Seth Morgan had a difficult decision to make.

After four seasons at Division I Virginia Military Institute, the 2019 Mt. Lebanon graduate decided to end his tenure under center for the Keydets following the 2022 season and enter the NCAA transfer portal.

With two seasons of eligibility on the line, Morgan received what he said were a “handful” of offers, but he ultimately narrowed his finalists to Division I schools Duquesne, Robert Morris and Fordham, along with Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference institutions Shepherd and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

When it came time to make a decision on his future, Morgan said one name kept coming to mind.

“The success Tyson Bagent had at Shepherd definitely was eye opening to me as something that I could follow in his footsteps and hopefully do some of the same stuff,” said Morgan of the 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy winner who is in the mix to be the Chicago Bears backup quarterback after entering his first NFL training camp as an undrafted free agent.

Although he will not have the same five seasons Bagent used to throw for a Shepherd-record 17,034 yards and an all-time mark across all NCAA divisions of 159 touchdowns, Morgan said he is looking to lead the Rams back to the NCAA Division II semifinals — and beyond.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior will make his first start for Shepherd — a public university in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, near Washington, D.C. — when the Rams host Southern Connecticut State at noon Saturday.

“From an athletic standpoint, the receivers I have here at Shepherd I feel just as confident throwing to as I’ve thrown to any receivers in the past at VMI,” Morgan said. “We have a lot of speed, a lot of size, a lot of talent.

“Coming in in the spring, I didn’t feel this huge drop-off that some people might try to say coming from DI to DII,” he added. “I feel like the level of competition here is pretty comparable.”

Morgan said his connection with Shepherd offensive coordinator Tom Clark was another major determinate in his transfer decision.

Clark was defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at VMI from 2015 until 2021.

“I had three seasons with him at VMI,” Morgan said. “He was coaching defense when I was there, but we still had a really good relationship, a ton of respect for each other. He was able to sell me a lot about what Shepherd had to offer.”

For Clark, the chance to once again work with Morgan was too good to pass up.

Morgan sits third all time at VMI with a career 61.6 completion percentage and 13 200-yard passing games. He also ranks fifth all time with 451 completions.

“Most people regarded him as one of the top two or thee quarterbacks in the Southern Conference, and when you look at his passing efficiency I think that’s accurate,” Clark said of Morgan, who threw for 4,852 yards and 24 touchdowns at VMI with 377 yards and nine additional scores on the ground.

Clark said he expects Morgan to excel in his offense, which is predicated on many West Coast passing game tendencies. He said he also expects Morgan to open up plenty of room in the Shepherd running game with his ability to stretch defenses vertically and spread the football to multiple receivers.

“My expectations are really high,” Clark said. “I think he’s a guy that if we are going to achieve our goals as a Final Four, semifinalist-type program then he’s going to have to be at the top of the quarterback heap in the PSAC. I think that’s what our expectations are and that’s what his expectations are for sure.”

Morgan said he also hopes to follow in Bagent’s footsteps by getting the opportunity to play in the NFL.

“That’s been my dream since I was a little kid, to be an NFL quarterback,” Morgan said. “That dream has not changed for me.

“The records that Tyson set and really the freedom they gave him in this offense really was what stuck out to me the most,” he added. “If I can do anything like what he did, I’d like to think I’ll get my shot.”

First thing first, however, Morgan is looking to compete for a national championship.

Shepherd opened its NCAA Division II postseason last fall with a win against New Haven before knocking off Slippery Rock and IUP. The Rams’ season was derailed with a 44-13 loss to Colorado School of Mines, which lost to Ferris State in the national championship game a week later.

Morgan said he believes Shepherd can compete for a national championship this season. The Rams are ranked No. 13 in the preseason poll.

“There’s a winning culture here,” he said. “The expectation is to make it deep in the playoffs, not just win a couple games or whatever. The standard has been set, and I do think we have the talent to go reach that standard and beyond.”

Linebacker Drew DiNunzio-Biss (No. 39), a Kiski Area graduate, is one of three returning first-team all-PSAC players returning for IUP this season. (Cam Horning/IUP Athletic Communications)

The expectations for IUP are equally as high.

Sixth-year head coach Paul Totorella’s Crimson Hawks, ranked No. 12 in Division II, were picked as the favorite to finish atop the PSAC West for the eighth time in the past 11 seasons as part of the conference’s preseason coaches poll.

It’s easy to see why.

IUP returns three first-team all-PSAC players in running back Dayjure Stewart, Kiski Area graduate linebacker Drew DiNunzio-Biss and Westinghouse graduate defensive back Darius Bruce. Returning receiver Hilton Ridley and defensive back Jaheim Howard were also all-conference selections for the Crimson Hawks a season ago.

Washington graduate Gerald Comedy will also anchor the IUP offensive line along with graduate student McLean Djouha.

Like Shepherd, the Crimson Hawks also made an impressive pickup from the transfer portal.

Redshirt junior Karst Hunter transferred to IUP from Colorado Mesa, where he set single-season records with 2,481 passing yards, 190 completions and a 62.5 completion percentage as a freshman in 2021. He also threw for 15 touchdowns that season.

IUP, which knocked off Shepherd, 24-21, in the PSAC championship game a season ago, will open its season at 7 p.m. Thursday against No. 14 Ashland at George P. Miller Stadium in Indiana.

Central Valley graduate Jawon Hall is a returning first-team all-PSAC West receiver for Slippery Rock. (SRU Athletic Communication)

Slippery Rock will open as the 16th-ranked Division II team in the nation, four spots behind IUP.

Receiver Kyle Sheets is among one of the top passing-game targets in the nation. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior caught 54 passes for 887 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago, which was good for 22nd and 28th nationally in each category, respectively.

Shawn Lutz, entering his sixth season as head coach and 28th overall at Slippery Rock, is looking to add to his 58-17 record, which includes four PSAC West titles, four NCAA playoff berths and two trips to the quarterfinals.

Central Valley graduate Jawon Hall is a returning first-team all-PSAC West receiver for The Rock, while West Allegheny graduate Kam Kruzelyak will enter his junior season as a strong contributor as well.

Slippery Rock is set to host Wayne State at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium with kickoff set for 6 p.m. Saturday to begin its 2023 campaign.

California University of Pennsylvania found itself in an unusual situation last season when it finished 6-5 and failed to qualify for the NCAA playoffs.

The Vulcans will look to lean on its offensive line, which is led by left guard Matt Charlton, a team captain and Freeport graduate who started nine games in 2022. Junior defensive back Dominic Solomon Jr., a Clairton graduate, was also named a team captain. He had 37 tackles, 28 solo, three tackles for loss and six pass breakups a season ago.

The Vulcans will host Kutztown at noon Saturday at Adamson Stadium to open their season.

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at