a 9-2 mark with their lone loss coming to co-champion San Diego in league play. This year’s Drake team will have 13 total starters back this year.
The Bulldog offense will be led by All-PFL Offensive Player of the Year Mike Piatkowski for his senior year at quarterback. Piatkowski enters the season needing just 942 passing yards to become the top passer in school history. With 6,927, he trails only Ira Vandever (7,868; 1999-2002), after a 2011 season in which he passed for 2,934 yards, second most in school history. He will have to find a new top receiver after the graduation of All-PFL receiver Drew Blackmon. He will look to wide out Joey Orlando (32 receptions, 38 yards, 6 TD) and tight end Kevin Marshall (33 receptions, 280 yards 3 TD) to be his top targets this fall.
Drake will also need to find a new leading ground gainer after the graduation of both Patrick Cashmore and Nathan Paddock. The Bulldogs will have three starting offensive linemen back led by senior tackle Avery Fuhs.
The Drake defense was just as much a part of the team’s success a year ago after ranking second in the FCS (first PFL) in rushing yards allowed (77.2) and seventh (first PFL) in points allowed (17.8). The Bulldogs return their top three tacklers and four of the top five from a season ago. These four will look to be the defensive leaders in linebackers Tyler Moorehead (78 tackles) and Travis Merritt (66), strong safety Michael Ratelle (63), and defensive end Brandon Coleman (51).
hopes to get back to the top of the PFL standings after slipping to 7-4 overall. The Dolphins, however, only lost to the co-champions by a combined 17 points so they were not too far away from repeating as PFL champions after they won the 2010 crown. This year’s team, however, will lose a number of key contributors and will have to rely on newcomers to fill in the voids.
The top replacement will need to come for the graduated Josh McGregor who left campus with every imaginable passing record for the Dolphins. No clear-cut replacement is known right now. There are four players vying for the spot including redshirt freshman Kade Bell, sophomore Trevius Folston, transfer Steven Hughes from Delaware and newcomer Ryan Walker. Bell notably is the son of Coach Kerwin Bell.
The running back situation should also be a tight race for starting spots as well but many suffered injuries . Keith Dawson suffered a hamstring, Jarrius Lindsay a concussion and Johnnie Hicks an ankle but a tight race when all are healthy in the fall. Jacksonville also has returning fullback Robert DiMarco
The new Dolphin quarterback will have a revamped offensive line in front of him with transfers Trammel Williams (South Carolina) and Dylan Bostic (Appalachian State) and the return of senior center Kevin Halverson who missed last season with a broken finger.
The Dolphin defense will be led by Mike Mayoral and Juan Pimienta on the inside part of the line. The linebacker group will be headed by Taylor Marsh and Montaque Mack. The secondary should be led by Colby Walden.
Another team that hopes to get back towards the top is Dayton
, who is the all-time leading championship team in PFL history with 11 titles or co-titles in the 19 year history of the league. The Flyers, however, are coming off an off season where they finished just 6-5 overall with just four wins within PFL play. Dayton returns 14 starters this fall in the hopes to build towards a better record this fall. The Flyers, also increased their strength of schedule as they will play at Missouri Valley Illinois State and against two NEC opponents; Duquesne on the road and Robert Morris at home.
Running back and Flyer MVP Taylor Harris should head the offense. Despite missing the last game-and-a-half with a hamstring injury, Harris gained 899 yards on 132 carries and scored nine touchdowns. The receiving corps will be headed by sophomore receiver Branden Johnson, who is the leading returning pass catcher; 25 catches for 398 yards and three touchdowns.
The Flyer quarterback situation likely will go to sophomore Will Bardo, who started all 11 games in 2011 and threw for 1206 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bardo, however, could be pressed by fellow sophomore Zach Splain, who played in all of those 11 games in a relief role. The offensive line for the Flyers will be headed by junior tackle Tom Corcoran, who is the only returning starter back on the line.
The Dayton defense will be headed by All-PFL linebacker in senior linebacker Bryan Bailin, who was third on the team in tackles with 55 and also intercepted one pass, broke up three others and blocked a kick. Matt Pfleger should lead the secondary after he started every game for the last two years at cornerback for the Flyers, after beginning his career as a wide receiver. In 2010, he led the team in interceptions with four. He also led the team in pass breakups with 10 and ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 48. Last year, even though teams were playing away from him, he had 43 hits (seventh), three interceptions (second) and six passes batted away (tied for first).
is another former PFL champion that is looking to rekindle the winning ways. The Bulldogs won the PFL crown in 2009 and won the last of the Grid Iron Classics with a win over NEC champion Central Connecticut State. The past two seasons, however, have been two losing seasons for Butler—finishing 4-7 in 2010 and 5-6 a season ago. To turn things around, Coach Jeff Voris’ team will have to rebuild this year with just nine returning starters. The Bulldogs also will have to overcome two road out-of-conference games at Western Illinois and Dartmouth.
