(LATROBE, Pa.) – The Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) held its annual football media day on Thursday, August 2, where the Carnegie Mellon University football team was selected to finish fourth in the 2018 PAC preseason poll with 220 points while collecting one first-place vote. Media day was held at the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Center on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Washington & Jefferson College garnered 19 first-place votes and a total of 289 points to headline this year's preseason poll. Case Western Reserve University was second with eight first-place votes and 265 points, followed by Westminster College in third place with 234 points and two first-place tallies,
Joining 33-year Tartan head coach Rich Lackner was senior cornerback Ethan Anderson (McMurray, Pa./Peters Township). Lackner along with Anderson participated in a question and answer session with the other nine PAC schools that sponsor football.
Lackner spoke about the loss of the program's all-time leading rusher and receiver in Sam Benger and John Prather and how the team will adapt with the two graduating.
"Sam [Benger] and Johnny [Prather] were great players for us," said Lackner. "I played for a guy named Chuck Klausing at Carnegie Mellon; a guy that is in the College Football Hall of Fame. He said to me as a young coach, 'You know Rich, just when these guys get good they have to go and graduate on you.'"
"That's part of the game," added Lackner. "Sam and Johnny certainly are going to be missed but my staff and I didn't suddenly get lazy. We have recruited good players over the last couple of years and we have a good group of kids coming in this year. There is going to be good competition to replace those guys."
Anderson is the top returning tackler for the Tartans. The senior posted career numbers a year ago with 63 tackles, 47 solo, while recovering four fumbles, which was tied for the PAC lead. He appeared in all 11 games and tallied 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
When asked about his role for the team this year, Anderson replied, "It was a huge honor to be elected a captain. It was something I really never thought was going to be possible coming in as a freshman but through hard work it ended up working out for me."
"I have tried to take advantage of the many leadership sessions that our school [Carnegie Mellon] has offered, such as when Alejandro Villanueva spoke to us about difficult decision making and leadership roles," added Anderson. "I think leadership is very important and I find my role to be persistent and upbeat."
Anderson will be joined with two other returning junior starters on the defensive side, both of whom where All-PAC honorable mention honorees a year ago; cornerback Anthony Kennon (Lancaster, Mass./Nashoba Regional) and defensive lineman Michael Lohmeier (Clarendon Hills, Ill./Hinsdale Central). Lohmeier, who started all 11 games last season, led the team with 6.0 sacks, 9.0 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. Kennon, who also started every game a year ago, ended 2017 with 33 stops, 22 solos, and seven passes defended, including his first career interception.
Four other Tartans, senior outside linebacker Quinn Zsido (New Windsor, N.Y./Cornwall Central), junior inside linebacker Darian Cohen (West Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany), junior safety Parker Mellott (Ijamsville, Md./Urbana) and sophomore defensive lineman Sam Brod (Austin, Texas/Vandegrift), saw significant playing time a year ago for the defense. Zsido, Cohen and Brod appeared in every game while Mellott saw action in 10 games. In addition, returning after sitting out a year ago with a medical redshirt is senior defensive lineman Long Tran (Harrisburg, Pa./Susquehanna Township). Tran saw action in all 11 games his sophomore season.
Offensively, senior quarterback Alex Cline (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Jerome) returns after appearing in 27 games for his career with 17 starts. Cline finished his junior campaign throwing for 2,336 yards and 24 touchdowns, breaking the schools single-season passing record and finishing second in a single-season in touchdown tosses. The signal caller will enter 2018 needing 1,155 yards and 16 touchdowns to become the school's all-time career leader in both.
Joining Cline on the offensive side is senior H-back Karl-Mark Kumm (Brick, N.J./Brick Township) along with four offensive lineman that saw starts in 2018; seniors Ben Almack (Westfield, Ind./St. Theodore Guerin) and Damola Orimolade (Potomac, Md./Bullis School), along with junior Joe Levy (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) and freshman Bram Miller (Colgate, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran). In 2017, Kumm recorded 13 receptions for 193 yards and four touchdowns. Senior tight end Alex Miller (Houston, Texas/Second Baptist) also returns after playing in 10 games and earning his second straight All-PAC honor a year ago.
Junior returner Willie Richter (Leander, Texas/Cedar Park) returns to lead the special teams for the Tartans. Richter, a first team All-PAC honoree in 2017, had a combined 816 return yards and ranked eighth nationally. He averaged 14.2 yards per punt return, which ranked 11th nationally. Richter returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown in the Tartans' win over Rochester, as it was the second longest punt return for a touchdown in program history. Senior running back and returner Rory Hubbard (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif./Palos Verdes Peninsula) will play a factor in the Tartans offense and special teams in 2018. Hubbard, the leading returning rusher, finished with 286 yards and three touchdowns while recording 11 receptions for 68 yards. He totaled 417 return yards on 15 attempts with a 92-yard touchdown against Geneva.
Carnegie Mellon will open its 2018 season on Saturday, September 8, with a road contest against University of Rochester. Kickoff is set for 12:00 p.m. The Tartans first PAC contest will take place at nationally ranked Washington & Jefferson College on Saturday, September 15.
2018 PAC Preseason Poll:
1. Washington & Jefferson (19 first-place votes): 289 points
2. Case Western Reserve (8): 265 points
3. Westminster (2): 234 points
4. Carnegie Mellon (1): 220 points
5. Grove City: 163 points
6. Geneva: 141 points
7. Saint Vincent: 101 points
8. Bethany: 97 points
9. Waynesburg: 87 points
10. Thiel: 53 points