Thursday, August 3, 2017

Leopards' Garrett tips his hand on a lineup -- but no guarantees

Well, on the opening day of summer training camp, Lafayette football Coach John Garrett issued his first official two-deep chart. It’s been a long time in the making, and it was still being tweaked as of Wednesday. I’m almost afraid to say much about it because it could be different again before the week is out.

It surely is interesting, though.

Where do we start? Why, at QUARTERBACK, of course, because that is still be biggest plum on the tree. It should come as no surprise that senior Josh Davis is listed at No. 1 because he had the best spring of the four guys in the running at the time. Sophomore Austin McCrum, who has had some individual training with Tony Racioppi last month, and who was probably the heir apparent to the job before Frank Tavani and his staff departed early in the year, is listed at No. 2. Seven QBs were throwing on Thursday, with Mike Lewis standing around with his arm in a sling.  Davis may be hard-pressed to hang on to that job, but watching things develop will be intriguing. We still don’t have a complete picture of what the John Garrett offense is going to look like.

But I can give you a hint. I looked at the 2016 statistics for the Richmond Spyders, who had Garrett as their OC. I put them up against the same numbers for the anemic Lafayette offense of last season.
                                                RU                  LC
Rushing attempts                502                 334
Yards per rush                      3.9                   2.3
TDs rushing                          18                    9
First downs rushing            95                    44
Passing attempts                  436                 430
TDs passing                           27                    17
Yards per pass                       8.7                   6.8
3rd-down conversions         83/197           53/160
Sacks allowed                       31                    33
TDs scored                            47                    27
Red-zone TDs                       31-58              20-36
Points scored                        401                  216
% running plays                   53.6                 43.7   

RUNNING BACK – Easily the most experienced of the lot is DeSean Brown, and he is listed on the first team. But past experience – unless it’s off the charts – probably doesn’t count a lot with Garrett and his staff, who have this open-door policy all along the line. Sophomore Mike Dunn showed good drive in the spring, and oft-injured senior Rajhan Meriwether looked the fastest of the crop and his due for a full year. They are the No. 2 spot at the position. Tyler West transferred out and took himself out of the mix. C.J. Amill is somewhere out there, and the Leopards have depth at the position. It’s a matter of who fits into the Garrett scheme. Get to the hole quickly and with authority. Meriwether is wearing Ross Scheuerman’s old number. If only …

FULLBACK – This is really a hybrid spot held by a guy who can double as a fullback or, in the right formation, a second – or even third – tight end. Junior Will Eisler has played in only one game in his first two years but must ha e made a good impression in the spring because he’s at No. l, with sophomore Ryan Monteyne behind him. Monteyne also saw no game action as a freshman.

WIDE RECEIVER – This is position with excellent depth, led by senior Matt Mrazek. He has started 25 games in three seasons, and but for an injury in his sophomore season, when he missed 3 /13 games, he’d be near the top of the Lafayette record book. He’s played in the shadows of a couple of other outstanding Patriot League receivers and if he gets a full year in as the go-to guy, he could easily overtake Ross (198) for the top spot all-time. He’s tough and clever and every quarterback should want to make him a friend. He and Rocco Palumbo, another senor, is a great complement to Mrazek and has 64 career catches. Behind those two are senior Nick Franzese, who has 26 career catches, and speedy Joey Chenoweth, who has 83 catches, including a 65-yard TD play last season, showing speed which could help the Leopards stretch the field. Local Becahi grad Julian Spigner is among the third-tier guys who may surprise people.

TIGHT END – Dylan Wadsworth is Lafayette’s only offensive pick on the league’s preseason all-star list. He had a breakout hear in 2016 with 42 catches for 571 yards and I can’t tell you how many time we guys in the press box were wanting someone to call his number when the Leopards needed a first down. Great in traffic, he might really blossom in the Garrett offense and earn a second all-league nod. He had a 56-yard touchdown play last year, so he’s not just a short-yardage guy. Junior Angus Evans is No. 2 and he earned starts in four games last year.

OFFENSIVE LINE --  Tackles Cam Smith and Jake Mariotti; guards Collin Raysor and Logan Grieser; center Mike Donnelly  on the first team … tackles Gavin Barclay and Taron Hampton; guards Austin Pyne and Dylan Murphy; center Colin Bradley on the second team. Barclay, Hampton and Pyne are all freeshmen, but reportedly a very talented bunch. Most notable among the missing here is Tanner Kern, who missed last season for medical reason but who started nine games as a freshman and was a standout player. The Coaches obviously don’t know him, but if he’s back and ready to get after it again, he’ll undoubtedly move up.

DEFENSIVE LINE – The first team has Beau Bosch and Dante Lonardo at the ends and Syracuse transfer junior Tony Giudice and sophomore Demetrius Breedlove. The second team consists of Keith Earle and Andrew Chuma at the ends and Andy Labudev and Matt Rothrock inside is interesting, too, because Labudev and Rothrock are both fifth-year guys who didn’t have a chance to show their stuff in the Spring. Rothrock is coming back off knee surgery. The two of them along with the starting four make for a very interesting group on the DL.

LINEBACKERS – Jerry Powe, Michael Root and Brandon Bryant could easily be the best GROUP in the league. Powe was terrific at the strike spot last year, and Bryant is among the best ever to play at Lafayette. Root was the leading tackler last year.    
If those guys up front take care of their business, this group of LBers will wreak havoc. The second team has Kevin Hutchinson, Jack Lamb and Rob Hinchen. A couple of freshmen, Major Jordan and Ryan Dickens will be fighting for time as well. You have to like this.

DEFENSIVE BACKS – Phillip Parham and Eric Mitchell have losts of experience at the corners, and Tymir (a/k/a T.J.) Jones and surprise Trent Crossan at the safeties make up the first team, and rhe second unit consists of Parish Simmons and Dmitry Smith at the corners and Izaiah Avent and Colin Thorne at the safeties. One guy missing from this picture is Yasir Thomas who moved over from offense last year and did some nice things late in the year. This was an area in which the Leopards got hurt last year, so the year of experience and a new scheme will hopefully make a difference.

SPECIAL TEAMS – Jacob Bissell is the first team placekicker and kickoff man and second team punter; freshman Michael Turk is the first team punter and holder; Jeffey Kordenbrock is second team placekicker and kickoff man; C.J. Amill is the first kickoff and punt returner, with Joey Chenoweth backing him up; Michael Shiffert returns as the long snapper; and Beau Bosch and Rocco Palumbo are backup snapper and holder, respectively.

Well, that does it. But as Coach Garrett has sad so many times, players make the depth chart. The way they practice will determine whether they hold on to the spots you see here. I’m sure the names will change over and over again between now and next month, but this at least give everyone something to think about.

I have made almost no mention of the freshmen who might work their way in, but that, too, is likely to change. Coach Garrett does seem genuinely determined to put all the best players on the field. I won’t be surprised to see a freshman beat out a senior in some key roles.

What the lineup looks like on August 3 means nothing. If you have a chance to get to practices on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you’re likely to see some spirited battles,   

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