The Butler defense will be headed by senior linebacker Jordan Ridley, who has led the PFL and ranked among the national leaders in tackles for two consecutive seasons. A year ago he finished with 140 tackles. He will be joined by fellow All-PFL honoree Sean Grady, who should be the leader in the secondary after tying for the team lead in interceptions with three a year ago to go with 62 tackles.
The Bulldog offense returns just four starters and will need to find a replacement for quarterback Andrew Huck, who finished his career in second place on Butler's all-time passing list (6,581 yards). That spot has two backups that saw action last year in Wade Markley or Tom Judge—both saw action in relief last year when Huck was injured. The new quarterback will have three returning All-PFL performers in offensive linemen junior Jay Howard and senior Matt Storey, along with junior tight end Matt Jenson back up front.
The one area on offense that should not be questionable for the Bulldogs is the running game with returning All-PFL running back Trae Heeter, who despite missing two games rushed for 713 yards. He helped the Bulldogs rank fourth in the league in rushing overall with a 79.2 yards per game average.
is a team that just hopes for a winning record—something the school has only done once in the past five seasons. The Wildcats have finished the past four seasons with a losing mark including a 4-7 mark a season ago. Davidson like much of the conference will have two tough out-of-conference contents against teams from FCS automatic playoff qualifier conferences as the Wildcats host Georgetown from the Patriot League and Presbyterian from the Big South. To turn around the win total, Coach Tripp Merritt’s team will have 12 returning starters to build around.
The Wildcat offense should again be prolific in 2012 with a pass-receiving combo of junior quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff and senior wide receiver Lanny Funsten. Carkhuff led FCS football in completions (348) and ranked sixth in passing yards (3,326), setting Davidson records in both categories. He also threw for 18 touchdowns. Funsten meanwhile a school record with 100 receptions and became just the third player in Davidson history to register over 1,000 receiving yards, finishing with 1,107. The wide receiver ranked third in FCS football in receptions and eighth in receiving yards.
Carkhuff will have another receiving target in junior tight end Reese Williams, who despite an injury plagued 2010 season still recorded 14 receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown in just four games. Junior guard Adam Kurtz is the lone returning starter on the line and will need to be the leader upfront.
The area that Davidson needs to improve is on defense after giving up nearly 25 points per game. To improve on this side of the ball, senior Patrick Moynahan linebacker will need to continue his high performance. He led Davidson in tackles for the second straight season with 72, with 5.5 of those for loss. He will be aided by senior safety Pete Anderson, who had 30 tackles in eight games a season ago, and recorded an interception and four pass breakups.
The Wildcat special teams will be headed by kick returner senior Toms Bernhards-Callahan, who averaged 11.6 yards a punt return and 19.6 yards a kick return. His 94-yard punt return for touchdown against Marist last year equaled the school record.
The same story of turning around a season can be said for Morehead State
. The Eagles were just 3-8 overall last year but had four losses by four points or less. This year, MSU will have six homes games this year to help with the win total for this once proud program. MSU last one the PFL South (when the PFL was divided into two divisions) four consecutive years from 2002-2005. Since that last division championship, MSU has had just one winning season (2007 at 7-4). Coach Matt Ballard hopes to return to winning ways but will have to do so with a rather daunting schedule with a road game at 2011 FCS playoff participant Eastern Kentucky and a home date with Saint Francis from the NEC.
The Eagles offense last year was one of the most productive units not only in the PFL but also all of the sub-division. MSU led all 2011 FCS schools in first downs (25.2 per game), while ranking second in total yards (478.9) and passing yards (358.2). The Eagles also placed sixth in the nation with 36.1 points per outing. MSU has a dynamic pass receiving combination with two juniors in quarterback Zach Lewis and wide receiver Donte Sawyer. Lewis ranked fifth nationally in passing yards (325.9) and seventh in total yards (313.5), while Sawyer placed 15th in all-purpose yards (146.2) and 28th in receiving yards (82.2).
