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Football Opens 136th Season at Monmouth

Aug. 29, 2017

 Lafayette at Monmouth
 Gameday Info Gameday
 Date & Time  Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 - 3 p.m.
 Location  West Long Branch, N.J. | Kessler Stadium
 Tickets  Lafayette Athletics Ticket Office
 Game Notes  Lafayette Get Acrobat Reader | Monmouth Get Acrobat Reader
 TV  None
 Live Streaming
 Matt Harmon, Eddy Occhipinti
 Live Stats  Monmouth Live Stats
 Social Media  Twitter & Facebook

The Match-Up:
Lafayette and Monmouth meet to begin the 2017 season. The game,which can be seen on ESPN3, officially ushers in the John Garrett era in Lafayette Football. Kick off is set for 3 p.m.

Open Up: Lafayette opens its 136th season against Monmouth of the Big South Conference, a foe it has played just once previously (in 2002). The game is the first of a six-game series ending in 2023. The Leopards are scheduled to host Monmouth in 2018, 2021 and 2022, while travelling to Monmouth in 2019 and 2023.
The Leopards won their 2016 season opener, beating Central Connecticut State, 24-10. All-time, the Leopards are 86-46-3 in openers.

The Garrett Era: John Garrett began his first head-coaching assignment on Dec. 21, 2016 when he was introduced at a press conference on the Lafayette College campus. Garrett brings more than 25 years of coaching experience at the NFL, NCAA FBS and NCAA FCS levels. His most recent stints included offensive coordinator gigs at Richmond and Oregon State. In his first season, Garrett is handling the offensive play calling duties.

Local Knowledge: Garrett, who was born in Danville, Pa., lived part of his early years in Monmouth Beach, N.J. Garrett's parents, Jim and Jane, currently reside in the borough located just five miles from Monmouth's West Long Branch campus.

Freshman QB?: While the coaching staff has played it close to the proverbial vest regarding the starting QB, even casual observers at the Leopards' open practices recognized that members of the freshman class were taking significant reps. It's likely that a freshman will answer the call to be the starter. Since the Patriot League began (as the Colonial League) in 1986, the Leopards have never started a freshman quarterback in the season opener.
Garrett is looking to replace Drew Reed '17, who led the Leopards to their last Patriot League title in his freshman year of 2013 and left College Hill ranked third in career passing yards (7,007) and completions (968) and second in career completion percentage (65.2) after playing in 36 games over four seasons as the starter.

Early Opener: The Sept. 2 season opener is the second-earliest start date in program history (matching last year's opener on Friday, Sept. 2). The Leopards opened in early October until the turn of the 20th century, in late September until 1970, and traditionally began the season on the second Saturday in September until 2002. Since 2002, Lafayette has opened on Sept. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13 and the earliest opening date in Lafayette history, Sept. 1, 2007 against Marist.

New Faces: With the head coaching change, came an almost entirely new coaching staff. Of the 11 coaches on staff, 10 are new to Lafayette. Secondary coach Doug McFadden was the lone holdover, entering his ninth season.

Coming Back: Lafayette returns six starters on offense, eight on defense and three on special teams. Seniors Mike Donnelly and Cam Smith return on the offensive line along with junior Logan Grieser. At the skill positions, the Leopards bring back WR Matt Mrazek, TE Dylan Wadsworth and RB DeSean Brown, all seniors.
Defensively, Beau Bosch (DE) and Andy Labudev DT return up front while seniors Michael Root and Rob Hinchen, and junior Jerry Powe return at linebacker. Seniors Phillip Parham (CB) and Tymir Jones (SS) come back to the secondary and are joined by sophomore CB Eric Mitchell.
On special teams, kicker Jake Bissell returns along with long snapper Michael Shiffert and kick/punt returner C.J. Amill.

