My rants and insight into Colgate athletics and Patriot League sports

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Colgate vs. UMass Scouting Report

Folks, this piece is going to be short and lacking in the quality that I like to see myself produce on this blog; but, life gets in the way. As some of you may know, the next few weeks are going to be hectic for me on a personal and professional level, so this 'scouting report' will be largely from the hip, unreferenced and largely unresearched. I'm really relying on memory with this one more than I like. But please, bear with me for September. I promise it will get better.


The recent Colgate/UMass games have been all heated, passionate games with plenty of potential outcomes riding on the score, and this one should be no different. It all started with that now famous (or infamous if you're in Amherst reading this) snow bowl game in the 2003 playoffs, which was followed by a great rubber match in 2004 and then a stunning upset last year by the Raiders. You can bet this year will be no different, as there is plenty of 'bad blood' and mutual respect for both programs. UMass has probably always been the favorite in each game, and this one should be no different.


The big names for UMass are back, and we should be very familiar with them. Running back Steve Baylark deserves plenty of attention and respect and will be a key component to a Minuteman winning strategy. In the times I've seen him play, Baylark strikes me as a solid all around back with no real aspect of his game that stands out amongst the others. He's big but not huge, fast but not a burner, shifty but not Barry Sanders. Bottom line, he will require a solid game by the linebackers with great tackling to contain.

There is a 'new' QB for Colgate to face, having had a hand in letting Liam Coen get his shot under center after picking off Tim Day multiple times in last year's upset. Coen ended up throwing for almost 2,200 yards in 10 games. He will be a harder QB for us to deal with than Day was. Coen's main targets will be Brandon London and J.J. Moore. Our secondary should be able to cover them well, but not if they're being asked to provide run support to the young defensive line and new linebackers. If Bean, Williams and company can concentrate on them first, I like our chances in limiting their impact. "Limit" is the key word though; they will get their completions. We need to hold the big plays and 3rd down conversions to a minimum.


This UMass defense is big and experienced, and they will be looking to slap Jordan Scott around if they can. Now, I don't think they can after hearing about Scott putting on 15 lbs. of muscle in the off season - but they will do everything in their power to hit Scott hard and often. Basically, he can't do it by himself. For Colgate to be successful on offense, the passing game will need to be working. For the passing game to be working, Saraceno will have to be on. A rusty first game will put this game out of reach for Colgate early.

The defensive line and linebackers are all big boys; Colgate will have to rely on execution, play calling and, frankly, key athleticism from the skill positions in order to move the ball as we'd like. Holding on to the ball won't hurt either! Scott gets stronger as the game goes on, so ultimately I like our chances to run in the late 3rd and 4th quarter. The key issue is - the game still has to be close.

On bright spot for the Raiders is that the area we need to be successful in (passing), in some ways plays into a weak spot (if you can really call it that) for UMass. There is a new corner and free safety to try and exploit with the physical tools and skills of our second, third and fourth recievers. Erik Burke, David Morgan and David Gongora are all possible of having big games here. Also, finding ways to get our 6'5" tight end, Brent Dillingham into some possession situations against their linebackers or strong safety will be key. Dillingham will have 4-5 inches on everyone else out there for UMass defending the pass. Timely 10 yard completions to him could be the difference in the game here.

Special Teams

UMass has a great punter but if I am coaching the Minutemen, I would still look to keep the ball out of Geoff Bean's hands. Kick coverage is something often lacking in early season games, so if Colgate can break a big return or two, that could be huge. I do not know who will be handling the return duties for UMass, but the same is true for Colgate. We better cover well, because I have no doubt the player will be fast and talented.

Bottom Line

Colgate's got its work cut out for itself, just like last year. An upset is certainly possible, but in order to do so we will need to play mistake free ball and play with passion. That stupid opening game jinx is out there alive and well; upseting UMass again would be a wonderful way to try and begin to break it.

