The group at a glance:
No./ Name/ Pos./ Ht./ Wt./ Exp./ Hometown/ High School/ Transfer School
15 Gabe Tillman
ILB 5-11 227 Jr. Pittsburgh, Pa. / Schenley Lackawanna CC
32 Terrance Wright, Jr.
ILB 6-0 221 So. Coatesville, Pa. / Coatesville Cheyney
35 Josh Kempka
ILB 6-1 218 Fr. Greensburg, Pa. / Hempfield
50 Ethan Upperco
ILB 6-2 195 Fr. Fredericksburg, Va. / Chancellor
56 Anthony Principale
ILB 6-0 228 Jr. Williamsville, N.Y. / Clarence
11 Victor Hudson
OLB 6-1 212 Jr. Macedonia, OH / Nordonia
29 Austin Mietz
OLB 6-1 212 Jr. Akron, N.Y. / Akron Central
33 Mike Shansky
OLB 6-2 221 Sr. Beaver Falls, Pa. / Blackhawk California (Pa.)
34 Dylan Royce
OLB 6-0 225 Fr. Warsaw, N.Y. / Warsaw Central
41 Taylor Mellott
OLB 5-11 213 Fr. North Tonawanda, N.Y. / North Tonawanda
44 Ryan Stratton
OLB 6-2 218 So. Smethport, Pa. / Smethport Area Geneva
47 Matt Przybocki
OLB 6-2 203 Fr. Middletown, N.Y. / Burke Catholic
48 A.J. Hulton
OLB 5-11 209 Fr. Westfield, N.Y. / Maple Grove Chautauqua Lake
52 Trey Hall
OLB 6-0 206 Fr. Abingdon, Md. / Patterson Mill
57 Virgil McClendon
OLB 6-1 229 R-So. Pittsburgh, Pa. / Barack Obama Academy
58 Joel Fulton
OLB 6-0 205 So. Schenectady, N.Y. / Tattnall County (Ga.)/Schenectady(N.Y.)
83 Connor Strange
OLB 6-3 214 Fr. Davidsonsville, Md. / South River
94 Vincent Hudson
OLB 6-0 204 Fr. Sagamore Hills, Ohio
Players lost: Chris Mitchell, Tendai Mwenda, Deon Colvin, Jimmy Grove, Cory Hayes, Kyle Matula, Chris McNeal
Players returning: Anthony Principale, Victor Hudson, Austin Mietz, Mike Shansky, Virgil McClendon, Joel Fulton
Newcomers: Gabe Tillman, Terrance Wright Jr., Josh Kempka, Ethan Upperco, Dylan Royce, Taylor Mellot, Ryan Stratton, Matt Przybocki, A.J. Hulton, Trey Hall, Connor Strange, Vincent Hudson
The linebacker corps from 2014 brought plenty of experience to the table. Finishing 12th against the run last year in the PSAC, Edinboro averaged allowing 175.5 yards rushing per game and 4.3 yards per carry against its opponents. The Fighting Scots also allowed 20 rushing scores (6th most in the conference). Against the aerial attacks, of which many were formidable in the PSAC, Boro was 11th in the league with 267.5 yards per game average given up. Edinboro allowed its opponents to complete 61.6 percent of their passes (third worst in the conference) while tying for fourth in touchdown passes allowed (25).
Gone is injury riddled Chris Mitchell from the inside linebacker spot, while the outside linebackers saw a ton of turnover. A trio of seniors that included fifth year guys Jimmy Grove and Cory Hayes are now out of eligibility. The biggest blow in that threesome, however, comes in the form of the heart and soul of the Boro defense last year: Kyle Matula. Matula, another Scot who had battled the injury bug up until his final campaign in the red and white, made up for lost time in a big way a year ago. His 69 total tackles and 43 assists were each good for second on the team, while he recorded five tackles for loss, a sack and five pass breakups. The Milan, Ohio native was an unquestioned leader on the defensive side of the ball and his leadership ability will be missed as much if not more than his on-field production.
