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Spring Practice, and Why I Do This

Spring Practice is wrapping up very soon, cumulating with the Brown/White game on Saturday. I'll get to the hot rumors on what Lehigh's 2006 football team will look like in a moment. But I thought it would be a good idea today to remind people who I am, where I'm coming from, and why I'm doing this.

I'm a 36 year old Lehigh alum. Although I never played football, I've always had a love for the game of football that has transcended the passsions of most.

How did it happen? Perhaps it's because I never had the opportunity to play the game, since I went to a high school that didn't offer football. Football was a game played by people far away, and I lived the games through press reports, articles, and even short-wave radio (yes, folks, I actually lived in a pre-internet world).

Maybe it's because some of the best memories I have of my college experience center around going to Lehigh football games, tailgating, and reconnecting with friends. Serendipitously, I met my wife at a Lehigh game, so you could say that Lehigh football changed my life forever.

My passion for Lehigh football have opened doors for me. What started as a newsletter for friends regarding Lehigh football mutated into this blog you're reading today. With the blog came relationships with coaches and new access to games. With my dedication came a regular gig as a columnist for I-AA.org. All of a sudden, I became a member of the "media". No longer was I just reading columns from Matt Dougherty, Paul Reinhardt, Keith Groller, Jerry Izenberg and David Coulson - I was rubbing elbows with them, covering games.

As a kid, I was possibly the biggest Sports Illustrated nerd you've ever seen - articles from Rick Reilly and Frank Deford graced the walls of my room (next to Christie Brinkley, of course). All of a sudden, I'm doing the sportswriting. I may not be Frank Deford or Rick Reilly - yet. But I have my foot in the door, and not many folks can say that.

Yet it's funny. Even though I'm interviewing coaches, players, and talking to other writers, I really don't belong anywhere. I'm not a mainstream media guy that does this for a living - indeed, I do have a day job. I'm not a former football player, so I can't just stop by a spring football practice and slap people on the back in the Lehigh football "family". I'm also not in the Athletic Department's back office, privy to the latest gossip. In a world of cliques, I don't completely belong anywhere - in a world where personal relationships are a big part of the equation.

I think my perspective - as the outsider, trying to figure out things that the papers and former players know - makes me a valuable voice covering Lehigh football and talking about Lehigh football. It means I work harder. I compile press content from many sources (and put it all in one central place), and also create my own content here and at I-AA.org. Sometimes it means pressing folks for access and information - other times, it means backing off and letting coaches and athletic departments do their own stuff. Sometimes it means reprinting rumors, and other times it means looking for confirmation, just like any newspaper should.

Many blogs out there are pure ego-trips, or have a mission to be a non-stop fountain of criticism. I like to think that this blog is none of these things. If criticism is warranted, I will give it - but I have no mission to undermine coaches or berate players. I just love Lehigh football, and if I can do some sportswriting to promote something I love - to give something back to something has given a lot to me already - I will.

For the uninitiated, it's a lot of work, and please don't expect to get rich doing it. But without a doubt it's rewarding to me personally - and, I hope, to you, the reader.

-----------------------

So, even though I can't go to practices, or attend the Brown/White game this Saturday (at Murray Goodman statium at 12:30; free to everyone), I can report that this game will be available on LehighSports.com as an audio feed as well - which, for me, is fantastic, since I'll be at my parent's house celebrating my father's birthday.

Practices are not open to the public, and although I wouldn't call it a media clampdown, one thing appears clear - that coach Coen and the troops are more focused than ever this offseason in making this coming season one to remember. I get the sense that chumming it up with the press, or other alumni, isn't what coach Coen is about. I think to him, it's not good (or bad) press that's going to win in 2006, it's hard work. There is a sense that the work is going to be necessary to get the job done this year, and it's encouraging to see. The players seem to have complete confidence in coach Coen and their staff.

The hottest rumor coming out of camp is that Lehigh's defense may be running out of a base 3-4 instead of the 4-3 we've come to expect at Lehigh. I like to think of it as we're turning away, a little, from the Eagles-style defense and hading more towards a Pittsburgh-style defense. The biggest question mark here? DT Royce Morgan. Where will he fit in? As a nose tackle? As a big end? As an interior linebacker?

The other big news, coming from Keith Groller's Morning Call article from this weekend, is that the offense has been running a lot more 2-back sets. Although coach Coen says he "can't say that it will happen that way in the fall", it's very interesting that at least to some degree we will be mixing up the playbook, especially late in games. I don't think we'll see a total end of "Air Lehigh", but we will see a broader mix of plays. I've seen this 2-back set at Penn and I've seen it to be very effective. It also means that senior FB Greg Fay will see lots of time in the backfield. We'll be relying on him more, one way or another - at Penn, Coen's fullbacks were such a vital part to the offense, and it looks like that could be the case in the fall too.

Tune in this week, and I'll report what I know when I know it.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Great piece Chuck. I wish we had something similar for the Pards !!
-lafalum29
Ngineer said…
Excellent--My sense is that Coen saw on film a failure of Lehigh to 'close the deal' last year. All three losses were blown leads where hard nosed smash mouth ball control was non-existent and we had to turn over the ball to the opposition to our chagrin. Hence, an attitude to be instilled about being able to run the ball when it matters. We'll have some size in the backfield besides Fay, as well. Pastore is good size and McGowan, while not huge, is a hard runner; all to complement the speed an quickness of Marques Thompson.
Keep in mind we have two very good tight ends as well
Looking forward to Saturday.

-Ngineer
Anonymous said…
Morgan will be at DT with Fabre at DE and Rakus at NG - Mohler moves to Linebacker - not sure who else will be there.
Anonymous said…
This is a great site with excellent articles written by a down-to-earth Lehigh Grad.
Anonymous said…
Just found the site..... and am thrilled we finally have something like this! Jim '72

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