Football: 2014 Preview

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Westminster Titans begin a new era in 2014 under the direction of first-year head coach Scott Benzel, who takes over the program after coaching within Division I programs including Saint Francis and Robert Morris.

"I'm really excited for this opportunity," Benzel said. "I'm eager to hit the ground running and getting the season started."

The coaching staff under Benzel will be almost completely new in 2014, as former Titan standout Jon Gubish (wide receivers) is the lone returnee from last year's staff. Rich DeMaio will be the new associate head coach and the offensive coordinator; he will also coach the quarterbacks. The other offensive assistants include Colyn Haugh (offensive line/recruiting coordinator), Garrett Clawson (special teams), former Titan Dak Britt (running backs), and Nick Marmo (tight ends). Defensively, Jake Nulph will be the new defensive coordinator and will coach the linebackers; Kyle Cooper will coach the defensive line. Also, Dan Radakovich will be the new football consultant.

"I'm really excited about the coaches that we brought on board," Benzel added. "What I'm excited about is five of the coaches we have on staff are five players that played at Robert Morris and have also coached at Robert Morris and Saint Francis. We're friends and I think that shows our players that as coaches we are on the same page."

The Titan football program posted a 4-6 overall record in 2013, including a 3-5 mark and a seventh place finish in the Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC). Westminster returns 27 lettermen, including 13 starters (4 offense, 6 defense, and 3 special teams).

Westminster's offense returns three of its starting lineman in 2014, including junior Nick Fiorentino (an All-PAC honorable mention selection), junior Dylan Hogue, and senior Vinny Nerti. "I'm looking forward to watch our offensive line," Benzel said. "That is an area where there is no shortcut. You have to get in there and really grind." The other returning starter on offense is speedy junior wide receiver Taran Sifontes-Lavine who earned Second Team All-PAC honors in 2013 as a returner. Questions remain on who will start for the rest of the offense including the quarterback, the backfield, and the rest of the receiving corps.

The Titan defense will be more experienced as they return six starters, including four seniors; DL Rich Ellebie (an All-PAC honorable mention honoree), LB Corey Neill, DL Chuck Sayre, and DB Jared Heck. The other starters are juniors DB Joe Glennon and LB Justin Shaw. Neill leads the returners with 54 tackles and two interceptions from a season ago. Shaw and Ellebie tallied 49 and 45 tackles each, respectively. Ellebie is also the returning sack leader from a season ago.

The Titan special teams return three starters, including sophomore place kicker Justin Dahl, junior punter Jake Schnelbach (an All-PAC second-team honoree), and Sifontes-Lavine (an All-PAC second-team selection) who returned kickoffs and punts. Sifontes-Lavine led the PAC averaging 24.1 yards per kickoff return. Schnelbach was second in the conference averaging 37.6 net yards per punt in 2013, while his 1,805 yards punted ranked fourth. Siftones-Lavine returned two kicks for a touchdown last season. His 94-yard kickoff return stood only second in the PAC, while his 86-yard punt return was the longest in school history.

"We have six national championships and so much history," Benzel said. "I think just putting on the "W" and getting back to having a lot of pride in the program and being competitive is what we need to strive for. Our goal as a staff and as a team is to have a winning season."

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College is a top-tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 379 Colleges" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.

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