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August: Time of Renewal?

Most of the time, we think of the fall as a "time of renewal". For Lehigh, as we finally kick off preseason camp for the Mountain Hawks it looks like (to go along with less-than-seasonal cool weather) this year, it's coming a month early.

Start with the news we've been waiting for since late November: the Philadelphia Eagles are graciously breaking camp at Lehigh and 2007 Mountain Hawks have finally started spring practice. Look for an analysis a little later this week about positional battles, but you'll see from the mash-up of the press reports that coach Coen couldn't be more excited about getting started again for the 2007 season. Also of note: coach Coen said the following: “We have lots of jobs open as we enter into it and I think that will make for a great deal of competition.” This could mean it will be an interesting preseason to see what happens. We may even see some freshmen move into important roles - we'll see.

The other "renewal" comes from the swift hiring of assistant men's basketball coach Brett Reed as the new head coach following Billy Taylor's departure. At 35, he will be one of the youngest Division I head basketball coaches - which Billy Taylor himself was when he was hired six years ago. The most important aspect of the hiring seems to be that the immediate uncertainty following coach Taylor's departure has been stemmed very rapidly by Athletic Director Joe Sterrett. The recruits and players are very familiar with coach Reed as well, meaning that there's no major overhaul in direction. I've got to give kudos for Mr. Sterrett for heading off the situation and making a great choice.

Here's the mash-up. Look for a post later this week on the position battles!

"I mentioned it at the beginning of camp that over the years they've done a fantastic job," coach Andy Reid said following his team's final workout at Lehigh until next season. "Every year it seems to get a little bit better, and I just appreciate their overall effort.

"The unsung heroes of the crew that work behind the scenes, putting the camp together with the Eagles, did a heck of a job," he said. "Everything from security to marketing and so on, it was a very nice job.

"They set a new record for attendance, which is pretty impressive. We've had a lot of people show up here in years past, and to be able to say that in the short period of time we spent here is a compliment to the organization."

"This camp was good for me just from the physical aspect of it," [former Cal Poly] linebacker Chris Gocong said. "It feels good hitting, and I really can't wait to play in the (first preseason game tonight at Baltimore vs. the Ravens)."


“I’m really excited about this camp,” Coen said on Friday morning. “We have lots of jobs open as we enter into it and I think that will make for a great deal of competition.” He added, “There is a lot less to familiarize ourselves with. The kids know what to expect from the coaching staff and we have a much better handle on the kids and their personalities heading into this camp as opposed to last year.”

Coen continued, “Heading into the first couple of practices we have a lot of questions to answer, particularly along both lines. We want to try and create some depth along the defensive and offensive lines as we move through camp.” He went onto say, “I hope to see big plays in this camp, from our wide receivers, our quarterbacks and our running backs. On defense, I think we are more athletic as a whole and I expect to see kids step up and make plays.”

"This is where we really have to get down to business and develop depth and look for at least two guys to establish themselves," Coen said. "Not only are we looking for guys to get off the ball and give us a pass rush, but we're also looking for size and strength up there," Coen said. "Last year in a few games we found ourselves undersized and got pushed around and worn down. The Yale and Lafayette games come to mind.

The team will practice in split sessions on Sunday and Monday as well before the first full-squad workout on Tuesday afternoon. Lehigh will hold its first two-a-day practice sessions on Thursday, August 16 which is one of three double sessions scheduled for camp. "We're going to be practicing for a longer period of time, but because the NCAA restricts the number of practices you can have, we won't have as many double sessions as we've had in the past," Coen said. "We're only going to have four days of doubles this year. Last year, we had seven or eight."

The freshmen moved onto campus on Friday morning and were quickly introduced to the college football atmosphere as they went through physicals, equipment distribution, a series of meetings and a weight room session. On Saturday the upperclassmen will be tested in the Welch Fitness Center and then one-half of the team will take the field for the first practice session of camp. A second split-squad practice is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, with both practices taking place on the Kaufman Fields, which are adjacent to Goodman Stadium and behind the Lehigh softball field. The Mountain Hawks will remain on these fields until the Philadelphia Eagles conclude their training camp at Lehigh on August 12.

“It’s important to begin integrating the freshmen with the upperclassmen and get them exposed to our system and the type of practices we run right from the start,” Coen explained. "There's going to be more competition for spots than there were last year and that creates a healthy environment," Coen said. "The big difference between this year and last year is that the players now know what to expect, they know what we're all about and they know where we're going as a program. You can't overestimate what a comfort level does for kids.

"Obviously, last year didn't end the way we wanted it to [with Lafayette scoring the last 21 points in a 49-27 rout]. It's time to put that behind us and focus on what's ahead. We're anxious to get started."


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