Bryant's Back: Not officially included in the returning starters is preseason All-Patriot League selection Brandon Bryant. Bryant started in less than half of the games last season (five) before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. In 2015, he was an All-Patriot League Second-Team honoree, finishing 23rd in the nation in total tackles and sixth in the NCAA in solo tackles.

The Captains: Four seniors, Beau Bosch, Brandon Bryant, Mike Donnelly and Dylan Wadsworth, hold the leadership reins for the Leopard football program. The captains were selected in a vote of their teammates.

Bosch has started 21 of 22 games his sophomore and junior seasons, playing at defensive end. He was the team's defensive line MVP in 2016.

Bryant was a 2017 Preseason All-Patriot League selection at linebacker, an All-Patriot League Second-Team honoree and the team's linebacker MVP as a sophomore when he led the team and finished 23rd in the nation in tackles (114). He also paced the Patriot League and finished sixth in the nation in solo tackles per game (8.5).

Like Bryant, Wadsworth is a 2017 Preseason All-Patriot League selection. In the 2016 season, he secured All-Patriot League First-Team and Lafayette Team MVP laurels after finishing the season with 42 receptions and a pair of touchdowns. He enters his third season as a starter at tight end.
Wadsworth's offensive line mate Donnelly is the final Leopard to share captaincy. The versatile Donnelly has played in 21 games the past two seasons, seeing time at right tackle, right guard, left guard and center, where he is scheduled to start his final campaign.

The Deal With The DL: A quick look at the roster and depth chart shows the defensive line as the deepest positional grouping. First-year D-Line coach Justin Hinds will be able to go nine deep without a talent or experience drop off. Two fifth-year seniors (a rarity at Lafayette) in Andy Labudev and Matt Rothrock will line up at defensive tackles. Rothrock was an All-Patriot League honoree in 2015, but missed the entire 2016 season with injury. Junior Tony Giudice, a Syracuse transfer, and sophomore Demetrius Breedlove, will vie for time at tackle. Breedlove started four of the last five games of 2016. Senior Beau Bosch enters his third year as a starter at defensive end opposite of junior Dante Lonardo. Classmate Andrew Chuma and sophomore Keith Earle also figure to be in the mix that may see frequent rotation at all four defensive line spots.

Nationally-Ranked Opponents: The Leopards have three opponents who were ranked in the top 25 in the FCS preseason polls. Week three opponent Villanova heads that list, checking in at ninth in the Coaches Poll and 10th in the STATS poll. Also ranked are Lehigh, which is 17th in both polls, and Fordham 26th/22nd. Three other opponents, Princeton, Harvard and Colgate, received top-25 votes in the preseason poll.

Mrazek's Marks: Senior WR Matt Mrazek sits in seventh place for career pass completions at Lafayette (141), needing five catches to reach Mark Layton '11 (146), seven to equal Shaun Adair '09 (148) and 11 to match with Phil Ng '89 (152).
In terms of career yardage, Mrazek is ranked 11th (1,611), needing 23 yards to move into the top 10. The senior holds the record for receiving touchdowns in a game with three twice (Central Conn. State and Holy Cross) in 2016, ranks seventh for receiving touchdowns in a season (8 in 2016) and 10th in career receiving touchdowns (12). The Illinois native is also tied for third for receptions in a game with 11 and rests fourth in receptions in a season with 71 in 2016.

The Opponent: Monmouth is coming off a 2016 campaign when the Hawks were 4-7 overall and 0-5 in the Big South Conference, the school's home for the last three seasons. Monmouth returns 44 letterwinners and 14 starters (eight on offense and six on defense).

Senior S Mike Basile is the biggest name for the Hawks, earning a spot on the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List given to the top defensive player in the FCS. Basile led the team with 110 tackles in 2016 and was a Second-Team All-American.

Kevin Callahan (135-114) begins his 25th season and is the only head coach Monmouth has ever known. Prior to taking the job at Monmouth, Callahan was an assistant at Colgate for eight seasons.