Five things to watch this spring about St. Joseph football
By bY CLAY WHITTINGTON - CWHITTINGTON@VICAD.COM
May 18, 2012 at 12:18 a.m.
Updated May 19, 2012 at 12:19 a.m.
St. Joseph will not play a spring game, but that does not mean the team is not already working toward the upcoming season.
Following a disappointing 1-9 campaign in 2011, there is virtually nowhere for the Flyers to go but up.
Here are five storylines to follow for St. Joseph football this spring:
• After being one of the smallest TAPPS Division I schools, realignment sent St. Joseph to Division II. While the move does not magically make the Flyers any better, it levels the playing field, allowing St. Joseph to compete against schools of comparable size. In previous seasons, numerous opponents had the luxury of using players exclusively on one side of the ball, while many Flyers were forced to both ways. The effect was often seen late in games as St. Joseph players would wear down due to the added workload.
• Entering his senior season, quarterback Eric Alvarez will be extpected to take complete control of the offense after spending much of his junior year adjusting to the role inherited from Ryan Longoria. The maturation process will be key to the Flyers' offensive success as the dual-threat quarterback will be responsible for producing a large number of yards each week. And, this year, Alvarez will be without playmakers such as Patrick Sohrt, Dean Vanek and Kion Wells. In addition to carrying the team on the field, Alvarez will be expected to develop his leadership skills as well.
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• Due to graduation, the Flyers have several holes to fill on the depth chart, but, overall, St. Joseph is a young team with 20 players returning from last season. While last season might not have been the most successful, it allowed players to become seasoned in the system and the familiarity should pay off. By the same token, players will have to step up and fill the voids, whether they are ready or not.
• The Flyers switched to a 3-4 defensive scheme last year, and there were a lot of growing pains involved during its installation, which was apparent on the scoreboard. With a better comprehension of the system, St. Josepeh should play more aggressively in the upcoming season. Head coach Donnie Slatter knows adjustments and tweaks will have to madethroughout the season, but the ground work has been established and the players' understanding of the system should be light years ahead of where it was entering the 2011 season.
Control the game
• The Flyers shot themselves in the foot repeatedly last year by not taking care of the football.St. Joseph was able to put together lengthy drives at times, but key mistakes, fumbles in particular, would routinely doom drives. Also prone to mental mistakes, the Flyers need to eliminate game-changing penalties, like holding infractions that turn third-and-1 conversions into third-and-11 desperation situations. A better overall understanding of game management will be critical if the team wants to reemerge as a playoff contender.