Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Despite Lots of Youth, W&j Sets High Goals College Football

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Despite Lots of Youth, W&j Sets High Goals College Football

Article excerpt

One word can easily describe Washington & Jefferson College's 2014 football team -- young.

"This is the youngest football team we've had in the 12 years I've been head coach," said Washington & Jefferson coach Mike Sirianni, who ranks second among all NCAA coaches with an .808 winning percentage (101-24). "We're young, real young."

Sirianni has only 11 seniors on the Presidents 2014 preseason roster.

"We usually have 20 to 25 seniors," said Sirianni, who had 27 on last year's preseason roster. "We may be young, but potentially this could be a terrific team. I'm tired of hearing people say how good we can be in 2015. Our seniors don't care about how good we can be in 2015. We want to be good this year."

Twelve of the graduating seniors were recognized on the All- Presidents' Athletic Conference team, including six on the first team, as the Presidents tied for the PAC title for the second consecutive year.

The most notable losses were quarterback Matt Bliss, wide reciever Alex Baroffio and tailback Dion Wiegand.

Bliss threw for 2,089 yards and 18 touchdowns despite battling an injury all season. Baroffio caught 91 passes for 1,051 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wiegand rushed for 1,339 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.

"Obviously, we lost some great players who won some big games for us," said Sirianni, who must replace 11 starters, both return specialists, a place-kicker, and punter. "We play JV games for a reason. And we recruit big numbers for a reason.

"Our JV offense gets almost as many reps as our first-team offense in practice. We need them to step in and be our starters this year."

Upper St. Clair graduate Pete Coughlin (5-10, 175, Soph.) is expected to replace Bliss. Coughlin played in nine games last year and had the challenging task of replacing Bliss in the Presidents NCAA playoff game against Mount Union.

"Pete Coughlin is as talented a player as I've ever coached," Sirianni said. "But that doesn't mean he's going to be as good. He's a special type of player who only comes around once every 10 or 15 years. He reminds me a lot of [former W&J quarterback] Bobby Swallow. How good Pete will be is up to me, as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He has the attitude required to be successful quarterback."

Sirianni's wife got her first close-up glimpse of Coughlin at the hotel prior to W&J's playoff game against Mount Union.

"She told me Pete looks like he's 10-years old," Sirianni said. "I told her, I hope he doesn't play like he's 10."

Sirianni checked with Coughlin before the game to see if he needed any words of wisdom.

"He told me 'Coach, I played against Woodland Hills twice last year. I'm fine,'" Sirianni said. "I told him that Mount Union has more players in the NFL than Woodland Hills, but not by much. He handled the pressure very well."

Coughlin is the front-runner to replace Bliss, but he's not assured the position.

"Pete still has to win the starting spot," Sirianni said. "Kevin Mechas played at the end of the 2012 season. We also have freshman Alex Rowse (6-2, 190) coming in after leading the WPIAL in passing at Beaver. …

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