It’s safe to say that Messenger has shown enough to convince the coaching staff that he may be more than capable on the offensive end. This is a win-win situation for Messenger because his versatility makes him a virtual lock, so even if he doesn’t quite earn a job on the offensive end, he’ll settle into the same role he had last season.
Now or Never for Long Poles
The Chrome LC heads to camp with ten poles. Of those ten, five played every game in 2022: Mike Manley, Jesse Bernhardt, JT Giles-Harris, Eli Salama, and Nick Grill. When looking at how Tim Soudan constructed his gameday roster, he carried three close defensemen and two long-stick midfielders (LSM). The plan at the moment is to keep the core of Manley, Bernhardt, and Giles-Harris at close. Nick Grill will be playing primarily LSM but will bump down as needed. He’s played out of position during his PLL career but given the age of players starting in front of him at close (Bernhardt 32, Manley 34), it’s believed that Grill will eventually move down low.
Eli Salama is the incumbent and favorite for the second LSM spot. He’s been with the team since 2020 and while his play was consistent last season, Coach Soudan brought in some considerable talent to compete for his spot. Coming to camp are second round draft pick Troy Hettinger and undrafted free agent John Geppert. Both players were elite college but the question remains, how will that game translate to the professional level. Geppert played at Maryland under defensive coordinator Jesse Bernhardt, who is now his teammate. Hettinger is a Jacksonville product that played under former Chrome LC goalie John Galloway. Each player came with glowing recommendations from people Coach Soudan trusts.
While there likely won’t be a starting spot at close defense available, Coach Soudan routinely used one of his reserve spots for a pole. This is an important role as this reserve player practices with the team and is called upon when there is an injury, sickness, etc. Last year Ryan McNulty was a reserve several times but ultimately never dressed. That role this year could be filled by Greg Weyl, Gibson Smith IV, or one of the two LSM’s who didn’t earn a starting spot. Weyl is a seasoned pro who has proven in the past that he can handle a starting role and he’s also a lefty which could be an asset in certain matchups.
Everything I write comes with the caveat that Coach Soudan will always start the best player, so if a player comes to camp and absolutely dominates, every starting spot is up for grabs.