Thursday, October 17, 2019

Lafayette FB: A QB shakeup, scouting the Hoyas

I admit to getting a bit nit-picky. One of my favorite targets is the depth chart released by Lafayette football coach John Garrett.

I have come to accept the fact that the two-deep list that usually comes with sports information director Phil LaBella’s weekly game notes may not be an accurate indication of who will or won’t play in that week’s game. Garrett is super protective of information concerning injuries.

Last week was the worst. The notes for the Leopards’ game with Princeton came with no depth chart page. To compound the dilemma, Princeton Coach Bob Surace also provided no two-deep for the Tigers. Garrett and Surace are long-time friends, so I don’t know if they were playing some kind of mind game before the undefeated Tigers and the winless Leopards met last Friday night.

When I arrived at the weekly media luncheon on Tuesday, the first thing I wanted to see was whether Garrett would again be withholding information, fearful, perhaps, that he was giving Georgetown Coach Rob Sgarlata some secrets in advance of Saturday’s game in Washington.

I’m happy to say depth charts for both the Hoyas and the Leopards were handed out. I immediately began looking for names of previously injured players who might be making a return for what Garrett would say “almost feels like a second season” consisting of all six Patriot League contests.

(NOTE: I’m not going to address the “almost” remark, except to say that if what’s about to begin this week doesn’t feel “exactly” like a second season, the next six Saturdays won’t be much fun for Leopard fans. No one should be happier than the Leopards to have a clean slate and something to play for.)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Can the Leopards solve their third-down dilemma?

Two Ivy League football teams, one Patriot League team and one of my “favorite” all-time FCS teams – the Leathernecks of Western Illinois – all outrank the 0-6 Lafayette Leopards in third-down ineptitude in 2019.

According to the latest NCAA FCS football statistics, through games played on Saturday, WIU ranks No. 124 in third-down conversions, having been successful just 21 of 90 times in six games for 23.3 percent.

The three C’s – Columbia, Colgate and Cornell – rank No. 119-121, respectively.  The Lions and the Big Red have played just four games, while the Raiders have played seven and been successful on just 25 of 91 chances on third down.

All that should come as no consolation for John Garrett, the head coach, offensive coordinator and play caller for the Leopards, who are 25-of-86, for 29.1 percent to sit in 115th place on the national list.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Leopards: The 2019 Patriot champs? Or not!

I, Paul Reinhard, being of sound mind (obviously questionable) and body (doubtful) do hereby, with great trepidation, make the following declaration:

Lafayette College will win the 2019 Patriot League football championship -- without losing a game.

WHAT?!?!?! Have I gone mad?  Did someone slip me a Mickey?  Do we need that guy Adam Schiff to start some witch-hunt-type investigation?

It’s nowhere near April Fool’s Day, so it can’t be anything like that April 1, 2003 column I wrote exposing the “fact” that Mario Andretti was coming out of retirement to drive for his son Michael at the Indianapolis 500. That’s a story for another time.

But the idea of the 2019 Leopards winning the league title might sound just as preposterous as that Andretti challenge. They are, after all, 0-5 as they take their midseason bye week. And the next opponent, Ivy League favorite Princeton, the No. 2 offensive team in the FCS after its first two games, doesn’t figure to set the stage for a title run for Coach John Garrett’s team.

As a matter of fact, Lafayette is now mired in the longest losing streak (eight games over two seasons) since it lost 14 in a row from Oct. 20, 1951 through Sept. 26, 1953. It had a 14-game winless streak from 11-2-63 through 9-18-65, but two ties, including to Lehigh in THE GAME No. 100, figured in there. It lost seven straight during that drought. I’m pretty sure the Lafayette sports information guys won’t be including that information in next week’s game notes.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Where have all the Leopards gone?

With 11 freshmen listed on the two-deep this week, this might be a good time to look at what a disastrous season this has been for the Lafayette football team.

Coach John Garrett doesn’t make a habit of talking about injured players, but when he was asked by Mike Joseph at Tuesday’s luncheon whether he expected to see some of his key players returning to the lineup against Penn on Saturday, Garrett said:

“We certainly hope so, Mike. We look at it every day. We have constant communication with Matt Bayly and the staff. We check in with them three-four times a day just to see who’s available for practice and to what extent and then start to make those prognoses for the weekend. So, we hope to, but nothing is definitive now.”

I looked at the participation chart from last week’s game at Albany and compared it to the roster. While I know the head coach has been hedging on this player or that player, I didn’t realize exactly how many were NOT available for that game against the Great Danes.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Will Shoemaker, Leopards 'clean up' for Albany?

I wonder how good Lafayette football coach John Garrett thinks freshman quarterback Keegan Shoemaker can be.

At Tuesday’s weekly luncheon, Garrett praised the youngster from Texas, saying, “ … he allows us to play explosively … I’m really pleased with his play.”  But later, he said, “… he has a lot to clean up on his game.”

Shoemaker has completed 64 percent of his passes (57-for-89) in his first three college games. He has an efficiency rating of 148.53. How good is that? Well, last year, Sean O'Malley's rating was 93.97, and in 2017, it was just over 104. Shoemaker already has more touchdown passes than O’Malley had all of last season (four).

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Leopards: A look back, and a look ahead

Caught on the tape recorder at Tuesday’s football luncheon:

“It came down to a fourth-and-1 and they jumped into a wildcat and they were able to knock us off the ball and run out the clock. So, we were right there and pleased how team played.” – Coach John Garrett. He was referring to the closing minutes of last Saturday's game, when Monmouth was able to control the clock while Lafayette needed a stop. That fourth-and-1 play resulted in a 16-yard gain and the Hawks were able to finish it off from there because Lafayette could not stop the clock.

“[Special teams coordinator Greg] Frantz has done great job building a culture on how important special teams are. A lot of kids coming in never had to play special teams because they were the best kids on their teams. Everybody was all-conference, all-state, something. So, when they got in the room, Coach Frantz really made it an emphasis point that you’re going to have to earn your spot and some of you guys aren’t going to be able to make the bus, especially for Patriot League games … We want 11 guys out there that are going to want to hit and make a difference in the game. I and the other seniors try to emphasize that you can change the game just by a punt, by a kick, by a huge kickoff return.” – Ryan Monteyne, who got the first punt block of his entire football career, on the lead role he can play as a member of all the special-teams units.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

More on the QBs and other Lafayette stuff

So, what is Lafayette College football coach John Garrett thinking when he releases a depth chart with a three-headed starting quarterback position?

Can there be anything positive about telling the public and his season-opening opponent, William & Mary, that he will start Sean O’Malley OR Cole Northrup OR Keegan Shoemaker on Saturday night in Williamsburg, Va.?

I sat alone in the visitors’ grandstand at Fisher Stadium on Saturday to get my first in-person look at the 2019 Lafayette Leopards. Two other guys sat halfway up the home-side grandstand; as far as I could tell, no other visitors were present. I doubt very much that a W&M spy was lurking in the bushes, looking for the answer to one question: Who do we prepare for this week in practice?

Faced with the task of putting together a season preview package for The Morning Call, I figured I’d better see the team in action at least once. And, sure, I wanted to know who was emerging as the cream of the crop among the seven QBs who were in preseason camp.

In that respect, I guess the fact that freshman Shoemaker had moved in front of highly touted sophomore Fisher was the biggest revelation of the night.