Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Next Lehigh Offensive Coordinator Star?

So Dave Cecchini has left to be the new head coach at Valparaiso.

I think in this day and age, one can't help think of devising a Hard Knocks/Next Food Network Star sort of situation in regards to who the next offensive coordinator might be, even if the reality is way different than the Reality Show method of choosing a new coach.

"Each week, we'll find out who gets voted out by the panel of Andy Coen, celebrity head coach Chip Kelly, and Condolezza Rice as they pass a variety of tests on pass/run ratio, offensive game plan management, and an overall knowledge of the history of Lehigh and college football!  Tempers will flare, and you'll be there!"

We certainly won't see that in the mad dash to find out who the next great Lehigh offensive coordinator might be.  But we can come up with a few biographies of folks we might want to see in this position - and maybe, just maybe, one of them will be the guy.

In the media today, head coach Andy Coen gave a good overview about the type of guy he'd like in the position.

“I expect it to be a very attractive job for people,” Coen said. “I can tell you (Tuesday) my phone was blowing up all over the place. It will be even worse now that it’s official. … I don’t want to change the style of offense we’re running. I want to do the core things that make our offense very hard to stop. 
“As I go through the search, I want to find out who is the best fit to continue to do that. I’m not going to hire a guy who runs a great wishbone offense or anything like that. I’ve told our players we’re going to keep the offensive system and find someone who is the best fit, whether it’s a coordinator or an outstanding quarterback coach.” 
"I would think this opening is attractive and will get a lot of interest because Lehigh's a great place," Coen said. "I know this: I don't want our offense to differ. Somebody may want to be a coordinator, but he may not want to be a coordinator when he comes in here and I tell him 'Here's what you're going to do.' So, we're going to have to take a look at the pool of people and see what's the best fit for our staff.  I just have to find out what's best for the program."

So who might it be?

Already in the Family

R.J. Ryan
Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs Coach, Lehigh
A former Lehigh player, R.J. has stood out on the offensive coaching staff for the last five years and has experience as an offensive coordinator already from his days at Franklin and Marshall.  There's no doubt about "learning the offensive system" as he's been an integral part of bringing gameplans together.

Brett Sawyer
Offensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, Lehigh
When you think of the stellar work on Lehigh's "O" line over the last four years, you have to credit Sawyer for much of that, including developing OL Will Rackley into an NFL starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Like R.J., he already knows the offense.

Not Falling Too Far from the Tree

Mike Santella
Offensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, East Stroudsburg
A Bethlehem native, Santella's early career involved two coaching stints with Coen at both Lehigh and Penn, and as an offensive line coach at East Stroudsburg, he's a guy with a lot of experience that would be beneficial to the offensive coordinator position.  It's unknown, though, what his philosophy is on offense.

Phil Stambaugh
Head coach, Pius X HS
A former star quarterback for the Mountain Hawks, Stambaugh is already coaching in the area and has made a specialty of developing high school quarterbacks at Pius - and winning football games with prolific offenses, too.  The fact that he doesn't have any collegiate coaching experience, though, might be a concern, meaning he might be a more effective quarterbacks coach rather than offensive coordinator.

Brant Hall
Head Coach, Loyola (MD) HS
Like Stambaugh, Hall is a former star Lehigh quarterback that is coaching in the high school ranks and might be looking for a new challenge.  He would have to relocate from Maryland, however, where he's head coach of Loyola HS, but at Loyola he's spent a lot of time as not only head coach but offensive coordinator.  Like Stambaugh, he doesn't have any collegiate coaching experience.

Outside the Family, But In The Right Mold

Phil Longo
Offensive Coordinator, Slippery Rock
A coaching veteran of several Missouri Valley football programs (Southern Illinois and Youngstown State), he recently installed a spread offense at Slippery Rock and made The Rock one of the top passing defenses in Division II.  A New Jersey native, a Division I offensive coordinator position in Bethlehem might be exactly what he's looking for - if the chemistry is there.

James Perry
Offensive Coordinator/QB coach, Princeton
Perry's lighting-quick, fast-break style of offense at Princeton would seem to mesh incredibly well to Lehigh's offensive philosophy, while not being a very far distance from where he lives now.  A former star quarterback at Brown, it's not clear if he would make the move to Bethlehem to essentially take the same position that he currently has at Princeton.

David Hanna
Wide Receivers/Special Teams Coordinator, Cornell
A co-offensive coordinator at Salve Regina, Hanna spent the last two seasons at Cornell with one of the more prolific offenses of the Ivy League.  He developed Big Red WR Luke Hagy, who was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Freshman of the Year award.

Joe Villapiano
Wide Receivers/Recruiting Coordinator, Harvard
The long-time wide receivers coach at the side of Tim Murphy has been a big part of the Crimson's big offenses over the course of the last decade, and would seem to be ready to make the jump to an offensive coordinator position.  He doesn't have ties to the Valley, however, having been a player at UConn and since has been coaching up in Cambridge.

Matt Gardner
QB Coach, Sacred Heart
Though Sacred Heart's trip to the playoffs this season was largely on the backs of the Pioneers' running game, Gardner played a huge role in developing several young Sacred Heart quarterbacks and helping them develop into prolific passers.  A well-rounded guy with experience in a lot of positions, he'd be a very intriguing choice with a proven track record in developing young players.

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