Albright enters 2014 at number 21 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 8-3 (6-3) Middle Atlantic Conference
The Lions finished their season with a four-game winning streak, but for a while there, at the beginning of the season, there were doubts they’d even finish above .500. Albright got started on the wrong foot in their conference schedule with a pair of losses – at Stevenson 24-18, and home to Delaware Valley 20-17. Certainly not how you want to start if you’ve got conference title aspirations, which in private they must have had.
Going into the season, Albright was ranked fourth in the Middle Atlantic Conference by the MAC coaches poll, but things weren’t as dire as they might have appeared. After Lycoming in first place with 76 votes, Albright, Widener, and Delaware Valley composed a very tightly-grouped second-tier of teams, earning 65, 68, and 67 votes apiece, respectively. The loss to Stevenson hurt. They won their next three following the brief skid before they travelled to Lycoming, where they lost another and fell to 4-3 with Widener, Misericordia, and upstart Lebanon Valley to go. The MAC title was already lost, maybe not mathematically, but practically. They managed to pull out those final three games, but still finished third in the MAC behind the team everyone expected, Lycoming, and the team no one did, Lebanon Valley.
Bonus Fact: Albright was the only team in D3 to not allow their opponent a fourth down conversion last season. 0/14.
– Matt DiGiacomo OL – Honorable mention All-MAC
– Josh Barndt OL – First team All-MAC, First team All-MAC, three-year starter
– TJ Luddy QB/P – First team All-MAC, 180/297 (60.6%), 2,442 yards, 18 TDs, 7 INTs, 83 carries, 262 yards, 3 TDs, 44 punts, 39 yard average
– Ty Hughes RB – Captain, Honorable mention All-MAC, 244 carries, 1,022 yards, 13 TDs
– Devron Clark WR/KR – Second team All-MAC, 56 receptions, 894 yards, 5 TDs, 10 KRs, 18.9 yard average
– Daniel McNair WR/KR – Second team All-MAC, 65 receptions, 900 yards, 9 TDs, 11 KRs, 17.9 yard average
– Eric Wade TE – First team All-MAC, 20 receptions, 221 yards, 2 TDs
– Matt Pattison DL – Captain, Second team All-MAC, 45 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 2 pass defenses, 1 FF
– JT Harding DT – Captain, Second team All-MAC, 27 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 pass defenses, 1 FR
– Matt Filosa LB – Second team All-MAC, 66 tackles, 6 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FFs
– Drew Peterson FS – AFCA All-American, First team All-MAC, 46 tackles, 1 TFL, 8 INTs, 16 pass defenses, 13 KRs, 20.7 yard average, 18 PRs, 6.8 yard average
– Levi Myers CB – Second team All-MAC, 86 tackles, 8.5 TFL, .5 sacks, 3 INTs, 6 pass defenses, 3 FFs
What to Watch For
Defensive Turnover – The primary losses for the Lions this offseason came from their defensive secondary. Strong safety Matt Hnatiuk finished second on the team in tackles with 69, while cornerback Levi Myers led the team in tackles with 86 – an astounding feat considering he plays a position that starts the play pretty far from the action. Usually when a corner is that good, the opposing team will try to avoid his side of the field – but usually a corner that good is the best DB on his team. Not the case for Albright. Free safety Drew Peterson snagged eight interceptions last season and was the only Lion to be named to the American Football Coaches Association All-American team – in fact, he was the only AFCA All-American from the entire Middle Atlantic Conference.
Secondary is far from the only position group to see significant losses this offseason. Nearly the entire defense was made up of seniors – seniors who accounted for 579 of the team’s 693 tackles (83.5%), 61.5 of 77 tackles for loss (79.9%), 34.5 of 35 sacks (98.6%), 13 of 16 interceptions (81.3%), and 10 of 11 forced fumbles (90.9%). The only returning member of the defense who produced a significant stat-line last season is corner Chris Stephens, who had 36 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 3 INTs, 12 pass defenses, 1 forced fumble, and 1 blocked kick. He’ll be a senior.
Our preseason rankings are based on conference strength and program strength. We don’t take the loss of players into account and we don’t weight recent performance nearly as heavily as many other ranking systems. Our research has shown that, before any games are played, the safest money is to bet on historically strong programs, especially in D3 – where the good teams stay good and the bad teams stay bad more often than not. That being said, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that good teams stay good year to year – sometimes they fall off.
This might be the last mention of the Lions in the HeroSports top 25 this season. Too many players lost, too many question marks. It’s even hard to say who to watch for, since they’ll be starting an almost entirely new team on both sides of the ball. The four Matts and a Josh (the offensive line), quarterback, running back(s), wide receiver(s), tight end, defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs – all gone. With Lycoming, Widener, Lebanon Valley, and Delaware Valley all ranked from 25-50, I’d be surprised to see Albright above .500 at season’s end.
(I would like to extend a special thank you to the Albright program though. They’ve provided three of the most interesting bits of minutiae I’ve discovered while researching D3 teams: 1.) TJ Luddy was both the QB and the punter, 2.) they’re the only D3 team to not allow a fourth down conversion last season, and 3.) 80% of their offensive line was named Josh. Crazy stuff, thanks Albright!)