Friday, April 20, 2007

Brown/White Game Tomorrow

With the conclusion of the spring season tomorrow, I'm going to be heading up to Bethlehem this weekend to attend the Brown/White scrimmage on what should be a fantastic, sunny, 70 degree day. (Finally!) Starting at 1PM, it's free and open to the public, and gives fans like me a chance to get an idea of what the 2007 Mountain Hawks might look like.

If you can't make it to Goodman, the next best thing is to make your way to lehighsports.com to get the audio broadcast of the game. For those who are not aware of the service, you can get audio and video of Lehigh sporting events and other goodies for $5 a month as part of the College Broadcast Pack. For me, during the football season, it's an invaluable way for me to catch up on games, watch the mid-weekly press conference, and also watch the weekly Lehigh Sports Magazine which frequently has important insights on the coming week from coach Coen.

Due to new NCAA rules, the incoming freshman class will not be honored at halftime as was in years past. You may want to check the lehighsports.com website for any other planned events on the day, or check here at the blog for any last-minute information.

For me, the Brown/White game will be the last chance before preseason camps begin to see what this 2007 Mountain Hawk team is made of. I will able to see who I think might start September 8th versus Villanova, if we're going to be a team which will be defined by offensive power or defensive toughness, and how the key offseason position battles are shaping up. Without any further ado, here's five things I'm looking for tomorrow.

1. How the "O" Line gels. I'm very likely to be looking at the numbers of the "hogs" to see exactly how they are stacking up against our defensive front seven. Big #63, senior T Jimmy Kehs, and #62, 5th year senior C John Reese, are locks on the line, but of the other nine "O" linemen in camp it will be very interesting to see who Coen chooses on the line - a big, beefy line, or a smaller, agile one. Senior OL (and LFN fave) Brendan Caffery may be in the mix, as well as sophomore OL Ben Harden, junior OL Kevin Bayani, and junior OL Patrick Casey. Some other interesting names are here: converted sophomore DL Frank Giacalone, and juniors Chris Tiefenthal, Scott Novack, and Kevin Evanko. I'll be making notes on these guys for sure.

2. Piascik or Watson? Most fans may not be paying attention to the blocking out of the backfield from senior FB John Piascik or junior FB Adam Watson, but I certainly will be. FBs are usually unsung heroes, but in our system they can be surprise weapons as well as fearsome blockers (see Greg "Grandpa" Fay last year). This has been a battle this spring - along with sophomore FB Anthony Fossati - and it will be interesting who will emerge as that "tough guy" that is needed in Coen's offense.

3. The three-headed monster. We pretty much know that senior QB Sedale Threatt will be a threat to take off whenever he has the ball, and junior RBs Matt McGowan and Josh Pastore are going to be in the mix somewhere at running back (with scrappy senior 5'6 scatback Rich Forman backing them up). But which back will be able to shoulder the majority of the running load? (Could it even be Sedale?)

4. The logjam at linebacker. With all the 5th year seniors returning and all that talent at linebacker, who's going to get the starting nod? Senior LBs Travis Stinson and Rusty Campion seems like the best bets, but after that it's awfully hard to pick. Junior LB Tim Diamond, senior LB Rashaun Gasaway, and the sophomore "fab four" linebackers (Tobi Showunmi, Al Pierce, Matt Cohen, Heath Brickner) all have been looking good by all accounts. Who's going to make that two-deep?

5. The World's Fastest Man? Maybe not the world's fastest, but it will be interesting to see who returns kicks back there this year. You wonder if someone like senior WR/DB Brannan Thomas, sophomore WR James Potocnie, or sophomore WR (and Fordham transfer) Jason Figura might return kicks.

Better get those jersey numbers memorized. Spring practice is here!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Weekend Practice, and Coaches' Clinic, Big Success

You might think that the following picture of football coaches might be from a Notre Dame, Army or Navy spring practice. Think again: this photo (courtesy of the Morning Call) is actually rising sophomore QB Chris Bokosky showing his footwork at Murray Goodman this past Saturday at the coaching clinic/spring practice at Lehigh this past weekend.

According to this article from the Morning Call, nearly fifty coaches came to hear coach Coen and Lehigh assistant coaches talk about coaching fundamentals, and in the words of coach Coen "[to get] better at helping their kids".

Here's some love from the article:

"The thing I want to get across is how important it is to create an environment where the kids enjoy playing the game. That's what I've tried to do here. At the youth level, there are kids who want to be there and others who mom and dad are making go. Those are the kids who need to be convinced that this can be fun. It doesn't always have to be war, or surgery."

All feedback from the youth coaches was positive.

''I grew up with [offensive line coach] Brett Sawyer and they do a great job. These coaches are incredibly accessible. They're willing to take their time and talk shop with you while never talking down to you. You can tell they have a passion for what they do. So much coaching at our level is keeping it fun and that's what the Lehigh coaches preach.''

For Lehigh, which is beginning the final week of spring drills, the clinic broke up the day-to-day grind and returned the coaches and participating players to their football roots.

''A lot of the coaching clinics are geared for a higher level and talk a lot about schemes, but we want to teach fundamentals here,'' said Scheier, Lehigh's receivers coach who is the clinic's director. ''We talk about blocking and tackling, throwing and catching.


Great stuff as the anticipation really starts to build for the Brown/White game this weekend (1PM start; admission is free). Some more hints on what to expect on Saturday and this fall as the Lehigh website posted an update from spring ball:

Throughout the spring the Mountain Hawks have continued to work on re-building both the offensive and defensive lines, as well as working on third-down and goal-line situations. “We began our goal-line situations yesterday (Thursday),” Coen explains, “I think the defense was better than the offense, and during our red-zone drills the opposite was true. But typically that’s the case. It’s important to continue to see improvements and get a lot of guys reps out there.”

Lehigh’s rising sophomore class, taking part in their first set of collegiate spring practices, have all adjusted well according to Coen, and several have stood out with their performance. “Our sophomore class of linebackers has pleased me with their development. Heath Brickner has done a very nice job throughout the spring and made a real push, as has Al Pierce. Matt Cohen continues to improve, and Tobi Showunmi has done some good things out there.” He continues, “B.J. Benning has worked his way into some playing time along the defensive line and Darrel Ray, who made the switch to defensive tackle, has done a nice job as well.

He adds, “We’ve seen very good competition at both the fullback and back-up quarterback positions, and I expect that to continue here through the last week. I would also like to see the lines gel some more and have another wide receiver or two step up.”

I don't think anyone who followed Lehigh last year could deny that the red-zone drills are a welcome sight - several games probably could have been won if we have put in six instead of three. But the real interesting information came about the defense, where it looks like we might have a young, talented front seven that is having a good spring. It's heartening that our sophomore "fab four" linebackers (Brickner, Pierce, Cohen, Showunmi) are meriting mention. Add to that junior LB Tim Diamond, senior LB Rashaun Gasaway, and 5th year LBs Rusty Campion and Travis Stinson, and that could spell a particularly fearsome mix at linebacker next fall. We should have more depth there than I can ever remember.

Also good to see another LFN fave, sophomore DT B.J. Benning, pushing for time on the "D" line with converted sophomore LB Darrell Ray possibly joining him.

I'm hoping to be at the Brown/White game this weekend. Should be exciting!
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