Skip to main content

Know Your 2010 Opponents: Fordham

At Patriot League Media Day, head coach Tom Masella seemed like he would rather talk about the upcoming football season, his potential NFL prospect TE, or Fordham's brand-new locker facilites than football scholarships.

"He's a scholarship player, he's a scholarship player, and he's a scholarship player," Masella told Craig Haley of the Sports Network in regards to everyone's favorite off-season Patriot League topic.  Scholarships were still on everyone's mind, though - after all, despite Fordham's presence at Patriot League media day, scholarships were the reason that they were competing as an Independent in 2010 instead of competing for the Patriot League title.

The fact that Lehigh will be playing Fordham as a non-conference opponent for the first time since 1989, however, doesn't mean any less to the Rams than before. They know full well that what they're playing for - a chance at the FCS playoffs - will require no large slip-ups in their regular season schedule. A 9-2 record, complete with a sweep of their former Patriot League leaguemates, would help immensely. (more)


It's hard to say that scholarships will have no part of the discussion of Fordham football in 2010, since there are hints of it everywhere.  Sure, there is talk about their new locker room - a badly-needed upgrade for the Rams, to bring their digs into the 21st century.  There's also talk about this Fordham team being bigger and stronger - which is true, thanks to a bunch of strength & conditioning records getting set this offseason.

There's also that little issus of that NFL player.  Last year, Fordham boasted an NFL-caliber quarterback in QB John Skelton.  Despite Fordham's "lack of scholarships" and 5-6 record, Skelton was drafted in the fifth round by the Arizona Cardinals and has impressed in his first preseason game, rallying the Cards to a 19-16 win.

Replacing Skelton is the top priority of Masella's staff - which, unsurprisingly, has even more new names on it.

It seems like every offseason Masella gets a slew of new coaches, and this year was no exception.  With the return of Matt Dawson from New Hampshire to become defensive coordinator (moving assistant head coach Patrick Moore from defensive coordinator to offensive line), this marks the third defensive coordinator for the Rams in the last three years.  Along with a bunch of different assistant coaches, like Tim Cary (Defensive backs, UConn), Greg Crum (Defensive Line, WPI) and Nate Slusky (Linebackers, Rutgers) - Fordham defense could very well be, once again, "starting over".

They'll have some good building blocks to work around, however.  Start with senior LB Nick Mageria (75 tackles, 1 forced fumble), senior DB Isa Abdul Al-Quddus (57 tackles, 3 interceptions, 5 passes defended) and senior DE Jordan Bledsoe (39 tackles including 8 1/2 for loss) - all three of whom will be key ingredients to a better defense.  If Dawson brings with him the New Hampshire defense, it's likely the Rams will be adding a "Rover" safety and playing a 3-5-3 or 3-3-5 stack defense - but time will tell.

The offense, however, has offensive coordinator Bryan Volk still there to evaluate who will take over the passing game.  Sophomore QB Blake Wayne, a transfer from Diablo Valley Community College in California, would seem to be the front-runner for the job - and would be a resounding endorsement of football scholarships at Rose Hill, since he transferred to Fordham in that scholarship class.  Still, though, Fordham's site says that it's still a "wide-open" battle for the starting nod, including Skelton's back-up from last year, junior QB Doug Papy, and sophomore QB Ryan Higgins.

The one certainty is that whomever the QB shall be, he will have senior TE Stephen Skelton to throw to, a near-unanimous FCS first team preseason-All-American (with 63 catches, 634 yards, and 6 TDs).  In Volk's spread offense, Skelton is important in multiple ways: both as a blocker and a key pass-catching threat, and Skelton poses all sorts of issues for opposing defensive coordinators.

Another tempting target for the new quarterback will be burner senior WR Jason Caldwell (79 catches, 1,252 yards, 9 TDs), who also found himself on the Sports Network first team preseason all-America team as well.  According to this practice report, however, he's nursing a shoulder injury and as of last week was not cleared for contact.  If he's missing, or hurt, it might be a huge blow to the Ram offense.

