There's a new level of expectation at LIU Post.
Fresh off their first NCAA Division II football tournament appearance since 2005, the Pioneers plan to do more than just return to the game's biggest stage.
"We won't be so satisfied with just winning our championship," coach Bryan Collins said. "We want to win playoff games."
That was a goal that, even as recently as the 2014 preseason, seemed lofty. Post had gone 8-13 in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
"I think we took away from last year that it's very realistic for us to make the national playoffs because before then we had some rough seasons," senior tight end Sean Binckes said. "I think that really showed us the team we are."
That team will have a different look this year. The Pioneers, who went 8-4 last year, will run their spread offense again, but they will rely on a new quarterback.
Jeff Kidd will take over for Steven Laurino, the 2014 Northeast-10 MVP and "one of those players that comes around only every so often," according to Collins.
Kidd, who transferred from Glendale CC (Arizona), earned a spot on the All-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference second team in 2014. Collins said Kidd's experience helped him edge Matt Brennan for the starting job.
"I felt [Kidd's] decision-making, his confidence level in game situations that we tried to show him in practice was just a little bit ahead of Matt Brennan," Collins said.
Laurino was a dual threat, who passed for 3,565 yards and ran for 818. Collins said losing Laurino's mobility and presence in the pocket will lead to a change in offensive philosophy.
"We're going to try to establish the run a lot more and sell our play-action pass a bit more than we have in the past," Collins said.
The Pioneers have a trio of backs -- redshirt junior Mike Williams (Holy Trinity), junior David White and redshirt freshman Malik Pierre (Sachem North) -- who Collins expects to be key in establishing the run.
The Pioneers also have a returning all-conference receiver in redshirt junior Shane Hubbard (1,083 yards on 83 catches) and redshirt sophomore wideout James Higgins, who Collins said could have a breakout year. Those two and Binckes (714 yards, 53 catches) will be Kidd's top targets.
"A lot of what we do centers around [Binckes]," Collins said of his co-captain. "It's always great to have that type of tight end that can stretch the field in the middle and assist in the running game with play-action pass capability."
Defensively, co-captain Brandon Cheney, a redshirt senior linebacker out of Lynbrook, will lead a unit that should be bolstered by the return of redshirt junior Kenny Scotland. The lineman recorded 61/2 sacks in seven games in an injury-shortened 2014.
Redshirt junior linebacker Wayne Harris and junior safety Jared Chester will help anchor the defense as Post seeks to defend its conference title -- and more.
"Last year was a big learning experience for us," Cheney said. "As much as we are a different team, we still will look back on last season."
LIU Post Players to watch
Shane Hubbard, WR, Jr. -- The 2014 All-NE-10 First Team member caught 83 passes for 1,058 yards and nine TDs.
Sean Binckes, TE, Sr. -- The 2014 All-NE-10 First Team member ranked third on Post with 59 receptions, 714 yards and five TDs.
Brandon Cheney, LB, Sr. -- The defense's leader, Cheney recorded 83 tackles and recovered three fumbles.