Coming off of its best season since 2010, the Robert Morris football team begins a new season with a lot of unfamiliarities lying in wait. Their addition to the Big South as an associate member means that Bernard Clark’s squad must adjust to a new conference while playing during a different time of the year and navigating through a shorter schedule than normal.
Three of the four teams the Colonials match up against were among the Big South’s best. Monmouth, Charleston Southern and Kennesaw State made up the conference’s top three last season, and finished with a combined conference record of 15-3. Gardner-Webb, the final conference foe on RMU’s slate, finished just 1-5 in Big South play and could be the most vulnerable opponent on the Colonials’ schedule this year.
Outside of its conference schedule, RMU faces a nationally ranked FCS powerhouse in James Madison. Just a few short years ago, JMU dismantled Robert Morris 73-7, a loss that still lingers in the mind of Bernard Clark
Just last week, the Dukes clobbered Morehead State 53-0 to start their spring campaign. The offense clicked, especially on the ground, carving through the Eagles’ defense and logging 369 rushing yards in the process. Defensively, JMU allowed just 98 total yards.
Avenging that loss might be a tall task, but competing against Big South competition might not be as far fetched. Departures might hinder Robert Morris, to an extent, due to frequent targets Matthew Gonzalez, DeLano Madison and Tim Vecchio leaving due to graduation. In the place of the team’s former targets are a slew of transfers that bring some serious collegiate experience.
Daevon Robinson is, perhaps, the biggest addition on offense. The junior saw brief playing time with Rutgers in 2019 before heading to Moon Township. He has a big six-foot-three, 225 lbs frame. D’Andre Hicks also joins the roster from McNeese State, and Marcus Ademilola comes over from Bucknell after missing his last two seasons with the Bison due to injury.
In the backfield, Alijah Jackson could pace the offense after a big season in 2019. Jackson finished second in the NEC with 971 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He averaged over five yards per carry and his longest run of the year went for 80 yards.
The offense also returns quarterback George Martin. After finishing last season with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions, the redshirt junior needs to come into his own for RMU to find success this year. Clark was not afraid to utilize backup quarterback Caleb Lewis when the offense stalled last season, but his graduation doesn’t necessarily mean that Martin is safe from the occasional benching going forward. There are still five other quarterbacks rostered, meaning that Martin needs to show maturity in his decision making now that he has the experience under his belt.
Playmakers like Heavon Price and Mason Gray are now out of the Colonials’ secondary, but the defense brings back some pieces that were crucial to the team’s success last season. Defensive back Tavin Harville looks to show that he can lead the secondary and build on his 44 tackles and three interceptions. He has the benefit of having safety Jacob White on the field too. White placed 11th in tackles in the NEC last season with 81. The top defensive player in RMU’s former conference returns for his junior season alongside White. Aniello Buzzacco looks to translate his success over to this season after picking up 131 total tackles in 2019. Brady Ours looks to aid him at the linebacker position and help lock down opposing defenses throughout the year.
The veteran experience mixed with new blood could allow RMU to find its stride in this short season. That season begins this Saturday at noon with a battle with # 2 James Madison.