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.

McCrum was No. 3 last year behind Drew Reed and Blake Searfoss, and the freshman from Maine never got on the field.  He figured to be the heir to the position, but when Garrett replaced Frank Tavani as head coach, he announced from the get-go that he wanted to establish a competition for the quarterback spot.

“Competition is going to be there all four years; they bring in new people every year,” McCrum said after the practice, “and they’re all Division I athletes. So, it’s going to be something you have to deal with and either you rise to the occasion and compete your [butt] off, have a great spring and a great summer and a great season and indulge in everything, or you put it in your head and you get the yips and start crushing your abilities and you start going downhill. You have to stay positive, confident.”

The simultaneous pass skellies was one of the highlights of the day for me, but the overall movement was impossible to notice. And the approach of Garrett and his staff is a huge hit with members of the team.

Garrett, the former University of Richmond offensive coordinator who promised me several times that everything the Leopards would do would be “fast”, made good on that remark Tuesday and was beaming from ear to ear at the end. His players bought into the pace of the practice, and even I was surprised when it was over so quickly.

“I’m really excited; I think everybody is,” said Dante Lonardo, the Bethlehem Catholic High who is competing for a starting spot at defensive end. He is a rising junior, but he has sophomore eligibility because he missed his entire freshman season with an injury.
“There’s a totally different energy about this place, a natural juice that has developed. The coaching staff brought a lot of that themselves and I think the opportunity to turn things around put that in the players, too. There’s definitely a renewed energy around here, a new sense of focus and determination.”

Lonardo pointed to the field where a couple of his teammates were running, and said, “Like right there, we have guys doing sprints after practice. People are dedicated.” Also after the practice, the four quarterbacks and a bunch of receivers stuck around for some pitch-and-catch. After all, the aerial came could br a major component this fall, given the records of Garrett and offensive coordinator Rich Bartel.

Asked about the pace of the two-hour practice, Lonardo said, “I think that’s good for us to instill a sense of structure in us. It’s a job at this point and I think that’s what it has to be in order for us to have success. We’re focused on everything. Coach is preaching about last to first in everything we do, not just on the football field but up on the hill. He wants us to be the No. 1 academic team on campus, and I think that’s something that translates to everything we do, whether it be in the weight room or on the field or on the hill. Excel in what you do. Anything you do is worth overdoing, so go at it.”

Tight end Dylan Wadsworth, who was the Leopards’ team MVP for 2016 after a season in which he caught 42 passes for 591 yards and two touchdowns, called it “a new everything. You can see practice was way different, a lot faster, moving everywhere, no breaks. But it was great. I like it. It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be good for us. A lot of energy. Passion, enthusiasm, effort, that’s what we have to do every rep every day.”

The players practiced in shorts, jerseys and helmets, but there were a couple of times during an 11-on-11 period that teammates began shoving and pushing one another. Coach Garrett sent offensive lineman Mike Donnelly to the sidelines at one point, shouting, “It’s about the TEAM!”  I noticed that after the practice, as players headed for the locker room, Donnelly went to Garrett. He apparently apologized because the two shook hands. Lesson learned.

Linebacker Brandon Bryant rehabs his knee on the sideline.
A handful of players were not taking part in the practice but were working hard on the sidelines. That group included linebacker Brandon Bryant and defensive backs Tre Jordan and Yasir Thomas. Kaizer Butler wasn’t practicing, either, but he told me he has been cleared to do anything but tackle. However, he said that he needs to put on 30 pounds he lost during his eight-month battle with granulomatosis with polyangiitis, a rare disease that attacks the immune system. He said he hopes to be able to return to the team in August. I think it’s amazing.


Not everything about today was positive, however. Rising junior offensive lineman Kevin Zataveski, who has been a starter in every game of his college career, was practicing with the team but has been placed on suspension after “he was found in violation of NCAA eligibility rules and has been declared ineligible” for the season, sports information director Phil LaBella said when I brought up what I had heard was a possible problem involving Zataveski.

No further explanation of the violation was given, but LaBella texted that the Zataveski suspension began officially on Feb. 2 and will last until the same date next year. LaBella texted that “He can practice (at the coach’s discretion) but cannot play in games or travel with the team. There is an appeal process which the student-athlete can choose to pursue. He does retain his scholarship.”

The loss is going to be large because the 300-pound Zataveski, who played guard as a freshman and tackle as a sophomore and who was at center today, was arguably the Leopards’ top o-lineman. Now his loss will offset the return of Tanner Kern, who missed all of last year after starting as a freshman with Zataveski in 2015.

In case you missed it, Lafayette added two more players to its recruiting class -- quarterback Sean O'Malley from California and punter Michael Turk from Texas. You can get a bit more detail in another of my blog posts.

Lafayette’s second practice will be at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and the first weekend session is set for 10 a.m. Saturday. The Leopards’ Maroon and White game will be at 1 p.m. April 22.

1 comment:

  1. Gambling games that you can play at home.

    จีคลับ Casino site to give casino gamblers a full gamble. Played very well Gambling is a live casino game. Bring it to everyone to play it realistically. There are many investments. Make huge profits. Where to play gambling every day. New bets Have fun at any time like Gambling will help players meet the first chance to win. Play casino games anywhere and anytime. It is ready to play as anyone can play well.

    In addition, the gambler to invest in online gambling casinos on our website. In addition, the player will invest your favorite gambling games. Investors will also get a lot of promotions that we have been held for investors to get here. Investors who are interested to subscribe to our website, then the player can come to play our online gambling services at this gambler will not be disappointed in this game. The player will be able to play easily with our online casino games with standard. The gambler will not be disappointed that we have the opportunity to open it to you. บาคาร่า