Friday, August 26, 2005

Practice finishes this weekend; Frosh Faces To Watch

The final fall practices, including a scrimmage, for Lehigh conclude this weekend. All practices and scrimmages are at Whitehead practice fields. They are open and free to the general public. Here are the times:

Saturday, 8:15AM
Saturday, 7:30PM
Sunday, 1:45PM

Sunday's practice is followed by the annual Alumni Steak Fry.

The Lehigh website has some juicy information about how practices are going:

“Pete [Morelli] finished the spring as our No. 2 tight end, and has shown steady improvement,” Lembo said Thursday night at practice. “In camp, he has been a very physical blocker, he has improved mentally, and he is a very durable player with an outstanding work ethic. We hope he will continue to improve with hard work at practice.”

On the defensive side of the ball, junior lineman Paul Fabre has caught Lembo’s watchful eye. “Paul saw limited time on special teams last year, but he has really made tremendous strides as a defensive lineman since the spring,” Lembo explains. “Paul is in excellent physical condition, and he looks good rushing the passer. We expect him to continue to be an asset on special teams.”

Freshman cornerback Jarvis Lewis has also made an early impact on Lembo. “At 5’10”, 190 pounds, Jarvis possesses excellent feet and terrific speed,” Lembo points out. “He reminds me of a young Lawrence Williams. It will be a challenge for Jarvis to break into our two-deep because of the outstanding depth we have at cornerback. Having said that, we envision Jarvis being an asset to our special teams unit as well as our secondary.”

Lewis will be one of several younger players to be featured at Saturday night’s scrimmage. “We want to continue to evaluate our younger personnel under game-like conditions,” Lembo said. “We will cover a multitude of game situations that may occur in our first game, or in other games later on.”

Here's my take on it. It looks like either Morelli is going to be the opening-day starter, or at the very least it will be a battle all the way through the last days of camp. Pete is coming off injuries last year, so it's possible he's finally fit and healthy.

DE Paul Fabre looks like he is definitely in the mix at DE. You may even be able to pencil him in as a starter. Defensive line is definitely a strength now, especially with DT Royce Morgan all the way back from injury. Overall, the front seven looks real strong, even with a couple of spots left to fill.

Other quick shots from camp include: no big injuries seem to have occurred so far, which is outstanding news. QB Sedale Threatt appears to have solidified his hold on the #2 QB position, and coach Lembo is already comparing him to Brant Hall. The "O" line and wideout corps have seen some interesting names in their midst during preseason practice, and it wouldn't be a stretch to find some surprising names in the depth chart on September 3rd.

Some of the freshmen have already made some noises at camp. Not sure if anyone will be replacing any starters, but here are 3 frosh to watch at the beginning of this season.

1) P/K John Leo. He has already impressed with a strong leg. He may play a key role on special teams on kickoffs in 2005.

2) DB Brendan Van Eckeren. Looks like a real find in the safety position. He played a bit in the secondary and was a particularly hard hitter. Looks like a definite special-teamer, at least.

3) DB Jarvis Lewis. Mentioned by Lembo, his praise that he seems like a "young Lawrence Williams" is very high praise, as Williams was a dominating CB in the Patriot League. He's definitely a special-teamer, and he could also find time as a nickel or dime back as well.

Finally, some interesting press from Lehigh Media Day last week. From the Express-Times, a piece on Royce Morgan, finally coming all the way back from injury. Also, from the Morning Call, an Lembo's interesting look at Lehigh's future.

Here is the digested version:

The super-quick 6-foot-1, 254-pound defensive tackle got off to a banner start last season when he recorded a team-leading 2 sacks and eight tackles in the opening two games. Then it happened.

"The tackle tried to cut-block me," [Royce] Morgan said. "He cut-blocked right into my leg."

"A somewhat controversial block," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo called it. "It was unfortunate... I'd like to believe poor technique wasn't being coached... Sometimes those types of things happen. It's an unfortunate part of the game. That was a blow to our defense at the time.""
"His quickness has always been one of his best assets," Lembo said. "If you have a quick defensive tackle that can line up on a guard and be a good pass rusher, that's certainly a huge asset to the defense."

And it's an advantage Morgan plans to bring all season this time.

"I got through it," Morgan said of last year's ordeal. "I'm feeling pretty good. I think I have a little more of a chip on my shoulder, on a personal level. I'm ready to get after it."

"We could put a mark on Lehigh football this year," Morgan said during Saturday's annual Lehigh Media Day. "This could be a very special year."
Stiffer academic standards mean that Lehigh coaches have had to extend their recruiting base to find students who qualify.

''We're now the 32nd-ranked university in the country academically and we're now being mentioned in the same category as Vanderbilt, Tulane, Georgetown, Northwestern and William & Mary, and some of the great academic schools in the country,'' Lembo said. ''When you have become that, it becomes a lot tougher to be admitted to the institution.

''We had almost 11,000 applications last year for a freshman class of 1,200. As a result of the increased standards, we've been forced to diversify our recruiting... The only part of the country we're not going to right now is the West Coast and we may end up going there in the next few years,'' he said. ''You look at this team and there's a strong Texas influence, a strong Louisiana influence, a strong Florida influence and so on. We're also going into Ohio and Michigan.

''It's great for Lehigh football, but with those increased academic standards it's not as easy to get local kids admitted.''
''[Sedale Threatt] has really had an excellent camp,'' Lembo said of the sophomore. ''He is grasping the offense better and becoming more comfortable with it every day. With his improved confidence, his athleticism is starting to show more. He's starting to remind me of Brant Hall with his running ability.''
Rich Haas, who is in charge of Lehigh ticket operations, said sales of season tickets are at the highest level since 1998. An average of 1,275 chairback seats have sold per game and all chairback seats have been sold for the ''Family Weekend'' game against Georgetown on Nov. 5.

All good stuff, especially about Lehigh's academic standards on par with Vanderbilt, Georgetown, and Northwestern. There are recruiting challenges, but with Lehigh in such esteemed academic company, I think that works in our favor more than it hurts us in the long run. Local kids just need to know that they will need great academics in order to play for their "hometown favorite" Lehigh.

Excited about Sept. 3rd yet?
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