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.

I don’t want anything given to me,” he said. “Everything is earned, not given. That’s the way it should be. Whoever should be playing is going to be playing."

“Jerry is a good player; we need him to be one of the cornerstones of the defense and he has improved every single day,” said Garrett, who has had almost nothing to say about individual players. “He’s versatile, athletic, he can play in space, he’s strong enough to play at the point of attack and he also has a knack as a blitzer rushing the passer, so we’re really pleased with him. He’s gonna be one of the guys we are going to count on on defense.”


I was a skeptic about how the open-all-the-positions plan would work, particularly at quarterback, where Garrett had four in spring camp and has another four freshmen coming in in August. I questioned how he’d be able to give all the candidates a fair shake.

Well, on Saturday, the four QBs were definitely treated equally. When the day ended, Josh Davis and Austin McCrum threw 20 passes each, Blake Meyer threw 19 and Mike Lewis got 13. Meyer had the most completions.

Davis was the only QB to avoid the interception bug. McCrum, who probably would have been the heir to the position in the Frank Tavani-Mickey Fein, didn’t look comfortable and was intercepted three times, with one returned for a touchdown by Powe. It’ll be interesting to see where he is positioned when Garrett finally does put together a depth chart.

It was obvious that mobility was a big factor in the rise of Davis’ stock.

“When things break down, I like to think I can make things happen,” Davis said. “I want to improve my pocket presence, for sure, but I agree that I think one of my strong suits is being mobile. Hopefully, we can keep that going.”

When I mentioned that now he’d have to get ready for the challenge of four more quarterbacks in preseason camp, Davis wasn’t fazed.

“That’s great to get another West Coaster (Sean O’Malley),” he said. “The more competition, the better for me and the program, so I think the more guys coming is going to elevate our play. The guys here now and those coming are no joke; I’ve heard good things. Hopefully we can push each other and make things happen.”

One of the criticisms of Davis in the past was his inability to master the offense. He said on Saturday that the offense put in by offensive coordinator Rich Bartel has not been a problem for him.

“They’ve worked with us real closely on dialing in the offense, and once you get the hang of it, like Coach Garrett always says, your best friend is that system, just follow each guideline and you’ll start to make plays.”


The offensive line took a pretty good licking from some talented defensive front-line players,  and when you consider that Tanner Kern and Cam Smith, both sure to be challengers for starting roles, were on the did-not-play list Saturday, it’s no wonder why. The team’s top two tight ends, Dylan Wadsworth and Angus Evans, also sat out, as did running back DeSean Brown. All those missing pieces might be the reason for the less-than-expected number of running plays.

Missing from the defense, 5th-year linemen Matt Rothrock and Andy Labudev, hard-htytong linebacker Brandon Bryant, Syracuse transfer Anthony Giudice, d-end Keith Earle and d-backs Yasir Thomas, Tre Jordan and Kaizer Butler. Several others from deeper on the roster also were not participating. Too many, but Coach Garrett assured me, “Those injured guys are all on schedule to return and they’re going to be in situations where they compete for roster spots and starting spots and I’m pleased with how they’re doing. Not concerned about the injuries at all.”


Matt Mrazek, Joey Chlenoweth and Nick Franzese had six catches apiece; Rocco Palumbo and Liam Reedy had three each … The running game was downplayed – maybe because of the lack of o-linemen – and Mike Dunn had seven carried for 21 yards and Rajhan Meriwether and Tyler West three each. Nothing was really settled there, it seems … Defensive players who caught the eye of some of the press box watchers included former Becahi star Dante Lonardo, who had at least one sack and several more hurries; Beau Bosch with a sack; and  Izaiah Agent with two interceptions and Parish Simmons, Trent Crossan, Eric Mitchell and T.J. Jones with other picks. At least three INTs came on balls that were tipped, and that was pointed out by Coach Garrett in his postgame chat ... Jacob Bissell put a couple of kickoffs in the end zone, hit a couple of booming punts and was 1-for-2 on field goals … Coach Garrett, when asked by me if he would now be able to make up a depth chart before the start of preseason camp, said, “We will. These 15 practices were important to determine that. That was the whole theme of the spring, to compete, be noticed, fight for the job. Based upon how you play we will insert you into the lineup.  Guys got that message and they competed like it. We’ll look at the tape, assess the spring and then going into the fall we’ll have a pretty good idea of who has earned the spots.”  I’m still not holding my breath … Rajhan Meriwether (looked like a hand) and Rob Hinchen (seemed to be a leg) were hurt during the game and didn’t return. They’ll have lots of time to heal now … football superbacker Jack Bourger was surprised by the team singing “Happy Birthday” after the game. He didn’t get down to the field because he’s taking it easy on a stress fracture on his foot. He was supposed to wear a boot for 6 weeks or so. He lasted two days.


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