Defensive coaching additions teach players to think less, react more

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Nicholas Gates

Photos by Hana Isihara ‘17

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With two scholarship recruiting years under their belt, and a different mindset on defense, the football team looks to outdo their success last season. The defending Patriot League champions open their 2014 season this weekend with a non-conference game at Sacred Heart, a team who went 10-3 last season.

Coach Art Link takes the reigns as defensive coordinator this season, following the departure of fourteen-year Lafayette veteran John Loose who has taken a defensive assistant job at Army. Coach Link spent training camp working with his players to readjust the defensive schemes.

The key to this year’s defensive success? Simplicity.

“Less thinking, more reacting,” explains junior linebacker Dennis Benscko, who expects that the defensive this year will be faster and more explosive in the new scheme.

Coach Tavani agrees that doing less on defense before the snap will make his players more prepared at the line and ready to react faster as a unit.

“It’s not a huge structural difference, but we are doing less,” Tavani said. “My goal was to get more simplified. Less confusing, lined up sooner. We are ready to go way before the snap of the ball.”

But when the Leopards take to the field this Saturday, we can expect to see more then just schematic changes to the defense.  Newly appointed senior captains seniors Jared Roberts and James Coscia will lead the defense. Tavani expects that the two, along with senior offensive captains Luke Chiarolanzio and Ross Scheuerman, “will do an outstanding job guiding their teammates.”

Behind the captains, a strong class of freshman players, seventeen of whom are scheduled to make the travel squad up to Sacred Heart, will accompany an increasingly mature group of returners. Amongst the newcomers is freshman Defensive lineman Beau Bosch who is expected to see some playing time this fall. Additionally, the coaching staff is also looking to roll three defensive ends to keep things fresh.

This season, personnel changes are abundant with players making moves from defense to offense and vice-versa. Sophomore Devon Leach, who is making the switch from offensive lineman to the defensive side of things, may fill the shoes of Robin Cepeda who is sidelined for the season due to an injury. Despite the many positional uncertainties, personnel changes “are a daily venture,” according to Tavani, and the team remains optimistic that this year’s defense will play a large role in their potential success.

While strategies are constantly evolving and coaches and players may come and go, Coach Tavani believes that in the end, the game of football comes down to making tackles and creating plays. If the defense can do that this season, we may find ourselves seeing the squad mimicking the success of last season.