By Matt Popchock
The cuts were coming fast and furious, as head coach Chris Siegfried swung his ax right down to the final minute of training camp, but he has finally determined the 24 players he believes can lead the Pittsburgh Power to their first playoff berth, several of whom got their first big break on the other side of the Monongahela River.
Pitt alumni Josh Lay, Ricky Gary, and Oderick Turner have made the team, which begins its sophomore season in the Arena Football League Friday night against the host Orlando Predators at 8:00 P.M., a game that can be seen on NFL Network.
That’s not even counting veteran center Beau Elliott, the former Highlands standout, and fullback Tyre Young, both of whom starred locally in minor college football as teammates at IUP.
Those aforementioned are among 14 Power newcomers who will fly out to Florida early Thursday morning.
Lay, 29, made the All-Big East team as a starting cornerback for the Panthers in 2004. Despite sustaining a concussion early in the 2011 season, he led the Power in interceptions with five, including a pick-six in the team’s historic first win Mar. 19, and ultimately provided consistency to a secondary that was hurt by significant roster turnover. He is one of ten returnees from 2011.
Former Wannstedt-era teammates Gary and Turner will dress for the Power as AFL rookies, though Turner, 25, does have other arena football experience. The Big East All-Freshman Team honoree spent 2011 as a wide receiver with the Trenton Steel of the SIFL (Southern Indoor Football League), where he earned a Second Team All-Star selection.
Gary, 24, will accompany Lay in the Power’s secondary, and may see action at some point Friday. He played for the Panthers regularly 2007-10 and permanently cracked the starting lineup for Wannstedt’s final season on the job. He was one of seven defensive backs invited to the Power’s two-week camp.
On Tuesday evening the Power announced the rest of their roster for their 2012 opener:
1 WR Mike Washington
2 DB Josh Lay
3 QB Kyle Rowley
4 DL Neil Purvis
5 QB Andrico Hines
6 K Taylor Rowan
7 DB Chris LeFlore
8 WR/KR P.J. Berry
9 DE/LB Justin Parrish
10 WR/LB Lonnell DeWalt
11 DB Bryan Williams
12 WR Randy Hymes
14 WR Oderick Turner
22 DB Ricky Gary
24 LB/DB Tyrrell Herbert
28 DB LaRico Stevenson
34 FB Tyre Young
45 LB/DL Anthony DeGrate
47 OL/FB Mike Lucian
56 OL Beau Elliott
64 OL Dan Jones
69 OL/DL Moqut Ruffins
93 DL Terrance Taylor
99 DL Callahan Bright
Furthermore, Siegfried, after addressing the media at the Marriott City Center adjacent to CONSOL Energy Center on an already busy Wednesday afternoon in the uptown area, indicated his probable starters for Friday’s contest:
(In the AFL, 21 players are allowed on a team’s active roster, along with a three-man inactive roster, and gameplay is eight-on-eight, as opposed to the traditional 11-on-11.)
*Wide Receivers: Washington, DeWalt
Tight End: Ruffins
Offensive Guard: Lucian/Jones (game-time decision)
Nose Tackle: Taylor
Defensive Ends: Purvis, Parrish
*Jack Linebacker (in arena football, the linebacker not permitted to rush the quarterback): Herbert
Mac Linebacker (in arena football, the linebacker permitted to rush the quarterback): DeGrate
Defensive Backs: LeFlore, Lay, Williams
*Kick Returner: Berry
*NOTES: Keeping with his personal tendency, Siegfried declined to name a starting quarterback, saying he had a lot of faith in Andrico Hines, who enters his first full year in the AFL, and entered camp as Kyle Rowley’s backup. Still, the smart money is on Rowley, the erstwhile Siegfried protege and ArenaBowl XXIII MVP. Berry is dealing with a foot injury and will undoubtedly play Friday, said Siegfried, but whether he starts as the team’s kick returner/third receiver, according to the coach, will be a game-time decision. Herbert is dealing with a quad injury, but has been deemed probable for Friday. As there is no punting in arena football, Rowan will handle all spot-kicking responsibilities.
Check back with us later as we continue to preview the Power’s 2012 season.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)