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10 Man Ride: Training Camp Battles

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Jul 23, 2020

CLEAR! The ride is on. Training camp is underway. We have positional battles to discuss. And we’re two days out. Let’s go!

1. Camp Battles: Atlas midfield

Paul Rabil, Connor Buczek, John Crawley, Bryan Costabile, Joel Tinney, and Romar Dennis are all fighting for time in the midfield.

Rabil and Buczek are locks. Costabile can earn time as a two-way player. Per Jake Watts camp notes from inside the bubble, the rookie took defensive reps from Day 1. I’m not sure Crawley’s role will be the same as it was in 2019 – one of the best inverting midfielders might not be needed behind the cage with Rob Pannell at X – but he needs to be featured in this offense.

Atlas was 6-3 last summer when Crawley was in the lineup. They scored 12.1 points per 40 settled possessions with Crawley. That would’ve been good for second in PLL. Without him, the Bulls barfed up 8.8 points per 40 settled possessions.

Crawley – the offensive coordinator at Lehigh – is a calming presence. He’ll slow the tempo, take a mismatch to X, and isolate or operate a big-little pick-and-roll when Atlas needs it most.

The Bulls offense was at its best when the ball moved quickly; they assisted on 53.2% of their shots (2nd highest in PLL). Crawley demands a slide because of his ability to score off the dodge – making him one of the league’s best party starters. More of these sequences in 2020, please.

More on the Atlas midfield and other camp battles via Jerome Taylor.

2. Roster moves

Some roster updates:

  • Atlas LC defenseman Tucker Durkin tested positive for COVID-19 during the initial testing. He can still join the team if he tests negative after his quarantine period ends. Atlas is awaiting the results; they haven’t replaced Durkin on their 22-man roster.
  • Chaos LC has placed Johnny Surdick on the military inactive list; Dan Coates has been added to the 22-man roster.
  • Archers LC defenseman Evan Connell tested positive for COVID-19 prior to departing for Utah; Jack Rapine has been added to the 22-man roster.
  • Redwoods LC attackman Jules Heningburg has left the bubble. Despite recovering from COVID-19 and feeling ready to play, the cardiology tests in Utah revealed that Heningburg is at high risk for cardiac arrest under high intensity training. The Redwoods’ replacement will need to test negative before joining the bubble.

3. Atlas D minus Durkin

Atlas’ defense bullies opponents at and around goal-line extended. Durkin’s brutal physicality gives them an identity. Opponents shot 44.7% from the doorstep (lowest mark in PLL, league average is 55.0%). Are attackmen more likely to go airborne into the cylinder without Durkin lurking nearby?

The hope is that Durkin can rejoin the team. He’ll need to test again upon landing and quarantine for 24 hours. It’s tough to see that timeline putting him on track for Sunday’s season opener against Waterdogs LC or even Monday’s matchup with Archers LC. Atlas needs him back by the elimination round – he’s their captain, their on-ball bully at X, and their enforcer around the crease.

4. 71 points

71 points. The Whipsnakes lost 71 points (48G, 1T, 22A) to expansion when the Waterdogs selected Connor Kelly, Ryan Drenner, Drew Snider, and Ben Reeves.

Jay Carlson – one of the heroes of the Championship – will play off-ball on attack. Joe LoCascio and Jeremy Sieverts will see more time out of the midfield. Entry draft pick Zed Williams can play either midfield or attack. So can Max Tuttle (acquired via trade with Chrome LC) and Brad Smith (missed 2019 with a broken foot).

Williams and Smith are two breakout candidates. Smith has been shooting on his younger brother, a goalie at Duke, this offseason. Marisa Ingemi caught up with the New Jersey native – read her story here.

5. Blocked Shots

Mark Glicini’s blocked shot title is on the line. Redwoods LC midfielder Tyler Dunn bought a heart plate so that he can dive in front of shots this summer. We’re tracking blocked shots (a.k.a. Glicks) this summer. Expect these two to lead the way.

Tim Troutner talked about Dunn’s dedication, Fortnite, and more on The Crease Dive.

(Oh, and by the way: Head coach Nat St. Laurent tells me that Dunn is the emergency goalie. And the short-stick most likely to pick up a pole – he took LSM runs for the Team USA U19 team a few years ago.)

6. The Last Line of Defense

Speaking of blocking shots, Doug Greenberg interviewed Adam Ghitelman, Kyle Bernlohr, and Blaze Riorden about what it’s like to be the last line of defense.

Blaze’s origin story is like the beginning of a superhero movie. In fourth grade, he broke his goalie’s finger with a shot. So, Blaze had to step into cage as a replacement. Fast forward to 2019, and Blaze is the Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year. Life comes at you fast.

7. “Jake Withers, that’s a tough son of a b****.”

Josh Schafer recently profiled the Waterdogs’ most recent pickup: Faceoff specialist Jake Withers.

When Withers arrived at Ohio State University, he was winning faceoffs with his athleticism and hustle. As an upperclassman, Withers learned technique from Greg Gurenlian. Blending mechanics with a blue-collar mentality and athleticism boosted his faceoff percentage to 60.7% as a junior and then again to 64.7% as a senior.

Most expansion teams take time to gel. Bank on Withers and his faceoff unit to click in a hurry. He grew up playing with Zach Currier – and they reunited on Team Canada with Ryland Rees and Brodie Merrill. Withers and Drew Simoneau will be flanked by talented, World Games-experienced wings.

8. Building the Pack

Part I of a 3-part series on the Waterdogs is on YouTube now. The premier episode follows head coach Andy Copelan as he prepares for the expansion draft.

Copelan built a spreadsheet when he was hired. It contained projections of protected rosters. He says he was about 85% accurate with some surprises on attack. He didn’t think he’d have the opportunity to take some of the attackmen that he did. One who is poised to break out: Copelan’s second overall pick, Christian Cuccinello.

Cuccinello absorbs a ton of contact on his dodges. His plows through defenders to his spot; his average shot came from 6.7 yards out (4th closest in PLL) – absurdly close for a ball dominant player. He was one of the most efficient dodge-to-shoot players (32.1% off the dodge) and should have had more assists (only 5 on 25 assist opportunities).

Cuccinello wasn’t a full-time player until midway through 2019. The Archers offense improved as soon as he took over at X. He might have to fight his way into the starting lineup again; Jake Watts notebook from Day 2 of camp has Ryan Drenner, Kieran McArdle, and Ben Reeves starting on attack.

9. From Perth to Sydney to SF to LA to Utah

Adam Ghitelman, Marcus Holman, and Will Manny had the shortest commute to Park City. Lacrosse Flash’s Adam Levi caught up with the player who had the longest commute: Atlas defenseman Callum Robinson.

10. Time to turn it up

This was a weekly post during the offseason. We’re going daily during the Championship Series. Check back on Saturday morning for keys to the Redwoods-Whipsnakes (4:00PM ET on NBC) and Chrome-Chaos (7:30PM ET on NBCSN).

To receive this post in newsletter form every morning, subscribe here.

Thanks for reading!

Spread the word, submit any questions you want to see answered in this space to me on Twitter (@joekeegs), and I’ll talk to you next week!

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