IUP offense thinking outside of the ‘Box’

There is a saying around the sports world that one of the most important parts of a football team is the quarterback.

That certainly rings true with the 2013 Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks.

A key component of the Crimson Hawks’ postseason run was the performance of Mike Box (senior, psychology). Heading into this season as an unquestioned starter, the quarterback is only focused on improvement.

“We’re looking to take our offense to the next level,” Box said, who threw 13 touchdowns after replacing Pat Smith under center.

“We have a dominant defense, and this year it won’t be as one-sided. We are very efficient in the run game, and that’s a huge credit to our offensive line, and this year we will be much improved in our aerial attack.”

Box won’t have the benefit of handing off to running back Harvie Tuck, who had the eye of some NFL scouts after closing his record-breaking IUP career last year.

He should have an explosive backfield weapon in former Rutgers University running back De’Antwan Williams (senior, sociology). Williams hopes to return to Crimson Hawks at running back. He awaits word from the National Collegiate Athletic Association about finalizing a waiver for one more season of eligibility.

“I feel comfortable with him [Box], and we feed off each other,” Williams said.

As the quarterback, Box expects the team to take a leap in the passing game. IUP finished last season with a combined 2,215 yards and 18 touchdown passes compared to just five interceptions.

“With the return of our experienced receiving corps and the chemistry we have, our offense will be firing on all cylinders,” he said.

One of Box’s favorite targets down the stretch last season was Gettysburg, Pa., native Terrill Barnes (senior, sports administration). Barnes hauled in a team-leading 38 passes for 710 yards and eight touchdowns and will headline the Hawks’ returning pair of starters this year.

A transfer from the University of Connecticut who added two scores on the ground in 2012, Box understands his leadership position as quarterback and has faith in his team.

“Coming so close in [the] quarterfinals has left a bad taste in our mouths, and we are looking forward to proving ourselves and picking up where we left off,” he said. “The role of quarterback naturally comes with a leadership position on the offense.

Leadership is a role that Box has handled well dating back to his high school days at Collins Hill High in Georgia.

“Mike was a good leader,” Collins Hill High Head Coach Kevin Reach said. “We arrived at the same time, so we were figuring it out as we went. He picked up the offense quickly and the kids followed him.”

If Box is able to help the Crimson Hawks offense reach their full potential, opponents could be dealing with one the most dangerous teams in all of Division II.