Diplomats Set for Title Defense - 2018 F&M Football Preview

Diplomats Set for Title Defense - 2018 F&M Football Preview

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LANCASTER, Pa. - Franklin & Marshall begins its inaugural full season in Shadek Stadium when the Diplomats host Lebanon Valley on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. The Diplomats return 34 letter winners, including 14 starters from last year's team that put together one the best seasons in program history. F&M won the Centennial Conference (CC) Championship last season with a 10-1 mark, 8-1 in Centennial Conference (CC) action, and closed out the year with a MAC-CC Bowl Championship after making the postseason for the sixth time in the previous nine seasons. With depth at every position, combined with a wealth of experience, the Diplomats are primed for another championship run this season. 

Click here to watch the season preview video with head coach John Troxell.

Below is a positional break down of the F&M roster. Click here to watch the video roster.

Offense

Quarterback
Key Returner: Tanner Erisman (Sr.)
It all starts with the quarterback and the Diplomats have one of the best in the Conference with three-year starter Tanner Erisman. An All-CC First Team selection, he finished last year first in the CC and 14th in the country with a 163.3 pass efficiency and added 28 passing touchdowns (20th), and 222 points responsible for (11th). He placed third in the CC with 2,538 passing yards after completing 196-of-301 passes.
 
Running Back
The biggest question on offense is who is going to start in the backfield. Sophomore Joe Hartley-Vittoria and junior Eric Harris should see a lot snaps this season. The pair along with first year Keshon Farmer will help make up for the production lost by the graduating of Taalib Gerald.
 
Wide Receiver
Key Returners: K.J. Pretty (Sr.), Kevin Lammers (Jr.), Timothy Walter (So.)
An All-CC First Team selection, senior K.J. Pretty headlines the wide receiver group. His 109.4 receiving yards per game and 14 touchdowns led the Conference while also ranking 17th and 15th nationally in those categories, respectively. Junior Kevin Lammers and sophomore Timothy Walter will start at the other wideout spots. Lammers hauled in 21 passes last season while Walter appeared in nine contests. Sophomore Brendan Dearing and first year Mack Focht will rotate in as well.
 
Offensive Line
Key Returners: Brandon Lowe (Sr.), Brian Denoncour (Jr.), Phillip Weiser (Jr.), Tim Fink (Jr.)
Four return up front on the offensive line led by junior Brian Denoncour, an All-CC First Teamer, who graded out at 90 percent with 30 knockdowns at left tackle. Also returning is junior left guard Phillip Weiser, senior center Brandon Lowe, and right tackle junior Tim Fink, who paved the way for 1,656 rushing yards and helped the offense rack up 392 yards per game last season. Sophomore Jordan Sellers moves into the starting spot at right guard and sophomore Mike Ioannides will see a lot of action as the sixth offensive linemen in the rotation.
 
Tight End
Key Returners: Tyler Schubert (Sr.), Jake Barr (So.)
Senior Tyler Schubert will take a more significant role in the offense this year after seeing action in 10 games. He will be joined by sophomore Jake Barr who participated in 10 games a year ago.
 
Defense
 
Defensive Line
Key Returners: Joe Granahan (Sr.), Brendan Kilkenny (Sr.), Kevin Gault (Jr.), Thomas Hourican (Sr.), Vincent Ciavardelli (Sr.), Frank McGlinchey (Jr.), Jackson Hale (Jr.)

F&M's strength this season is the depth on the defensive line. Headlining the group is the CC Defensive Player of the Year, senior Joe Granahan. Granahan became just the second F&M player to win Defensive Player of the Year, following Jack Savage '89. He led the Conference in sacks with 14 and finished third in tackles for a loss at 15.5. Granahan had 49 tackles (36s) last season with three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and an interception.
 
Senior Brendan Kilkenny recorded 12 tackles, including seven solo stops last season. He also tallied one sack and 4.5 tackles for a loss and earned a spot on the All-CC Second Team. Junior Kevin Gault looks to improve on his 17 tackles, and Thomas Hourican played in all 11 games last season. Senior Vincent Ciavardelli returns for his fourth year after recording three tackles last year and one tackle for a loss. Junior Frank McGlinchey played in all 11 games last season, tallying 20 tackles. Jackson Hale, a junior, will also rotate in after competing in every game last season, recording 20 tackles and two sacks.
 
