2020 vision: Football inks 25 recruits to improve team for next season

Michael Keating

After turning in one of their worst seasons to date, the Leopards will need to makes some serious changes from last year if they hope to make any noise in the Patriot League in 2016.

A lack of a formidable offense combined with a porous defense resulted in the Leopards finishing with an abysmal 1-10 record. Although expectations for the team were not high after running back and NFL talent Ross Scheuerman graduated, almost everything that could have gone wrong did.

With what many are considering to be one of the best recruiting classes head coach Frank Tavani has ever brought in, the Leopards are looking to rebound from a forgetful 2015 season.

One of the biggest areas of concern for the Leopards last season was their offensive line. Coming out of training camp the line consisted of two true freshmen, Kevin Zataveski and Tanner Kern. Also at one point in the year, there were only seven active offensive linemen on the roster due to injuries.

The starting point on any good team is a strong offensive line, which is why the Leopards made it a priority this offseason. With the addition of four freshmen, coach Tavani will have around 15 linemen next season.


“Our goal is to get to 20, eventually,” Tavani said.

Although the line is pretty much set going into the next year barring any injuries, two possible contributors include Jake Mariotti (6-6, 295) and Dylan Murphy (6-5, 295).

In addition to their signings on the line, the Leopards also added a few other offensive talents. Austin McCrum (6-4, 220), the tall gunslinger from Maine, has a lot of potential but will most likely be slotted fourth in the QB depth chart to start the season.

But a few wide receivers could find their way onto the field early. Julian Spigner (6-3, 195), Yasir Thomas (5-11) and Jake Liedtka (6-2, 180) are all promising talents and could produce solid numbers in their first seasons.

An encouraging tight end prospect, David Nelson (6-7, 280), was on path to play college basketball but will suit up for Lafayette’s football team this fall.

“He was going to play basketball but something must have disenchanted him,” said Tavani. Nelson has sat out of football for past three years, so he may still be a little raw coming in next year. However, if one has the size, transitioning from basketball to football as a tight end is not as difficult as it may seem. NFL stars Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski all have taken the same path.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Leopards needed to revamp a secondary that is losing a lot of talent. Seniors Jared Roberts and Matt Smalley are graduating, leaving a big hole on the field. The Leopards responded by signing three cornerbacks and three safeties. Nearly 25 percent of the Leopards’ recruiting class is made up of secondary players.

Two that might see some playing time early in the depleted secondary are cornerback Tre Jordan (6-0, 195) and safety Tommy Strasburger (6-2, 185).

Another area of concern for the Leopards was the defensive line. Lafayette was worst team in the Patriot League when it came to third down conversion percentage and red zone defense. In an effort to fix that problem, the Leopards signed a trio of defensive lineman.

Defensive ends Ryan Barnett (6-3, 250) and Keith Earle (6-2, 225) look to contribute to the pass rush, which was quite poor last season. Also added to the mix is defensive tackle Demetrius Breedlove (6-2, 275).

One area on the defense that didn’t require much attention during the recruiting period was the linebackers. The Leopards already have a formidable group with sophomores Michael Root, Rob Hinchen and Brandon Bryant, who is arguably the team’s best player.  One name to look out for, however, will be Jack Lamb (6-0, 220), who looks like he can be an intriguing prospect for the future.
Many colleges tout signing top prospects, but those signings are pointless unless they address a specific area of need. With the addition of this new recruiting class, Lafayette has worked hard to sign quality players that will hopefully solve the problems that plagued them last season. Even though it may take time to see the results of this impressive class, Lafayette football fans can be optimistic for the team’s success in the future.