Upfront, Lewis should have good protection from two returning All-PFL linemen in Joey Clegg and Eric Matteson. The group up front helped the Eagles to a nation’s second best in total yards (478.9) and eighth best points (36.1) per game.
Just like Davidson, MSU needs to improve on the defensive side. This is especially true in the fourth quarter where the Eagles were outscored 112-88 and in total, the defense gave up over 35 points per game. To help, the Eagles will have to replace their top five tacklers from a season ago. Senior safety Kameron Scott will look to be the team leader after tallying 49 tackles and two interceptions a season ago.
started football in 2008 and the Camels have improved their win total from the start. Campbell has gone from one win in 2008 to three in each in 2009 and 2010 and had their first winning season a year ago with a 6-5 mark including a win over co-PFL champion San Diego. The Camels this year, however, must replace a number of starters for the first time as many of the first year players have now graduated. In fact, Campbell will need to replace nine All-PFL performers from a year ago.
On offense, the Camels return just three starters but one of the returnees is now-senior quarterback Braden Smith. He passed for several school single season records in his first season as a Camels with 1,965 yards, 14 touchdowns, 179 completions, 313 attempts and total offense at 2,254 yards. Chad McMichael is his leading returning receiver with 16 receptions for 156 yards and two scores.
The Camel offensive line will need to replace four of the five starters so they will look to lone returning starter in sophomore guard Nick Beaver to be the leader upfront. The running game will also need to replace the top three ground gainers and look to junior Kurt Odom (288 yards, 1 TD) to be a larger contributor.
The Camel defense is not as decimated as their offensive counterparts to the graduation bug and will look to two All-PFL honorees in defensive backs in senior Brandon Chandler and junior Steth Monroe to be the team leaders. Chandler, a safety, ranked third on the team with 31 solo stops and sixth on the team with 50 tackles to go with two interceptions. Monroe, a cornerback, led the team with four interceptions, which tied for second in the PFL.
The other recent PFL addition is Marist
. The Red Foxes came to the PFL from the now-defunct MAAC and started PFL play in 2009. Marist looked like it would start much like they left the MAAC (won two straight MAAC titles before playing as an independent in 2008) when they started 7-4 and 5-3 in league play. Coach Jim Parady’s team, however, has slipped the past two seasons with two losing records (3-8 in 2010 and 4-7 in 2011).
The Red Foxes will continue to look towards their defense to be the key to an improved record this year. Marist ranked as the top PFL defense last year and was sixth in the nation. The Red Foxes gave up just over 285 yards per game. Much of that defense returns this year including All-PFL honorees in senior end Terrence Fede, junior linebacker Paul Sakowski, and senior safety Nick Mainiero. Fede led the Red Foxes with eight-and-a-half sacks and 16 tackles for losses to go with his team second best 72 tackles. Sakowski finished third on team with 61 tackles and had a team leading two fumble recoveries. Maineiro tied for fourth with 53 tackles and second on the team with four pass breakups.
The area that will need to improve to improve the win total is the offense. The Red Foxes averaged just over 17 points per game last year. To improve, Marist will look towards two senior All-PFL returnees to look for an improved performance in tight end tight end Anthony Calcagni and tackle Phede Celestin. Calcagni ranked second on the team in both receptions (40) and receiving yards (494) and tied for the team lead with five touchdowns. Celestin has been a starter for two years and will look to anchor the offensive line.
Marist also boosts one of the PFL’s top kickers in senior Jason Myers, who has been kicking for the Red Foxes the past three seasons. He kicked a game-winning field goal against Georgetown last year as time expired and also holds the team record with a 49-yard field goal.
Rounding out the PFL standings recently has been Valparaiso
. The Crusaders have finished in the last position in the PFL for the last three seasons. Valpo did win their first conference game and the first ever victory for Coach Dale Carlson last year with a 34-31 win over Campbell. But that was the team’s only win for a 1-10 finish, which was an improvement over the winless season seen in 2010. The Crusaders return 12 starters this fall in the hopes to use that win a springboard to winning ways for a program that won the PFL crown in 2003.
The Valpo offense will be headed by sophomore quarterback Eric Hoffman, who threw for the fourth most yardages in a single season in school history with 2,302 yards with 13 touchdowns but also had 14 interceptions. He will look to reduce the turnover margin to improve the consistency of the team. He will have a threat behind him in fellow sophomore running back Gabe Ali-El, who was the team leader in rushing and receiving in his first season with Valpo. He had 231 yards on the ground and 365 yards through the air with a combined four scores.
