Rob Long will be sorely missed in the Pinstripe Bowl. He's not only one of the best punters in the nation but he's also a team leader. With no other punter on the roster, his absence begs a very obvious question...who will take his place?
Ryan Lichtenstein, that's who. Last year's kicking hero spent much of this season on the bench while freshman Ross "Das Boot" Krautman took his starting spot. Lichy will get a chance to state his case for a starting spot again in the Pinstripe Bowl. However, some of Long's other duties will be doled out accordingly...
Marrone told me that sophomore Ryan Lichtenstein, who walked onto the team last season and became the starting place-kicker and in the process earned a scholarship, will likely replace Long at punter. There is no punter other than Long listed on the roster. Freshman place-kicker Ross Krautman, who handled kickoff duties for most of the season before being replaced by Long, will pick up that chore. The holder on field goals and PAT kicks will be backup quarterback Charley Loeb or wide receiver Alec Lemon, although each has battled through hand injuries during the season.
As for Long, he's as upbeat as possible about the impending surgery. His current and former coaches can only praise the way he's handling the situation:
"He called me Thursday," said Jeff Dinnocenti, Long’s longtime kicking coach and a friend of the family, who reside in the Philadelphia suburb of Downingtown. "He said, ‘Are you sitting down? I’ve got a tumor in my head.’ Then he said, ‘I’m going to walk away from this and I’m going to be fine.’ He’s just a very upbeat kid."
"I’ve never seen anyone be able to handle something like this so well," Marrone said. "He’s handled this thing a whole lot better than I know I would have. At the end of the day, that’s who Rob Long is. Our prayers and thoughts are with him and his family."
Bob Casullo, who as former Syracuse special teams coach, worked with Rob Long for the past two years. He too has nothing but praise for him:
"From the little bit I’m hearing," said Casullo, "the tumor is benign, which is very good news. Knowing Rob, once this thing gets taken care of -- with his determination and his work ethic -- I know he’ll get himself back to normal real quick. He has a great future ahead of him, in my estimation, in the NFL."
Casullo also said there was no rift between he and Long. The coach had been seen laying into Long during late-season games before he left the team.