Football program signs 15 new recruits, adds three to coaching staff in offseason

Head+coach+John+Garrett+believes+the+2019+season+will+be+a+breakthrough+year+for+the+team.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Athletic+Communications%29

Head coach John Garrett believes the 2019 season will be a ‘breakthrough year’ for the team. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

Andrew Hollander

The Lafayette football team is welcoming a lot of new faces to the program, as three new coaches have joined the staff in the last three weeks. Fifteen new recruits inked letters of intent during National Signing Day on Feb. 5.

“There’s a lot of great things going on this offseason,” said head coach John Garrett. “We have added a lot of impressive talent in these recruiting classes to already a good core of players in our upper class. Talent and experience is a really good combination.”

The new members officially signed to the program include eight players on offense, six on defense, and one on special teams. Garrett said the coaching staff is always looking to add the “right kind of guys” to the team, who will uphold the program’s core values of passion, emotion, perseverance and enthusiasm, and who can successfully balance a rigorous football schedule with academic responsibilities at a school like Lafayette.

“We play competitive football at a highly reputed academic institution, so we want guys that make it important in every aspect of their life,” he said. “It has got to be about succeeding in school and doing well in the classroom because they won’t be able to survive if it’s just about football.”

The team has a strong core of returning wide receivers including rising junior Quinn Revere and rising senior Nick Pearson, but the team signed six new receivers as well as a tight end and a running back. Although the program may have a limited running back corps, Garrett explained that sometimes the coaching staff looks for “versatile” players with the “right intangibles to succeed” rather than simply filling positional needs.

“Sometimes there is a gap between a really talented [player] and the best guy at the need position,” Garrett said. “We believe if the gap is big enough you just take the best player. And you just can’t do that [adding the best available players] too often like a couple years in a row.”

In addition to the recruiting class, new coaches for the running backs, wide receivers, and a new defensive coordinator will join the staff this spring.

Jake Flaherty will coach the wide receivers after serving in the same role at Bucknell for two seasons, and Manny Rojas joins the team as the defensive coordinator after two years with the Delaware football program.

Wali Lundy, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Pace University, will coach the running backs and look to develop a group which averaged 87.3 rushing yards per game, good for fifth in the Patriot League.

Garrett said the team added an additional running back after National Signing Day, but that they have not yet announced the player.

“There’s always an interest in the run game because when you can run the ball you can control the game,” said Garrett. “I believe that we showed that we can win a lot of different ways by controlling the game running the ball and we did that with our signature wins at Fordham and Bucknell.”

The team is finishing up their offseason winter workout program and will be off during spring break before beginning regular practice on March 26. After a tough loss to Lehigh in the annual Rivalry game, Garrett said the team has carried an “unsatisfied attitude” into their preparation for the upcoming season.

After four consecutive losses to the Mountain Hawks, the Rivalry will have a fresh face this fall with a new head coach, Tom Gilmore, taking the reins of the Lehigh program. Gilmore previously spent 14 years as the head coach of another Patriot League team, Holy Cross.

“I think it’s great to have him back in the league,” Garrett said. “It’s just going to continue to be the great rivalry that it is, so I’m excited about it.”

After several close losses this past season, two by seven or fewer points, Garrett said the team is training to succeed in those crucial late game moments.

“We’re developing a mental toughness, grit, determination and a perseverance that the guys are prepared for great concentration in those moments,” he said. “There’s this development that you constantly train yourself to be ready to succeed in those moments.”

The theme of this upcoming season is to “break through,” according to Garrett. A crop of talented young players is being added to a strong returning core including Patriot League Rookie of the Year Malik Hamm, a defensive lineman, and rising junior quarterback Sean O’Malley, who started all 11 games under center last fall.

“I’m excited for [the upcoming season] and that goal to break through,” Garrett said. “Constantly, continually improving, and never being complacent with where we are is a lethal combination what will get us where we need to be.”