(STATS) - Saint Francis's long-struggling program has suddenly become the hunted in the Northeast Conference.
Not surprisingly, there's been a different feeling during spring practice, which concludes Saturday with the Red Flash's intrasquad game at DeGol Field in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Saint Francis followed up its first winning season in 23 years in 2015 with its first NEC title (a co-title with Duquesne) and FCS playoff appearance last year. The Red Flash finished 7-5 overall and 5-1 in conference games.
Although coach Chris Villiarrial's squad has 15 returning starters (eight on offense), this has been an important spring because the losses are significant, including three-year starting quarterback Zack Drayer and All-America safety/kickoff returner Lorenzo Jerome.
A long list of candidates are competing to fill the quarterback opening, led by redshirt sophomore Andrew Koester, last year's backup. Despite losing Jerome, the secondary returns two second-team All-NEC seniors, safety Delondo Boyd and cornerback Malik Duncan, and two-year starter Jalen Wells, a senior cornerback.
Saint Francis will begin the 2017 season by hosting Lock Haven on Sept. 2. A week later, the Red Flash will open their NEC schedule against Wagner.