The group at a glance:
No./ Name/ Pos./ Ht./ Wt./ Exp./ Hometown/ High School/ Transfer School
2 Ja’Maal Eveillard
TB 5-10 198 R-Fr. Cape Canaveral, Fla. / Cocoa Beach
5 Cory Bell
TB 5-10 203 Jr. Sparta, N.J. / Pope Paul XXIII ASA College
31 Walter Fletcher
TB 5-9 192 Fr. Columbia, Md. / Centennial Randolph-Macon
37 Ryan Harkness
TB 5-8 192 So. Meadville, Pa. / Meadville
42 Nick Barlette
TB 6-0 192 R-Fr. Dunkirk, N.Y. / Dunkirk
43 Robert Bell
TB 5-9 203 R-So. Beaver, Pa. / Beaver Falls California (Pa.)
30 Jordan Gurdak
FB 6-1 213 R-So. Bear Lake, PA / Youngsville
46 Marquis Spence
FB 6-1 215 Fr. Jackson Center, Pa. / Lakeview
3 Jon Girvin
TE 6-5 250 R-So. Pittsburgh, Pa. / Northgate
45 Nick Helmick
TE 6-4 252 Jr. Front Royal, VA / Skyline
85 Justin Kempka
TE 6-3 236 R-Jr. Greensburg, Pa. / Greensburg Central Catholic Robert Morris
88 Trey Staunch
TE 6-4 250 Fr. West Middlesex, Pa. / West Middlesex
Players lost: TB: Anfreenee Williams, Keith Regis, Nick Hall FB: None TE: Matthew Wheelock
Players returning: TB: Ryan Harkness, Nick Barlette FB: Jordan Gurdak TE: Nick Helmick
Newcomers: TB: Ja’Maal Eveillard, Cory Bell, Robert Bell, Walter Fletcher FB: Marquis Spence TE: Jon Girvin (returns after a year away from football/school), Justin Kempka, Trey Staunch
Edinboro finished the 2014 season with the lowest output on the ground in program history, averaging just 63.6 yards per game. The very same offensive line that yielded such a poor rushing attack was a part of a school-record 57 sacks allowed. The most notable loss in the backfield came in the form of Anfreenee Williams’ departure from the program after the true freshman exploded onto the scene for the Scots with 678 yards on 141 carries (4.8 YPC) and four touchdowns. Despite playing behind an underachieving line and facing some vaunted defensive front sevens in the PSAC, a guy like Williams was still able to use his breakaway speed to make things happen last year, but it will be a whole new backfield this season for the Scots.
Losing its top three rushers from last year, Edinboro returns just two players on the entire roster with positive rushing yardage in sophomore tailback Ryan Harkness (29 yards) and redshirt junior wide receiver Darren Massey (six yards). Four newcomers, along with Harkness and redshirt freshman Nick Barlette are the contenders for carries in 2015. There is still a lot to be decided, but ASA College transfer Cory Bell appears to be in line to lead the way according to coach Scott Browning. Cory, one of two Bell transfer backs on the roster, is a five-foot-ten-inch, 203 pound junior from Sparta, New Jersey. Meanwhile, Robert, the other back, is a five-foot-nine-inch, 203 pound redshirt sophomore from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania who transferred to Edinboro from California University (Pennsylvania).
Coach Browning will be going without an offensive coordinator this season and will handle the play-calling duties in 2015 after hiring Joe Wanson to coach quarterbacks and wide receivers as well as Jack Corey to coach the offensive line and tight ends. Browning wants to go back to “the old Edinboro offense” this season, so we’ll see if fullback Jordan Gurdak gets involved. We’ve seen in previous regimes such as the Bryan Volk era where the fullback is non-existent.
As for the tight ends, there is a lot of intrigue. Although junior tight end Nick Helmick returns as a starter from a year ago, the big buzz around this position group comes in the form of a former Edinboro quarterback who has returned to campus. Jon Girvin, the six-foot-five-inch, now 250 pound redshirt sophomore who relieved the injured Cody Harris at quarterback for the Scots in 2013 has returned to school and the program after sitting out in 2014.
Browning on one of his newest running backs: “Cory Bell is a very solid kid. He’s a competitor, he’s serious, he wants to be good, he’ll give you everything he has, he’s a physical player and I think he’s got a lot of ability. It’s going to be fun to watch Cory grow.”
Browning on why Girvin moved to TE: “That was kind of his choice. He and I sat down and talked and Jon’s about 250 pounds right now. He’s very athletic. He was a heck of a basketball player, so he’s got good hand-eye coordination. Now whether or not that translates to the football field, we’re all going to find out here in the next couple weeks, but Jon’s athletic and he wants to play. He wants to find a spot to get on the field. I think Jon felt that tight end would be a good place to start.”
Browning on if he plans on moving Girvin at all: “We’ll give that an opportunity to grow. There’s always a possibility we could move him over to defensive end, but right now we’re thinking to keep him at tight end.”
Senior Defensive End Domenic Principale on the running backs: “We have some new running backs that nobody really knows about yet, but they’ll put them on the map for us.”
If there is one thing to expect in the Edinboro backfield for this season, it’s the unexpected. The last few seasons have been unpredictable at tailback for the Scots and that trend is sure to continue with so many new faces and a virtually bare cupboard after the conclusion of the 2014 season. Taking a glass half full approach, the running game has an opportunity to change things up with those new faces and healthy competition has taken place between spring practice and fall camp leading up to the season opener against St. Joseph’s (Indiana). Both Cory and Robert Bell will certainly be in the mix, as well as Harkness, Barlette, Walter Fletcher from the state of Maryland and Ja’Maal Eveillard from the state of Florida. It’s unclear at the moment who will be featured at tailback, but whoever gets the nod will need to help relieve some of the pressure from a potentially potent passing attack accompanying them.
At the tight end spot, Helmick was the unquestioned starter for the majority of the season after a big start against Carson-Newman in the opener. However, Helmick was never legitimately challenged at his spot as the Scots only carried two tight ends a year ago and Matthew Wheelock has already departed from the program since the end of last season.
With the return to the program and position change, Girvin should have every opportunity to throw his name in the hat for a starting spot at tight end. Girvin was always considered to be a solid athlete in his first go-around at Edinboro, but has appeared to put everything in on going for his new spot with a chance to shine.
Note: All quotes were obtained firsthand from the 2015 PSAC West football media day luncheon on Monday, Aug. 10.
Mike Fenner is a staff writer for The Spectator.