This year’s group will certainly be a mixed bag in terms of experience and leadership versus youth. It all starts with preseason All-American and second team All-PSAC selection senior linebacker Mike Shansky. Playing his third season with the Scots after transferring from PSAC West counterpart California University (Pennsylvania), Shansky has improved from year to year. The six-foot-two-inch, 221 pound Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania native and two-time All-PSAC West second team pick led Edinboro in total tackles and solo stops last season (87 and 36, respectively) and his eight tackles for loss paced the Scots as well. Shansky logged five pass breakups, while forcing and recovering a fumble in 2014. Although admittedly not the most vocal, Shansky plans to lead by example once again and keep command of the huddle. There are several names in contention to provide leadership and production in the linebacking corps as well.
Senior linebacker Mike Shansky on what he’d like to see out of Edinboro this year: “Just overall, improve upon how we played last year. Last year I do not believe we played a full game of football against any team. If we as a team can play a full game offensively and defensively I think we can beat anybody. Defense overall, improve on our scheme. Coach Bradford has a great game plan for us week in and week out.”
Shansky on the late season momentum carried into the offseason: “Going in, winning two games at the end of the season, it helped out knowing that we can beat teams in the league. Last season going 3-8 didn’t work out how we wanted it to so we really want to change how we perform this year.”
Shansky on his offseason regiments: “I’ve leaned down a little bit, trying to increase my speed. I’ve increased my strength overall. Leadership-wise, I’m just trying to lead by example. I’m not a big talker. I just want to show the guys how it’s done, show them the ropes, do everything right, do it the right way, and do it Edinboro’s way, let these guys know and leave them on a good note.”
Shansky on the September slate this year as opposed to last year: “Being home, it’s a lot easier. It’s a lot easier on your body and your mind. Sleeping in a bus for 10-12 hours on the way to Tennessee was cruel, but it’s a lot easier being home.”
Shansky on preparation for the first opponent: “The coaches have been, definitely. I’ve been looking a little bit of their film, trying to pick up on some of their tendencies. Once we get into camp, it’ll be non-stop St. Joe’s.”
Shansky on goals for the 2015 season: “Win; that’s all I want to do. I could care less about personal accolades. As long as we win that makes everything cake.”
Senior defensive end Domenic Principale on what Shansky brings to the defense: “It’s amazing the sort of things he does for us, especially now that he’s moved next to me, which is great. I love having somebody behind me that knows what they’re doing who can fill holes with me. Last year we had Kyle Matula and Jimmy Grove next to me and it was great having them; both seniors last year. It’s just tremendous help when you have someone behind you that knows what they’re doing and you can communicate well with and fill holes with.”
Principale on playmakers to watch out for along with leaders who will step up: “Shansky is a big playmaker. He’s bound to get a couple big plays every single game. You have Victor Hudson who is our opposite side rush, basically like an outside linebacker/defensive end. He’s going to make some great plays for us; he’s an athlete. There’s Jimmy Wilson and Josh Kibbie; both nose tackles this year and they’re both really coming into their own as football players. We also have my younger brother, Anthony Principale and (Gabe) Tillman, both middle linebackers. They’re both going to be huge for us this year.”
What to expect:
There is no guessing what Shansky will bring to the table in 2015 as the senior will look to leave his mark on the program while helping to guide and mold future stars at Edinboro in the process. Outside of Shansky, there are some question marks, but there are a few players who can have a big hand in answering those questions quickly beginning with starting rush linebacker Victor Hudson. Hudson, a junior from Macedonia, Ohio proved to be an important player last year and with two years left to perform, expect big things from this guy. As a true sophomore, Hudson played in all 11 games and finished 7th on the team in tackles (3rd among linebackers) with 45 stops. The six-foot-one-inch, 212 pounder can be a difference maker with versatility as well, evidenced by his six tackles for loss a year ago, as he can cover plenty of ground against the pass as well as stick his hand in the dirt and harass offensive backfields.
Other names to look out for on the Edinboro two-deep include newcomer Ryan Stratton, a six-foot-two-inch, 218 pound sophomore Geneva College transfer who is penciled in as the fourth linebacker starter, juniors Anthony Principale and Austin Mietz and sophomore Joel Fulton as reserves.
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.