Defensively, the Crusaders will look to improve on giving up over 45 points per game. They will have two All-PFL performers to help better this mark in linebackers Cody Gokan and Pat Derbak. Gakan, who will be a senior this fall, finished third on the team with 73 tackles and picked up both an interception and fumble recovery a year ago. Derback, who will be a junior this year, led the team with 87 tackles with 8.5 for a loss and also intercepted a pass.
The special teams for the Crusaders should be headed by one of the nation’s top punters in senior Greg Wood. He finished 2010 averaging 42.0 yards per punt, second in the PFL and ranked among the top-15 punters all season long in landing 16 of his 76 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. San Diego
7. Morehead State
Offensive Player of the Year:
Mike Piatkowski, QB, Drake, Sr.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Blake Oliaro, DE, San Diego, Jr.
Biggest Shoes to Fill:
Mario Kurn, DE, San Diego
PIONEER FOOTBALL LEAGUE GAMES OF THE WEEK
Butler @ Western Illinois, Aug. 30
The Bulldogs visit the Missouri Valley’s Leathernecks in what could be a telling sign for Butler’s season.
Montana State @ Drake, Sept. 8
Former Drake Coach Rob Ash and his Bobcats make the trip to Des Moines to take on the Bulldogs in this battle of two co-champions of the Big Sky and Pioneer League respectively.
San Diego @ Harvard, Sept. 15
This is another matchup of last year’s champions with San Diego visiting the Crimson. Can the Toreros fly east and come home with a victory?
Jacksonville @ Dayton, Sept. 22
These two recent champions meet in Ohio in the PFL opener for both schools. The winner in this game likely will get some momentum towards the league crown.
Dayton @ Butler, Sept. 29
The Flyers will have a tough road contest in Indianapolis against the Bulldogs. Will they be up for this game?
San Diego @ Drake, Oct. 6
Last year’s co-PFL champions meet in Des Moines. USD won in San Diego last year. Will the home field help the Bulldogs this year?
Campbell @ San Diego, Oct. 13
The Camels handed the Toreros their lone PFL loss last year. Will USD get revenge at home this year?
Morehead State @ Butler, Oct. 20
This midseason battle will likely determine if either the Eagles or Bulldogs will still be in the hunt for the PFL crown.
Marist @ Valparaiso, Oct. 27
These two teams have finished towards the bottom of the PFL standings in recent years. The winner here might find their way away from the basement in the standings.
Drake @ Dayton, Nov. 3
This PFL battle is likely the top rivalry in the PFL’s history. Will this game be another classic like some other past Bulldog-Flyer meetings?
Butler @ Drake, Nov. 10
The battle of the Bulldogs meet in Des Moines this year. Will both teams in this late season game be in the race for the PFL title this year?
San Diego @ Davidson, Nov. 17
The Toreros have to travel across county to North Carolina in what might mean a lot when they play the Wildcats this year.
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Stadium: Butler Bowl (5,647 Capacity)
Head Coach: Jeff Voris (33-34 @ BU & 48-68 Overall) 7th Season
Who's Gone: WR Zach Watkins, OL Pete Mattingly, LB Nick Caldicott, DB Andy Dauch, QB Andrew Huck, DL Grant Hunter, K David Lang, RS Jordan Koopman.
Who's Back: RB Trae Heeter, OL Jay Howard, TE Matt Jenson, OL Matt Storey, DB Sean Grady, LB Phillip Powell, LB Jordan Ridley, DL Jeremy Stephens, DB Jayme Szfranski.
Historical Fact: The Bulldogs competed in the Division II playoffs three times —1983, 1988 and 1991. BU was 0-3 all-time in postseason play before winning the final Grid Iron Classic over C. Connecticut State in 2009.
Last Season: Butler finished 5-6 and was 3-5 within PFL play but was a game improvement over 2010 when they finished 4-7 overall.
This Season: The Bulldogs return just nine starters in the hopes of getting back to the top of the PFL standings from two years ago.
Campbell Fighting Camels
Location: Buies Creek, NC
Stadium: Barker-Lane Stadium (5,000 Capacity)
Head Coach: Dale Steel (13-31 @ CU & Overall) 5th Season
Who's Gone: FB Jordan Cramer, OL Sam Issermoyer, OL Branden Burt, WR Paul Constantine, RB Carl Smith, OL Jeremy Hill, DL Jeremiah Robinson, DL Randel Herring, P Ted Moore.
