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Saturday January 20 2018
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Small College Scene

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In western Pennsylvania, football is the sport that the natives follow most closely, and with two major programs, Pitt and Penn State, most of the attention is divided among the two of them.

There is however, a thriving subgroup of Division II and III programs that find themselves competing for support and attention as they strive for success at their level. While there are so many teams in the area, a few stand out as teams to watch in 2015.

Slippery Rock
The Rock won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championship last season before losing to conference foe West Chester in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. They return a combined 17 starters on both sides of the ball and look poised to defend their PSAC crown.

Led by reigning members of the all-conference first team in running back Shamar Greene (West Mifflin), right tackle Cory Tucker (South Park), as well as defensive end Marcus Martin (West Mifflin), they will be joined by Youngstown State transfer quarterback Dante Nania (Hempfield) and Pitt transfer Titus Howard (Clairton), both of whom are expected to start.

Washington & Jefferson
The Presidents finished the 2014 season 10-2 (7-1 PAC) before getting thumped in the second round of the Division III playoffs by Mount Union, 67Washington and Jefferson Ryan Ruffing-0. They nearly completed a perfect regular season before being upset by Waynesburg, 31-28 in overtime in the final game of the season.

They will be led by all-state junior running back Ryan Ruffing (Thomas Jefferson) as well as returning starting quarterback, junior Pete Coughlin (Upper St. Clair) who passed for 3,257 yards on a 65.47 completion percentage. They are in a prime position for Division III success as the wheels turn full speed ahead towards the 2015 season.

Ryan Ruffing, RB, Washington & Jefferson
Ruffing is heading into his junior season after a sophomore campaign in which he accumulated 1,937 yards from scrimmage (1,667 rushing), along with 29 touchdowns (25 rushing touchdowns). This was good enough for the TJ grad to earn All-State honors and make him a can’t-miss player in 2015.

The former WPIAL standout is listed at 6-1, 215-pounds, which is perfect for the type of hybrid skillset he has, a punishing physical running game along with the finesse and breakaway speed that really kicks into high-gear in the opening field. Ruffing gives opposing teams fits and could lead the Presidents deep into the postseason.
Duquesne Chris King
Chris King, WR, Duquesne
King finished the 2014 season with 68 receptions for 1,127 yards and 14 touchdowns. With Devin Rahming, the only other Dukes’ receiver with more than 500 receiving yards, having graduated, King could receive even more attention this fall. While that might make it difficult to replicate his 2014 totals, it could open up the offense for Dukes. One of King’s many accomplishments includes a leaping touchdown grab over a Buffalo defender in a game in 2014 that was featured on SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays.”

A first team All-NEC pick in 2014, King was second in the Northeast Conference and sixth in the country in touchdown receptions with 14 despite missing the season finale with an injury. His 1,127 receiving yards led the NEC, was 15th in the nation and was good for fourth best all-time in a season at Duquesne.

Garry Brown, WR, California University of Pennsylvania
Brown arrived, in a big way, in 2014 and finished season with as the PSAC’s most prolific receiver, raking in 62 receptions for 1,143 yards and eCalifornia PA Garry Brownight touchdowns. That was good enough to earn the Columbus native first team All-American honors. This came after a freshman year which saw him play sparingly while only accumulating 115 receiving yards on five receptions.

Brown was named a Don Hansen First-Team All-American last season after he led the Super Region One and ranked sixth in the country with 114.3 receiving yards per game. Brown totaled the highest single-game receiving total in NCAA Division II in 2014 with 282 yards at Mercyhurst, which broke Cal's single-game school record that had stood since 1968. 

The junior will come into the 2015 season poised to bolster his status as one of the best wide receivers in Division II.

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