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Patriot League Media Day: Coaches & Players, Part Two

Patriot League Media Day is supposed to be all about the players and coaches, and the excitement of the upcoming football season.

But with the subject of football scholarships sucking out the air in the room to some degree - and the absence of last year's offensive superstars like QB Dominic Randolph - caused some of the emphasis to be, wrongly, diverted from the coaches and student-athletes.

Lost in the issues of Craig Haley's controversial report on media day and my observations of the scholarship proceedings was what the media was supposed to be there for: the upcoming 2010 fall season. And this year has no shortage of interesting storylines and compelling personal stories. To net it all out you need to just start with the preseason picks as to who is going to be in contention. In Part Two of the roundup of Patriot League Media Day, we focus on Fordham, Bucknell and Georgetown. (more)



While Fordham is not eligible for the Patriot League title or autobid in 2010, you can bet head coach Tom Masella certainly hasn't forgotten that his team is a Patriot League team.

"Our players will know where they fit in the league standings," Masella told Craig Haley of The Sports Network.  "So we can't win it in a public sense, but I guarantee you if we win a league championship our kids will have Patriot League rings."

With D-II Assumption on the schedule and a schedule that includes only three teams who had a winning record in 2009 (and one member of the FCS preseason Top 25), it won't be easy for the Rams to qualify for a precious at-large bid.  A 10-1 or 9-2 record would probably have to be a prerequisite, and sweeping their Patriot League opponents would certainly help a lot.

The Ram players, despite their 5-6 record last year, seem bullish on their playoff goal.

"I'm excited to get the season started and compete for the NCAA bid," said senior DL Jordan Bledsoe  in Fordham's official release. "I think we have enough talent on the roster to do it as long as we stayed focused."

"I can't wait to get back on the field next week," preseason Sports Network first team all-American senior WR Jason Caldwell said.   "We worked hard in the offseason and hope to see that hard work pay off with an NCAA playoff berth. We know nobody can replace a player like John Skelton but we will work to fill that void and need to have other players step up at every position."

*****

In my first face-to-face meeting with new Bucknell head football coach Joe Susan, you can't help but be struck by how tall he is.  He uses it well, too, intimidatingly towering over the press as you try to get some good quotes about the upcoming season.  (As I had my recorder up, I kept thinking if he stared down grizzly bears for fun in the offseason.)

Everything about him screams no-nonsense, from his imposing demeanor to the fact that his Bison players who came with him to media day, senior LB Travis Nissley, senior DT Josh Edensenior DE Tyler Anderson and senior DT Kyle Boling, all sported suits and ties.

It's clear that coach Susan is attempting to bring his no-nonsense, intense demeanor to Bucknell and getting his team stronger and more physical.  He brings a unique set of qualities to the job: a former Bucknell assistant, a stint as a head football coach at Davidson, and a long, successful career as an assistant coach at Rutgers under a guy he formerly recruited, head coach Greg Schiano.

"I want our kids to approach things one practice at a time, one play at a time and ultimately when we get to the games, one game at a time," he told the Daily Item. "What do we have to do next? Don't let the past affect you too much, don't let the future affect you too much. Live in the moment. If we can master that, and it's hard because this is an emotional game, we've got a chance.

"When I first got to the Big East, one of the things I did, I watched the opponents run around in pregame to get a feel for what we are going up against. I might not be real sociable in pregame because I am going to be watching them."

He also is clearly building around his 4-3 defense, and with the return of Eden from his two-year Mormon mission, a definite focus of concern for opposing offenses.  Another player returning (but was not at Media Day) was junior WR Sam Pompilano - who just returned from a two-year tour of duty in Iraq.

“My number one goal right now is to win the Patriot League Championship,” he told the Milton Standard-Journal. “I know that is shared by every single guy on this team. The new staff has brought a renewed energy to the Bucknell football family, and I think this will all turn into positive things in the fall.”

It's not certain that Bucknell - who has struggled the last few years - we confident about the Patriot League title going into previous years.  That has definitely stopped under coach Susan.  "We're all excited for the season," Anderson told BisonVision.  "Everyone's got a shot at the title."

He's not kidding.  If Bucknell can get their offense together, they could absolutely be in the mix.  And that's coach Susan's area of expertise.

“Although my work has primarily been on the offensive side of things, the teams that I’ve been around that have been successful had good defenses, so I will be making sure this defense is as successful as it can be,” Susan told the Milton Standard-Journal. “If the team can approach things one step at a time and play defense, we can be in every single came we play. But I will be constantly challenging myself and my staff to make sure we are getting better.”

*****

Georgetown - again - was picked to finish last in the Patriot League preseason media poll.  Unfortunately, this wasn't a surprise: the Hoyas are coming off an 0-11 season, and just graduated a senior class with just five wins in their football playing history.  Five!  And only one of those was a Patriot League conference victory: a 23-21 over Bucknell two years ago.

Given that reality, it's no wonder senior LB Nick Parrish may think of football in sort of grueling terms.

"I mean it’s like any other kid going to college for the first time," he told Ryan Sakamoto of Georgetown Athletics.  "I got thrown into the deep end pretty early, I moved into the starting lineup after my third game and I guess I’ve been taking small steps every day of every season and because of it I think I’ve really matured as a person on and off the field."

Still, Parrish feels good about the upcoming season.  "I feel really good about this season, I think we all do.  A lot of the young guys coming in and a lot of the returners coming back. We have a bunch of veteran guys back, so we’re not the young bunch of guys throwing sophomores at people. We’ll have a more junior and senior team than we ever had before. We have a new offensive coaching staff and a new scheme and I think we’ll be putting a much more formidable team."

Parrish is more than just the team captain - he'll be wearing the prestigious #35 jersey that Joe Eacobacchi, the Georgetown football player who lost his life in the attacks on September 11, 2001, wore.  The tradition is that it goes to the most exemplary player on the team in the upcoming year.

Dave Patenaude, the new offensive coordinator coming to Georgetown from Hofstra, might do well to scrap the old offensive playbook altogether, which has not scored more than 24 points in a single game for the last two years.  And head coach Kevin Kelly, who spent more time answering questions about football scholarships than his football team, may need it quickly.  An improved record is a must if he hopes to stick around at Georgetown.

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