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Sunday's Word: Stars

Seeing as my "Word" last week - "Lidge" - did way worse than Lehigh did this weekend against Colgate, it's probably time to go to another topic that is probably worth discussing. (Um, guys? Don't think about "Lidge" any more. Please.)

I try to watch as many Patriot League games as I can during the year (as long as it fits into my, um, Lehigh viewing/attending schedule). I knew Colgate had some really good athletes, but the couple times I saw them during the year were not their best days. On ESPNU a few weeks ago, Colgate escaped Princeton in a game that probably won't make anyone's highlight reel, and the Fordham game wasn't one for the ages, either.

The artists formerly known as the Red Raiders did, however, win those games. And they beat Lehigh with some players that are bona-fide "stars".

In my Sunday "Words" this year, it probably seems like I've been down on the Patriot League in general. Is it because Lehigh's had such a disappointing season? That probably has something to do with it - and yet, the Patriot League doesn't have a signature out-of-conference win against a team that's bound for the playoffs, and if you take the out-of-conference record of the lower four teams of the league (yes, of course, including Lehigh), it makes for dismal reading.

But that doesn't mean that the Patriot League sucks. The top teams - Colgate, Lafayette and Holy Cross - are very good teams. Almost completely thanks to them, the Patriot League owns a winning record against the Ivy League (including two impressive wins over Harvard). Two are already in the Sports Network Top 25 and a third might join them tomorrow. And one of these three may even win a first-round game in the playoffs this year, too.

And all of them have "stars", including three seniors, and perhaps more, that are, and will continue to get, NFL looks.

If there was any doubt that Colgate senior WR Pat Simonds will be invited to NFL camps next year - if not drafted - those doubts were extinguished after this game. He had five catches for 83 yards, but three were touchdowns for the 6'6 native of Sidney, New York. On the year, he has 756 yards and 11 touchdowns - and represents more than half the receiving yardage of the whole team. Strong and with deceptive speed, he clearly has all the tools to be a solid possession receiver in the pros.

And if you think potential NFLers at Colgate stop at Simonds, think again. Senior SS Uzi Idah is second on the team in tackles and has impressive speed off of blitzes. I can't say enough about that great play he made on senior WR Jimmy Pocotnie to end Lehigh's drive - one of the best Patriot League plays I've seen all year. I don't know if he'll be in an NFL camp, but I do know that he's being scouted.

On Fordham, senior QB John Skelton has definite "star" power on the Rams. Before the season began the 6'5 gunslinger from El Paso was on the list of Top Ten QB prospects, and while the Rams season hasn't been where they want it to be this year, it wasn't the fault of Skelton, who won a Patriot League title in 2007. He's already thrown for 2,612 yards and 17 TDs and he's looking to eclipse the 3,000 yard mark and really make his draft value climb. Folks will be watching these last three games just to say they saw him play. And wile they're looking at Mr. Skelton, NFL scouts may also be keeping an eye on senior LB James Crockett, too, who has done well in the center of their "D" with 53 tackles and 1 interception.

While "that school in Easton" may not have some of the marquee "stars" that grace the rest of the league, senior QB Rob Curley is proving to be one of the toughest kids in the Patriot League, a kid that never says die and the rest of the Leopard offense has rallied around. Meanwhile, senior DT Andew Poulson may not get the same accolades as other folks in the league, but you better believe NFL folks have their eye on this 6'6 275 lb behemoth on the "D" line, who has 25 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 blocked kick this year.

As for Holy Cross, everybody is waiting for senior QB Dominic Randolph to graduate, and he's making life miserable for the rest of the Patriot League one last time before he goes. His numbers speak for themselves: 2,563 yards passing, 26 TDs, 5 rushing TDs. Folks are saying that his "draft value" is behind Skelton's, but don't count on that - the 6'3 Ohioan has clearly worked on his mobility, as he also leads the team in rushing with 410 yards to go with his passing ability He'll get in an NFL camp, if he's not drafted.

That we can talk about at least four Patriot League "stars" realistically being in NFL camps this summer says something good about the league in general.

Will one of them win in the playoffs, though? That's very difficult to say.

It's hard to picture Colgate's running system working effectively against some of the better "D" lines in FCS. It remains to be seen if Holy Cross' offense can out-gun a playoff opponent. And quite possibly, the league's best hope at a playoff win might be Lafayette, who has a tough defense and a gutty leader on offense. It's easiest to picture a playoff team to simply be out-guts-ed by them.

The ultimate judge of this Patriot League season, in fact, will be the play of one of these teams in the playoffs. If one of them win even just one game it would be head and shoulders the best win for the League in a very long time. Beating Harvard is good, but in order to get national attention beating one of the big boys in the playoffs gets the attention.

It will also take "stars" to step up and play their best game of their careers. It will be interesting to see which of these "stars" carries their team to the playoffs, and what they might do once they get there.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I doubt any of these guys get drafted. Signed as free agents probably and used as training camp fodder.
Anonymous said…
Simonds is a big, plodding kid who is good enough to make John Kennedy look like a junior high DB, that's all.
Anonymous said…
To me, the single biggest visual deficiency in the last several years has been the sight of tall, strong receivers, running disciplined routes, totally dominating our short (supposedly) quick DBs when going for 50/50 type high arched balls. We haven't had a receiver who can do that in a long time. As I said on the other thread, to me- its both coaching (universal agreement), AND talent, where we are slightly below 'Gate, HC and the Pards in speed/strength/size. Come on now, everyone recognizes that LU has lost its athletic edge it once enjoyed in the 90s and early part of this decade. In those nightmarish games at Goodman this year, it was also effort, but recently that looks to have been corrected. And maybe you guys are right about Clark- he may never become more than a 52% passer and he does throw an damn ugly ball. For all his lack of natural talent, man do I miss a guy like Mark Borda who could will the team to victory.

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