Monday, January 16, 2017

Leopards' staff is ready to go to work, Garrett says

“(Rich) Bartel is very smart and has been exposed to a lot of different systems. He will be a coach in the NFL one day, if he so desires.”
Ken Whisenhunt, then-Arizona Cardinals head coach – Aug., 2012.

When I sat down with new Lafayette College football coach John Garrett for the first time, his first words to me, after we introduced one another, were, “Tell me about yourself.”

Just that quickly, the interviewee became the interviewer, and vice versa. The discussion of X’s and O’s could wait.

That’s the modus operandi for the 25-year veteran who’s in the first month of his first job as a head coach.

“I start all the interviews with just asking them to tell me their history, their story,” Garrett said when we talked on Saturday about the hectic first couple of weeks of his life at Lafayette. “(I want them to) tell me how they talk about themselves, their influences to family. I’m constantly trying to figure out if they are going to be a good fit in the program and with other staff members.”

When he was first introduced to the college and the media, Garrett, speaking about his eventual staff, said, “We’ll have a collection of guys with NFL experience, major college experience, FCS experience and a real familiarity with our recruiting footprint, which will be an 8-10-hour drive from Easton. We’re going to have guys who are familiar with Pennsylvania and all the border states -- Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia. We’ll have great teachers on the staff. Our job as coaches is to teach (players) how to do it and why to do it that way so they buy in.”

Friday, December 23, 2016

Meet John Garrett, the newest Leopard

John Garrett, Lafayette's new head football coach, receives a Lafayette cap from athletic director Bruce McCutcheon. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Sports).
The biggest Lafayette College sports announcement of the year was made on Wednesday and there was neither rioting nor celebrating on The Quad because virtually all the students had already left Easton for their homes, with final exams having been completed earlier in the week.

But the early returns on the reaction to the naming of John Garrett as the new head football coach have been overwhelmingly positive, even from the more cynical posters on the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum. The college newspaper and an old, retired sports columnist got more negative comments than athletic director Bruce McCutcheon – except for one slam to which I don’t care to lend credence.

Like a brand new car being driven away from the showroom for the first time, Garrett may never look better than he did Wednesday. After all, he has yet to make one decision that will rustle the feathers of some Leopards “fan.” Squeaky clean. Not a dent in his armor.

Sure, there’s a segment of Leopard fans that badly wanted someone with Lafayette connections named as the head coach. One former linebacker is plenty riled up, but he wasn’t on hand on Wednesday. No Lafayette people in the final three? Not good.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Leopard in the postseason: Chris Brockman

Lafayette is in the playoffs!

Well, not exactly, but on the first weekend of a long offseason after another frustrating year on College Hill, I decided to go looking for some good news.

I found it by way of Colorado School of Mines, a Division II program that is playing in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals this weekend.

Do you know who the starting "Leo" linebacker is for Mines? One CHRIS BROCKMAN.

Lafayette followers will remember Chris as the outstanding strike linebacker for the Leopards in Art Link's first season as offensive coordinator. He was the team's leading tackler.

Big things were expected of him for 2015, but he never played a game because of injury. He could have applied for a medical red-shirt season but would have had to suspend his pursuit of a degree. He decided instead to finish college with his original class and play his final year of football elsewhere while going for a master's degree.

That  elsewhere is Colorado School of Mines. And he's doing great. He was an all-academic selection in the RMAC  on the study side.

The 225-pound Texan, who undoubtedly would have made a big difference in the Lafayette defense in 2015, has started every game for Mines. Mines is 10-2 as it goes to the game tomorrow (Saturday) aat Ferris State in Michigan. Mines is a top-20 team in Division II and has won nine games in a row to stand at 102.

Chris has 86 tackles, 12 tackles for loss -- both team highs -- and 5.5 sacks. He has one interception.

I know I missed him last year, just like I missed both Matt Rothrock and Brandon Bryant this year.

I'm pretty certain that the naysayers on the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum would be a lot less critical because the Leopards would have won considerably more than three games in the two seasons.

Those years are history. Congratulations to first-team all-league tight end Dylan Wadsworth and second-teamers Jerry Powe and Matt Mrazek. All return next year. And on to the weight room for everyone.

Oh, yeah, and go get 'em, Chris. We're rooting for you.