Ultimately though, until we see what we have got to work with on defense, this game is UMass's to lose. It's at home, they bring back more experience on both sides of the ball and everyone making predictions has got them penciled in. While being realistic, don't count your Raiders out though. I think they are going to come to play.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

2006 Prognosticating the Patriot: Week 1

The days are getting shorter, the mornings a bit cooler and the students are heading back to school. For the readers of this blog, it surely means just one thing: The weeks, nay, months of salivating for the start of the football season are over. The first round of games are upon us!

This also means it is the third season that I will be doing a weekly preview (and picks) of the league's games. Love them, hate them - I promise it's all in good fun. And now, on with the show!

As has become typical, the opening week of the Patriot League tends to be heavy on the 'low to no equivalency' opponents. (Note to readers, I am trying to ditch the usage of 'mid-major' in my blog with the NEC's move to scholarships.) We've got four of them on tap, along with one league game and one huge Patriot/A-10 matchup. In all likelihood, the largest spotlight will be shining on that lastly mentioned key contest, barring any 'Central Connecticut-like' upsets.

With little to go on but prospectuses, hunches and intitution...

Duquesne @ Bucknell

Duquense of the MAAC is about as good a low equivalency program as they come. Year in and year out they put a good team out on the field and, with a winning record (7-6) against Patriot League teams this decade, clearly they have no issue 'playing up' - if you could even call it that. Ask Fordham who lost 30-13 last year if Duquense shouldn't be taken seriously. With that history and their 7-3 2005 record vs. Bucknell's 1-10 2005 record squaring off, on the surface this looks to be another great opportunity for the Dukes to knock of a school from a playoff conference.

Digging a little deeper, unfortunately for Bison fans, doesn't produce a much different picture. Eight offensive starters return led by the MAAC Rookie of the Year quarterback Scott Knapp and supplemented by a tailback tandem that almost ran for 1,000 yards. When he wants to throw, Knapp has 10 of his top 12 targets back to choose from. Bucknell will be trying to stop the Dukes with a brand new defensive line and a secondary that gave up serious points and yardage last season. Basically, Dorian Petersen can't do it all by himself here.

For Bucknell to win, pretty much like it will be for them all season, it will come down to their ability to put points on the board; and that responsibility will rest with the quarterback. Maybe Wilson is back, maybe it's Lair that will get the job done. Until someone emerges in this offense though, there is no reason to pick Bucknell in a game like this.

Predicted outcome: Duquense 32 Bucknell 18

Colgate @ Massachuesetts

What history this matchup has developed in such a short time! There is no reason to recall it all here and now, but suffice to say both teams have had this date circled for more reasons than just it was the first game of the year.

UMass comes into this contest much like last season: highly ranked and touted with a scary amount of talent and, unlike last year, with a home field advantage. Some of the same faces are still there too. Baylark, Coen, Ihedigbo... you've seen this routine before. UMass will have an experienced offense, talented defense and a hunger to shove it down Colgate's throats.

Colgate comes into this contest a little better off than last season, with some established stars and without the baggage of an embarrassing loss the week before. However, the task at hand for the Raiders remains the same. It will most likely take some help from timely turnovers and a bit of HooDoo magic for the boys from Hamilton to escape Amherst with a victory. It's certainly not impossible, nor would it be incredibly surprise to see Colgate pull out a victory. It's just not predictable.

Homer stays home on this one. With the questions on the defensive line and the horrible opening game record for the past decade, there should be no smart money on Colgate on Saturday. I predict a game much like 2004; it will be a good game well into the fourth quarter but ultimately, it's the Minutemen in this one.

Predicted outcome: UMass 34 Colgate 21

Monmouth @ Fordham

The Masella Era begins in the Bronx and the Ram faithful couldn't be happier to start this new chapter. The revamped Fordham gridders will face a potentially rebuilding Monmouth team that will have to do without the services of current NFL wideout Miles Austin. Monmouth was a 6-5 program last season that put more points on Lehigh than Fordham could and beat Albany, a team that the Rams lost too.

