Football season’s unofficial start to the 2018 season kicked off last Wednesday when Rock football signed 34 new players to their 90 man roster on National Signing Day.
Following an 8-3 season last year, Rock football head coach Shawn Lutz believes this year’s additions to the roster have a lot of quality, even with a large number of players being added.
“Every position is going to have a little competition,” Lutz said. “And competition brings the best out of everybody and also the credibility of us signing so many mid-year guys that are joining us now, will help that competition in spring football, so there going to be a lot of great battles coming out of the spring.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Lutz said the team had some trouble last season stopping the run. Then now with former Rock standout defensive end Marcus Martin now having graduated, the need to reboot on the defensive line was one of Lutz’s top priorities this offseason.
Up front on the defensive line, The Rock signed Jeff Marx, who committed to Navy in 2017, but didn’t play before leaving to come to The Rock. In addition, SRU signed defensive tackle Seth Williams from Kiski high school, All-State defensive end Andrew Seymour from Quaker Valley high school, and defensive tackle Jayonn Butts from the Bishop McDevitt program. Defensive ends Gavin Vargesko from Bethal Park high school, Rod Williams from Slippery Rock high school, and Lackawanna College transfer Shane Schuback round out the defensive line.
At the linebacker position, the Green and White was able to sign Isaiah Manning out of Meadville High School, where he was a first team All-State selection, and Regional Co-Player of the Year, which was shared with coach Lutz’s son Logan.
“Isaiah was an early steal for us in this class,” Lutz said. “His physicality and playmaking ability as a running back will translate well to linebacker here and his athleticism and toughness will be key for us.” (Courtesy of Rock Athletics)
The Rock also added All-State linebacker Peyton Remish from South Range, Ohio, Brad Zaffram, a transfer from Jones County Community College, and another Bethal Park high schooler in Tanner Volpatti.
In the secondary, The Rock added defensive back Derrell Carter from Beaver Falls high school, Butte College transfer Tyree Spearman, and Dahmir Ruffin from Archbishop John Carroll in Philadelphia. Also at defensive back Keivonn Pasch’l from Penn Hills high school, Mark Carter Jr. from Miami Carol City, and cornerback Travis Thompson II from Gateway high school were added last week.
Switching to the offense, The Rock looks to have another quarterback battle on their hands to start training camp, with the graduation of last season’s starter Tanner Garry. The Rock added three new quarterbacks in Taylor King, another transfer from Butte College, Tyler Pergine from Spring-Ford High School and Isaac Clarke from Farrell High School.
“We got three really good ones that will compete,” Lutz said regarding a quarterback battle in the spring. “They’re all going to get equal chances, equal opportunities, it’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be exciting to see who’s going to be that quarterback.”
The backfield for The Rock certainly is getting a new front-runner in University of Delaware transfer Wes Hills who was an All-Colonial Athletic Association selection in 2016, along with first team All-State John Eakin from Bradford High School.
“We’re excited about a lot of guys in this class, but Wes (Hills) is the biggest addition to our program this offseason,” Lutz said. “He gives us something we haven’t had in our program in a long time in a running back that is not only explosive but also has that kind of size.” (Courtesy of Rock Athletics)
On the receiving end, The Rock signed four new receivers, and one new tight end as the team’s top three targets from last season all graduated. At tight end, The Rock signed Mac Christy from Knock High School in Saxonburgh. Moving to receiver, the Green and White signed Qaadir Dixon out of Martin Luther King high school in Philadelphia, and Division III Mount Union University transfer Ahmad Morris-Walker. The Rock was also able to sign receiver Jordan Crawford from the 2017 PIAA 6A State Champion Pine-Richland Rams and Max Maciejewski from Ringgold high school.
“Losing Marcus Johnson, Milly Raye, Andrew Bridgforth, it’s going to create more opportunities for these guys to show us what they can do,” Lutz said. “We really are not sure yet on who is going to step in and fill those shoes for us, but we got some great guys who definitely will compete, that’s for sure.”
Then on the offensive line, The Rock signed Mathew Carr out of Cathedral Prep school, Jonah Miller from Dallastown high school, and Jeremiah Gutierrez out of Stroudsburg high school. In addition, the Green and White signed Division I All-Ohio selection Luke Dye out of Jackson high school in Massillon, Ohio, and All-Conference selection Alexander Meadows out of McKeesport high school.
On special teams, The Rock was able to manage to sign two players from Plum high school in long snapper Jacob George and kicker/punter Jackson Gildea. The Rock’s current kicker, sophomore Jake Chapla is also a Plum area native and played with both George and Gildea when they were in high school, which will add some familiarity to the special teams unit.
“It is very important for those guys to have some continuity in their game,” Lutz said. “Jake (Chapla) hinted toward those guys for us and after we gave them a look, we decided that these guys gave us some familiarity on special teams.”