Who's Back: DB Brandon Chandler, DB Steth Monroe, QB Braden Smith, RB Kurt Odom, WR Chad McMichael, DB Jeff Swinton, LB Mike Rudisill, DB Paul Pizzuti.
Historical Fact: Coach Earl Smith led Campbell to three consecutive North Carolina
Junior College Championships from 1946-1948. The football program was dropped in 1950 but was reinstated in 2008.
Last Season: Campbell finished with its first winning record (6-5) since reinstating the program and a highlight was the Camels defeating co-PFL champion San Diego.
This Season: The Camels were a senior dominated team a year and will return just nine starters so the newcomers will have to step up to have another winning record.
Location: Davidson, NC
Stadium: Richardson Stadium (4,500 Capacity)
Head Coach: Guy "Tripp" Merritt (26-35 @ DU & Overall) 8th Season
Who's Gone: OT Ethan Clark, LB John Behm, SS Pete Kidwell, P Brenton Goodman.
Who's Back: WR Lanny Funsten, QB Jonathan Carkhuff, RB Chris Gorman, CB Adam Dulberger, CB Michael Corbett, LB Patrick Moynahan, CB/RS Tom Bernhards-Callahan.
Historical Fact: Davidson has just one postseason appearance in the school’s history—a 56-33 loss to Toledo in the 1969 Tangerine Bowl.
Last Season: Davidson had their fourth straight losing season at 4-7 overall.
This Season: Coach Merritt hopes to get back to a winning record in 2012 with a strong offensive team returning. The last winning season for the Wildcats was in 2007 (6-4).
Location: Dayton, Ohio
Stadium: Welcome Stadium (11,000 Capacity)
Head Coach: Rick Chamberlin (34-11 @ UD & Overall) 5th Season
Who's Gone: DE Devon Langhorst, OT Dan Prindle, OG Justin Griffis
Who's Back: RB Taylor Harris, LB Bryan Bailin, LB Colin Monnier, CB Matt Pfleger, S Ben Welsh, QB Will Bardo, WR Branden Johnson, DT Brannon Dunn, OT Tom Corcoran.
Historical Fact: The Flyers’ 79-23 PFL record is the best in the history of the league. UD has won 11 league championships (including ties) in the 19 years the PFL has existed.
Last Season: The Flyers were 6-5 in 2011, the school’s 34th winning season in the last 35 years.
This Season: Dayton looks to get back towards the top of the PFL standings again.
Location: Des Moines, IA
Stadium: Drake Stadium (14,557 Capacity)
Head Coach: Chris Creighton (30-14 @ DU, 125-38 Overall) 5th Season
Who's Gone: WR Drew Blackmon, RB Patrick Cashmore, RB Nathan, OG Stephen Flynn, OC Chris Wilson, OG Dan Clinton, OT Evan Lawrence, DL John Sawhill, DL David Witkiewicz, LB Jeff Grovak, CB Michael Lahart.
Who's Back: QB Mike Piatkowski, WR Joey Orlando, OT Matt Purdom, OG Zach Bosch, OT Avery Fuhs, TE Kevin Marshall, DE Brandon Coleman, DE Anthony Gianaras, LB Tyler Moorehead, LB Travis Merritt, LB Seth Hedman, SS Michael Ratelle.
Historical Fact: The 1922 Bulldog team, considered by many to be the greatest in Drake history, is to date the only undefeated Bulldog team (7-0). Drake capped the historic season with a 48-6 triumph over Mississippi State on Nov. 25, 1922. It received votes as the No. 1 team in a poll and was invited to the White House for its accomplishments. The Bulldogs were coached by legend Ossie Solem.
Last Season: The Bulldogs finished 9-2 overall and finished tied for the PFL crown with San Diego.
This Season: The 2012 Bulldogs will seek to win back-to-back Pioneer Football League championships for the first time. Drake's previous titles came in 1995, '98, 2000 (co-champions) and '04.
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Stadium: D.B. Milne Field (5,000 Capacity)
Head Coach: Kerwin Bell (36-21 @ JU & Overall) 6th Season
Who's Gone: QB Josh McGregor, RB J.J. Laster, RB Rudell Small, WR Josh Philpart, WR Tommie Rogers, WR Larry Thompson, TE/LS Eric Baker, DB Darren Johnson.
Who's Back: TE Quintin Davis, RS/DB Colby Walden, DT Mike Mayoral, DB Schon Thomas, DE Montaque Mack, LB Mike Klein, DB Darren Johnson, DB Leonard Smith.
