Pulling the rope in the same direction has been the mantra for the 2012 William Paterson football team during its preseason camp. Fifth-year head coach Jerry Flora believes that it will pay dividends throughout the Pioneers' 10-game schedule.
"We all have to be moving in the same direction, doing the same things the same way in order to be successful," he said. "If some are pulling the rope one way and others and pulling in a different direction, we won't be successful. Everyone has been on the same page during camp, and we expect that to continue."
With 54 letterwinners returning from last year's 4-6 team, including nine offensive and eight defensive starters, Flora will have nearly 40 upperclassmen to count upon to provide leadership this fall.
"I can honestly say that this has been the best and largest group we have had senior-wise in my five years," Flora related. "They have been in contact with each other prior to preseason, have been very supportive of the coaching staff and have been vocal leaders. The players have been great about holding each other accountable."
Flora returns to the role of offensive coordinator this fall, and his multiple-formation style will mean that the Pioneers could run out of a multitude of sets, including everything from twin tailbacks to four tight ends.
Four full-time starters return to the offensive line unit, making it a cohesive group prepared to make its presence felt during the 2012 season.
Andrew Donnell (Hamilton, N.J./Steinert) started in eight of nine appearances as a freshman a year ago, garnering honorable-mention all-New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) laurels. He is expected to begin the season at left tackle. Alongside Donnell will be classmate and left guard Ryan Sibole (Brick, N.J./Brick Twp.), who saw action in nine contests a year ago and started the final four on the right side of the line.
Senior Vinny Proscia (Brooklyn, N.Y./Xaverian) will move to center after starting all 10 games at left guard in 2011. Junior right guard Dashawn Johnson (Jersey City, N.J./Hoboken) has started in 15 of 19 career appearances, while senior John Matthews (Pennsauken, N.J./Roman Catholic) will make the transition to the right side after starting the last 20 contests at left tackle.
Sophomore Bryan Singleton (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) has shown the ability to play any of the five positions during his first camp as a Pioneer after transferring from Wesley College. Freshman Jalen Haynes (Jersey City, N.J./Hoboken) saw time at tight end and tackle in high school, and senior Eric Yuneman (Bloomfield, N.J./Bloomfield) will compete for time anywhere along the line after battling through injuries during his WP career. Sophomore Tobe Akeru (Rahway, N.J./Rahway) also will contend for snaps after working with the practice unit a year ago.
With an all-conference performer to count among its returnees, William Paterson's running game should be one of its strengths during the 2012 campaign.
Senior Dawys German (North Arlington, N.J./North Arlington) racked up 1,020 yards and eight touchdowns on 180 carries last fall, earning him first-team all-conference honors while becoming WP's first running back to reach 1,000 yards since 1996. Also a threat out of the backfield, catching six passes for 67 yards and two TDs, German has the strength and quickness to make short plays into long gains.
Flora plans to go away from using a traditional fullback, meaning there are more touches available at the tailback position. Sophomores Dwaine Dabney, Jr. (Summit, N.J./Summit) and Isaac Jlaka (Phillipsburg, N.J./Phillipsburg) have waged a close preseason competition for that second tailback role after combining for 15 appearances last season, while freshman Darius Kersey (Dover, N.J./Dover) has impressed the coaching staff early and will provide depth.
WP's tight ends should see more of the ball this season, thanks to Flora's play calling as well as the talent and depth the 2012 Pioneers have at the position.
Senior Joseph Cordato (Bayonne, N.J./Bayonne) enters his third year as a starter with career totals of 29 receptions for 340 yards and two scores. A year ago, he ranked third for WP with eight catches and 106 yards.
Junior Brian Winfield (Newton, N.J./Newton) has established himself as the number-two tight end, a year after he saw action in seven contests and hauled in five passes. Classmate Rich Vivian (West Long Brach, N.J./Shore Regional) and freshman Ian Leary (Jackson, N.J./Jackson Memorial) are also expected to make significant contributions.
A group of four emerged as the leading wide receivers during preseason workouts.
Junior Mick Paye (Lumberton, N.J./Rancocas Valley Regional) finished as WP's leader with 14 catches for 292 yards and three touchdowns a year ago, starting in the final seven contests. Classmate Julian Frazier (Plainfield, N.J./North Plainfield) also gained valuable experience, starting five times in nine appearances.
Sophomore Mike Vannucci (Bethpage, N.Y./Plainedge) is ready to make an impact after missing most of the last two years due to injuries. Also prepared to take on a larger role in the offense is senior Alex Price (Newton, N.J./Newton), who moved into the starting lineup late last season and has made 22 total appearances as a Pioneer.
Junior Howard Davis (Franklin Park, N.J./Franklin) has shown similar skills to former Pioneer and New York Jets camp invitee Joel Rivera (2006-09), but is still shaking off the rust after two years away from the game. Flora believes that Davis could eventually give WP a deep threat capable of stretching the field.
Injuries hampered the Pioneers' 2011 performance under center, but improved depth and the return of junior Ryan Gresik (Newton, N.J./Newton) should lead to more consistent play this fall.
Gresik was lost for the year in WP's fourth game of the 2011 slate, this after getting off to his best season start as a Pioneer. As a full-time sophomore starter in 2010, Gresik completed 155 of 268 attempts for 1,489 yards and six touchdowns.
