So now, more than ever, it's football season.
It officially starts today at 4:15, and there was even an article in the Easton Express-Times about it, too. It's probably one of the most wide-open spring football seasons I can ever remember for Lehigh after a disappointing 5-6 campaign that gave everyone associated with Lehigh a bad taste in their mouths.
Here's the 2008 Spring Practice schedule:
Friday, March 21 - 4:15PM
Saturday, March 22 – TBA
Monday, March 24 – 4:30 PM
Friday, March 28 – 4:30 PM
Saturday, March 29 – TBA
Monday, March 31 – 4:30 PM
Friday, April 4 – 4:30 PM
Saturday, April 5 – TBA
Tuesday, April 8 – 4:30 PM
Thursday, April 10 – 4:30 PM
Saturday, April 12 – TBA
Monday, April 14 – 4:30
Wednesday, April 16 – 4:30 PM
Thursday, April 17 – 4:30 PM
Saturday, April 19 – Brown and White Spring Game, TBA (Murray Goodman Stadium)
The past two years I've posted my spring preview as "losses, locks, and battles" - who is lost to graduation, who's a lock for a starting spot, and what the big battles are going to be. Sounds like a good way to enter the spring session this year, too.
Start at QB, where senior QB Sedale Threatt ended his injury-ridden senior season on a disappointing note. Also not opting to return for his final year of eligibility is junior RB Josh Pastore who has decided to hang up his cleats, who when healthy would definitely be in the running for the starting RB position.
All our receiving corps from last year return except for senior WR Pete Donchez, and on the "O" Line we see senior C John Reese and senior OT Jimmy Kehs graduating.
On offense, there are also key reserves to replace in senior TE Joe Sutherland, senior FB John Piascik and senior OL Brendan Caffery, who also graduated.
Defense features the graduation of the entire starting two-deep at cornerback last year: senior DB Brannan Thomas, senior DB Aaron Gilliard, senior DB Julian Ahye and senior DB Laquan Gasaway. Add to that starting senior FS Ernest Moore and key nickel senior DB Daynin Blake, and you find three starters and three key reserves to fill this year in the secondary alone.
Rounding out the graduates in the defense are senior DT Kyle Adams, senior LB Rusty Campion and senior LB Rashaun Gasaway, making the total number of graduating starters on defense at six. Key reserves in senior LB Justin Weaver and senior LB Travis Stinson also graduate this year.
Totals: 10 starters (4 on offense, 6 on defense), 20 members of the two-deep (out of 44)
Considering Lehigh's strength on defense last year, the locks on the team going into the spring are senior LB Tim Diamond (107 tackles, 7 1/2 tackles for loss), junior LB Matt Cohen (55 tackles, 13 tacckles for loss, 3 sacks), and senior DL Brian Jackson (63 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 5 1/2 sacks). They were the stars on last year's defense that kept the Brown & White in games last year. I would also add senior DL Paul Bode to this list, too (29 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for loss) even though he didn't start any games but played well on the defensive line. Overall, this experienced foursome comprised more than 30% of the tackles on the team last year.
On the offense, which struggled in 2007, you'd be tempted to say there are no locks. There are four players, however, that are as close to locks as you can get. When healthy, senior RB Matt McGowan looks to be Lehigh's most productive runner (even though he had only 198 yards and 3 TDs last year) with sophomore RB Kwesi Kankam (269 yards, 3 TDs) and sophomore RB Jaren Walker (378 yards, 1 TD) ready to step in immediately when necessary. All will certainly get lots of time in the spring and all will get carries in the fall (if healthy, of course).
The other locks are on the "O" line. Senior OL Kevin Bayani and senior OL Chris Tiefenthal started all of last year and look to repeat in 2008.
