Being the only returning starter in the secondary is enough to give any player stress. Thankfully for the football team, senior free safety Josh Liemer does yoga.
Liemer, who led the team with seven takeaways last season, took up yoga to recover from a sports hernia suffered last season and has emerged as a defensive leader in the best shape of his life. Liemer said he’s been telling his teammates during summer practices that yoga has helped improve his recovery and flexibility — two athletic skills necessary for defending quick passing attacks.
“I told all the DBs [defensive backs] up here about it and that it helped with my cardio and flexibility,” Liemer said. “I find that I’m not getting as sore as I was, and it helps with my focus.”
Assistant Coach Jack Mrozinski is entering his second season in charge of the team’s defensive backs. He said the added flexibility that comes from yoga serves as a bonus to Liemer’s experience.
Liemer’s impact on the young defensive backs has gone beyond simple training tips during the preseason. The new members of the Bombers’ secondary earned some defensive experience backing up Spence White ’12 and Mike Conti ’12 last season. However, the bulk of their game time came from special teams. Junior strong safety Tom Scanlon said Liemer’s focus and knowledge of the assignments of every player gives his young teammates confidence.
“He’s able to see what I’m doing as the other safety and know what’s going on with me, and I don’t have to worry about him,” Scanlon said.
Junior cornerback Mike Vulcano said he looks up to Liemer because of his experience and consistency, while junior cornerback Brian Garvey said he admires Liemer’s humility as a leader.
“He’s always a ‘lead by example’ guy,” Garvey said. “He’s not always the most vocal, but sometimes that’s the best. A lot of times guys try to do too much talking, but he just does his job.”
While Vulcano and Garvey lack experience as cornerbacks, the same cannot be said for Scanlon. Scanlon, who may be best remembered for his 38-yard run on a fake punt during last year’s Cortaca Jug game, said he believes the secondary is a microcosm of the team and its season goals. He said being overlooked by many provides a unique challenge to the team and the secondary.
“Teams think that because we graduated three starters that we’re going to be weak, and they’re going to challenge us,” Scanlon said. “We’re going to embrace that challenge. We wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”
Garvey said this season gives the new-look secondary a chance to forge their legacy.
“We’re not trying to be those guys, [White, Conti, and Kevin Cline], we’re trying to be our own unit and be who we are,” Garvey said. “We have pretty high expectations. We feel as if we do what we’re supposed to, we can get the job done.”
Mrozinski said he wants the secondary to be an intimidating presence for the opponents’ offense.
“I want to be the best in the conference and as a defense to be an overall leader in the nation,” Mrozinski said. “Secondary-wise, I want teams to be nervous when they throw the ball. We’re going to be there not only to make plays on the ball, to make tackles in pressure situations as well.”
As for the yoga, Scanlon and Vulcano jokingly admit that they may take up Liemer’s recommendation.
“He swears by it,” Vulcano said. “But if he comes with us to class, then we’ll do it.”
The Blue and Gold will find out how prepared their young secondary is when the team plays its first game at Moravian College at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Bethlehem, Pa. Make sure to check back for a recap of the game tomorrow evening at www.theithacan.org/sports.