But that was then, and this is now. I think until proven otherwise, optimism (within reason) reigns on Rose Hill. Behind James Prydatko's running and Marcus Taylor's defensive leadership, Fordham should have more talent and depth there than Monmouth. It will be interesting to see if any of the new scholarship recruits see time and have any impact in this game. For now though, I think Prydatko rushes for over 100 yards fairly easily and carries Fordham to victory.
Predicted outcome: Fordham 28 Monmouth 10

Holy Cross @ Georgetown

The sole league contest pits two teams jockeying for maintain position in the middle of the league. Besides the fact that starting out the league 1-0 is every team's goal, Holy Cross needs to establish itself as more than just a one hit wonder and Georgetown is looking for some new direction under new head coach Kevin Kelly.

This should be an interesting defensive battle, as the Crusaders eight new offensive starters (losing all of their skill positions) will square off against one of the better defensive lines the Patriot League has this year. Going the other way, the Hoyas will take one of last season's worst offenses and put it up against one of last season's worst defenses in Holy Cross... if you can follow that logic!

Basically, I think Georgetown can contain Holy Cross's offense, but I don't know if Georgetown can score any points, even against Holy Cross's defense. At this point, there really isn't much more to say than that. If I could pick a 0-0 tie, I just might do it.

Predicted outcome: Georgetown 10 Holy Cross 7

Lafayette @ Sacred Heart

Lafayette should have no problem with this one. A loss here would be a greater upset than CCSU's defeat of Colgate last year. Sacred Heart's biggest win last year was against Stony Brook. Lafayette's a legitimate playoff contender, and just a break or two away from making the next round. You figure this one out!

Lafayette is on the road and has a new defense to break in. That's it. That's the Sacred Heart angle. Sure it's possible, but why in the world would anyone predict it? Maurer, Hurt and Company run circles over the Pioneers. Marvin Snipes chews the opposing line to pieces. This one should be much like, or worse than even, the Sacred Heart opener last year against Holy Cross; a 56-21 loss.

Predicted outcome: Lafayette 52 Sacred Heart 10

Albany @ Lehigh

Albany is a program on the move, without a doubt. However, they are facing one of the top programs of I-AA and have only one scholarship class under their belts. This game might show just how close the Danes are to breaking through to respectability... on the other hand this game might also be close for a half before a blow out. Your guess is as good as mine.

Sedale Threatt will be searching for some new faces to throw to and Lehigh will be working with a new coach and will be trying to find someone new to establish the running game. This could be an issue of concern as Albany might have some pretty good players on the defensive side of the ball that could give the Mountain Hawks some fits. Linebacker Colin Disch, defensive tackle Michael Dungey, defensive end Andre Coleman and cornerback Ryan Chrobak are all capable of elevating their games to a level that, on any given Saturday, provides the spark to upset a great program trying to get its feet wet.

That said, I don't think Lehigh will miss too many beats here offensively, and frankly, I don't think the Danes have the firepower to keep up with the boys from Bethlehem, even with the installation of a new 3-4 defense. Some fits and starts are predicted, maybe even a half-time score that raises eyebrows, but ultimately, Lehigh will score points and it will likely be more points than Albany

Predicted outcome: Lehigh 35 Albany 21
There you have it; week one. We should have some questions answered on Sunday, but I bet there will be a whole host more to tackle.

Good luck Patriot League teams!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

2006 Patriot League Preview: #1 Colgate

Without any surprises to be sure...

#1 Colgate

Recent History

With five Patriot League titles in the past ten years and more wins over that time frame than any other league program, picking Colgate to win the Patriot League is hardly a risky bet. In what now has almost become a Colgate legend, back in 1996 head coach Dick Biddle took an 0-11 football program and made it into a winner; and has never looked back. Each year Colgate's a contender to win the whole thing, and following a flirtatious run at a national championship in 2003, the bar for success in Hamilton is raised higher ever year.

