Salisbury enters 2014 at number 3 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: 7-4 (5-2) Empire 8
Seven of eight head coaches picked Salisbury football to win the Empire 8 in 2013. So lowly Christopher Newport wasn’t supposed to challenge the Sea Gulls in the opening game. They were supposed to be an out of conference tune-up before the ‘Gulls travelled to powerhouse Wesley, but the Captains had other ideas. With the game tied 10-10, and 5:32 remaining, Christopher Newport drove the ball 59 brutal yards to the promised land to go up seven with only 15 seconds left in the game. Salisbury was unable to pull out the miracle.
Week two was similarly disappointing – another loss on another last-minute go-ahead TD, this time to Wesley. The Sea Gulls gained 111 and 185 yards on the ground in their first two contests, two of only three times they were held below 200 rushing yards in a single game last season. The other was at Alfred week nine, a game they also lost 31-21.
When the Salisbury rushing attack was on and the defense backs produced turnovers, they were unstoppable. In each of their seven wins, they snagged at least two interceptions (season-high of four against Hartwick), and rushed for at least 235 yards (season-high of 482 and 8 TDs against Frostburg State). The four times they didn’t meet both of those conditions, they lost. Those four losses meant a fourth place finish in the Empire 8, and a playoff-absence for the Sea Gulls.
– Mark Bohanan OL – First team All-Conference
– Nick Aloi RB – 60 carries, 355 yards, 3 TDs
– Lonnie Liggins RB – 24 carries, 172 yards, 3 TDs
– Brendan Chavis RB – 19 carries, 123 yards, 1 TD
– Andre Carter DB – AFCA All-American, First team All-Conference, Empire 8 Defensive POY, 48 tackles, 1 TFL, 6 INTs, 9 pass defences, 1 BK
– Calvin Ford DB – First team All-Conference, 65 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 3 pass defences
– Greg Stanton DB – Honorable mention All-Conference, 46 tackles, 3 INTs, 6 pass defences
What to Watch For
Defensive Backfield – Salisbury boasted one of the top DB units in all of D3 football last season. They allowed the 17th fewest yards of any D3 team, all three seniors were at least honorable mention all-conference, Calvin Ford and Andre Carter were first-teamers, and Carter was the only Empire 8 player named an American Football Coaches Association All-American. This season, all three of those all-conference performers are gone – graduated. They’re not going to be easy to replace.
Offensive Backfield – The offensive side of the ball is pretty much the opposite of the defense, as far as players lost and retained. Ten players had double-digit carries for the Sea Gulls last season and seven of them will be back, including second team all-conference running back Jerome Johnson, who averaged a ridiculous 10 yards per carry on his 63 touches last season. These backs will also benefit from the veteran offensive line in front of them, a unit that only lost two starters (two all-conference starters, but still). Salisbury had the 10th best rushing attack in D3 last season (3,119 yards) – they should be even better this year.
The rushing attack will be legit, this we know, but the defense has some serious holes. Six Salisbury players were named to the All-E8 team last season – three first-teamers and three honorable mentions – but only first team defensive lineman Nick Ochoa and honorable mention linebacker Nick Anzallo will be back. That doesn’t mean the defense will be terrible, but there will certainly be growing pains this offseason, growing pains that Salisbury will hope to avoid in the regular season.
The schedule-makers didn’t do the Sea Gulls any favors. They open with the same Christopher Newport team that shocked them in their first game last season, and then they jump right into the meat of their schedule with BR22 Wesley, followed by five top-15 teams in the next seven weeks, three of them on the road: at BR10 Buffalo State, at BR1 St. John Fisher, at BR8 Ithaca, BR4 Alfred, and BR15 Brockport State. They lost a lot fewer players than St. John Fisher, a team they beat last season, but there are no pushovers in the Empire 8. Here at HeroSports, we strongly believe in the saying, “to be the best, you have to beat the best,” and that’s exactly what Salisbury has a chance to do – and to be. Fans should expect their team to earn a spot in the playoffs, and if they do, make a very deep run. They’ll be tested and ready for anything if they can make it to that point.