Such is life in the seven-team Patriot League: you can struggle like a Leopard in a freezer in September and October, yet thaw out in time for league play and make a run to win the Championship.
In fact it was one of the players represented in last year's Patsy Ratings, rising sophomore QB Drew Reed, that was a critical piece to their title run. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was a two-star rated player by all the major scouting agencies, and was a huge factor in their Patsy Rating.
This season, will the Leopards have another Reed in their class? Will they have several? Will they have more than several? Will they have enough to have one of the best recruiting classes in the Patsy ratings this season?
In terms of Patsy Ratings last season, Lafayette did not have the largest Patsy Point haul, nor did it have the smallest. Despite the presence of the season-changer Drew Reed, it was a middle-of-the-pack Patsy haul.
This year, however, the Committee discovered that Maroon South had quality numbers that were right there with the ones with Maroon North (Colgate) and Maroon East (Fordham).
Tavani didn't spend a lot of time sipping Cokes during recruiting - the Lead Tank and his staff spent a lot of time getting a large incoming class and a lot of players who had pages on the different recruiting websites. The combination of a huge class and big Patsy-point getters was a particularly lethal one for the rest of the Patriot League.
As you'll see, it probably puts to rest any thoughts that Lafayette is "de-emphasizing" football anytime soon in the scholarship era.
Tavani's smile isn't coming from the Coke.. it's from the large number of Patsy Points
The Committee nitpickers again had a hard time looking for snow in the Lafayette forecast. They looked around, and, like Holy Cross' class, saw something left to be desired in the published speed numbers for the new pussycats. That's not to say that the defensive backs in the class are fat and slow; it's just that the incoming recruits don't have a lot of speed numbers published.
Even though it’s not on their “Needs” list, some are saying that the only base Tavani didn’t touch is "run stuffing defensive lineman", which, of course, the Patsy Points does not recognize as a need position per se. Neither of the two defensive linemen in this class are "run stuffers" in any sense - they're not close to tipping the Jumbo scale. The Committee is not sure what the new defensive coordinator’s rumored switch to a 4-2-5 alignment will do to this thinking. Even so, someone is going to have to play in the middle of that front four, and he does not appear to be in this recruiting class.
PATSY POINT CALCULATION
QUALITY = 45. The Committee is not easily astounded. They are especially not easily astounded when Colgate and Fordham - and perhaps Lehigh - put up large quality numbers year in and year out.
But the Committee was astounded by quality numbers from this year's Marquistadors (along with Holy Cross' very strong quality number), that are as good or better than the other Maroons.
16/26 recruits, or 62%, of the class had at least one ratings service have a page on each of the recruits. Furthermore, the addition of the new recruiting service and the new methodology for rating the classes added some Patsy points, but not an overwhelming number - perhaps 2 or 3 points.
The increase in quality rating with football scholarships this season bears repeating for both Tavani and Holy Cross' Tom Gilmore:
In 2012, Holy Cross got 7 quality points. This season, 41. 41!
In 2012, Lafayette got 11 quality points. This season, 45, or more than four times that number.
The Committee looked at this closely, and started to come around to the way of thinking that Tavani and Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore are starting to "get" football scholarships to field not only a strong academic football team - that's a given - but also a squad that will compete for Patriot League championships and, perhaps, even make a run at the FCS National Championship.
The Committee feels like these types of classes are a strong indicator that Lafayette isn't just catching up to the rest of the Patriot League - they're also catching up to some of the big boys in FCS.
Are the Leopards going to be eating the rest of the Patriot League alive in recruiting every year?
CLASS SIZE = 6. 26 Recruits - A fantastic number for the new Patsy Point reality of spending 15 scholarships per year. The Patsy Points don't just reward quality, they also reward quantity.
DISTRIBUTION = 7. Tavani covered every base except kicker.
SPEED = 2. Only two players of this 26 recruit class had any reliable published speed information. Neither of them were defensive backs, one of the need areas of the Frenchmen. More on that later.
TRIGGER = 3. There was only one QB in the class, but he's the type of QB that the Patsy Points really love, a two-star quarterback rated by multiple services. That gave the Maroon Forks three extra points.