Off Season Developments

After years of stability, the winds of change finally rolled down Broad Street and shook up some of this Raider staff. The biggest name to go would be former offensive coordinator and associate head coach Mike Foley who spent 22 years at Colgate. Foley leaves for what one would assume would be his one shot at the big time with a gig at UConn coaching the offensive line. His loss would be followed closely by linebacker coach Bob Fraser heading to Rutgers. Fraser's impact on the Patriot League cannot be understated, as three out of the past four Defensive Players of the Year were players under his tutelage. Only time will tell just how much those two with a combined 31 years of coaching at Colgate will be missed.

Not surprisingly, Biddle promoted from within, naming longtime defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham to the associate head coach role and promoting coaching staple Dan Hunt from quarterbacks to offensive coordinator. There was additional shifting around as well, with Pinkham giving up his hold on the secondary for the linebackers and former All-American turned coach Kevin Bolis taking up the offensive line duties after handling the running backs.

For the first time in a while, there is also a facility development at Colgate to mention. In fact, a very large and noticeable facility development to mention, pictured at the right. Colgate's latest scoreboard in Andy Kerr Stadium catapults the Raiders into the 21st century with instant replay, sponsors and even yardage totals. Having walked around the stadium personally, it lends some weight to the far end zone and improves the overall look and feel of the stadium. Even if I wasn't an alum, I'd still say "Well done, Colgate".

Recruiting wise, the Class of 2010 rivals that of 2009 and puts two 'A' classes back to back for the Raiders. This season also saw the first online videos of the incoming recruits in the Patriot League, something that previously was left for the 'big boys' of I-AA like Montana. The videos are a great sneak peak at what could be in store in the years to come.

There is something for everyone in this class if you're a Colgate fan but the biggest stories are probably on both sides of the lines, where these young men could see some time starting this fall. The biggest spotlight probably shines on Kyle Poinsett and Zach Posey, both offensive lineman out of Florida. For the second year in a row, there is a good chance that a freshman could be starting on the offensive line this fall, and my bets would be on one of them. On the defensive line, more freshman may have an immediate impact on this program. Frank Vittorini, Juliues Barlay and Tyler Spencer could all be names to keep tabs on. David Ashton and Greg Hadley shine as linebackers of the future (no doubt pushing last year's touted recruits in this spot), and Wayne Moten could be the fastest defensive back seen in Maroon in a long time. Offensively, Tony Watts figures to find a way to touch the ball somehow, wide reciever Patrick Simonds could sneak his way in as the number 4 option this year, and Tulane transfer Ryan Meyers could have something to say about the quarterback position at Colgate before all is said and done.

2005 Schedule

Following last year's Central Connecticut State debacle, Colgate's opening game jinx cannot be underestimated. It doesn't get easier this year as instead of a supposed 'tune-up' game, the Raiders open with what could be the toughest opponent on their schedule, UMass in Amherst. This early test is followed by a four game homestand book ended by the Ivies. Dartmouth comes to town first, followed by Colgate's second ever NEC game against Monmouth. The league slate starts as Georgetown comes to town and then finally Princeton makes the long trip up Route 12 to end the month spent at Andy Kerr.

Although the homestand ends, the next game on tap is really just a short trip over hill and dale (and Deruyter) to Ithaca and Cornell for the final non-league game of the year. The Raiders head to the Bronx and Fordham before coming home to square off against last year's other co-champion, Lafayette. This key game is then followed by the second preseason key league game at Lehigh. Holy Cross makes that cold trip to Hamilton for Senior Day and then the Raiders try and erase embarrassing memories of 2004 with a road trip to Bucknell.

Season Outlook

Many of Colgate's preseason hopes lie in the offensive skill positions. Of any team in the Patriot League this fall, Colgate enjoys the biggest names returning back, starting with All-American tailback Jordan Scott. Last year the freshman emerged late in a Dartmouth loss and never let go of his starting position, running for a total of 1,364 yards and taking home the Patriot League Rookie of the Year award. If healthy he will be a Jamaal Branch-like workhorse for years to come for the Raiders, and every opposing defense will be gearing up to bring him down.

