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Patriot League Media Day: OL Will Rackley

If you believe sites like NFL Draft Scout, senior OL Will Rackley - Lehigh's massive tackle out of Riverdale, Georgia - could be picked in QB John Skelton territory in the NFL draft.

It is early - incredibly early - but he's projected as going in the fifth round as a guard, and he's listed as the ninth-best in the nation, behind massive talents like Villanova senior OL Ben Ijalana and Florida State senior OL Rodney Hudson.

Going into his fourth year of starting on the offensive line, the strong, massive talent has garnered plenty of recognition on countless all-America teams. Individually, he's been spectacular even if, as a unit, the offensive lines of which he's been a part have not been dominating in the Patriot League. In his senior year, Rackley - now  Lehigh's offensive team captain - will have one last opportunity to not only improve his game for the NFL scouts, but to make the entire Mountain Hawk "O" Line unit a controlling force in games. (more)

One of the more amazing, underplayed aspects of his story is that Rackley managed to accumulate all these accolades after playing hurt most of last year.

"Last year, Will played through some bumps and bruises with an ankle issue, really though the bulk of the season," coach Coen told me.  "He's worked really hard, and [this year] he's focused on playing the best he can and helping lead our team to some great things this year."

Rackley's imposing frame - and Georgia accent - makes an undeniable impact when you interview him.  All his interviews on media day - from me,, The Morning Call, and WMFZ Channel 69 - show a calm leader who won't let the spotlight get in the way of praising the team and the goals for the season.

“Everyone’s pumped up to get the season started," he said.  "The guys have been working really hard over the summer. We have an opportunity to do some really big things. We have big games against teams like Villanova and New Hampshire, plus all our league games, which will give our team the opportunity to show what we can do.”

When interviewing captains Will and senior LB Al Pierce together, it was striking how much they were both on the same page on matters of academics and team goals - almost never talking about themselves, unless cornered with a direct question.  More often than not you'd get a "I totally agree" after one captain made a point and I asked the other to answer as well.

On academics, both Will and Al agreed that the structure of the football season helped their academics rather than hurting.  "I think playing football, [the structure] makes you focus on your academics.  If you don't do that, you're not going to get your work done.  The tight schedule of football helps out a lot."

I asked Will if he takes a peek at all these preseason accolades.  "I look at it, but too I don't look much into it, especially in the preseason.  It's not as important to me as as the outcome of the season."

With new offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini coming on board, will there be much of a difference from last year to this year?

"The biggest difference is that we're going to be in a huddle much more this year. I like that because you can get in the huddle and regroup and refocus," Will told Keith Groller of the Morning Call.

For team goals for the year, Rackley was crystal-clear.  "People can expect us to build on what we did last year and do it with more efficiency," Rackley told Keith Groller of the Morning Call.

"A big problem we had last year was finishing games," Will told Troy Hein of WFMZ Channel 69.  "I think our last two games [last year, vs. Fordham and Lafayette], we finished real strong.  We're taking that into this season: winning every game, finishing every game strong."

Rackley reiterated to me that their team goals include all of the above, and winning the Patriot League championship.  "For me and the team, we want to be recognized as one of the best, if not the best, in our league," he told me.

As for his own personal goals for the season, Will isn't so much focusing on individual skills, but mindset.

"I want to improve on the nastiness aspect this year," he told Matt Markus of  "As a lineman, I'm going to go out there and just maul guys this year."

This could maybe lead to my first feeble attempt at a nickname.  How about senior OL William "Big Bear" Rackley?


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