JUMBO = 4. Six linemen in this class qualified for Jumbo points - four offensive linemen and two defensive linemen. All four offensive linemen, evidently, have eaten enough cheeseburgers to get those critical jumbo points. Both defensive linemen did not.
With this incoming class, we'd better start eating more ice cream
NEEDS = 10 (of 12): The parallels between this class and Holy Cross' class are downright creepy. Like Deep Purple, Deep French Maroon also got 10 out of 12 possible "needs points".
RB = 4 (of 5). Numbers: check. Three backs grace the Leopards' class. Quality: check. One two-star, confirmed, guy. Where the Committee went to debate was in awarding that final point. Ultimately it was decided - in a split decision - that without at least some indication of speed in one of the three backs, the final point was not awarded.
OL = 4 (of 4). Four linemen, one two-star athlete, and all of them jumbo. The Committee debated whether to award the final point on need, but on that day, the Yeahs had it. Four jumbo linemen, all of who apparently ate plenty of dessert, made the difference.
DB = 2 (of 3). The Marquistadors got numbers at this needs position with 3 bodies, but none with speed, and only one fogging a mirror. The Committee awarded two points.
COMMITTEE ADJUSTMENT: 0. Perhaps burned out from all the excitement from the first few classes, the Committee passed out the same tea, crumpets, and bacon when discussing Lafayette's Patsy point class. There was a slight discussion here about adding some more bonus points for quality, but it was rapidly shot down. The Committee ultimately felt the giant quality number was representative of the quality of the class.
The Committee's discussion instead centered around what scholarships hath wrought. And that's where things got a little feisty.
"Is this... a positive development?" one Committee member said. "Lafayette's unofficial motto has always been - and I quote their biggest fans - 'win, but not too much'. Are the spotted kitties, with this class, now changing the nature of what Patriot League football ought to be all about? Is it... too much, too fast?"
"Last I heard," another Committee member said, "Fordham has been offering scholarships for years. Does anyone hear anyone on Rose Hill complaining about the nature of Patriot League football? Embrace the change, old man. Scholarships will give you both better academics AND a shot at winning the big enchilada - and I don't mean only the Patriot League title. It's the right thing to do.
"But that's just it," the member replied. "We all know Fordham remains a member in good academic standing - after all, we're all subject to the Academic Index, and we also get the same academic transcripts of their players by carrier pidgeon. But you can't deny that their team, with scholarships, is night and day different than what the Patriot League used to be like. They've been a haven from transfers from UConn, like QB Michael Nebrich, and WR Tebucky Jones, Jr."
"What's so bad about that?" member No. 2 retorted. "Shouldn't the Patriot League be able to attract high-academic transfers? After all, it's not like the League is any stranger to them, even in the pre-scholarship days."
"But this is different," No. 1 continued. "We have to assume Nebrich and Jones are certainly able to deal with the academic workload at Fordham, as we haven't heard of them flunking out or struggling. But I ask: would they have gone to Fordham if they didn't have a chance to play under their former offensive coach at UConn, Joe Moorhead, and a promise of a free scholarship? Would they have gone even if they couldn't play football? Are academics really the main thing for these guys?"
"Do you just like to complain?" No. 2 snorted. "Look at this Lafayette team. We know Tavani gets great kids academically on his squads. All-Patriot League WR Mark Ross, fer Pete's Sakes, had a 4.0 GPA last season.
"Now, the head Tank can get the future Mark Ross' and a whole lot more of them, thanks to scholarships. Academics are still the main reason kids go to Patriot League schools. That shouldn't change.
"But the depth of these high-academic classes athletically is what's really going to pay off in regards to competing with the Delaware's, Towson's, and Richmond's in the coming years," No. 2 continued. "There are hints that Tavani isn't just content with peeling an academic kid away from Penn now and again. He's going against schools like Georgia Tech, Eastern Illinois, and Ball State. That's a real change from years ago.
"There are signs that these classes are going to help create the sort of high-academic, high-level FCS football programs that fans - and us as well - have been hoping to see for a very long time - ones that don't only go to the FCS playoffs for a good showing every once in a while, but ones with a chance to with the whole damned thing. I see this jump in quality as a very, very positive sign for things to come in this League - a sign that the Patriot League want to compete with the very best in FCS, like Eastern Washington, Towson, and North Dakota State."
LAFAYETTE - 77