This past Tuesday, the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) held its annual football media day on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe and there weren’t a whole lot of surprises.
Washington & Jefferson is expected to score a lot of points and be really good, while teams like Thiel, Geneva and Bethany are expected to struggle to remain relevant throughout the 2019 campaign.
So where does Waynesburg University fit into the picture?
The Yellow Jackets are bringing back the most experienced offense in the PAC in 2019. That can be looked at in two ways. Will that extra maturation lead to more yards and points, or will it be more of the same for a unit that often struggled to keep up with the potent attacks of teams like Washington & Jefferson, Case Western Reserve and the suddenly explosive Grove City Wolverines?
Speaking of Case … In case you missed him while he was lighting up the WPIAL at South Fayette, you can get a first-hand look at Spartan super sophomore Drew Saxton when his team heads to John F. Wiley Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 9. A combination of his lack of height and a desire for a world class education landed the stud passer in Cleveland, where he threw for 3,033 yards and 34 touchdowns, both top marks in the league. He finished 11th in the country in passing yards and tops amongst freshmen.
The Jacket offense may feature a future pro in left tackle Alex Paulina. Another former WPIAL star, the one-time Canon-McMillan Big Mac transferred from Pitt prior to the 2018 season and after getting used to his new home, blossomed in 2019. He was named first-team All-PAC at left tackle and at 6-4, 335 pounds, he has the size to go along with the talent to maybe catch the eye of an NFL scout.
While Paulina is arguably the best player on that side of the ball for Waynesburg, most will be paying to attention to see how Tyler Perone does in his first season in which he won’t be challenged for the starting quarterback job. Perone, who is a graduate student, has spent part of all four of his seasons in Orange and Black as the man at the top of the depth chart.
Last year, the former Seton LaSalle star was named honorable mention all-conference. While he didn’t put up big numbers (134-of-234, 1,465 yards, six touchdowns), he was one of the best in the league at protecting the football, being intercepted just six times.
While W&J boasts the top stable of running backs in the league, which includes senior Jordan West, a former Washington High School star, and sophomore Joey Koroly, who was a multi-sport stud at Trinity, the Jackets may get the No. 2 spot in terms of the position.
The Jackets are led by second-team All-PAC senior Chad Walker, who broke out last year for 767 yards on the ground. Sophomore Jordan Taylor, who was a driving force behind Quaker Valley’s undefeated 2017 season that included WPIAL and PIAA titles, is also back and head coach Chris Smithley has high expectations for this year’s newcomer crop at the position.
Moving to the defensive side, the Jackets have a lot to be determined in terms of filling out depth charts, aside from first-team All-PAC linebacker Tyler Smith, who piled up 86 tackles, 12.5 of which were for losses. He is the obvious candidate to fill the void left by former Waynesburg Central star John-Glen Davis, who has stuck around as part of the team’s coaching staff, as on-field defensive leader.
Veteran defensive coordinator Scott Venick should also be able to lean on No. 1 cornerback Brennan Sefick and hard-hitting safety VaShon Graham, both of whom are well- seasoned seniors with multiple years of starting experience. The two have been through countless gridiron battles, going all the way back to their high school days as teammates at North Catholic.
Finally, if you are a Greene County high school fan looking for some familiar faces to root for, there are a few local athletes to keep an eye on.
Freshmen Dylan Scritchfield (WCHS) and Nathan Brudnock (West Greene) will both be looking to make an impact in their debut seasons in Orange and Black. Those from in and around Fredericktown need to keep an eye on one-time Beth-Center Bulldog Dave Headlee.
The Jackets kick off the 2019 season on Saturday, Sept. 7, at Muskingum.