Scott is complimented by returning fifth-year and first team all-Patriot League quarterback Mike Saraceno. Saraceno was dogged by turnovers throughout the season, but still managed to throw for over 2,000 yards and twelve touchdowns. It probably goes without saying that the number one priority for #11 will be to make smarter decisions under fire.

When Saraceno's game is on, he will be looking to throw to arguably the strongest receiver corps of the league, headlined by Kenny Parker. Parker made the switch from running back to wide receiver in 2005 and ended up second in the Patriot League in touchdowns with seven. Parker's speed and scoring ability are balanced by the solid possession skills and deep ball threat of Erik Burke. Burke made a name for himself with some key catches in league contests such as Lafayette, Lehigh and Holy Cross. The Parker/Burke tandem is bolstered by sophomore David Morgan and by perhaps one of the strongest receiver recruiting classes in memory, with 6'6" Patrick Simonds, previously mentioned Moten (a threat to play both ways), 6'2" Ty Henry and 6'2" David Gongora all having potential to see some time this fall. Finally, one must not forget the presence of 6'5" Brent Dillingham at the tight end spot. Dillingham quietly ended the season fourth on the team in receptions, and his role will surely increase as he matures.

This talented group will operate behind a moderately experienced line, anchored by senior center Jake Sulovski. Sulovski is joined by a pair of sophomores who represent the future of Colgate football, tackle Steve Jonas and guard Richie Rosabella. Jonas earned the honors of being the first lineman to ever start under Dick Biddle and figures to be a fixture at the right tackle spot. Rosabella saw time at numerous spots last season and will likely settle in at right guard this year. The left side of the line will be interesting to watch, as there are a pair of seniors with playing experience looking to earn a starting position, as well as the Florida Freshman will be jockeying to be the next Steve Jonas.

With the sun shining on offense, there is a large shadow cast over the loss of the entire Colgate defensive line and two outstanding linebackers, including the 2005 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Jared Nepa. For any of these title dreams to come true, some currently unproven names will have to carry on the strong defensive tradition that defensive coordinator Pinkham has established. For the line, the one name you can pencil in is Pat Nolan. Nolan saw significant action and had one starting assignment. After Nolan though, it is anyone's guess as to who will step up. Do not be surprised to see some freshman seeing time here as well.

The linebackers do return David Wesley to the starting position, and the remaining two spots appear to be Mike Gallihugh and Eric Tupta. Tupta in particular will have many fans watching as he was tagged early as a blue chip recruit. If these three have any of Fraser's fingerprints on them, it is likely that it won't take long for them to carve out names for themselves away from the large shadow of Nepa, and Lukabu before him.

While untested on the front lines, the defensive backfield will be seasoned and proven and will add much needed support for the newcomers. Two year starter Geoff Bean leads the secondary from his strong safety position and garnered Preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors for the league. Bean's classmate and fellow safety Andrew Moore has started every game with Bean and will be helped by standout corner Cody Williams. The sole question to be answered will be in finding Cody's brother, Chris's, replacement. It could be nickel back Sam Breslin or even incoming freshman Moten that ends up winning the battle.

Both kickers return for the Raiders and while it is unlikely they will be called on to win any games for Colgate this fall, fans should feel confident that their team is in good hands.

Predicted Finish

First - by virtue of the least amount of unknowns and the biggest names coming back; specifically Dick Biddle and Jordan Scott. Dick Biddle has proven, time and time again, that he knows how to build teams, get the most from his players and, surprise, win, win, win. He seems to only get better each year, and all signs point to 2006 being no different. Jordan Scott splashed on the scene in the early part of 2005 and by the end of the season placed himself in line to be the next great Colgate running back. Put those two together, with a supporting cast of a capable all-league quarterback, talented receivers and somewhat experienced line, and the sky is the limit for this offense.

