Archive For April 20, 2014
(Photo Credit: Justin Lafleur/Lehigh Athletics)
At the University of Alabama they call it “A-day,” and hold it in from of more than 76,000 fans.
Head coach Andy Coen didn’t brand Lehigh’s spring scrimmage “L-day”, and, well, there weren’t exactly 76,000 fans who came to Murray Goodman Stadium on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, either.
Instead, though, the fans that came were treated to a pass-happy scrimmage that featured no tackling contact after the third series, thanks in part to the fact that Lehigh only suited eight linemen on the morning.
It was a scrimmage that featured a whole lot of energy – and a whole lot of newness.
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Senior QB Matt McHale? Hurt. Got an injury that he’s rehabbing that has him ruled out of spring ball.
Sophomore QB Nick Shafnisky? Just this week, he got tendonitis in his throwing shoulder, which limited his time this spring.
Senior QB Gerard Poutier? Sorry, no. Still rehabbing a leg injury that he sustained last season.
Suddenly, a former walk-on athlete had gotten most of the reps this spring at the most important position on the field.
Senior QB Albert J. Visconti may not have been the guy that was hyped the most going into the spring, but the former walk-on now has the opportunity of a lifetime that’s every walk-on’s dream: a chance to be “the man” in the highlight of the spring football season.
It’s hard being an offensive player at Lehigh, thanks to the shoes you have to fill.
This season, though, at wideout and running back, it’s even more difficult than usual.
At running back, all the incoming backs need to be able to do is outdo the accomplishments of RB Keith Sherman – who only was Lehigh’s first 1,000 yard rusher in the last eleven years, and also nearly carried last year’s team on his back to a Patriot League championship.
And then there’s wide receiver, where the highest profile offensive players in the last two years, WR Ryan Spadola and WR Lee Kurfis, were back-to-back FCS All-Americans and broke a good portion of Lehigh’s receiving records. Kurfis, too, nearly carried Lehigh on his back to the playoffs last season. And Ryan is plyin his trade in the NFL, eager to break through onto the Dolphins’ roster once again.
All the new group from this spring needs to do is to equal their level of excellence. Simple, right?
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It’s not exactly a secret that the foundation of Lehigh’s offense in the Andy Coen era is an exceptional pass blocking unit.
With graduates from this unit like OL Keith Schauder, OL A.J. Hood, OL Troy McKenna, C Matt Lippincott and OL Will Rackley, who earns his paycheck on the offensive line of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s clear that offensive line is always a priority for Coen and offensive line coach Brett Sawyer.
This year sees Lippincott and Hood graduate, but also sees a lot of excitement with a lot of returning starting talent – including a bookend tackle in senior OL Ned Daryoush.
With the secondary out of the way, it’s time to focus on Lehigh’s spring roster battles as they relate to the rest of the defense, the linebacking unit and starting defensive line.
On the coaching front, rabid Lehigh football fans will recognize the two position coaches at both linebackers and defensive line.
Both coached alongside of current head coach Andy Coen during two of the Brown and White’s best-ever defensive seasons in 1998 and 1999.
Joe Bottiglieri was the defensive coordinator for the legendary 1998 team, which went 11-0 in regular season play and shocked the world by knocking of Atlantic 10 champions Richmond in the first-ever playoff victory for the Mountain Hawks since Lehigh joined the Patriot League. Along with current defensive line coach Donnie Roberts, Lehigh’s defense held the eventual I-AA champions, UMass, to 26 points and putting Lehigh in a position to win with a minute left in the quarterfinals.
This season, Coach Bott and Coach Roberts will try to recreate that same magic with this year’s team.
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You’d think with a headline like “Past and Present Lehigh Football Players Go Prematurely Bald” that the next sentence I’d be writing would be an ad for “Hair Club For Men”.
Instead, though, I’m going to be writing about how a bunch of Lehigh football players going prematurely bald is a great, inspirational thing.
This past Sunday, “Team Jack” went to nearby Phillipsburg, New Jersey, to get their heads shaved in solidarity with their favorite teammate and biggest fan, ten year old Jack Knudson, and also raise more than $2,000 for the St. Baldrick’s foundation for pediatric cancer research.
(You can still donate to “Team Jack” by clicking on this link and clicking the “Donate” button.)
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In my first edition about Lehigh’s spring football season, I take a look at one of the parts of the team that I’ll be watching closely when the Brown vs. White game gets played on April 19th: the secondary.
While one might naturally start one’s focus on Lehigh’s spring season on the offense, and the reps that rising sophomore QB Nick Shafnisky will be taking, I’d argue that it’s equally as important to focus on the battles happening in the Mountain Hawk secondary.
For the first time in a long time, it’s not a foregone conclusion as to whom will be starting come September.
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