Historical Fact: In 1996, the program was instated. The Dolphins began play in 1998. JU had one PFL South title (when the league was split into two divisions) and have won PFL titles in 2008 and 2010.
Last Season: Coach Bell’s team finished 7-4 overall —the teams’ fifth winning record but were within two games of repeating as PFL champions — losing to last year’s co-champions of San Diego and Drake.
This Season: The Dolphins must replace much of its prolific offense in the hopes of getting back to the top of the PFL standings.
Marist Red Foxes
Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
Stadium: Tenney Stadium at Leonidoff Field (5,000 Capacity)
Head Coach: Jim Parady (103-103-1 @ MU & Overall) 21s Season @ MU
Who's Gone: CB Jaquan Bryant, LB Ryan Cronan, WR Kevin Fitzpatrick, DE James Desautels, NT David Toriola.
Who's Back: LB Mike Hagemann, S Nick Mainiero, S Tyler Ramsey, QB Chuckie Looney, K Jason Myers, TE Anthony Calcagni, OT Phede Celestin, DE Terrence Fede, LB Paul Sakowski.
Historical Fact: The Red Foxes won three MAAC championships before becoming an independent in 2008 after that league dissolved. The Red Foxes joined the PFL in 2009.
Last Season: The Red Foxes finished their season at 4-7 overall and 3-5 in the PFL.
This Season: Coach Parady hopes to get towards the top of the PFL standings—a place that Marist has not finished since joining the league.
Morehead State Eagles
Location: Morehead, KY
Stadium: Jayne Stadium/Jacobs Field (10,000 Capacity)
Head Coach: Matt Ballard (93-92 @ MSU & 128-117-1 Overall) 20th Season
Who's Gone: DE Jerome Raymond, FB Desmond Cox, LB Tony Bachman, RB Ronnie McDermott.
Who's Back: WR Donte Sawyer, K/P Rainer Duzan, QB Zach Lewis, OC Joey Clegg, OT Eric Matteson
Historical Fact: Former Eagle and NFL New York Giant quarterback Phil Simms is the only MSU player to have his number retired in the school’s history after he finished his career with MSU in 1979.
Last Season: Coach Matt Ballard's Eagles finished a disappointing 3-8 but had four losses by four points or less.
This Season: The Eagles hope to turn the close losses into wins this season for Coach Ballard.
San Diego Toreros
Location: San Diego, CA
Stadium: Torero Stadium (6,000 Capacity)
Head Coach: Ron Caragher (36-19 @ USD & Overall) 6th Season
Who's Gone: OC Christian Fetters, CB Al-Rilwan Adeyemi, S Loka Kanongataa, WR John McGough, TE Patrick Doyle, DE Mario Kurn, LB Joe Martin, FB Nick Scudellari, OL Matt Peleti, OL Pat Thompson, K Mike Levine.
Who's Back: RB Kenny James, WR Brandon White, DE Blake Oliaro, LB Zach Dunaj, WR Sam Hoekstra, QB Mason Mills, WR Mitch Sands, S Troy McClelland, DB Robbie Beathard.
Historical Fact: Former Torero quarterback Josh Johnson became USD's first player to be selected in the NFL Draft when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him in the 5th round (160 pick overall) in 2008.
Last Season: USD finished tied for the PFL championship with Drake with a 9-2 overall mark and 7-1 in league play.
This Season: The Toreros hope to duplicate last year’s championship and have a number of key returning players to do so.
Location: Valparaiso, IN
Stadium: Brown Field (5,000 Capacity)
Head Coach: Dale Carlson (1-21 @ VU, 111-124-3 Overall) 3rd Season
Who's Gone: WR Sean McCarty, OT Nate Blair, DE Nikko Carson, DB Laurence Treadaway.
Who's Back: P Greg Wood, LB Cody Gokan, LB Pat Derbak, QB Eric Hoffman, RB Gabe Ali-El, WR Tanner Kuramata, LB Ryan Mundy, OL Nate Koeneman, LB J.T. Rotroff.
Historical Fact: The Valparaiso football program started in 1919 and has played all their games at Brown Field since starting the program.
Last Season: Valparaiso finished its eighth straight losing season at 1-10 but did win one game in PFL play for the first time since 2008 with a win over Campbell.
This Season: Coach Dale Carlson hopes to use the one PFL win last year to improve this season. The Crusaders were the 2003 PFL champions, but that was the last season the school finished .500 or better.