By Jordan Nicewarner, Panhandle News Network Sports

The last decade of Shepherd Rams Football has been one that Rams Fans haven’t taken for granted. In that time, more talent and success have come through the doors of Boone Field House than some colleges have seen in their program’s history.

With that being said, with this year’s edition of Rams Football, fans have more questions than answers for the first time in a long time.

Who’s going to replace Brian Walker? Who’s going to replace Ronnie Brown? Joey Fisher? Who will be taking over from the best collegiate quarterback of all time? Will Team 94 be able to live up to the teams of the past? Buckle up for a deep dive into the 2023 Shepherd Rams Football Team.

First things first, offense.

Shepherd’s losses on offense haven’t gone unnoticed. Losing Tyson Bagent, Ronnie Brown, Joey Fisher, and Adam Stilley, among others, has been an area of concern for Rams fans. On OLine, Shepherd returns three key pieces that will carry the load. Chandler Brown, Wyatt Pelicano, and Ty Lucas will have to sure up a OLine against PSAC Defenses that think they finally have a chance to beat up a Rams offense. Taking over for Stilley at center will be James Bell, who saw limited time at the position last season.

The running back battle at Rams Camp has been a fun one to watch. With Ronnie Brown now gone, there are three RBs looking for carries. This, on paper, could be one of the more explosive backfields the Rams have had for a long time. The three backs in the group, Nazhir Russell, Malakai Brown (mainly used at WR last season), and Jordan Barnett all have slightly different styles than the next, which gives Head Coach Ernie McCook and new Offensive Coordinator plenty of options. Look for Russell to be the starter and main back. When Russell needs a break or if the offense needs a little more of a passing threat, you’ll see Brown hop into the backfield. Once the Rams are in the red zone, watch for the Southern Utah transfer 6’ 225lbs Barnett to jam the ball across the goal line.

The wide receiver room lost a big piece in Marlon Cook, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of talent ready to take the field. Rodney Dorsey will be the big returning name from last season where he finished with 487 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Joining Dorsey out wide will be WV State transfer and big-play threat Barry Hill. At WVSU last season, Hill compiled 590 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns and averaged 19 yards per catch.

Who will be taking over for the best college quarterback of all time? That looks to be the VMI Transfer Seth Morgan. The rumors are that the Rams won’t be able to score as much as fans expect, but with the guys aforementioned, I think Morgan can run this team as productively as ever. The 6’3” Jr transfer looks like a top-tier college QB in the pocket with a strong pocket presence and a big arm. One thing that will be seen once SCSU comes to Shepherdstown on Sept. 2nd, is how well Morgan can run. He is not advertised as a running QB, but as Rams and PSAC fans know, you need to have a QB who can escape a pocket and strong defensive fronts. Morgan showed flashes of that gun-slinger style of play we come to expect from Shepherd quarterbacks in the spring game and in the Media Day scrimmage but struggled at times to escape the pass rush. As for the rest of the quarterback room, R-Sophmore Lek Powell has separated himself as the number 2. Powell may not be the biggest quarterback the Rams have had at 6’0” 170lbs, but he is quick, can take a hit, and can make the decisions downfield.

On to what could potentially be the best defense in Shepherd history. Led by Sr LB Dewayne Grantham, what was the fast but undersized defense of 2022 is now the fast a big defense of 2023. Grantham is the main returner and will be the leader on the defensive side of the ball. He led the team last season with 52 solo tackles and can play almost every position on the defense. He missed the 2022 NCAA D2 Semi-Final against Colorado School of Mines due to a hand injury and was replaced by JT Kouame-Yao who looked to have put on significant size and muscle to flank Grantham in 2023. Malik Halloway will be the juggernaut on the DLine for the Rams. Last year, Halloway finished with 24 tackles, 6 sacks, and 10 tackles for loss. His mix of size and speed make him a terror for opposing Olines. The interior DLine for Shepherd will be Matt Bednarski, Nathan Muhle, and Jack Baxter. Muhle will be able to be placed anywhere on the line and the three combined create a mix of speed and strength at the point of attack that PSAC OLines will have to compensate for, which will then open lanes for the linebackers. The real speed on defense is within the defensive backs. Omari Terry, Donte Harrison, Derick Adames, Keyser Samuel, Christian McDowell, and Enelio Pena will once again be ball hawks. Last season, the Rams defense accounted for 18 interceptions and is poised for a huge 2023.

Team 94 comes into 2023 with a lot of expectations and questions. But if there is one thing for sure, Shepherd Rams Head Coach Ernie McCook will have this team ready for battle on September 2nd.

Tune in to every Rams Football game on your Radio Home for Rams Football, 95.9 The Big Dawg starting September 2nd at 11 a.m. and listen every Thursday to the Ernie McCook Show Live from Capitan Benders Tavern starting at 7:30 p.m.