Led by seven returning all-conference players, Rock football is preparing to defend its Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship title and enter the NCAA Division II tournament for the third straight season.
Of the seven players who return with All-PSAC honors, only three were named to the first team.
These players include redshirt-senior offensive lineman Cory Tucker, redshirt-sophomore defensive end Marcus Martin, and redshirt-junior running back Shamar Greene.
“Those guys are outstanding players,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “We know that they are big time players and will have an impact on Saturdays.”
Martin erupted as a freshman, attaining a Slippery Rock record 16.0 sacks, beating the previous record by 4.0 sacks.
Along with winning the 2014 PSAC-West Freshman of the Year, he was also the only freshman in the nation to be named to the AP Little All-American Team.
Greene rushed for 1,482 yards in 2014, the second most in school history during a single season.
Entering 2015, Greene is ranked at no. 13 in SRU history with 2,209 career rushing yards, 1,723 yards away from Rock record holder Stan Kennedy (3,932).
If Greene rushes for at least 1,000 yards this upcoming season, he will be in the top five. Greene still has one more year of eligibility in 2016.
Joining the Rock this season is a quad of Division I transfers, senior quarterback Dante Nania, senior linebacker Teven Williams, sophomore cornerback Titus Howard, and sophomore defensive lineman Austin Fields.
Both Nania and Williams join the Green and White out of Youngstown State.
In three seasons at YSU, Nania completed 50 of 87 passes with six touchdowns and one interception. Williams started all three seasons with Youngstown State, compiling 208 career tackles.
“Both Dante and Teven have proven that they had good careers at YSU prior to coming here,” Mihalik said.
“Although they don’t have any experience here at Slippery Rock, we are hoping that their game day experience will just carry through here at the Rock.
Howard transferred out of Pittsburgh after starting two games as a true freshman in 2014. Howard appeared in Pitt’s 30-27 bowl game victory over Bowling Greene in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Fields did not play in his true freshman season at West Virginia.
Despite being defending PSAC champions, SRU was voted to finish in second place in the PSAC preseason coaches poll, behind Gannon.
The previous three Slippery Rock PSAC-West division titles have been followed by SRU not being picked as the divisional favorite the following season.
Although his team was not picked to finish at number, Coach Mihalik still believes his squad has what it take to compete in the PSAC-West.
“The preseason ranking doesn’t really matter to us,” Mihalik said. “It gives us a chip on our shoulder. I guess they just don’t want to recognize the accomplishments and success that the Rock has had, and it will all be determined on the field.”
Mihalik enters his 28th season as Slippery Rock head coach, and is just two games shy of coaching his 300 career game.
He ranks four all-time among PSAC coaches in career wins, and fourth among all active Division II coaches with 185.
The Rock hits the road on Sept. 5 for its first game of the season against the University of New Haven.
The Rock will then return home the following week to face East Stroudsburg on Sept. 12, a game which will be nationally televised by the American Sports Network.