Lyco has 4 5th-year seniors returning to Warriors in the fall

D.J. Boyd was in midseason form Wednesday, bouncing around the field, talking to anyone who would listen and even those who wouldn’t. That’s just who the Lycoming senior defensive back.

He loves football. When he’s on the field, he’s dialed in but is always making sure everyone is having fun. He and three other Lycoming seniors have been granted a fifth year of eligibility and are joining the Warriors for spring practice before returning for one final season in the fall.

Boyd, linebacker Jarrell Payne, defensive tackle Ahmad Curtis, and offensive lineman Dan Sipps all have been granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA after each missing a full season because of an injury. Players can’t redshirt at the Division III level, so fifth years have to be approved by the NCAA.

“I give all those guys credit. They have to make a lot of sacrifices,” Lycoming coach Mike Clark said. “It’s not just about football. Their families are paying for them to come back. The easiest way is for them to come back and be full-time students. So their families are investing into another half-year of tuition. And for that, we’re certainly grateful.”

Curtis may be the most important of the senior returners. He was the only of the four to earn all-conference recognition last fall, being named one of the Middle Atlantic Conference’s four best defensive linemen. He’s a game-changer in the middle of the defensive line, a disrupting force where disruption is the goal.

But Boyd, Payne and Sipps are all returning starters as well. And they were all key contributors to the Warriors. Boyd is maybe the team’s best cover corner. Payne is one of the most violent hitters on the defense whose speed is tough for opposing offenses to handle. Sipps has already played 28 games in his career and is an anchor on the offensive line.

“We have an occasional fifth-year guy, but we’ve never had this kind of a number,” Clark said. “I’m excited for us as a team, but I’m also grateful and excited for those kids because I think they have the ability to be all-conference players.”

Boyd’s ability to be trading verbal barbs with his teammates one second, and focused on shutting down the receiver standing across from him the next makes him the life of the party. Always with his shorts pulled up to show off his Saquon Barkley-esque quads, he brings a different energy to spring practice.

During a time of year which can be a little monotonous with its lack of contact — unlike at higher levels of college football — Boyd always makes sure his teammates are having fun. It’s an infectious energy which forces those around him, whether on offense or defense, to rise to his level.

“He’s so personable and that’s really good for our team because not a lot of guys are like that,” Clark said. “He loves football. He really likes practice and that’s a good thing.”

More so than just being good players, the return of the four seniors allow the Warriors to build some depth in key positions. Sipps has been working at center this spring, moving over one position on the line after playing guard for most of his career. With first-time all-conference center Brad Stubbs graduated, Sipps is taking over the spot to hopefully ease the transition.

From the outside looking in, it’s a move of just one position. But it is so much more than just that. Sipps will have his hands on the football more than quarterback Elijah Shemory this fall. And it’s his understanding and ability to communicate which should make him a good fit at center.

“Brad was the most physically talented offensive lineman we’ve had here in the last 10 years. No one can step in and replace that physicality,” Clark said. “Dan is a guy who mentally knows it can be a good player there. He can help people on both sides of the line. It is only one spot he’s moving, but he can see bits and pieces from guard to guard. It’s, physically, not that big of a space to move. But it’s more than just shifting position. It’s the mental part, too.”

Lycoming’s roster is also being bolstered by the return of defensive end Matt Galasso. After a freshman season in 2017 in which he recorded 30 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks in nine games, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder left the team and school after just one game last fall.

Galasso adds depth to a defensive line which already includes Curtis, Willie Garner (19 tackles, two sacks) and Kyle Pierce (32 tackles).

“We never pressured him. We would check in with each other once in a while. He texted me around Thanksgiving and at that point it wasn’t just checking in,” Clark said. “I think going home made him appreciate and want to come back. He’s a good kid and we’re happy to have him back.”

The returns will help Lycoming as it looks to improve on last year’s 5-6 record. The Warriors played in their first postseason game since 2008, losing to Franklin & Marshall in the MAC-Centennial Bowl Series.

“This is a violent sport,” Clark said. “Depth, especially up front, and experience is key. Depth is great because people are going to get injured. You can never have enough good players.”