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No Pain, Lot of Gain for Lafayette's Romans
Lafayette’s inspirational linebacker pronounces himself fit for 2008.
It had been an awfully long time since Andy Romans was able to joyfully skip off the football field without grimacing through the pain of a nagging injury.
Lafayette’s standout linebacker ran the medical gamut last season, enduring a frustrating assortment of ailments that included cracked ribs, a bruised tailbone, a strained hip flexor and even the stomach bug.
On Friday, however, Romans delightfully declared himself “100 percent” and ready to go after the first day of spring practice – a scary proposition for opposing offenses considering the rising senior was the Patriot League’s most dominating defensive player last season as a walking Band-Aid.
“After the season, I was banged up for a while,” Romans said. “It took a few weeks to feel right again. But I feel 100 percent; I feel great.”
While Romans has recovered, the Leopards’ egos remain bruised.
For the first time in four seasons, Lafayette opened spring practice without the coveted moniker of defending champion. The Leopards finished 7-4 overall last season and tied for second with a 4-2 league record.
Coach Frank Tavani said players and coaches alike are fueled by the desire to regain their familiar perch atop the league standings. On Friday, they took their first official step toward regaining their championship form.
“It was different this year not designing a ring in December; I was a little spoiled three years in a row,” said Tavani, who won three straight league championships from 2004-06. “I think this group is really hungry to get back in that championship mode. They worked extremely hard in the offseason and I thought we had a real sharp practice today for the first day out.”
Tavani said the primary goal this spring is to work out the usual kinks and solidify some positions heading into training camp this August. One question the ninth-year coach is happy he won’t have to answer is who’s behind center – a subject that commanded much of Tavani’s attention last season.
“At least nobody will be asking me who the quarterback’s going to be, considering Rob (Curley) finished the season on a pretty strong note,” Tavani said.
Senior receiver Shaun Adair and a bevy of talented sophomores give Curley plenty of passing options. The primary questions on offense will be in the trenches, where all-league selections Jesse Padilla and Greg Lippert must be replaced, and in the backfield, where tailback Maurice White returns for his senior season after missing much of last year with a high ankle sprain.
White’s injury created a snowball effect which resulted in the Leopards using seven different starters at tailback, five of whom will return this season.
“He’s going to have to come back and earn it, he knows that,” Tavani said of White. “But it’s no secret: Mo, when he’s healthy, does special things for us.”
The nation’s top-ranked defense figures to be solid again with Romans, an intense on-field leader, back in the fold. Middle linebacker Mark Leggiero also returns and junior Spencer Brown is expected to replace Mark Plumby opposite Romans.
Defensive linemen Andrew Poulson and Jason Mills were dominating at times up front and Nigel Bryant and Marvin Clecidor return as starters in the secondary.
No pain, lot of gain for Romans
By Rory Faust, The Express-Times