Chris had nine tackles and a sack, but the Orediggers lost 38-17 to Ferris State.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lafayette-Lehigh FB: the rest of the story

I laid out a case in Saturday’s Morning Call of what I thought had to happen for Lafayette to have a chance to upset Lehigh. 

I have to admit that when I started compiling the information, I didn’t have a lot of confidence; but by the time I was finished, I actually thought it was doable.

Well, we all know it didn’t happen. It was 45-21, and at times it looked a lot worse than that and at other times it looked like it might get considerably tighter than that. So, here’s a look at how my formula worked out.

I called for no turnovers. I said a couple of interceptions and a fumble could turn things ugly “in a hurry”. Well, that DeSean Brown fumble on the first series, when the Leopards had meandered inside the Lehigh 20, hurt. A lot. It hurt the Lafayette coaches so much that Brown was not at RB the next time the Leopards got the ball.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Leopards-Raiders notebook: Adam Bridgeforth and more

Colgate's Adam Bridgeforth (21) makes one of his two interceptions against Cornell.
Photo courtesy Colgate University.
Adam Bridgeforth looked anything but happy about his first day of preseason football camp at Colgate in August. In fact, Raiders’ head coach Dan Hunt thought the talented cornerback appeared teary-eyed.

“I thought he was crying because he didn’t think he’d be able to perform, but it turned out he was so emotional about just being back on the football field that he had tears in his eyes during practice,” Hunt said via telephone on Thursday.

No wonder.

Bridgeforth, a Nazareth High School grad, broke into the starting lineup at Colgate midway through his sophomore year, then had a 60-tackle, two-interception junior year and was looking forward to a big final year. But in the first game of 2015, he blew out his knee in a game against Navy. He applied for and received a medical red-shirt season, so he worked hard to get back in shape.

He was working out with his teammate during an informal summer passing drill when he reinjured the same knee – the meniscus, this time, but bad enough to require another surgery.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

IMHO, Lafayette's athletics study raises some questions

For almost a week now I’ve been reading that Lafayette release that is entitled “Blueprint for Greater Success in Patriot League.”

The document has caused me to think about some past memories that have not been very positive – the late-1990s disaster that spawned threats like eliminating football and dropping to Division III. Or that 2007 strategic plan study that also was supposed to enhance the athletic programs at the college but came up pretty much empty.

I also witnessed as the college came almost kicking and screaming into the world of merit scholarships, particularly for first basketball, and more recently for football. Lafayette finally did get with the program, but its unwillingness to commit to do it 100 percent in the two major sports is still a disappointment to me and to the alumni and fans who bleed maroon. It’s also a stumbling block to success.

Now, here we are again, broaching the subject of “improving the college’s competitiveness in the Patriot League.” Those are not my words but the words in the opening sentence of last week’s release.

The premise has an interesting and potentially positive sound to it. Especially in the sport with which I am most familiar, football, which has been a major part of my freelance writing career for nine years now. And it comes at a time when the Leopards have won only three of their last 20 games overall and just one of their last 10 in the league. If the college is truly interested in bettering itself among its peers, this may be a good start.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Lafayette sports history II: 2 1/2 months later

To quote the immortal Oliver Hardy (invariably speaking to buddy Stan Laurel): “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”

That was my initial reaction to the internal release from Lafayette College early this week that it would hire a consulting firm to conduct a six-month “thorough review” and come up with “precise recommendations” for a “shared strategic direction that ensures the athletic’s program’s resources are aligned with the mission and goals of the institution,” according to a quote from athletic director Bruce McCutcheon. By the way, the italics are mine, not the college’s.

A headline on the college’s website shouts, “Lafayette Seeks Blueprint for Greater Success in Patriot League.”  I want to shout back, hip, hip, hooray! Someone is finally stepping up to the plate for the coaches and student-athletes and wants to recognize the impact success on the field or the court or the diamond can have.

But, then I remember. We’ve been here before. We’ve seen the college take swings at this issue – and miss badly.  So, before I go too far with this, I thought I’d present a little history course in the form of a couple of columns I wrote years ago. Then, I’ll take my own swings.

Today’s Lesson in “Lafayette Sports History 101” is a column that appeared in The Morning Call on Jan. 20, 1999. The headline on the column was: “All seem to be on same page at Lafayette ... A.D. Atkinson said the recent recent adversity has had a positive effect throughout the college."