The running game, too, might be a big beneficiary from scholarships.  Sophomore RB Carlton Koonce, who transferred to Fordham once Hofstra disbanded their football program, joins senior RB Xavier Martin and junior RB Darryl Whiting in what has been a rotating backfield.

It seems destined that this Fordham recruiting class will be the litmus test as to whether the Patriot League should have scholarships, or no.  If Wayne and Koonce get significant time, and scholarship freshmen like 270 lb freshman OT Kai Brusch (who came from Germany via Salisbury Prep in Connecticut) make an immediate impact, it will certainly make an impression on the Patriot League presidents, for good or ill.

Masella, though, wants to do something else: not have his team "shoot itself in the foot", which he felt Fordham did to itself too often last year.  Turnovers have been a point of emphasis - as has penalties.  Masella brought in officials to his practices - an unusual step - to try to get his team to focus better on not making preventable mistakes.

*****

Will it be enough to make an at-large playoff berth for the Rams?  Fordham has a lot of existing talent to work with, and theoretically has a lot of strong talent in camp right now, thanks to football scholarships.  But how will the Rams do at quarterback?  And how will the third defensive coordinator in three years work out for Fordham?

If Fordham finds the answers to these questions by the time they play Lehigh, they will be an awfully tough team to beat.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Remembering Lehigh's Battles With The Late Tubby Raymond

(Photo Credits: Delaware Online)

When I heard the news Tubby Raymond, legendary Delaware head football coach, died last week at the age of 92, two immediate memories came rushing back to me.

One occurred on October 16th, 1999, when Tubby had made a complaint to the local paper or radio in the run-up to Kevin Higgins' Mountain Hawks beating his Blue Hens on Delaware's homecoming, 42-35.

I have no idea if the quote even actually happened, but my recollection is that Tubby said that Lehigh had "St. Bartholomew's" on their schedule, and hadn't played anybody.  It was a verbal jab that many Delaware fans took with them to the stands to heckle the Mountain Hawk fans that made the short trip to Newark.

Up until that point, I had watched a bunch of Lehigh football games over the years.  I experienced their rise in the 1990s.  I enjoyed wins, and championships, and playoff victories.

But never had I felt a win so viscerally vindicating than the one over Tubby Raymond&…

Lehigh Wrestling Gets Superstar Treatment at PPL Center. Lehigh Football Needs The Same At Murray Goodman.

"We knew it would be nice," Lehigh wrestling head coach Pat Santoro said. "But it was even better than we expected."

Pat was talking about the reception his Lehigh wrestling squad experienced at Allentown's PPL Center this weekend, when a sellout crowd over nearly 10,000 people came to watch No. 1 Penn State grapple with No. 5 Lehigh in a collegiate wrestling event.

It was, by all accounts, something special to behold. 

"I thought it was really cool and an exciting place to wrestle," said Penn State wrestler Nick Nevills. "These fans were really into it, a rowdy bunch. It's a lot more fun as an athlete to wrestle in an environment like this. I'd say it was one of the most exciting times I have had in my career."

The sense of spectacle at the PPL center, though, puts a spotlight on what more can be done at Lehigh itself to make their athletic contests into spectacles.  It requires money to be spent and energy to be expended.  But the…

Troy Pelletier Hasn't Stopped Outworking His Rivals On His Journey To Professional Football

Many Patriot League football fans remember the 153rd meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette, one that ended happily for the Mountain Hawks.

They might remember the MVP performance of QB Brad Mayes, or perhaps the halftime speech by OL Zach Duffy that seemed to spur the Mountain Hawks to victory.

Or perhaps they might remember the spectacular single play of Mayes rolling right and finding WR Gatlin Casey in the end zone to give the Mountain Hawks a lead they didn't relinquish.  It was an incredible play by Mayes, who returns this upcoming year for his senior season, and Casey, who, having exhausted his eligibility at Lehigh, will be playing one more year at Middle Tennessee State.

As great as those individual moments are, though, they are not my biggest takeaway of that game.

Too many Lehigh people forget that Lehigh was down 31-21 at half, and that victory was no sure thing.  And they sometimes forget that so much of that victory came from the grinding of WR Troy Pelletier, deliver…