A few quick notes from today before I have to head off to a wedding reception with Miss All Shore Media during a sticky and steamy Saturday. Yeah, wearing that suit is going to be a real treat in this weather, but at least it’s indoors. I went to an outdoor reception once on a day like this where it poured and the DJ nearly got electrocuted despite being under a tent, which I have to say was about the highlight of the night. There was definitely a masochistic part of me that wanted the music to short out right about the time “Bust A Move” came on and I started scanning for the exits.
First off, the No. 2 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system, second baseman Todd Frazier (Toms River South/Rutgers) has been promoted to Class AAA Louisville, leaving him one step from the big leagues. Hopefully he gets a September call-up considering the Reds are out of the race and might as well see what they have for the future. That also makes two Fraziers in Triple A, as Todd’s older brother, Jeff Frazier, plays for the Toledo Mud Hens, which is the Detroit Tigers’ Triple A team.
Also, a quick story recommendation before I get to some football notes for today. Great story in the latest Sports Illustrated on Marc Buoniconti, the son of former Dolphins great Nick Buoniconti. Marc was paralyzed from a football collision that occurred a long time ago, and the story discusses the intersecting lives of three men who were involved in hits that caused paralysis.
I will get some more camp reports from our own Bob Badders tomorrow as we continue to get ready for the 2009 season, but here is what I have from today.
I caught the end of Long Branch‘s intrasquad scrimmage and the Green Wave definitely have plenty of speed at the skill positions and in the secondary. The line is still coming along on both sides of the ball and the passing game has to get a little more refined, but this team will definitely be dangerous. This was also my first look at sophomore lineman Ryan Brody, and he definitely passes the “look” test of a Division I athlete at 6-5 and 255. He has a chance to be special as long as he continues to match a hard work ethic with his natural ability. I didn’t really see enough of the scrimmage to comment on certain players, but the speed on this team is definitely a main feature.
After visiting Long Branch, I took a quick trip to Middletown North, which is looking to continue the momentum of its state playoff appearance from last year despite losing nearly its entire starting lineup to graduation.
Sean “Gooch” McKee will take over for the graduated Uly Gibson as the team’s feature tailback in its multiple-I offensive attack. The offensive line is pretty much all new, so that will be a big question mark coming into the year because of the inexperience. The sooner the younger guys come along will determine the Lions’ success this season. McKee doesn’t necessarily have the breakaway speed of Gibson, who was a 1,000-yard rusher last year, but he is physical and can bounce plays outside. Senior Pat Bradley and junior Frank Derise are currently competing for the starting quarterback spot.
Junior Shilique Calhoun will be at tight end and see some time at safety, and he could be a real impact player as he continues to progress. He is a solidly built 6-5 and has that instinctive basketball ability to shield defenders like he’s grabbing a rebound when he catches passes in traffic. He could be almost impossible to match up with one-on-one if the Lions can ramp up the passing game. Rutgers and Boston College have already shown interest. The question of his future really comes down to whether he really pursues the football thing full bore, or whether he still believes he can be a Division I basketball player.
Linebacker Ryan Wagner returns to anchor the defense along with three-year starter Chris Dura in the secondary. Dura will be everywhere for the Lions this year, from safety to corner to running back to wide receiver. Wagner really stood out in the Lions’ huge overtime win over Brick last year that qualified them for the state playoffs for the first time since 2000. He was a little overshadowed by Dan Wollman last year, but with Wollman having graduated, Wagner should be front and center this year. I would also keep an eye on defensive end Ed Doll, whom the Lions also will be counting on.
The resurrection of the Lions’ program certainly has had an effect as far as galvanizing the younger players. Middletown North had 58 freshmen come out for the freshman team this season, compared to an average of about 29 during the first three years of head coach Joe Trezza‘s tenure. This freshman class also reportedly has some good ability, so the future is looking bright. The whole program, from the varsity team to the freshman team, is practicing together this year, according to Trezza, meaning 118 players are all practicing on the same field and doing drills together. The coaches are looking to get this freshman group on board from the beginning and set the tone for the whole program as one.
The early schedule gives the Lions a chance to get some confidence early with all the new players, as they have J.P. Stevens, Toms River South, Brick and Marlboro in their first four games.