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Practice is going well for the Mountain Hawks

Looks like there is upbeat news from spring practice trickling out of the Lehigh website and the news outlets.

The Express-Times has a great article explaining the practice battles raging this year in camp. For you busy people out there, let me sum up the major concerns going into this weekend's Brown/White spring game, which will be our first peek at the 2005 Mountain Hawks.

1).Backfield. RB Jermaine "Sprint" Pugh and FB Dave Wilson have now graduated, and now we need to not only fill some big shoes, but also need someone who is competitive with the class of our division (who is 1-AA Walter Payton Award Winning RB Jamaal Branch from nemesis Colgate).

We are extremely fortunate to have RB Eric Rath returning this year. In 2001 as a freshman he was a sparkplug and rare impact-type player as he gained 566 all-purpose yards, and, among other things, blocked a punt and recovered it for a TD versus Penn. At the end of 2001, however, he had decided to quit the team. Last year, he got things together academically and decided (happily for us Engineers) to come back for his junior and senior seasons.

A knee injury has sidelined his for the remainder of spring practice, however. And it is this injury which illustrates Lehigh Football Nation's biggest concern this year: depth at this position. Behind him are two sophomores, RB Marques Thompson, and RB Pierre Bowers. One of these young men (or possibly incoming freshman Sedale Threatt) will have to step it up should Rath not be the featured back. (A third sophomore, Ryan Hluschak, brother of just-graduated Steve Hluschak, has quit the team.)

2) Linebacker. The coaches have singled-out linebacker as the main question mark going into the final week (judging by their official report from Coach Lembo). With the defense starting to "gel", it reamins to be seen who will be the starters. Senior Anthony Graziani, junior Owen Breininger, senior Jon Guynes, junior Randy Rovesti and senior Matt Purdy will all be battling for three or four starting spots. The competition should be intense. LFN feels like Breninger, Guynes, and Purdy are looking like the starters, though I was impressed with Graziani's play last year.

In addition, Breninger could double-up as a DL possibly, opening a spot for Graziani in the LB. It will be interesting to see among these five who will be the starters.

3) Special teams. The punt and kicking units are going to mesh over the next week, and we'll find out who the impact players can be there. Also, there's competition to replace departing K Matt Douglas, between Rutgers Transfer Justin Musilek, and Matt McNeils, a true freshman. My money's on the young man from Rutgers, and we'll see if he is more accurate than the departing Douglas.

4) Keating or Borda? One of these two young men will be the opening day starter. But who? Logic dictates Keating, who for two straight years has stepped up when starter after starter in front of him on the depth chart has been hurt, and has performed under pressure. But he has only fits of being an exciting player, Borda showed a hint of his talent (and terrific arm) last year, and it may be very difficult to keep him on the bench one more year. But is he too much of a gunslinger for the Lehigh system?

Furthermore, the QB position during the Lembo era has been defined by QB controversies and questionable handling. The Keating vs. Borda situation will bear watching in large part to see how coach Lembo handles his young passers.

Schwenk playing in Europe
Finally, it's time to say congratulations to Chad Schwenk for signing an overseas contract in Europe to play for the Hannover Musketeers. Living overseas is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we here at LFN only wish Chad all the best.

Coming up soon: Brown/White game, and the NFL Draft.

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