Last year, Joey Koroly was one of the best running backs on the football team at Washington & Jefferson College.
He probably could have started for any of the teams in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference but was used mostly as a reserve running back by W&J.
Koroly, a graduate of Trinity High School, will be starting this year, just not where you might think he would.
W&J coach Mike Sirianni has moved the sophomore to the secondary, where he will start at either cornerback or safety.
He also will be used as a running back when needed and again be one of the main return guys.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Koroly. “I played strong safety in the spring. I want to help the team any way I can. As long as I play, that’s all that matters.”
Koroly averaged 5.7 yards per carry and showed he had the ability to be the starting tailback in W&J’s high-powered offense. Sirianni wants to take advantage of Koroly’s 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash.
“If they move me back to running back next year, that would be awesome,” Koroly said. “Learning the offense and defense will help me. I’ll know (defensive alignments) if I move back to offense.”
The problem for Koroly is that senior Jordan West, a Washington High School graduate, and junior EJ Thompson combined to rush for nearly 2,000 yards and score 21 touchdowns last season. They each averaged 5.8 yards per carry as the Presidents rolled up 2,044 rushing yards in Sirianni’s high-octane offense.
“We’ve got to get Joey Koroly on the field,” said Sirianni. “So we moved him to the secondary. We’ll see what we have. He had a great spring there. We feel really good about our secondary. We’re still going to play Joey at running back and let him get his hands on the ball. He was our third running back last year and our first two running backs are both back.
“It’s not that Joey couldn’t beat them out. He could. When you have the luxury of three really good players, you have to get him on the field. You have to say, ‘Who are your best 22 players?’ … He might be one of our 10 best players. We’re not moving him to the secondary to be a backup. Whether it’s corner or safety, he’s going to start. And we’re going to try to get his hands on the football. It’s a good problem to have.”
The Presidents lost a few key pieces at wide receiver, including Jake Cullen, who excelled at blocking as well as catching the football.
But Andrew Wolf returns and that’s a comforting thought for quarterback Jake Adams. Wolf led the team with 79 catches for 1,339 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“His numbers might not be that good because people are going to double team him,” Sirianni said. “Case Western did it and Jordan West went off. He’s going to be a better football player. I’ve seen how hard he works out and he plays with a chip on his shoulder.”
With Wolf returning, not only does that make the passing game as dangerous as before, but it should open up the running game. Last season, the Presidents had a near 50-50 mix of rushing yards and passing yards.
Adams, the latest in a long line of outstanding quarterbacks in this program, heads into his senior season after completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,388 yards and 33 touchdowns.
On defense, W&J lost its leading tackler in Zac Quattrone. The defensive back had 68 tackles and six interceptions.
Along with inserting Koroly into the secondary, Sirianni said senior Nick Getz is moving from inside linebacker to outside linebacker and junior Max Garda from outside linebacker to safety, their natural positions. Getz and Garda each had 66 tackles to tie for second on the team, and each had two quarterback sacks.
“We have some good new guys that allows us to do that,” said Sirianni.
Senior Mike Williams and his team-leading 7.5 sacks returns to anchor the defensive line.
W&J finished last season with a 9-2 record and won another Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship. But the season ended on a sour note, a 54-13 loss to Centre in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
“I don’t think we get enough credit for winning the conference last year,” said Sirianni. “We lost a ton of players going into that season. ... We feel we are the team to beat and we were embarrassed by the way we represented the conference last year in the NCAA playoffs.”