Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Leftovers from Lafayette's football media lunch

Some quick shots from Tuesday’s media luncheon:

THE NUMBERS GAME -- We had Princeton Coach Bob Surace on a conference call, and I asked him how many players the Tigers would have in uniform on Saturday for the game against Lafayette. He said "probably everybody who's healthy ... about 100." The Ivies can bring in as many as 32 players a year, which would give them a four-year roster of 128. Lafayette may have about half that many in uniform on Saturday. Coach Frank Tavani has always said that in the days of need-based recruiting at Lafayette, he never won a personnel battle from an Ivy school. Although everyone had to use the same figures to determine "need," he has said, the Ivies somehow always managed to be able to provide more. Take a look at the Princeton roster. Double numbers galore. "But they can only play 11 at a time," Tavani said.

THE "OPENER" QUESTION -- Coach Surace said he'd "rather play two games" than have to open the season against a team that has already played twice. He said Princeton didn't begin preseason camp until Aug. 24, which was two weeks later than Lafayette. He said there were a lot of double-session days and that the Tigers didn't have an outside scrimmage. He talked about the fact that teams often make the biggest improvement between their first and second games and that the improvement between the second and third game "is huge." He didn't talk about the element of surprise he has in his favor, but it's a major concern. “They’re going to line up in a lot of different looks, and they’ll have every blitz imaginable,” Tavani said of Princeton. “I’m sure we’re going to see something, as we do every year, that we haven’t seen. You have to make adjustments at halftime. Their young men already have (Lafayette’s) tendencies and know who they’re going to play. I look at (last year’s) film and don’t know who they’re playing. We know what we think we’re going to see. We just need to execute what we’re doing."   

TEMPO, TEMPO, TEMPO -- Coach Tavani said his defense is preparing for an 80-play game Saturday evening in Princeton Stadium. The Tigers play fast and give the fans their money’s worth. Last year, Princeton ran 45 running plays and 33 pass plays; in 2015, it was 37 runs and 55 passes and in 2012, it was 54 runs and 20 passes.  Lafayette will undoubtedly want to shorten the game, but if its running game is again ineffective, and if the Leopards don’t have a crisp short-pass attack in its place, the Tigers will control the tempo. That would not bode well for Lafayette.

BRANDON IS BRANDED – What does Leopard linebacker Brandon Bryant have to do to impress the folks at the Patriot League? Delaware Coach Dave Brock said Saturday night that he got tired of watching Bryant tackle his kids – and the 14-tackle performance, including a sack and another tackle for loss was instrumental in keeping Lafayette in that football game. But when the league named its players of the week, the junior linebacker was passed over gain (just as he was on the preseason all-league team). “Our playing styles balance each other out,” Michael Root, the ‘Pards’ other LB starter, said. “He’s a little bit faster, I’m a little more patient. He’s a guy you can trust. He always makes a good play.”

ANOTHER LB TO ROOT FOR – Root came out of high school with a glowing resume that included 176 tackles in 15 games in his senior year, which culminated with a state championship. He played mainly on special teams as a freshman at Lafayette – “that was an adjustment in itself,” he said – and he was off to a good start last year but hyper-extended  his elbow – in the Princeton game no less – and sat out the rest of the year. “It was tough sitting out, and it feels great to have two games under my belt,” he said Tuesday. He had a career-high 10 tackles against Delaware. He said his weight has gone from about 220 when he first arrived to “close to 240” now, and I think you’re going to hear a lot more from him in the weeks ahead.

E.A.A.T. REVISITED – Kevin Zataveski said the most important aspect of Lafayette’s 2016 motivational slogan – Effort, Attitude, Accountability, Toughness –for him is accountability. “Last year, we had things where kids were suspended at the beginning of the season for doing the wrong things off the field and on the field. Everyone is more accountable this year. Not more punishment, but people got a feeling of how it feels to be 1-10 and we don’t want to do it again. Everyone is trying to do their part and worry about themselves. If someone steps out of line, we have to put them in place. Being close, I don’t think we’ll have that many issues this year and accountability is the most important thing to me. Root said to him, it’s toughness. “They’re all important. Come game time, it’s really about toughness – mentally and physically.”

RYAN, THE FIELD-FLIPPER – Leopards’ punter Ryan Forrester drew some laughter from the lunch crowd when he said,  “I always say no one wants to see me on the field” and that offensive coordinator Mickey Fein “tells me every week he hopes I don’t play.” But he knows the importance of his one-down role.  His entire game is dictated by fourth down. “My mindset is to give my best effort every time. Last week, I punted nine times and there were two or three I wasn’t satisfied with. Flipping the field is one of our biggest special-teams goals.” He averaged 41 net yards per punt against Delaware, forcing the Blue Hens to start once at their own 3, another time at the 9. Only once did he not get the ball into Blue Hen territory, and it turned out to be costly when Delaware drove for a short-field touchdown. “When I see that I almost feel responsible for it because I know I can hit a 50-yard punt. When they get the ball on oour side of the 50, it really changes the momentum.” He has punted 15 times in two games for an average of 41.3 yards per kick. His long this year is 53 yards; his career long is 63. He has punted 193 times in his four years and has had only two kicks blocked.

A CALL FROM A DEACON – Coach Tavani and Dave Cohen were  members of Bill Russo’s Lafayette staff together for three seasons (1991-93) before Cohen moved on to Delaware for five years.  Cohen is now the defensive line coach at Wake Forest, which is coached by former Lehigh assistant and Fordham head coach Dave Clawson. Delaware meets the Demon Deacons this week, and Tavani said Tuesday he had a call from Cohen on Sunday. “He said he’s very concerned about the (Delaware) offensive line … one of the best they’ve seen, and they play in a little different league.” Clawson is in his third year as head coach at Wake Forest, where his assistant head coach is Kevin Higgins, former head coach at Lehigh and The Citadel.

BRAIN FADE -- I made a blunder the other day in the story in the newspaper. In said Bucknell was playing an FBS team in VMI. Well, VMI is a Southern Conference FCS team, as I was correctly reminded by a reader. My bad. 

TAVANI QUOTE OF THE DAY – “You can’t out-man people, you have to out-execute people; that is the key component for us right now.”

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