Friday, April 20, 2012

Game Preview: Brown/White Scrimmage

(Photo Credit: Lehigh Valley Live)

Four offensive linemen out - junior OL Matt Lippincott, junior OL A.J. Hood, senior OL Mike Vuono and sophomore OL Wenner Nunes.

The star running back of last year, senior RB Zach Barket?  Still recovering from the broken leg he suffered last year.

Two candidates for defensive captain next year, senior LB Billy Boyko and senior CB Bryan Andrews?  Both shut down for the spring.

The big question about this weekend's Brown/White game might not concern who's ahead in the race for starting nods next season.  It could be whether they need to suit up people in the stands to play a complete game.

All kidding aside, though, the key to every spring game is not who is out due to injury, but who takes advantage of the spring session in order to get into the starting lineup.

And by multiple accounts, senior QB Michael Colvin has been taking full advantage of his opportunity this spring to show this coaching staff that he's ready to take the baton from QB Chris Lum.

"He has done a really good job," Lehigh coach Andy Coen said. "He has played a lot and been on the field, but we're seeing some things from him now that we didn't see last year.  He has been a much better student of the game, a better decision-maker, and a more accurate thrower. The decision-making ability and the accuracy throwing the ball are the two things we really needed to see and so far I have been very pleased. 
“He’s been in the fire; he’s been on the field in a lot of games. He’s thrown TD passes, he’s thrown interceptions and he’s scored touchdowns. Nothing should be real new for him when he gets out there.” 
"Even in the weight room it was important for me to show that I was going to be the hardest worker and that this was very important to me," Colvin said. "I wanted to show them I could step into the role. 
"It was a little difficult once we got out on the field for the first couple of practices because I had to focus on the quarterback position and couldn't lead as much as I wanted to," Colvin said.  "Now that we've gotten into the swing of things, I have developed more as a vocal leader and can be more interactive with the other quarterbacks and the receivers.". 
“I know in practice when I make a couple of good throws or good plays it starts building and the confidence is the most important thing for me,” Colvin said. “I have to go into every play confident knowing I can execute. It’s going to be great to have that rhythm build with every series and every down.”
Colvin's hard work this spring seems to reflect a team-wide attitude of never being complacent, something that coach Coen has been mentioning all spring.

“It will be interesting to see our offense with all the young linemen playing against our defense which is pretty multiple,” Coen said. “We’ve given our young offensive linemen a lot to handle but they’ve worked through it. They’ve had a great attitude and have been working very hard at it. I’ve seen a big improvement with that group.”

While senior WR Ryan Spadola is a mortal lock to start the season as the No. 1 receiver in the fall, it will be interesting to see who emerges as the big threat on the other side.  Will it be senior WR Tony Kablan?  Sophomore WR Josh Parris?  Junior WR Lee Kurfis?  Sophomore WR Alex Buford?  Another player I haven't mentioned here?

“I expect the defense to be a little ahead of the offense on Saturday,” Coen said. “I’d like to see the defensive kids come out and put some three-and-outs up there. I’d like to see them limit the big plays. That’s one thing the offense at times has been able to create this spring. There should be good competition between the defense and offense on Saturday.”

The key senior still standing in the defense this spring has to be giant senior NG Sajjad Chagani.

"I have never lost to the Offense in the spring game, and I don't plan on starting now," he told me.

The 6'2, 290 lb Chagani doesn't let the fact that this is a teammate-on-teammate scrimmage get in the way of his competitiveness in the spring.

"Even though its inter-team competition, I go out to practice every day with a 'win every rep' mentality," he said.  "Spring has been a lot of fun for me; it was less of a learning experience this year as opposed to the past, since we are trying to focus on the younger guys getting better.  Over the course of the spring, I have mostly been trying to work on my motor, flying to the football, and I have been trying to perfect my technique."

With Boyko and senior LB Sam Loughery out, key guys to watch on Saturday will be senior LB Jerard Gordon inside, junior LB Nigel Muhammed outside, and Lehigh Nation's first look at Bryant transfer junior John Mahoney outside as well. Senior LB Adam Francis, junior LB Cody Raup, sophomore LB Ryan Wills, and even a local walk-on, sophomore LB Michael Emery out of Central Bucks West in Doylestown, are all in the conversation.

The key to Lehigh's 2012 defense could be found with any of these names - or, possibly, any of the five other linebackers on the roster.

"I think that the defense has been looking very solid these past few weeks," Chagani said.  "Younger guys have been stepping up and when the starting D is in, I feel as if we have not missed a beat from last year."

This Saturday will be fans' first chance to see exactly where the team is from last year - and folks can't wait.

"I want to end the spring with some confidence and on a high note," Colvin said. "I want everybody feeling good so that when we get started in the summer we can pick up where we left off."

 “Someone always seems to pop up in the spring game and have a big game," Coen said as well.  "I’m looking forward to seeing who that is.”

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