Monday, July 17, 2017

Lafayette's Garrett: Staff 'may be even stronger'

So, you thought new Lafayette football head coach John Garrett had done a pretty good job of putting together a staff that would change the direction of the program.

Well, consider this. I talked with Coach G last week, and during our discussion of the staff, he said, “I really feel good about the staff – the makeup and the structure of it. It may be even stronger than [what] we originally had.”

Having to research two vital components of a Division I staff at a time when the most obviously qualified candidates have already been picked doesn’t sound like fun.

Unless you’re Garrett.

When offensive coordinator Rich Bartel and tight ends coach Luke Chiarolanzio surprisingly left first-year coach Garrett’s staff during the first week of June, it left him with deep holes to fill, little time to do it and a smaller pool that he might have had to work from five months earlier.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lafayette football players are not the only ones needing to adjust


Far be it from me to “let down” the guys (and maybe women who don’t want to be officially recognized) who frequent the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum. So, to “Yankeefan1922” and the rest, here I am.

I’m familiar with the word “shill,” but until YF1922 used it the other day, I don’t think I had ever been referred to with that word. The English language allows some words to mean any number of things. So, I went to www.thesaurus.com and researched the word “shill.”

Above the initial set of synonyms is a definition: It says a shill is a “person peripherally involved in illegal activity.” I can only hope YF1922 didn’t have that in mind when he posted his response on LSFF. I’ve never thought of anything Coach T or I were involved in to be illegal.

Over the course of nine years covering the Leopards in my second time around – the first was during the reigns of Harry Gamble and Neil Putnam, both of whom I also considered friends – I got to know a good bit about Coach T, personally and professionally. I make no apology for that. He bled maroon and there were not enough hours in the day for him to work at trying to produce more victories. I wanted him to win – I wanted the kids to win, and it was because of Brandon Bryant, Matt Mrazek, Kaizer Butler et al that I’m considering continuing on the beat this season with Coach Garrett.

YF1922 is correct when he states my position. I’m a freelance guy, not a staffer. When The Morning Call downsized its staff in 2008 and then Lafayette beat writer Don Bostrom left, the paper was without a Lafayette writer. Even though retired, I, as an old sports editor, columnist and reporter, was concerned that the Call would drop coverage of the Leopards. I said so, and the guys at the paper said, “Do you want to do it?” So, I put my fingers where my mouth was and have been at it ever since.

I really enjoy covering the Patriot League. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of hard-working coaches, guys like Dan Hunt and Andy Coen and Tom Gilmore and Joe Susan. I know all of them better than I know Coach Garrett because knowing takes time – both ways. Rapport is not instantaneous. I don’t intentionally “slant toward the former regime;” And if I don’t “seem to be cutting Coach G nearly the slack (I) gave Coach T”, as “The Maroon” alleges, maybe it’s due in part to the fact that the modus operandi is so different.

Am I spoiled? Perhaps. Is Coach G trying to break me of that? Perhaps. Can I adapt to change? Perhaps. But the reporter in me continues to seek answers to questions only Coach G can answer. It’s not that I feel entitled; it’s just different. I’ve been at this for more than 50 years. Coach G is in his FIRST year as a head coach.

I don’t know if he’d admit it, but I’ll bet it’s different for him, too. But it’s his show. I’m along for the ride right now, and my seat isn’t in first class.  But I’m not looking out the rear window, either. I learned long ago that yesterday cannot be changed and there are no guarantees about tomorrow – at my age, I’m sometimes amazed how many tomorrows I’ve been given. (Pardon the commercial, but I can only thank God for that).

Only today matters.

Lafayette football is at an interesting intersection. While the 3-19 of the last two years might suggest otherwise, the cupboard was not left bare for Coach Garrett. The challenges are great, for sure, but not impossible to overcome. I happen to think this might be a great year to be a Leopard – on the field and in the stands. It’s time and lots of good old-fashioned work.

There are a lot of really good stories to be told. Am I up for it? Perhaps.
  





Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer is busy time for Leopards and Coach Garrett


Lafayette players and coaches joined Chicago Cubs manager and former Leopard athlete Joe Maddon and his wife for a team-building work project on a playground in  Hazleton. Photo courtesy of Lafayette.
Forty days until the Leopards report for preseason camp. And, frankly, a lot of loose ends still need to be tied together.

