Robert Morris football preview

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ROBERT MORRIS PREVIEW

Season opener: Aug. 29 at No. 19 Eastern Kentucky, 7 p.m., Richmond, Ky.

Last season: 4-7, 3-5 Northeast Conference. Started 1-5 (0-3) but won three of its final five games, including a 17-13 win against Duquesne.

Preseason poll: Picked fourth in the NEC.

Player to watch: CB Marcelis Branch, reigning NEC defensive rookie of the year.

Biggest losses: QB Jeff Sinclair, second-leading tackler Nolan Nearhoof.

Outlook: 6-foot-4, 250-pound Penn State transfer Paul Jones won the quarterback job and has many of the RMU faithful excited for this season. Ranked between a four- and five-star quarterback recruit out of Sto-Rox High School, Jones eventually was asked to move to tight end at Penn State. Disgruntled, he moved to a Division I-AA school where he would be eligible to play immediately, and he beat out sophomore Derik Abbott for the QB job. Jones will lead the way as coach Joe Walton, the only coach in school history, heads into his 20th and final season. RMU returns 14 starters, including four on the offensive line. Senior Farren Mason is only starting defense lineman who returns. Linebacker Mike Cook, who led team in tackles, is back for his senior year. The Colonials were 3-2 at Joe Walton Stadium in 2012 but will need to improve on their 1-5 road record to have a shot at a title. Their Aug. 29 opener is the first August game in school history.

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