Leopards' defensive coordinator returns to West Point
By Featured Columnist Mandy Housenick
Lafayette will finish its spring season with the Spring Game on Saturday at 11 a.m.
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John Loose is in his 14th season as defensive coordinator and has been with Frank Tavani for his entire tenure as head coach. Lafayette has featured a dominant defense under his inventive direction, a corps consistently ranked in the top 20 statistically.
In 2012, the Lafayette showcased four All-Patriot League selections with Rick Lyster '12 garnering first-team honors on the defensive line and Darius Safford '12, Kyni Scott '12 and Jared Roberts '16 in the secondary. In 2011, LB Leroy Butler '12 and CB Brandon Ellis '12 secured All-Patriot League First-Team laurels. Butler led the team with 91 tackles and seven for loss.
Players from all three levels of Loose's defense earned All-League recognition in 2010. Ellis snatched a First-Team nod, while DL Doug Gerowski '11 and LB Mike Schmidlein '11 garnered Second-Team nods.
Two of Loose's linebackers, Schmidlein and Mark Leggiero '10, earned All-Patriot League status in 2009 with four defensive players recognized overall. Schmidlein led the league in tackles per game (10.0) while the team featured a stingy run defense that was ranked 11th in the nation.
In 2008, Loose was selected as the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Assistant Coach of the Year for his work on the gridiron and his dedication to Lauren's First and Goal Foundation (LFG), an organization he and his wife, Marianne, started in 2004 to raise money for pediatric brain tumor research. In 2012, that work was also recognized by Lafayette College as the Looses were presented with honorary Doctor of Public Service degrees.
LFG has generated more than $1.5 million and blossomed into one of the largest one-day football clinics in the country. LFG has hosted camps in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and New York with campers from 33 states attending. The 2013 camp in Easton raised $103,000, was attended by more than 2,000 campers and staffed by 310 college coaches who volunteered their time.
On the field in 2008, under the leadership of two-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Andy Romans, Lafayette finished eighth in the nation in scoring defense (17.6 ppg), 10th in rushing defense (92.2 ypg) and 20th in total defense (303.2 ypg). In 2007, Loose coached the top-ranked defense in the country, as his Leopards allowed a NCAA-best 260.9 yards per game. Lafayette was also ranked fourth in rushing defense (85.7 ypg), eighth in scoring defense (16.9 ppg) and 15th in pass efficiency defense (108.3). That defense included Romans and six All-Patriot League selections.
In 2006, Loose guided a defense that was the best in the conference at stopping the run, allowing just 139 yards per game on the ground. Six players from the 2006 squad earned all-league honors, including Marvin Snipes '07 and Torian Johnson '07 who were recognized for the second time in their careers.
In 2005, the Leopards were ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation in five categories, including ninth in scoring defense (17.0 ppg) and 11th in total defense (296.9 ypg). Linebacker Maurice Bennett '06 was a finalist for the Buchanan Award and was recognized as an All-American by five national organizations after leading Lafayette with 133 tackles and seven sacks. Fellow linebackers Blake Costanzo '06 and Dion Witherspoon '06 were also named to the All-Patriot League team and combined with Bennett for 329 tackles as seniors. Constanzo is currently playing in the NFL for the Chicago Bears.
Lafayette's defense stepped up in the 2004 Patriot League championship run, holding the league opposition to 15.2 points and 103.7 rushing yards per game to lead the league in both categories. Loose's charges allowed 14 scoring opportunities inside the 20-yard line and five red zone touchdowns in six games. The 2003 unit forced 15 fumbles with Wes Erbe '05 accounting for five himself, tied for second-most nationally. Loose spent eight years at West Point after arriving in 1992. He spent two seasons assisting with Army's defensive secondary and linebacker positions. During the 1994 and 1995 campaigns, he served as head junior varsity coach while also mentoring the varsity outside linebackers. With his guidance, Army ranked sixth in the nation in rushing defense during a 10-2 season in 1996.
Before signing on with Bob Sutton's staff at Army, Loose spent three seasons at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy as an assistant, serving as both defensive coordinator and defensive secondary coach under head coach Tom Bell. Following a stellar prep football career at Watkins Glen High School, Loose opted to concentrate on his track abilities and forged a standout collegiate career at Ithaca College. A five-time NCAA qualifier and All-America choice, Loose specialized in the high jump and remains the school record-holder with a leap of 6-10 1/4. He earned four letters each in indoors and outdoors prior to graduating in 1987 with a degree in Physical Education and a minor in Psychology.
In addition to his athletic slate at Ithaca, Loose assisted several high school squads, serving on the staff at Corning West in 1986 after two years at his alma mater, Watkins Glen. As a student at Watkins Glen, Loose was the IAC Defensive Player of the Year in football and is a member of its hall of fame.
Loose began his college coaching career at Albany in 1987, overseeing the defensive backs for two seasons while earning his master's degree in Curriculum Planning and Development. Loose left Albany for the Coast Guard Academy in 1989.
The Looses reside in Forks Township with their daughters, Lauren and Grace.