Photo Courtesy of goleopards.com
New Lafayette defensive coordinator Art Link boasts playing experience under famous coaches Bob Stoops of Oklahoma University and Steve Spurrier of South Carolina.
Link played linebacker for the Florida University Gators and was part of their 1996-97 National Championship team. Spurrier was the head coach at the time and Stoops served as defensive coordinator. “To be able to pull some of the stuff they did motivationally and the way they carried themselves, the way they organized their game plans, their practice plans, has really helped me along the way,” Link said. “They’re great guys to call on.”
He also boasts experience against Lafayette. Link served as linebackers coach for the University of New Hampshire, which defeated Lafayette 45-7 in the first round of the FCS playoffs in November. His linebackers helped sack Lafayette ten times and forced a fumble.
With experience in both coaching and playing, his football IQ will translate well with his new players. And according to Link himself, it is back to basics for the Lafayette defense.
“We’re really going to work on technique in the spring,” Link said. “The defense is already of championship caliber, it’s just my job to make them a little better fundamentally.”
The main challenge though for Link, will be the transition from coaching just linebackers to an entire defense.
“You have to look at the big picture and start making personnel decisions,” Link said. “You have to look at the overall big picture of who you have and what you’re working with. I’m no longer focused in on these guys [linebackers]; I have to worry about the [defensive] tackle that’s not hustling and you have to broaden your vision and motivation.”
The current Lafayette personnel have helped make the transition easier thus far for Link. Head coach Frank Tavani just added former Leopard Mike Saint Germain of Virginia and McNeil Parker of Northwestern to the defensive staff as assistants.
Link also met offensive coordinator Mickey Fein and cornerbacks coach Doug McFadden earlier while on the road.
“Those two guys made a good impression on me and showed me what the staff was like,” Link said.
The promotion itself was enticing, of course, but Lafayette fit his views well.
“The Patriot League is attractive now that they are offering scholarships, in conjunction with academics it has,” Link said. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about the surrounding area, the school, and the facilities. I think that as a coach if those things attract me, then they definitely would as a prospect.”
The Lafayette defense has spots to be filled. Graduating are linebackers Mike Boles, Tyler Robinson, Ben Aloi and Kasheem Hill. Link will have to determine who fits his defense well enough to start.
“I told them that it’s going to be wide open in the spring,” Link said. “We’re going to have them compete for some spots. I’m trying to get the most athletic group of linebackers out there.”
With his experience, both as a former Florida Gator national champion and as a coach, Link will attempt to improve an already championship-quality defense to lead Lafayette to a second straight Patriot League Championship.