1. Quarterback. The biggest battle, without question, is at QB. Junior QB Chris Bokosky filled in for Threatt when he was hurt last year, but coach Coen has said that all the QBs will be getting equal reps:
“We’re going to give each one equal reps in spring practice,” said coach Andy Coen, who’s 11-11 in two seasons. “I really think the competition will go into fall camp, unless someone really doesn’t perform. But we’re not going to rush it.”This points to a free-for-all in the spring which will mean all Bird watchers going to the Brown vs. White Spring game will be looking very vary closely at the three potential signal callers of Bokosky, sophomore QB Trace Cisneros, and sophomore QB J.B. Clark. (And in August, the possibility exists that freshman QB Chris Lum will join the fray.)
Handicapping this QB battle is no easy task. My early prognosis? I have a feeling that Bokosky is going to prevail. Call me crazy, but his toughness I think will ultimately win over the coaching staff. It will be interesting to see what happens.
2. Three "O" Line spots. The line looks to have an excellent chance of having at least one sophomore starter. Sophomore OL Ricky Clerge and sophomore OL William Rackley both saw time on the line last year and one or both seem like they could be starting in September. But who are those fourth and fifth linemen going to be? Junior OL Frank Giacalone? Junior OL Ben Harden? Senior OL Alex Kuziel? Or perhaps a third sophomore in sophomore OL Keith Schauder or sophomore OL Alex Rowe?
The potential is there for a young nucleus in this "O" line to carry us through the next three years. That looms well for Lehigh in the long run whomever wins the battles of the spring.
3. Wideout. It seems strange calling this a battleground with senior WR Sekou Yansane (513 yards, 2 TDs) and senior WR Mike Fitzgerald (448 yards, 3 TDs) returning. But with the inconsistency at receiver last year, it feels like there is a definite chance for someone to become a go-to receiver - something Fitzgerald and Yansane did not become last year. Who might that be? Senior WR Nick Johnson? Senior WR Ben Ivester? Junior WR Franklin Johnson? Sophomore WR Travis Artim? Sophomore WR Craig Zurn? Junior WR Brian Ruyak?
I've got to believe that if one of these seven wideouts - or others - bust out in the spring, they could very well surprise and be that starting #1 receiver.
4. Cornerbacks. At safety, there seems like some players that you can pencil into the starting lineup, like senior SS Brendan VanAckeren and senior FS Quadir Carter. After that, though, the starters at CB and the all-important places on the two-deep look up for grabs. Impressive junior DB Jesse Sanchez seems to have the inside track for one of those jobs, but who of the others look like they'll be there as well? Senior DB Jarvis Lewis? Sophomore DB Casey Eldemire? Senior DB Steve Santora? Sophomore DB John Kennedy? Sophomore DB R.J. Overton? Sophomore DB Jarard Cribbs?
5. Mr. Brallier. Last summer, the buzz was about sophomore NT Charles Brallier, a 330 lb monster who seemed poised to plug the middle of the 3-4 defense perfectly. Could be be a key part of the puzzle this year in the front seven? Imagine Johnson, Brallier and junior DT B. J. Benning in the 3 of the 3-4 against a predominantly running team like Yale. (Add sophomore DT Phil Winett to the mix and you have a pretty solid and deep "D" line.)
But might Mr. Brallier be able to work as an offensive guard? At 330 lbs, it's also tempting to put him on the opposite site of Tiefenthal to grind out rushing yards. Might he be switched?
6. PR/KR/??? John Kennedy. Sophomore KR John Kennedy was a real find returning kicks last year. The question for him is the same as Mr. Brallier - offense (WR) or defense (DB)? Right now he looks best as a DB, but might he switch the a WR when all is said and done?
7. Those two LB slots. Who gets them? There simply seems to be so many possibilities to start next to Mr. Cohen and Mr. Diamond. Junior LB Al Pierce? Junior LB Heath Brickner? Junior LB Tobi Showunmi? Senior LB Bradley Thomas? Senior LB Ben Pravata? And another intriguing player in junior LB Troy Taylor by way of University of San Diego?
It will be a very, very interesting spring, with more key spots open than I ever remember.