Sophomore Dom Bertone moves up to the defensive line from the linebacker unit to add more depth to the position.
 
Linebacker
Key Returners: Vincent Speranza (Sr.) Bobby McDevitt (Sr.), Dylan Jones (Sr.) Sebastian Silva-Muniz (Jr.),
 
An All-CC First Team selection, senior Vincent Speranza returns at linebacker. He was one of just three players to be named a unanimous first-team selection last season, after finishing the year with 29 tackles (18s) with 9.5 tackles for a loss, including 4.5 sacks from his outside linebacker spot.
 
Senior Bobby McDevitt, an All-CC Second Team member, ended last season with 37 tackles (24s) and six tackles for a loss, including two sacks from his inside linebacker spot. Junior Sebastian Silva-Muniz finished seventh on the team in total tackles with 28 (21s) even after missing two games last year. Senior Dylan Jones averaged 2.3 tackles across all 11 games for a total of 25 (15s) on the year. He notched 4.5 sacks and six tackles for a loss. 
 
Cornerback
Key Returners: Stephon Smith (Sr.), Mekhi Holley (So.)
 
Senior Stephon Smith will start at corner after he tallied 11 tackles, nine solo last season, and broke up two passes. He will be joined by sophomore Mekhi Holley, who ended last season with 11 tackles and one pass breakup.
 
Safety
Key Returners: Stevie Gerovasilis (Sr.), K.J. Boston (Jr.), Marlen Fenstermacher (Jr.), Shawn Levondosky (So.)
 
F&M has a strong group of players who saw significant time in the secondary returning from last season. Senior Stevie Gerovasilis finished ninth on the team with 22 tackles, including 18 solo, while junior K.J. Boston notched 21 tackles last year and recorded a 90-yard pick six in last season's opener against LVC. Junior Marlen Fenstermacher notched 16 solo tackles and three broken up passes last season, Shawn Levondosky played in 10 games his first season, tallying six tackles. Sophomore Nick Leone will add to the depth at the position.
 
Specialist
Key Returners: Ret. – Kevin Lammers (Jr.), P – Garrett Perschy (So.), KO/FG – Drew Tomlinson (Jr.)
Junior Kevin Lammers received All-CC Honorable Mention last season after he returned 14 kickoffs and averaged 19.8 yards a return and 8.5 yards on 17 punt returns. Sophomore Garrett Perschy punted for 1,557 yards in 46 attempts for an average of 33.8 yards last season and placed 19 of them behind the 20. Junior kicker Drew Tomlinson finished fourth in the CC in field-goal percentage after going 7-for-9 last season and tallied a long of 31 yards.

The Road Ahead

The Diplomats' inaugural season-opener in Shadek Stadium is slated for Saturday, Sept. 1 against Lebanon Valley at 1:00 p.m. F&M's CC opener is set for the following weekend when F&M travels to Juniata on Saturday, Sept. 8. Homecoming and Family Weekend features the Diplomats battling Moravian in Lancaster at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27.

The regular season draws to a close on Saturday, Nov. 10 when F&M heads to Gettysburg for the annual Lincoln Trophy game at 1:00 p.m.

A continued feature to this year's schedule is the "Add to Calendar" button, which allows fans to sync new events and updates directly in their Google, Exchange, Yahoo, Outlook, iCal and additional calendars.

Centennial Conference Digital Network

The Centennial Conference announced a partnership with Stretch Internet to become the conference's digital network provider and establish a central location for all CC athletic events. Broadcasts that are present in the Stretch portal are exclusively produced by each of the 11-member institutions of the conference.

In addition to its Roku channel, the Conference will have three new over-the-top (OTT) applications to make broadcasts available – Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Android TV. Home broadcasts that are produced by all 11 members will be available on CentennialConference.TV and the OTT apps.

All 10 regular season football games will be available for free on the four OTT apps through the Centennial Conference Digital Network.

Follow Along (Social Media)

All of your favorite Diplomat athletic teams are available on social media. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram, like them on Facebook and subscribe to the Diplomats YouTube page for frequent highlight videos of games throughout the season.

All home contests are streamed in HD video, free of charge at GoDiplomats.com/Live. Fans can also follow the action through the live stats page, found here.