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.

Bartel, who spent time on a handful of National Football League rosters and was the OC and QB coach at the high school football factory known as IMG Academy in Florida before taking an important job on new Lafayette Coach John Garrett’s staff, has left the team.

On June 2, he posted, on the social media site Twitter, what sounds very much like a letter of resignation. I don’t know if he sent the same thing to Coach Garrett or to Lafayette administrators like athletic director Bruce McCutcheon or college president Alison Byerly.

Garrett plays things pretty close to the vest. I still don’t know if he has made a draft of a depth chart since the end of spring practice.

I had no knowledge of the Bartel decision until I took a look at the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum to see what the guys were up to. Things have been pretty slow recently, but the Bartel move last week lit up the chatroom in one day. Interesting stuff from the guys who were looking for Bartel to be a major contributor to a football turnaround on College Hill.

But then a poster named “bethlehempard” punched me in the stomach, which has to be one of my most vulnerable spots. First, by inference he put me in the “sometimes compliant” category – in other words, docile, meek and easy. Ouch!

Then he said the “local media should have been on this.” I guess it matters not that this is a somewhat dead period for football news, or that Coach Garrett has been non-specific in all of his discussions – at least those with me. And, while I do sometimes check social media stuff, I hadn’t looked at Coach Bartel’s site, which tends to be dominated by motivational comments.  

I do know that sports information director Phil LaBella told me his office doesn’t usually report on coaches leaving until he can also announce their replacements. He didn’t have any announcement to make when I talked to him Wednesday. 

Bartel is not the first assistant coach to leave Team Garrett. Former Lafayette player Ian Dell, who I thought would be especially helpful in the transition to the new staff, took a job outside of coaching, and Brett Guminsky took a job with former Lafayette defensive coordinator Art Link at Christopher Newport University. But those losses pale by comparison to Bartel.

I was thinking about what a task it would be for Garrett to get things back in place and restarted, and then I heard about Bob Stoops’ retirement announcement at Oklahoma. I immediately figured Garrett’s problem suddenly sounded like a small bump in the road by comparison to that for the people at OU. Then I read that the Sooners had an assistant coach ready to step right in.

Problem solved for OU. It may not be as easy for Garrett.  

Anyway, here’s the text Bartel tweeted last week.

“It’s with a grateful heart that I would like to thank Coach Garrett, my colleagues & players for the opportunity to pursue the compelling mission of building a great football program at Lafayette.

“However, soon after taking the position as OC/QB coach in January, I came to the realization that my greatest passion & vision is in quarterback evaluation & long-term quarterback development through systematic training. My only regret is not realizing this sooner.

“Since my playing career ended in 2012, every experience in  the coaching profession has taught more about who I am in it & where I fit.

“Since my involvement in national camps and programs such as FBU, Rivals NFL Prep 100 and IMG Academy I’ve noticed a growing trend in quarterbacks that lack fundamental character qualities like self-awareness, humility, persistence, dogged determination, delayed gratification and grit. No doubt these are all hard to quantify, instill and implement, but when I see a societal landscape that perpetually undermines these core values young men desperately need, I become stirred. We’re not doing a good enough job equipping the next generation of men that will impact men – on their teams or in society.

“Apparently, anyone in the training niche can and does teach the obvious to quarterbacks: 3 step, 5 step, pocket movement, chalk talk …

“But who is going to challenge the kid chasing the exposure to instead chase delayed gratification, diligence, deliberate and lonely practice? That’s not sexy. It doesn’t get business. It’s not worthy of a retweet.

“Teaching a young man how to be a quarterback is easy. Teaching him how to get better over time, trust the process and become sustainable while the competition chases drills, offers, edits and attention is difficult. It’s more than a $100 per hour bi-vocational job. It’s a calling.

“That’s where I’m headed.”

Sounds like maybe Bartel has been a victim of quarterback culture shock. In his two years at IMG Academy, Bartel coached QBs who are now playing at Mississippi and Texas A&M. Sean Patterson started the final three games of his freshman season at Ol’ Miss last season; Kellen Mond enrolled at A&M in January and began his quest for the starting spot during spring camp. You can find some internet video of him throwing a touchdown pass in the spring game.

At Lafayette, Bartel was thrown right into the fire. Four quarterbacks in spring camp and only one of them had ever thrown a pass in a college game. That one, Josh Davis, was a wide receiver last season but switched back to quarterback for his senior year after two QBs graduated, leaving the starting spot for 2017 wide open.

Bartel had never coached on the college level, and with the Leopards, he was hired to be not just a position coach, but the offensive coordinator as well. He surely had no idea what the complete job description of the OC would require of him, but it is safe to say that developing quarterbacks was not going to be his only chore.

Or, maybe it was more a matter of Bartel’s NOT having a bigger role in the overall offense.

During one of my first interviews with Coach Garrett, he told me: "We will name an offensive coordinator but I will be heavily involved in the offense, with its terminology and its installation. That’s my background and I will be a big part of that as well as overseeing the defense."

Coach Garrett came to Lafayette after having been an OC and quarterbacks coach in his last stop. Maybe he’s decided he needs to be even more hands-on than he initially figured he’d have to be. He seemed to be the one calling plays during the spring game in April, where he promised to give four quarterbacks a chance to show their stuff – and actually delivered on that promise.

But it was clear at the end of spring ball that while Davis may have showed enough to get the first snaps in preseason camp, Garrett continued with his “no incumbents” approach. That meant that the addition of Northrup, O’Malley, Aichholz and Mussina to a crowded field including Davis, Austin McCrum, Blake Meyer and Mike Lewis figured to make the quarterbacks coach’s job somewhat of nightmare.

It’s a nightmare Bartel won’t be having any more. It’ll be interesting to see how Coach Garrett fills the Bartel vacancy. He told me he has a working list of coaches that he has been putting together for years. He’s undoubtedly going through his progressions perhaps even today. Good luck, Coach.

CLAYTON UPDATE -- Stan Clayton has a new job – as offensive line coach at Morgan State University. The announcement was made a little over a week ago. In a news story on the MSU website, Coach Fred Farrier says, “We are very excited to add Stan Clayton to our offensive staff. His experience developing offensive lines will be a huge asset to our program. He has played at the highest levels of college and professional football and he is a coach who truly cares about the individuals he coaches. Stan has coached at several high academic institutions and that background with balancing academics and football will be a great asset for our program. I can't wait for him to get started coaching and mentoring our players."  Congrats, Stan.

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