So, here’s a look at some of issues facing the football team and the college athletic program in general.

Tony Russo was a behind-the-scenes guy with the Lafayette football program, but his contribution should not be trivialized.

Tony was the Leopards’ Equipment Services Director, and according to a bio of a former ESD director that appeared on the Lafayette website, the job description says the ESD is “responsible for purchasing equipment, overseeing game and practice uniforms and overall equipment maintenance … negotiates and facilitates all apparel/equipment contracts …”


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Leopards sacked by Bartel's surprise decision


Lafayette freshman quarterback Reed Aichholz arrived in the Lehigh Valley from his Cincinnati, Ohio, home last Saturday.

Lafayette freshman quarterback recruit Sean O’Malley arrived in the Lehigh Valley from his Beverly Hills, Calif., home Wednesday.

Lafayette freshman quarterback recruit Cole Northrup will be arriving in the Lehigh Valley from his St. Augustine, Fla., home on Sunday.

All three players will become intimately acquainted with Leopard strength and conditioning guru Brad Potts and most of their future teammates during two condition-and-lift periods over the next couple of months as they take part in volunteer workouts in preparation for the start of preseason camp on Aug. 3.

The Lafayette coaches are not permitted to have a role in the workouts, but it’s a pretty good bet that Aichholz, O’Malley and Northrup, along with fourth QB recruit Brycen Mussina, were undoubtedly hoping to at least be able to talk with offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach Rich Bartel, who has an impressive reputation as a molder of top-notch quarterbacks.

That is not going to happen.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Maroon-White Game: The rest of the story

Coach Garrett talks with his quarterbacks. Photo by Rick Smith, Lafayette website.
If John Garrett wants someone to explain his football philosophy in the simplest terms, he should call on Jerry Powe.

“Everyone who’s playing … everyone in the room knows why they’re playing and who should be playing, so it’s not a surprise to anyone,” the rising junior defensive back said Saturday afternoon after turning in a strong performance in Lafayette’s Maroon-White Football Game.

That’s exactly the result the Leopards’ first-year head coach was out to achieve with his “no incumbents”, compete every day, get noticed, win the job decrees.

Powe had good reason for expecting to be cut a little slack. He was among the team leaders in tackles with 78 last year and he was second in tackles for loss with 9.5.  The STRIKE position on Art Link’s 4-2-5 defense was custom made for him.

He had a pick-six interception to open the scoring in Saturday’s game, had his hands on a second interception but couldn’t hold on and also had a couple of hard hits. When I suggested after the game that he’d now have to do it all over again in summer camp, he smiled.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring report: Add Meriwether to Lafayette's running-back picture

Warming up for Monday Night Football -- Leopards style.
Rajhan Meriwether came to Lafayette from Arizona with a high school highlight reel that had lots of peopleready to have him take over the running game that would soon be left all but vacant by the graduation of Ross Scheuerman.

But before he ever had a chance to really show anyone his potential, the Chandler, AZ, resident suffered a preseason camp injury that sidelined him for the entire 2014 season.

He is now a rising senior who, if he chooses to do so, could probably apply for a medical redshirt season that would allow him to play again in 2018.

If anyone fits the profile of the player first-year Lafayette Coach John Garrett is looking for, it might be Meriwether. His career undoubtedly has fallen short of whatever expectations he may have had when he accepted the scholarship in 2014. He has been slowed by injuries and has played in only 14 games and has carried the ball just 20 times for 59 yards and no touchdowns.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Non-stop action is the opening-day highlight for 'Pards


Lafayette offensive coordinator Rich Bartel talks with his quarterbacks on opening day of spring practice.

Well, we found out on Tuesday the John Garrett answer to how you go about giving four quarterbacks enough of a chance to make an impression on the coaches who will ultimately decide their fate.

You run concurrent passing drills on both sides of the 50-yard line, allowing the coaches to stand in the middle and look in both directions.

Austin McCrum, Josh Davis, Mike Lewis and Blake Meyer threw lots of passes in the brisk two-hour session in Fisher Stadium, and while it was impossible to keep an accurate count, I’m guessing there was not a big difference between first and fourth.

Davis is the only one of the four to have ever thrown a pass in his collegiate career – he completed his only pass in Lafayette’s Yankee Stadium win over Lehigh to end the 2014 season. It was the final play of the first half and was a 20-yard completion to Ross Scheuerman.