Senior running back Donald Liotine (No. 33, above) during a game in the 2017 season. Liotine had 1,486 all-purpose yards in 2017, good enough for fifth all-time in program history and 11 total touchdowns. ARACELY JIMENEZ/STATESMAN FILE

The Stony Brook football team comes roaring into the 2018 season hoping to build on its 2017 success, a year in which the team finished 10-3 and won a playoff game against Lehigh.

Though they’ve experienced significant roster turnover, the Seawolves are optimistic that this year can be better than the last. Head coach Chuck Priore is confident that the group will have the right approach and will not be complacent with last year’s result.

“I think that they’ve had good energy and have been fairly consistent with the way they’ve gone about their business,” Priore said. “I’m confident that we understand that the game has to be played in practice and so far, the performance in practice has been positive.”

Stony Brook had 19 seniors leading the way last year, with six receiving invites to NFL training camps. Their departures would be understandable reasoning for lowered expectations this year, but confidence remains sky high in the halls of Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

“The positive thing that this team has done is move forward,” Priore said. “I think we have a mentally tough team with great senior leadership that has learned how to win and they want success very badly.”

The Offense

Eight returning starters lead Stony Brook’s offense into 2018, including senior STATS FCS preseason All-American tight end/fullback Cal Daniels and senior quarterback Joe Carbone. The combination of firepower at the skill positions mixed with a gritty offensive line makes for what should be an exciting offense to watch in 2018.

“It’s fun being back on the field competing with all the guys and trying to get better,” Carbone said. “Obviously we lost a lot of guys from last year on the offensive line and from the wide receiver position but I think that we reloaded a lot.”

The Seawolves ended the 2017 campaign averaging just under 30 points and 351 yards per game. The team was especially efficient when it got into the red zone, scoring just under 90 percent of the time, the seventh highest conversion rate in the country. Carbone is coming off a career year himself in 2017, completing 56 percent of his passes for nearly 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns while throwing eight interceptions. Both the yards and touchdowns are the second most in a single season in program history. In Carbone’s eyes, however, nothing has changed when it comes to his preparation.

“I still try to keep the same approach and listen to what the coaches are telling me,” Carbone said. “I take preparation really seriously and try to prepare as best as possible.”

Though the offense lost key pieces from last year, they haven’t lost any hope about what they can possibly achieve this year.

“I think that for the most part, every kid wants to be here because they believe that we can be better than last year,” Daniels, the team captain, said. “You have to come into the season believing that we’re going to put the work in to be a championship-level team.”

The Defense

Last year, the Stony Brook defense upheld its reputation as a fast, physical unit that won battles at the line of scrimmage. Under longtime assistant and first-year defensive coordinator Bob McIntyre, the Seawolves finished 11th in the nation in total defense, allowing 97 rushing yards per game and 2.7 yards per rush. The group also led the country in total tackles for loss with 104.

The 2018 defense is led by a trio of senior captains: senior defensive end John Haggart and senior linebackers Shayne Lawless and Noah McGinty. Though the team has had to work through important veteran departures on the defensive side of the ball, McGinty still feels confident about the state of the defense, especially with an influx of younger talent.

“I think that we look good,” McGinty said. “I think that we reloaded at a couple key positions that I think we’re confident with and a lot of young guys are stepping up.”

The linebacker position will be one to watch this season. McGinty and Lawless form a lethal duo and hope to continue to produce like they did a season ago. Lawless, a two-time All-CAA selection, had 93 tackles last year, 13 of them for a loss, to go along with eight sacks and an interception. McGinty impressed just as much as Lawless did, finishing with 95 tackles and a pair of sacks.

However, it’s the quality depth that Stony Brook has at linebacker that makes it one of the units to watch this season. Senior linebacker Deyshaun Tucker played in all 13 games last fall and recorded 21 tackles, while redshirt-sophomore defensive back Elijah Duff and redshirt-freshman linebacker Reidgee Dimanche add a dose of young playmaking ability to bolster a solid senior core.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Senior running back Donald Liotine and senior running back Jordan Gowins lead a backfield looking to offset the loss of running back Stacey Bedell, who had over 800 yards rushing and eight touchdowns last year. Liotine burst onto the scene in 2015 when he eclipsed the 200-yard mark rushing in two of the last three games, including a career-high 204 yards rushing on 38 attempts against Howard. The 5’9” workhorse running back maintained his solid play last season. He had 1,486 all-purpose yards in 2017, good enough for fifth all-time in program history and 11 total touchdowns. The 5’11” Gowins played in 12 games last year, rushing for 418 yards on 92 carries with six touchdowns.