That of course has to be balanced by the sheer unknown on the defensive side of the ball. If it was Ed Pinkham that left for UConn and not Mike Foley, I would have picked this season a bit differently. But with his steady and experienced hand at the wheel, again, experience has proven that time and time again, a new defensive group is waiting in the wings to step up.
We just don't know their names yet.

The fairly safe bet in the league this year is that the Colgate offense can score enough points, and control the time of possession enough to overcome the changeover in defensive personnel. Of course it all comes down to execution, disregarding your own press, and perhaps most importantly, staying healthy; sitting behind a computer in August though, the preseason odds are that the Raiders have the best shot of bringing home the title in 2006.

Thanks for reading this year's preview. Be on the lookout for the first "Prognosticating" piece and the UMass scouting report!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Colgate's "Filling Out"

The Sports Network Poll is out and while Colgate's officially not on in (no Patriot League team is this preseason - Colgate would be ranked 27th), one writer did fill the need to print his ballot in the poll, and Colgate got his 25 spot.

I'm not surprised that Colgate, Lafayette and Lehigh are not anywhere on this poll, much like the rest of them. We're splitting the normal "Patriot League vote" and until a clear frontrunner emerges, don't expect to see anyone there soon. Of course, a win over highly ranked UMass would do just that...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blitzing Bean

It's obvious that camp is only a few days away. The stories are starting to come in now. Local product and Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Geoff Bean is the feature in a hometown newspaper story.

Bean ready for final journey at Colgate

The subject of blitzing seemed to get Colgate senior Geoff Bean emotional Wednesday night.

"Every chance I get," Oneonta High graduate Bean said when asked if he looks forward to blitzing from his strong safety position for the Division I-AA team.

This was odd because most anyone who’s talked with Bean knows the word "I" rarely comes out of his mouth.

He quickly added, "Every chance we get. The defense feeds off that. We can’t wait to blitz. We’re programmed to do it."
Reading further one finds out that Bean turned down a summer internship with Pepsi in Denver to train in Hamilton. That kind of committment from an established starter gives me goosebumps. I've been high on Bean since I saw him play as a sophomore. It may sound like hyperbole, but I think Bean's going to have a big year.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Dream Come True

Incoming frosh Zach Lasavage is commuting from Colgate to Carbondale, PA the past couple of weeks to prepare for the 'Dream Game' which pits graduated all-stars from the are county versus all-stars from the city of Scranton. Zach will most likely play a role as a rusher for the county team, but at Colgate it looks like he will be a defensive back for us.

Good luck Zach - and stay healthy!

2006 Patriot League Preview: #2 Lafayette

Well, I'm back. And while I won't scoop the Patriot League coaches and media anymore with my picks, I do hope you'll enjoy what you read.

#2 Lafayette

Recent History

When the clock struck midnight in Newark, Delaware in 2004 following Lafayette's playoff loss to the defending national champion Blue Hens, a funny thing happened. Apparently nobody told the boys in Easton to read the script. Cinderella didn't return home in 2005 to find the ugly step-sisters still lording over the Patriot League; Head Coach Frank Tavani didn't turn into a dormouse and the championship carriage ride didn't turn into a pumpkin. In fact, the Leopards went straight to video with their Cinderella II sequel and decided that the party was so much fun, why not do it again? So they did - with another Patriot League championship and another playoff appearance.

With back to back co-championships under their belt, suddenly the landscape looks a lot different for the Maroon and White. Three wins out of the past four Lehigh games, championship rings, playoffs, national rankings, solid recruiting class after solid recruiting class... One might think if you were to transport Lafayette fans such as internet favorite 'Andy' right off the street in 2000 and plopped them in the center of Fisher Field this fall, they would probably mistake Easton for Bethlehem, and would be wondering why the Mountain Hawks are in Maroon.

But behold! This really is Lafayette! Of any program in the Patriot League, the 'recent' history of Lafayette College is the most dramatic upswing to recount. In this decade the program has gone from a two win per year schedule to one with bonus games after Thanksgiving. All-Americans are on these squads. Yes, this really is Lafayette, and their beyond arriving. They're staying.

