Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Catching up on Patriot League Media Day

The Lafayette football media package for 2016 includes nifty schedule cards. I saw them for the first time on Tuesday at the Patriot League’s Media Day program at Green Pond Country Club.

The thing that really got my attention is the fact that the college has two versions of the cards. One features senior quarterback Drew Reed, which makes sense because he’s listed No. 1 on the depth chart and his resume includes a series of outstanding 2013 performances that carried the Leopards to the league championship.

The second version features senior quarterback Blake Searfoss. Say what?

The card says, “Fisher Stadium will ROAR.”  But, do we have a quarterback controversy?

“They’re both seniors; they’re both very talented quarterbacks, and both have won games for us,” Coach Frank Tavani told me. “One of them has to step up for us.”

Interesting. Reed and Searfoss shared reps during spring practice at just about a 50-50 ratio, with coaches saying Reed had an edge when it was over. Apparently, though, neither one of them really grabbed hold of the reins, thus carrying the battle for the opening-night start to summer camp, which begins on Saturday in Fisher.

You have to wonder whether there’s a chance we’ll relive 2005, when Brad Maurer and Pat Davis shared the QB role. That year, Maurer was 129-for-223 for 1,562 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions, while Davis was 75-for-148 for 1,015 yards and 10 TDS with seven INTs. Maurer also ran for 271 yards,  Davis for 109. The result? A league championship!

We’ll all be watching closely. And if neither Reed nor Searfoss assumes command, is there a chance we’ll see freshman Austin McCrum, a 6-4, 220-pounder with a strong arm. He’s spent a good amount of time in Easton this summer, so he’s already ahead of the curve as far as learning the offense. Hmmm.

Lafayette’s first practice in full pads will be on Thursday, Aug. 11, and a scrimmage complete with referees is scheduled for Saturday morning, Aug. 13.


THE NUMBERS GAME – Patriot League team rosters are limited to 90 players, but it looks like only two teams – Fordham and Holy Cross – will have the full contingent on opening day of practice. Crusader Coach Tom Gilmore said he actually had to cut a walk-on in order to get DOWN to the 90-man limit. I didn’t have a chance to talk with Fordham’s new coach, Andrew Breiner, but he was smiling because he seems to have plenty of horses – 18 returning starters from a program one of the coaches told me is the one that he considers most ready to take advantage of the scholarships.  The lowest opening-day roster number in the league? Lafayette with 81. Gone for the seasons, along with Kaizer Butler, Tanner Kern and Jarred Fragapane, who were mentioned in the print story, are Ben Carroll, Mike DePaolo, Anders Warfel and Rand Lewis.  Two other incoming frosh didn’t last past the second day of voluntary summer workouts.  It doesn’t bode well for the Leopards’ long-term numbers. Stay tuned.

THE RECRUITING TRAIL – I tried to get a feel for how recruiting for the Class of 2017 was going. Again, Colgate’s Dan Hunt was smiling. He told me he has “seven or eight” commits already, including some he’s very impressed with. He understands very well that the tough job now will be to babysit these kids to keep them in the fold. Dan said some of the kids are already communicating with one another, which should be a god way to keep them connected. Tom Gilmore told me he has four commits at Holy Cross at this time. Lafayette supposedly has two or three commits in its fold, but Lehigh, according to Coach Andy Coen, hasn’t gotten any verbals yet. He’s not concerned, however.

REPLACING QUARTERBACKS – The league is loaded with talented senior quarterbacks this season, but I told Colgate’s Hunt and Holy Cross’ Gilmore that the toughest job for them was to find guys to take the place of Jake Melville (Raiders) and Peter Pujals (Crusaders). Holy Cross threw 500 passes last year, and Pujals accounted for 484 of them for 3,195 yards and 28 TDs. He also ran for a net 319 yards and a TD. Blaise Bell threw only 13 passes for the Crusaders. The most amazing stat concerning Colgate’s Melville is that, of 351 passes thrown, he was intercepted only twice. He accounted for 3,625 yards of total offense. Hunt, of course, is hoping he doesn’t have to go to one of the youngsters on the roster.  Danny Copeland, another senior QB, played in one game in each of his three previous seasons.  Needless to say, PL teams are going to have their hands full with Pujals and Melville.

CHECKING ON A BUTLER – I had a telephone chat today with Lafayette defensive back Kaizer Butler, who will miss this season while he continues his rehab from a battle with granulomatosis with polyangiitis. I’ll update you on Kaizer’s progress either on the blog here or in The Morning Call in the next couple of days.

MISCELLANEOUS – Fourteen of 2015’s first team all-league players are back this year, which should be some indicator of the quality of the talent in the league. … Of the 91 players listed on the roster at Fordham, only nine are freshmen. The Rams have 30 sophomores, 23 juniors and 29 seniors. … Lafayette, which opens the season with four consecutive 6 p.m. games – two at home, two on the road, has the most night games of any PL team. Bucknell is second with three. Fordham is the only league team without a night game. … Lafayette has never lost to Villanova in football – all four games.  Lafayette hasn’t defeated Army since 1940, but played two very competitive games during my first stint on the Leopards beat, losing 14-7 in 1974 and 16-6 in 1976. Those two were seasomn openers for the Leopards. … The Patriot League is losing one of the real nice guys – Matt Dougherty, the assistant executive director for communications, will be moving back to the Rochester, N.Y., area, where’s he’ll be taking a job for which he can work mostly at home as he raises his two children, Nicolas and Mia, as a single parent. His wife, Alexandra, died last December. Gonna miss you, Matt. 


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