It was back in November when Indiana University of Pennsylvania head football coach Curt Cignetti sat in his office surrounded by students and reporters alike.
The young Crimson Hawks had just concluded their season against the West Chester Golden Rams on Senior Day.
“There’s an old motto in coaching: For every freshman you start, you’re going to lose a game,” Cignetti said following that contest. The Crimson Hawks ended up starting 10 freshman last year.
Players who would return, including Eddie Stockett (freshman, business), were already expressing their excitement for the upcoming season. And after a cold and tumultuous winter, the Crimson Hawks were finally able to move their workouts outside to the Miller Stadium turf.
Many players stood out and got opportunities in what could only be called an injury-riddled spring. Walt Pegues (freshman, communications media), Sean McVay (junior, management), Kevin Clarke (junior, kinesiology health & sport science), Miles Williamson (freshman, business) and Steve Franco (junior, marketing) all missed time during spring ball because of surgeries.
Despite the injuries, Cignetti noted multiple players that had breakout spring sessions. Among those suitors were running backs Luigi Lista-Brinza (freshman, kinesiology health & sport science) and Chris Temple (freshman, accounting). Kidus Woldeyes (freshman, computer science) also excelled on offense, spending the majority of spring as the only active center on the roster.
“This was the first opportunity for a lot of the freshman who played last year to go through spring ball,” Cignetti said.
Many of those youngsters used the spring to adjust to some tweaks the Crimson Hawks have installed as part of their revamped pistol offense.
“There are some new elements [to the offense],” Cignetti said. “But there is new elements to the offense every year.”
On the defensive side of the ball, IUP will return a couple of players who have plenty of experience. Safety Eric Williams (senior, criminology) along with linebacker Dorian Lane (senior, accounting) look to be part of a unit that seems to be getting into their groove very early.
“Some of the injuries on offense maybe hurt the progress a little bit, but still gave other young players an opportunity to prove themselves,” Cignetti said. “I think, without question, the defense is ahead of the offense right now.”
Frustration seemed to follow the Crimson Hawks throughout their 6-5 campaign, but the team was moving in the right direction. You could see the foundation being laid. Fast forward past National Signing Day and a couple of intersquad scrimmages, and IUP finds itself in a very similar position as before.
Another strong recruiting class should allow the Crimson Hawks to spring into summer with a sense of great enthusiasm and energy.
“The message is we have to have a great summer,” Cignetti said. “Guys have to come back in great shape and ready to go for fall camp.”
It will be critical for the Crimson Hawks to put in the necessary work during the dog days of summer. The results of that work will come to fruition during fall camp and throughout the entire season.
The Crimson Hawks will tentatively report for camp Aug. 12. They will open up the 2015 regular season at home against Kutztown University Sept. 12.