Off Season Developments

Hmmm.... off-season developments.... off-season developments... what could have possibly happened at Lafayette that might be worth talking about? Coaching staff? Nope. This staff is becoming very 'Colgate-like' in their stability and one can't help but notice that when a school is successful. (Note to self: given some of the changes in Hamilton this fall, perhaps next time around the correct phrase would be 'Lafayette-like'. Remember that.)

OH, I KNOW! How about a $23 million dollar renovated football stadium as an off-season development? Would that interest you? Well, all sarcasm aside now, it probably does, and it should. For a school that once talked about a move to Division III, the winds are certainly blowing in another direction. While not going from 'worst-to-first' with this change, Lafayette is certainly making their case known for 'first'. Time will tell if the fans in Easton can support the Leopard program to the extent that that other school west down I-78 does, but if they can't, it won't be because of the facilities. We're talking new seating, field turf, lights, a varsity house, new restrooms and vending. You get the idea. I personally can't wait to see this stadium in soon.

As previously mentioned, Tavani continues to successfully sell a great education and a top I-AA program to recruits. Look no further than the fact that over 75% of recruits that choose to visit Lafayette end up signing on the dotted line. Clearly when the time comes, student-athletes like what they see and hear.

The emphasis in this class was clearly in three areas: lineman, linebackers and defensive backs. Looking at what Lafayette graduated, this area of concern should come as no surprise. Some standouts: Michael Bolton, TE 6'5" 220 lbs. First, that poor, poor child! Go by 'Mike', please! But I have a hunch about names like this. In Johnny Cash fashion, they tend to toughen somebody up. Think of all those NFL types named Leslie, or Stacey, or Kim. I'm not about to mess with them.

Spencer Brown, LB 6'1" 215 lbs. looks to have some nice athleticism to his credit. Keith Heaney 6'3" 220 lbs. looks to be a beast of a linebacker; DeAndre' Morrow could be a speedster tailback to look out for at 5'10" and 180 lbs; Andrew Poulson has some nice size to build on as a defensive lineman and looks to be a good athlete by virtue of his wrestling skills; finally, keep an eye on Allan Whitesell DL 6'6" 220 lbs. He was a hot commodity around the league in recruiting time.

2006 Schedule

The Pards make up for their seven home games in 2005 with only five (scheduled!) contests to speak of in the new Fisher Field this fall. The real head scratcher is their opener, an away game at Sacred Heart. One has to think this trip to a 'mid-major' is connected in some fashion to the stadium construction and perhaps it was a buffer put in by the administration to account for the completion time. But, with Lafayette also opening against Marist away last year, maybe this isn't the case entirely.

The Pards then waste no time with the Patriot League schedule as they travel to Bucknell before the inaugural game in the new stadium against in-state foe Pennsylvania. Penn is the start of a four game Ivy League stretch that follows with an away game at Princeton, a home contest against Yale, and a trip to Cambridge and Harvard to end it. This is do or die time for Lafayette's at-large playoff hopes, as historically the Ivy teams have given the Leopards some of their toughest matchups in the past. Going three out of four here would be a big monkey off the program's back.

Climbing down the Ivory Tower a flight, the rest of the Patriot League schedule continues. It's Holy Cross up first and then a certainly circled date in a trip up to Hamilton to try and address the other program monkey: a win against Colgate. The season chugs on to an away game at Fordham, before some end of the year home cooking against Georgetown and arch-rival Lehigh. This will be a big one, like it is every year, but even more so. Lafayette has not one three in a row against Lehigh since the early days of the Patriot: 1989-1991.

Season Outlook

If last year's season was a test to see if the Leopards were a flash in the pan, this year's test will be to see if this is a 'reload' or a 'rebuild' type program. It would be tough to argue against the fact that the outstanding defense of Lafayette in 2005 carried this team to the finish line.

