As we countdown to the opening kickoff of the 2014 football season on Sept. 6, The Mack Report will preview the Warriors position-by-position. Click here to read our other position-by-position previews.
NORTH ANDOVER – Merrimack College head coach Dan Curran has invested a huge chunk of his recruiting dollars in revamping his team’s defense over the last two years, and the fruits of the labor are starting to show.
The Warriors secondary is not only strong, but quite deep. James Flores returns for his senior season after starting all 11 games last season and Jared Mincey, who emerged as one of the top young players in the league last season, also returns as a sophomore after making 60 tackles and picking off three passes last season as a freshman.
In addition, the Warriors return Ervin Johnson, who was a starter two seasons ago but missed all of last season.
One new name of interest is Gabe Dansereau, a 6-foot, 235-pounder that is built more like a linebacker than a defensive back; he was recruited by several Division I schools.
There are plenty of other highly-recruited talent in the secondary that will be looking for the change to break out. Of the 17 players listed a defensive backs on the roster, 13 are either freshmen or sophomores.
Total Players: 17
Class Breakdown: Seniors (2), Juniors (2), Sophomores (6), Freshmen (7)
Returning Starters: 2
Coach Quote: “We poured a lot of money and a lot of time into recruiting on defense, and I think you’re finally going to start to see some of those results this year. We have a lot of guys (in the secondary) that play. There’s a lot of competition going on for playing time and again, like I said before, I really have to give a lot of credit to Coach (Mike) Gennetti, he’s the man on defense. He runs that defense and he finally told our guys, ‘Enough is enough, it’s time we start to play Merrimack football on defense,’ and he instituted it and they’ve all bought into it.
“I can tell, just from practice, that as a group we’re much improved on defense. Maybe in some years we’d be out there and Joe (Clancy) would be able to pick through some holes on our D in practice. There aren’t holes anymore, they’re filled.”
#48 James Flores, Sr., 6-0, 190
Started all 11 games last season as a junior, recording 25 tackles and led the team in interceptions with four. Flores has been a steady contributor since his rookie season, when he appeared in eight games as a freshman. He also played in eight games as a sophomore before locking down a starting role last season.
#24 Ervin Johnson, Sr., 6-2, 220
Johnson is looking to reclaim a starting role after missing all of last season. In 2012, after transferring from Old Dominion, he started nine games and made 51 tackles, finishing tied for third on the team with three interceptions.
#26 Michael Juice, Jr., 5-7, 165
Juice appeared in two games last season after coming to Merrimack from Saint Clement High School, where he filled a number of different roles, including rushing for 870 yards in just seven games.
#38 Leighton Dennis, Jr., 5-11, 180
Dennis is an intriguing player. He appeared in seven games for Villanova (Division I FCS) in 2010, recording three tackles. In 2012 he was at ASA College, a junior college in New York, where he appeared in seven games. He’s moved around a bit, but if he can find some stability at Merrimack, he could turn into quite the steal.
#28 Brian Carroll, So., 5-11, 180
The Lincoln-Sudbury grad appeared in two games as a freshman last season. At L-S, he was a Boston Globe and Boston Herald All Star and was a two-time Dual County League All Star.
#22 Matt Clifford, So., 5-10, 180
Clifford appeared in eight games as a true freshman last fall, totaling five tackles. Clifford was a standout back at Billerica High School prior to joining the Warriors.
#36 Devonte Jones, So., 6-0, 218
Jones is a transfer from ASA College, a junior college in New York, where last year he helped the team to a 10-1 record. Jones participated in last season’s Carrier Dome Bowl Game and as a senior at Mt. St. Joseph High School the prior season, wrapped up his career as a four-year starter with an invite to the U.S. Army All-American Combine.
#21 Leaon Gordon, So., 5-11, 195
Gordon saw action in all 11 games last season, carving out a niche on special teams where he finished with 13 tackles.
#32 Jared Mincey, So, 5-9, 170
Mincey emerged as one of the league’s brightest young stars last season, earning a spot on the Northeast-10 All-Conference Rookie Team. He started in all 11 games for Merrimack, making 60 tackles and picking off three passes. He was recruited heavily out of high school by Duquesne, Albany, Marist, Stonehill and Assumption.
#8 Shamik Perry, So., 5-11, 205
Perry appeared in one game last season for the Warriors and was heavily recruited out by Duval High School in Maryland. A prolific rusher, he was also recruited by Maryland, Rutgers, Ohio, Stony Brook, Towson and Youngstown State.
#37 Dan Cardillo, Fr., 5-10, 180
After playing at Wakefield High School, Cardillo prepped at Bridgton Academy last season, where he led the team in interceptions.
#50 Gabe Dansereau, Fr., 6-0, 235
A hulking figure for a DB – at 6-foot, 235 pounds, he has the number and makeup of a linebacker – Dansereau was also recruited by several Division I FCS schools out of Montreal, including Yale, UMass, Marist, Valparaiso, and NE-10 foes Stonehill and Assumption. He played at Trinity Pawling, where he was the team’s Defensive MVP for two years and also led the league in sacks for two seasons.
#29 Terrell Huff, Fr., 5-11, 195
Huff was named a Rivals 2 Star Athlete Award Winner at Windsor High School in Connecticut. He was also recruited by Central Connecticut, AIC, Sacred Heart, Assumption and Stonehill.
#31 Oladiran Isijola, Fr., 6-0, 185
A speedster, Isijola was also used as a returner at Piscataway High School in New Jersey. He was also recruited by URI, Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut.
#49 Aaron Mack, Fr., 6-0, 190
Mack was a star at Stoughton High School, where he was a Shriners All Star and a Hockomock League All Star. In just two years on varsity, he impressed scouts enough to be recruited by Merrimack, as well as Division I FCS schools Fordham and New Hampshire, among others.
#46 Dan Orlando, Fr., 6-0, 185
Orlando was a two-time All Star out of Westborough High School, where he was also recruited by Sacred Heart, Assumption and Bentley.
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report as well as on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN