Kyle Lauletta takes No. 2 ranked Richmond to Stony Brook

SATURDAY ON ASN: Xxx Xxx (click logo for local listings)
SATURDAY ON ASN: Richmond at Stony Brook, noon ET. (click logo for local listings)

Like any good quarterback, Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta is quick to process everything that comes his way, whether it is an unblocked blitzer, a new offensive system or the advice of his dad, a former college QB who claims to still have the best throwing motion in the family.

But this week presents something new for the Kyle and the Spiders (2-0), the second-ranked team in FCS.

When they travel to Stony Brook (1-1) for their CAA opener on ASN Saturday, they begin life without their leading rusher, Gordon Collins, who was lost for the season with a hip injury during last week’s 34-0 victory over Norfolk State.

Tough loss, Lauletta said, as Collins was a friend, and “kind of our guy.” There are youngsters who will be asked to fill in, guys like freshman Xavier Goodall and redshirt freshmen Deontez Thompson and Jay Palmer.

The Spiders, off to their first 2-0 start in five years, will nonetheless do what they do, play the way they play.

“It’s just business as usual,” said Lauletta, a redshirt junior.

He has become adept at rolling with the punches. For one thing, he has had three offensive coordinators in as many years of eligibility – four if you count Steed Lobotzke, who stopped by for three weeks in early 2015, then headed off to Air Force.

“It’s been a challenge,” Lauletta said. “It’s been a pain, quite frankly.”

John Garrett is the newest OC, having followed Charlie Fisher (now the head coach at Western Illinois) and Brandon Streeter (now the QB coach at Clemson). The overall offensive philosophy hasn’t changed much this season, but there have been some minor tweaks.

“It’s kind of like being a freshman all over again,” Lauletta said. “It’s a pain, but at the same time I think it’s rewarding. I think it makes you better.”

Lauletta, an All-CAA second-teamer in 2015 and the conference’s preseason Player of the Year this fall, seems to be adjusting rather well, thank you. He engineered an upset of Virginia in the opener, and has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 553 yards and five touchdowns, while being intercepted twice.

Last year, his first as a starter, he clicked on 61.6 percent of his attempts, and his 3,598 passing yards were the second-most in program history and the third-highest total in FCS. He also threw 19 TD passes (albeit with 15 picks), as Richmond went 10-4 and advanced to the FCS semifinals, losing to North Dakota State.

All of which came after the Spiders reached an early crossroads. They dropped their opener, then spotted host Hampton a 21-10 halftime lead in Week Two.

The way Lauletta remembers it, the Spiders’ mood wasn’t the best as they retreated to visiting quarters so cramped that the defense huddled in the locker room, while the offense repaired to a classroom.

“Guys kind of had their heads down,” he said.

Cornerback Ayo Ogunniyi, perhaps sensing that the new QB needed some reassurance himself, approached Lauletta.

“Hey, we have full faith in you,” he said. “We’re going to get this done.”

Richmond was still down 28-16 after three quarters, but Lauletta led a pair of touchdown drives in the final period, capping the second with a decisive 36-yard scoring pass to Reggie Diggs. The final was 31-28.

“I definitely remember that Hampton game as kind of a stepping stone to a successful season for me,” Lauletta said. “Winning that game, I definitely gained the confidence of some of my teammates that maybe I didn’t have.”

Lauletta threw seven touchdown passes over the next two games, and later enjoyed a 415-yard day against James Madison and a 369-yarder in the FCS quarterfinals against Illinois State. Certainly there is no doubt about anyone’s belief in him anymore.

Funny thing is, he came to the position reluctantly, despite the fact that his dad, Joe, and an uncle, Lex, played it at Navy.

These days, Kyle said, “My dad really analyzes the quarterback position from a mechanics perspective. He claims he has the best release in the family.”

When Kyle and his two brothers watched NFL games with their father at the family’s home in Exton, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, Joe would pause the DVR every now and then, rewind it and replay the motion of Tom Brady or someone like that.

And the boys – Trey is older than Kyle, Bryce younger – would record each other’s motion.

Still, Kyle didn’t fully transition to QB until Joe and his wife Kim talked him into doing so before his freshman year at Downingtown East High School; he was mostly a linebacker in junior high. He backed up Trey for two years, then flourished when his older brother headed off to Bucknell. (Bryce, a high school junior, holds the job now.)

Upon arrival at Richmond, there was a season on the bench, then a redshirt year to alleviate a logjam at the position.

More changes. More adjustments. All part of playing quarterback.

On the cover: Photo courtesy Richmond Athletics

Gordie Jones

Gordie Jones is a freelance writer based in Lititz, Pa. Follow him on Twitter at @gordonwjones.