Unfortunately, some important players from that unit are gone. The linebacking unit of Maurice Bennett, Blake Costanzo and Dion Witherspoon are gone. Starting corners Larry Johnson and Tye Murphy are gone. These are not names you easily replace.

But, it's not all bad news for the fans. The defensive line will be good; real good. Marvin Snipes will be the leader of this line, and perhaps the entire defense. Pair him up with Dan Liseno, Kyle Sprenkle and Keith Bloom, and you've got a base to build on. The linebackers will be lead by an experienced senior, Justin Stovall and sophomore Andy Romans might emerge as a top linebacker in the Patriot League one day. And while the corners are gone, the safeties are not. Led by Torian Johnson, three safeties have started a combined 52 games so far. Of all the spots to really be nervous about as a Leopard fan, it's the corners. Adrian Lawson will most likely team up with Marvin Clecidor to try and keep opposing receivers in check. This will not be an easy task as the Patriot League has some serious receivers that require attention. It will most likely be up to Snipes and the defensive line to cause pressure and hurry quarterbacks to give the corners some help.

It is on offense where Lafayette really has the potential to shine. Led by two year starter Brad Maurer at quarterback, the Pards are in excellent hands. Maurer's an superb passer who is also been known to run the ball effectively. The only knock on Maurer has been his health, and unfortunately an experienced back up like Pat Davis is not waiting in the wings this year. Getting some backup quarterback experience has to be on the minds of this staff, and if the situations allow, look for Michael DiPaola to get some snaps if games are not in question.

Jonathan Hurt also returns in the backfield and opponents take heed: he may have underachieved a bit last year, but he has ever bit of a chance to lead this league in rushing, especially behind this offensive line led by Mike Saint Germain. Germain is a horse with some All-American accolades under his belt. He's got some help by another senior Ryan Nase, and all indications are that Jesse Padilla, Joe Moore and Leo Plenski will be carrying on the tradition of excellence established under offensive line coach Bob Heffner.

Maurer also gets some help from the receiver corps with the return of Archie Fischer and Joe Ort for fifth years. Fischer and Ort are reliable possession receivers that have played with Maurer for 3 years now. That familiarity can make up for a lot when a quarterback gets in trouble or needs someone to come through in a clutch. The two fifth-years are complimented by a dose of speed in sophomore Shaun Adair. Adair was picked early to have an impact on this program, and he didn't disappoint when given the chance last year. Look for his role to increase, and his name to be announced a lot.

When it's time to kick, the Pards will also enjoy some experience here as well. Both starters are back; senior Rick Ziska will handle the kicking duties and junior David Yankovich will take care of the punts. Neither led the league but they are both very reliable. Previously mentioned Adair will also be asked to fill some big shoes on returns, as Larry Johnson graduated after breaking some records in his time in Easton.

Predicted Finish

Second. And it's only by a hair. Just one linebacker returning, or maybe if Hurt had a better year in 2005 or if there was a corner returning, I think I would have penciled them in at #1. But when I think about how the defense carried this team to a championship, and how the other #1 up for consideration is Colgate, well... it's tough to pick them to win it all when a trip up to Hamilton in late October is in order. Please don't mistake this for homerism; with the streak and the success Colgate has had at home, I'd do the same even if the tables were turned around.

Lafayette will be successful on offense, there should be no doubt about it. Solid offensive line and veteran skill players virtually assure that. While they won't win shootouts, they will put points on the board and control the ball. This formula worked in 2005, so the 2006 season should be all about the following three questions:

1. How good are the upcoming linebackers?

2. Can the cornerbacks prove adequate?

3. Can the Leopard defensive line dominate opponents enough to lower or negate the importance of the first two questions?

Nothing will be turning into a pumpkin in 2006 as Lafayette should clearly win some ball games. If any of those three questions are answered positively, then Lafayette has as good a chance as anyone to win this league. If two of those three questions are answered positively, then Lafayette's heading to the playoffs. If three... well, Leopard fans can daydream from there!