#41 Sacred Heart FCS Football 2014 Preview

Sacred Heart Pioneers

Overall Rank: #41
#1 NEC
#41 Sacred Heart FCS Football 2014 Preview
Sacred Heart Team Page


The expectations were pretty much non-existent for Sacred Heart last season. What they ended up doing instead was winning the Northeast Conference title and making their first ever playoff appearance. Once there, the Pioneers did not just fold over either. They gave Fordham a very good game and ended up losing 37-27. The goal this year is to make it back to the playoffs by winning another NEC title.

2013 Record: 10-3, 4-2
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Mark Nofri (12-11 at Sacred Heart, 12-11 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kevin Bolis
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Wissman

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Keshaudas Spence, RB, 1,669 yards
Passing: R.J. Noel, QB, 2,203 yards
Receiving: Tyler Dube, WR, 869 yards
Tackles: Kellen Sperduto, LB, 110
Sacks: Troy Moore, DL, 8.5
Interceptions: J.D. Roussell, DB, 7

Other Key Returnees: RB Sean Bell, WR Moses Webb, OL Jamie Martinez, S Gordon Hill, LB James Rentz, S Dennis Regan, DL Connor Caveney, LB Ryan Cottrell, K Chris Rogers

Key Losses: WR Greg Moore, LB Matt Colucci, OL Paul Link, DE Ray Hodgson

When the ball is on the ground, there are not many teams better than Sacred Heart. Defensively, the Pioneers ranked ninth in the FCS, allowing just 111.6 yards per game on the ground. It starts up front where Troy Moore tallied 63 tackles, including 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles-for-loss. Connor Caveney and Cameron Ziny are ready to step up and offset the loss of Ray Hodgson. At linebacker, Kellen Sperduto is a tackling machine. He led the team with 112 tackles, but he does not sit back and wait for the ball carrier to get to him; Sperduto totaled an impressive 20.5 tackles-for-loss and led the team with a dozen quarterback hurries. James Rentz, who picked off four passes, will again join Sperduto in the middle of the defense. On the other side of the ball Keshaudas Spence is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,669 yards. And he was playing his best football at the end of the season so the expectations are getting even higher. Senior Sean Bell is a capable backup to Spence, but this is Spence’s year to shine. Quarterback RJ Noel can do damage with his feet too. He rushed for 689 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.

Noel is not a horrible passer and this is a team that just needs to pass enough to open up the run game. However, Noel did complete just 51.7 percent of his pass attempts and consistency has been an issue. His 23 touchdowns to nine interceptions is a good enough number to keep the opposition off balance, but boosting that pass completion percentage up to something closer to 60 will go a long way. The return of top receiver Tyler Dube should help. The defensive weakness comes in the secondary, where the pass defense ranked sixth in the seven team conference. The secondary does return safeties Gordon Hill and Dennis Regan and cornerbacks J.D. Roussell and Stephan Thomas, so there is plenty of hope that the unit will improve. Hill was the team’s second leading tackler in 2013 and Regan intercepted four passes. Roussell is one of the best cornerbacks in the NEC and intercepted seven passes as a junior.

The Bottom Line:
The theme last year was turnovers. Sacred Heart picked off 23 passes and recovered 16 fumbles and Noel did a pretty good job of taking care of the ball. In the end, the Pioneers had the best turnover margin in all of the FCS. That is not an easy feat to duplicate, but it is why they won the NEC. This is a talented and experienced team, yet the wide open NEC will likely be decided by a key mistake or two.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 236.7 (13th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 170.5 (94, 5)
Total Offense: 407.2 (44, 1)
Scoring Offense: 34.6 (22, 1)
Rushing Defense: 111.6 (9, 1)
Pass Defense: 220.3 (58, 6)
Total Defense: 331.9 (18, 3)
Scoring Defense: 21.3 (14, 1)
Turnover Margin: 1.50 (1, 1)
Sacks: 3.23 (8, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 0.77 (7, 2)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#35 Michael Whalen


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