Patriot League Preview - 2011 Lafayette Leopards
After an uncharacteristic 2-9 season where they finished 1-4 in the Patriot League, Lafayette will try to bounce back in 2010 behind an experienced returning nucleus that includes 16 starters and 37 letterwinners from last season.
Offense (8 starters returning/3 starters lost)
A question mark heading into the 2010 season, the quarterback position in Easton appears to be in good hands with senior Ryan O'Neil coming off a solid season where he completed 67 percent of his passes (209-of-313) for 2,183 yards and 15 touchdowns. O'Neil finished the season ranked 23rd in the FCS in passing efficiency and had a pair of 300-yard games. He enters the 2011 season with the benefit of an experienced group of wide receivers, with Kyle Hayes (39 rec. 547 yards, 5 TD), Mitchell Bennett (33 rec., 394 yards, 3 TD) and Greg Stripe (15 rec., 127 yards) among the receivers and Kevin Doty (19 rec., 206 yards, 1 TD) back at tight end. The group hopes to pick up for the departure of first-team All-Patriot League selection Mark Layton (64 rec., 748 yards, 6 TD). The running back position provides a few more unknowns, though the competition features a group of players with plenty of experience. Jerome Rudolph enters his senior season after missing most of the 2010 campaign with an injury, while Alan Elder and Pat Mputu are the team's top returning rushers from last year. Three starters are back on the line to pave the way, including All-Patriot League selections Scott Biel and Anthony Buffolino.
Defense (8 starters returning/3 starters lost)
Lafayette gave up 28 points or more five times in 2010, but just once in the final six games of the season. The defense will try to build on that success while overcoming the losses of Doug Gerowski and Mike Phillips on the line and Michael Schmidlein at linebacker, with Gerowski and Schmidelin earning All-Patriot League honors last season. Mike Grimaldi (32 TT, 6 TFL, 3 sacks) has the most experience on the line after starting 10 games last season, while Rick Lyster started five contests and Tahir Basil, Andrew Holmes and Zach Protin all saw their share of action. The linebacking position features some experience as well, as Ben Eaton (70 TT) started all 11 games last season. Tyler McFarlane will likely see action after sitting out a season following a transfer from Hofstra, and Nate Dixon comes back after an injury ended his 2010 season. Sophomore Mike Boles could be counted on as well after seeing action as a freshman. The Leopards likely feel most comfortable with the secondary where four starters return, including All-Patriot League selection Brandon Ellis (65 TT, 1 INT). Kyni Scott (30 TT) will be across from Ellis at the other cornerback position, while free safety Kyle Simmons (77 TT) is the team's top returning tackler and Evan McGovern (48 TT) started 10 games beside him last season.
Special Teams (0 returning/2 lost)
Compeition is open for the kicking duties at Lafayette, as placekicker Davis Rodriguez (14-20 FG) and punter Tom Kondash (48 punts, 35.0 avg) each wrapped up impressive careers. Ethan Swerdlow will battle for both positions along with a trio of players. Stripe and Jet Kollie each have experience in the return game.
Fans that want to get a look at the Leopards in Easton will have to wait until October, as Lafayette opens the season on a four-game road trip to North Dakota State, Georgetown, Penn and Stony Brook. The Leopards follow that with a five-game homestand from Oct. 1-Nov. 5. The stint opens up with dates against Ivy League opponents Harvard (Oct. 1) and Yale (Oct. 15) followed by Patriot League games against Fordham (Oct. 22), Bucknell (Oct. 29) and Colgate (Nov. 5). Lafayette closes its season with League contests at Holy Cross (Nov. 12) and archrival Lehigh (Nov. 19).
For more on the 2011 Lafayette Leopards, read the team's pages from the Patriot League Football Media Guide and watch interviews with Tavani, O'Neil and Eaton from Patriot League Media Day below.