FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was interviewed for a piece in Lacrosse magazine earlier this month, he had fun projecting some of his football players to the sport. Tom Brady the goalie, Julian Edelman the midfielder, Rob Gronkowski at crease attack.
Now, with the NCAA Final Four set for this weekend in Philadelphia (broadcast on ESPN2), the idea is to keep it light and take the football/lacrosse comparison one step further. To do so, we’ve recruited Sean Quirk, coach of the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse, the premier outdoor lacrosse league.
So where do we start?
“I’ve always been a big believer, and maybe I’m a little biased as a former goalie, that if you have a great goaltender, a really good faceoff guy to win possessions, and then [with] a balanced offense and very strong defense, you can do very good things,” Quirk said. “Each position is as important as the next, but especially in this league, where possession with the shot clock is so critical, that’s where I’d start.”
“Bill knows best. It’s hard to disagree with him. If Vince Wilfork was still on the team, I’d throw him in the goal – great size, charismatic, guys rally around him. Brady is obviously a tremendous leader, so I have to agree with Coach Belichick: Let’s put him in the cage.”
Faceoff specialist: Edelman
“Great hands, scrappy, doesn’t have to be the biggest guy, but should be athletic. He’ll fight for ground balls and get every inch he can.”
“They have to be athletic, be able to move up and down the field. Obviously, the Pats have a lot of guys that fit – put a stick in any of those guys’ hands and they’ll be successful. Butler would be a great defensive middie, and Hightower and Hogan can be part of our first offensive midfield group.
“Butler would be a great defensive middie. He’s obviously a great cover guy, like our Josh Hawkins. We’d put him on some of the top offensive middies and that’s a great 1-on-1 matchup. Hightower, if that guy draws a long pole or short stick midfielder defending him, he’ll be able to create offense and bowl guys over.
“Hogan is super athletic, with good hands, and he can create for some of those other offensive guys. I remember him playing at Penn State. And Lewis, with his speed, would be almost like our Brent Adams – he can beat short sticks and beat poles with his speed, getting to the cage quick."
“With long poles down low, you want guys that have range, good stick skills, really good feet, guys that can drop step. And they have to be good communicators.
“Blount, we can put him on the crease. Collins, he’d be a really good long-stick midfielder, would be able to get up and down the field, push transition for us.
“Chung, he can cover some smaller, quicker attackmen in the league, like Joey Sankey [of the Charlotte Hounds]. And Jones, with his cover skills, he’d be an absolute beast. He knows how to win coming from ‘Bama.”
“With Gronkowski, that’s what Coach Belichick said, and you can’t question that.
“Amendola, he’s so quick, I’d compare him to Will Manny, who is probably our best player at creating. Amendola could be a great create guy, and I think he could shoot the heck out of the ball. With Ebner, he can bring some of that gritty from his old days playing rugby – ride hard, create turnovers for us and give us opportunities to get transitional goals.”