Slippery Rock football opens its 2023 season against a familiar face this Saturday. Every year since 2019, excluding the COVID-cancelled 2020 season, The Rock played their opener against Michigan’s Wayne State University.
This year will be the second consecutive season the Wayne State Warriors travel to Slippery Rock’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium. In any level of high school or college sports, there is a high player turnaround from year to year.
This is the unfortunate truth of graduation, transfers and eligibility requirements. 2022 All-PSAC West quarterback, Noah Grover’s Slippery Rock football career is over after taking the helm late in the 2021 season.
D.J. Adediwura, a 2022 Associated Press First Team All-American along with several other awards, will no longer be pressuring quarterbacks with The Rock. Three-time First Team All-PSAC West defensive lineman Jeff Marx will no longer anchor the trenches.
Linebacker Brandon Bischof and defensive back Jacob Williams, who combined for six interceptions last year, have both moved on. As is the case every year, coach Shawn Lutz will have to manage the reorganization of his roster to put the best product on the field week after week.
Expectations will once again be high as the Green and White will enter play ranked fifteenth nationally by the American Football Coaches Association.
The Rock finished last year at 10-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play. The record culminated in a second round exit from the NCAA Playoffs.
On the bright side, he will have help from impact returning players such as wide receiver Kyle Sheets, running back Chris D’Or and defensive back Jalen Dangerfield. Sheets was the team’s leading receiver last year in terms of receptions with 54, yards with 887 and touchdowns with 9.
D’Or was the most proficient rusher, having the most touchdowns with 8, yards with 827 and highest yards per attempt among rushers with at least 20 attempts with 5.7.
Dangerfield was a multi-talented defensive back, as he was second on last season’s squad in solo tackles with 44 and shared the team lead in interceptions with three. Quarterback Brayden Long, now the oldest field general on the roster, also got some game action last year. He tallied 241 passing yards and one touchdown in limited action.
After the fourth-round rematch against Wayne State, The Rock will host West Chester University and Millersville University to round out their pre-conference schedule. SRU will start PSAC play in Seton Hill’s Offutt Field to line up against the Griffins before a big early season matchup against Indiana University (Pa.)’s Crimson Hawks on September 30.