W&J improves depth with football recruiting class

June 16, 2014
Mike Sirianni

Mike Sirianni went into the recruiting season hoping to find a running back, add some depth at quarterback and offensive line and bulk up the receiving corps.

The head football coach at Washington & Jefferson College believes he accomplished those things with a recruiting class that includes Trevor Morrow, a running back from Upper St. Clair; Matt Heslin, a quarterback at Fort Cherry; Alex Rowse, a quarterback from Beaver; and Cody Hearst, a wide receiver from Clarion High School.

“We recruited kids who fit our academic profile, had good character and who we wanted to be on our football team,” said Sirianni. “This is the best recruiting class I had.”

Morrow has a chance to step in for the graduated Dion Wiegand, who rushed for 1,339 yards and scored 20 touchdowns while helping W&J share the Presidents’ Athletic Conference title with Thomas More and earn the automatic playoff bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs. W&J fell to Mount Union, 34-20, in the first round of the playoffs.

Morrow rushed for 1,097 yards on 162 carries (6.8-yard average) during the Panthers’ run to the WPIAL semifinals. Morrow scored 18 touchdowns and gained the bulk of his yardage – 604 of the 1,097 – over the final four games as USC finished with an 11-1 record after a 28-21 loss to Woodland Hills.

Heslin quarterbacked a high-powered offense at Fort Cherry, completing 80 of 148 passes (54 percent) for 1,638 yards, 33 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Rowse completed 177 of 297 passes (59 percent) for 2,131 yards, 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions. They will push incumbent Pete Coughlin, who stepped in for an injured Matt Bliss and played well with 58 completions in 100 passes, for 584 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

“Rowse has good size, 6-3,” Sirianni said. “He can throw the football and so can Matt.”

Hearst (5-11, 165) caught 63 passes for 1,285 yards and 12 touchdowns for Clarion last season and left with 96 catches for 2,621 yards and 21 TDs. Tanner Stull (6-0, 185) who was used as a running back at Somerset High School, gaining 1,678 yards and scoring 19 times, will be moved to receiver. W&J lost Alex Baraffio, who had 91 receptions for 1,051 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and Dan Lucas to graduation.

Ryan Bush (6-1, 242) of Chartiers Valley is one of the larger offensive linemen in a class that includes Charleroi’s Chase McKevitt (5-8, 242) and Bethel Park’s Matt Dunlap (5-7, 200).

“We improved out depth,” said Sirianni. “We concentrate on building ours every year. One of the reason we are on the rise is because of our offensive line.”

Defensively, Zach Walker (5-11, 210) of South Fayette will battle for a starting linebacker job, and Justice Tartt (6-2, 236) of Monessen has potential to play along the defensive front.

“We had a good spring,” Sirianni said. “We want to hit the ground running in August.”

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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