Freshman Mike Keller (Little Egg Harbor, N.J./Pinelands Regional) emerged as the likely backup during preseason camp, someone Flora described as a "pleasant surprise" after taking a year off from the game. Sophomore Logan McGuigan (Ocean City, N.J./Ocean City) and freshman Jason Bohem (Stuartsville, N.J./Phillipsburg) also will contend for snaps.
Eight defensive starters return, a balanced unit that will need to work collectively to repeat WP's 2011 finish of third in the league in total defense (308.8 yards/game) and sixth nationally in pass defense (129.7 yards/game).
Although third-team all-region and first-team all-conference defensive end Damian DiIorio (78 tackles, 16.0 for loss, 7.0 sacks) has been lost to graduation, the Pioneers will be experienced along the defensive line this fall.
Junior Webb Geer (Sparta, N.J./Sparta) returns at nose guard, a year after he registered 45 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss and 2.0 sacks. Classmate Bobby Moriggia (Eldred, N.Y./Eldred Central) returns after a year away from the program and will serve as a backup.
Senior Kyle McCourt (West Milford, N.J./West Milford) started six of 10 games at defensive end a season ago, and likely will be joined in the starting lineup by classmate Mike Morano (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Joseph by the Sea), who has 20 career appearances and four starts under his belt.
Pressing for time will be senior James Grande (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Joseph by the Sea), who has tallied 39 tackles in 24 career contests, sophomore Trevor Sackawitch (Holmdel, N.J./Holmdel), and sophomore Max Xie (Ridgefield, N.J./Ridgefield Memorial), who has moved to the defensive line after working with the tight ends a year ago.
Two-time all-conference middle linebacker Jim Hamill will be missed this fall, but two other starters return to anchor the position group this season.
John Garbowski (Mohegan Lake, N.Y./Lakeland) earned honorable-mention all-NJAC status as a freshman a year ago, starting six times and finishing the season strong with 44 tackles (5.5 for loss), an interception and a forced fumble. Senior Clifton Glaze (Palmyra, N.J./Palmyra) started all 10 contests on the other side of the field, finishing fourth for the Pioneers with 63 stops during the 2011 campaign.
Sophomore Jedd Blackowski (West Milford, N.J./West Milford) is projected to start in the middle after missing last season due to an injury. As a freshman, Blackowski appeared in six contests for WP.
Garbowski, Blackowski and Glaze will be pushed by juniors Matt Heyman (Sussex, N.J./High Point Regional) and David Zurla (Rutherford, N.J./Rutherford), as well as sophomores Wallace Cooper (East Windsor, N.J./Hightstown) and Mike Fraioli (Mohegan Lake, N.Y./Lakeland).
Doug Dudek, a four-time all-NJAC honoree, will move to the sideline as an undergraduate assistant coach this fall, but WP still has a pair of proven playmakers at bandit this season.
Senior Stephen Bovo, Jr. (Dunellen, N.J./Dunellen) was productive in his first season at the position in 2011, registering 44 tackles (6.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks) and three pass breakups after making the transition from free safety. It's a move that senior German Decena (Union City, N.J./Emerson) will make this fall, making 66 stops while intercepting three passes in starting the last 20 games at free safety.
Juniors Blake Katkowski (Saddle Brook, N.J./Paramus Catholic) and Adonis Rivie (Plainfield, N.J./Bishop Ahr) will look to earn expanded roles after combining for 28 career appearances.
Both opening-game starting corners return from last year, highlighted by junior Andre Snead (Atlantic City, N.J./Atlantic City), who has 18 career starts to his credit. Lost for the 2011 season due to injury in the third game, Flora believes that Snead's return will be critical to the secondary's success this fall.
Senior Adam Curry (Sayreville, N.J./Sayreville War Memorial) assumed a starting role a year ago after two years spent as a backup. Junior Stanley Howard (Somerset, N.J./Franklin) moved from the offensive to the defensive side of the ball midseason in 2011, making his presence felt with an interception. He will press for a starting nod, as will freshman Brandon Holmes (Sicklerville, N.J./Paul VI). WP's depth at the position will allow a large group of young players to develop, and if needed, augment the Pioneers at free safety.
Decena's move to bandit was at least partially due to senior Javon Hodges' (Parlin, N.J./Sayreville War Memorial) production as a first-year Pioneer following his transfer from Albright College. Hodges started twice while playing in all 10 games last season, finishing with 34 tackles and returning two interceptions for touchdowns.
A former running back, sophomore Mike McVey (Closter, N.J./Northern Valley Regional-Demarest) will serve as Hodges' backup.
William Paterson should be strong in the kicking game, returning a pair of all-conference selections from a year ago.
Robert Sinegra (Wharton, N.J./Morris Knolls) seized the placekicking job and was outstanding as a freshman, successful on 17 of his 18 PATs and seven of his 10 field goals. An honorable-mention all-conference honoree, his leg strength has improved after breaking the school record with a 48-yard field goal during the 2011 season finale.
Junior Cory Mundt (Rockaway, N.J./Morris Hills) was the league's leading punter in last fall, averaging 39.0 yards per attempt, launching six punts of 50+ yards and landing 15 inside the opponents' 20-yard line. The second-team all-conference selection will also serve as the backup placekicker, while Frazier will be the Pioneers' backup punter.