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Lions’ Defensive Pregame Preview: Meyer looks to bulldoze Albright, sidestep Herm Edwards’ company

August 28, 2009

Quick advice to Lions fans:  If the scoreboard doesn’t appear favorably following tomorrow night’s preseason showdown against Albright College—indicative of a loss, underperformance, or even sloppy win—don’t ask Craig Meyer anything about moral victories, good feelings moving forward, or anything like that.

Unless of course, you’re fishing for his best Herm Edwards impression.

“Yeah, it’s preseason,” he said via phone interview. “But you want to win the game.”

According to Meyer — who wanted nothing to do with his coach’s finest efforts to curb expectations of a pristine final outing before its opens the season at home on Sept. 5 — he can’t help it. It’s just who he is.

“Our coaches keep telling us, ‘Hey this is practice. This is a scrimmage.’ But as a player, you want to go out there you want to win, that’s your nature,” he said about his excitement to compete. “I just can’t wait to see how we go out there and it’s great to line up against someone else for a change.”

Though its unlikely that a post game rant would rival that of the former-Jets’ coach-turned-instant-Coors-Light-marketing- material, his request to clash against outside competition could wind up being more than the senior defensive end bargained for, considering his opposition.

Ranked fourth in his conference last year in total rushing, Albright’s Josan Holmes emerged as a bona fide freshman phenom en route to capturing 2008 Middle Atlantic Conference Rookie-of-the-Year honors. Following a freshman campaign during which the Ambler, PA native rushed for 1,087 yards and 12 TDs, Holmes will undoubtedly test a Lions’ defense that allowed an NJAC-worst 204 yards per game a year ago.

“They had a good year last year and they look to be a pretty good team this year, too,” he said in response to his opponent’s credentials. “We want to see how we match up with what we have.”

In spite of the inexperience of a unit that features two new starters, Meyer seemed like he’ll be plenty comfortable battling side-by-side the young men he’s seen work so hard, for what’s seemed like so long.

“As far as tomorrow goes it’s going to be a test to see if some of the younger guys can step up. Yeah, we’ve got a few more guys helping us this year on the D-line, but we’re going to ask a lot from them. You know what? Its time for a lot of the younger guys to step up. We’ve got a few one and two-year guys and some veterans from last year [on the defensive line] and we’re going to need to plug up the run.”

Joining Meyer and defensive tackle Terry Woolverton (both starters in 2008) as starters for tomorrow’s scrimmage include Freddy Rosato — a transfer from Central Jersey’s Mercer Community College — and Sam Dokus, who saw limited action as a freshman off the bench.

If they’re not up to the challenge, the short and shifty Holmes (listed at 5’8, 170) has already proven he can  decimate an inferior defensive front-seven, even in record-setting fashion.

Though he exceeded the 200 yard barrier only once last season (came pretty close against Widener with 195), Holmes 212-yard performance that carried his Albright Lions to victory against Wilkes (17-10) ranked 6th all-time in the school’s single game rushing performances. It was also the first time since 1998 that anyone had eclipsed the mark in a single outing. Later in the year, against NJAC competitor Montclair State, his four rushing touchdowns tied for his school’s most all-time.

The performance wasn’t against an unworthy opponent, either. When Montclair State met TCNJ during the 2008 regular season, it posted a shutout (it’s first since defeating Kean 3-0 in 2005) en route to victory, 15-0.

Although the classic football adage, “it’s not about the ‘Xs’ and the ‘Os,’ it’s about the Willies and the Joes,” minimizes the importance of scheme, much of Meyer’s plentiful confidence emanates from defensive coordinator Matt Hamilton’s default personnel packages and alignments.

“We’re coming out with a 40 front,” he said of his coach’s scheme, a four-down linemen look that’s often effective at counteracting potent rushing attacks. “That’s our base-D, so we’ll see how we line up.”

Meyer’s competitive passion didn’t keep him from noting another priority listed high on the Lions’ to-do list going into tonight, a goal that’s got him keeping one eye focused on tougher waters ahead.

“We’ve got a few guys injured right now,” he said. “We just want to keep everyone healthy and get everyone ready for Buffalo [State].”

Tonight’s contest will be played at Albright Colelge’s Gene L. Shirk Stadium, located in Reading, PA (kickoff TBD).

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