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Q&A with Coach Coen on Class of 2013

Last week, Lehigh announced the incoming football recruiting class of 2013 of 26 recruits. I interviewed coach Coen last week about this, and here's what he had to say.

Coach Coen: I feel good about it. There were some needs that were more glaring than others - defensive line and wide receivers. My recruiting philosophy since the whole time we've been here is to recruit a solid class and recruit every position.

Traditionally all the Patriot League schools take between 25 and 30 kids a year, so there are big classes every year and I think the smart thing to do is to try to make sure you address every position on the team so you don't get stuck with the situation where you desperately need to recruit a certain number of kids at one position.

LFN: Regarding the names in the incoming class, Schuykill Haven RB Zach Barket certainly jumps off the page in terms of his statistics.

Coen: His statistics are really unbelievable. I watched his tape over and over again just to make sure I was accurate in my evaluation. We don't get to see a lot of kids play live anymore - it's kind of the way it works - but I got an opportunity to watch him play later in the winter in the high school playoffs. I got sold on him watching him play in person. He's a good football player. I was impressed by his toughness.

LFN: Also, we have RB Tony Kablan, the first recruit out of Minnesota that I can remember...

Coen: He was a kid that came out after he made a tour of schools in the springtime. He stopped by Lehigh while he was looking at a whle bunch of places on the East coast and was really impressed with Lehigh. We had a chance to meet him, got his tape and really just stayed in touch with him, and it ended up working out. He looks like a real speed kid.

LFN: Do we have a California connection now, with three recruits from there this year?

Coen: Every year we reach out to kids out there and try to cultivate them, but we did a great job this year. These kids liked the academics, and they wanted to come back East to go to school. We actually had another kid that was committed to us around signing day, but then Princeton decided to offer him a spot and he decided to go there. If he committed here, that would have been four.

LFN: Tell us a bit about the depth you've brought in on the "O" and "D" lines.

Coen: When we got here four years ago, we had some good football players but overall both lines were not in great shape - there was a lack of depth. We knew that we'd have to work hard to catch up with a lot of people, but in the last two years we've made a lot of gains there. It was really good to get guys this year with physicality and athleticism here in this class.

***

LFN: What's your recruiting pitch to a prospective Lehigh student/athlete?

Coen: The one thing you find with a lot of kids we recruit is that they've educated themselves about the kind of school that they want to go to - which is one of the things that makes recruiting in our league very, very competitive, because we're all recruiting the same type of kid, and there aren't as many of these kids around as there used to be.

Obviously academics are important to the kids, so we tell them where we rank nationally. I tell them that we're a little different than the Patriot League in that we're more of a comprehensive university where our competitiors are mostly smaller, liberal arts colleges. We tell them the different programs we have here, and have the recruits spend a lot of time with our current players so they really have a sense about what it's like being not only a football player but a student at Lehigh.

You really end up talking about everything. Specifically, I talk to them about the facilites, the tradition of Lehigh football, and what my expectations are for them once they're here. We want guys here who are competitors, who understand what it means to on a football team, who understand the accountability not only for yourself but hold your teammates accountable, and who are not afraid of being a leader.

LFN: Did you see much of a difference in terms of how you recruited this year in comparision to last year due to the changes in the academic index calculation (or AI for short)?

Coen: Not really, we've always been going after the same kids. There was a little bit more work to put kids into the bands, but as it worked out for our coaches and the admissions office it was pretty much the same at the end of the day. The one thing I like is that everyone was working off the common floor, so if there was a kid that met the AI for the league, we all had opportunities to recruit them.

I think at the end of the day, the academic breakdown of kids is probably going to be similar to what it's been in past years. We actually have a bunch of kids that are in the higher end academically - it's kid of the way it worked out.

LFN: Across the nation, the economic meltdown has really hit familes very hard. Did that affect recruiting in any sort of way?

Coen: The state of the economy, unfortunately, is going to continue to widen the range of students you need to recruit. We did have a lot of kids whose aid packages came back and they wanted to go to Lehigh or another Patriot League school but this year just were not able to afford it and had to look at some other options. And there were some people who didn't qualify for aid who in past years might have made the investment in Lehigh, but now are not going to be able to do it. That makes you keep having to look further and further for recruits.

We're in a situation as a league where our pool of kids continues to shrink. There are more FCS programs than ever giving full scholarships, you still cross over with the Ivy League schools on quite a few kids, and now you throw in that more people are going to need more financial aid - we're in a tough situation. Also if they were not full-need kids, they were a tough get.

LFN: What do you think of public websites like Scout.com and Rivals.com?

Coen: Some of our guys are two stars Rivals guys, which is kind of neat, but we really don't use them. These things have really taken off with all this early commitment stuff. I don't really know what it all means - it seems like it's hype just to keep fans from all the different teams talking football all year round. There's a market for that, certainly, but at our level we don't put a lot of stock into it.

Our recruiting at Lehigh for the past three years has been a concentrated, full-staff effort. When we recruit, we've got to get out and pound the pavement.

***

As an addendum to my interview, with the signing period for Division I athletes extending as far as June, occasionally other names will be added to the recruit list before preseason training camp comes along, and there are at least two unconfirmed names that are in the process of clearing. (I do know the name of one of the incomers - a DB/WR - but I won't release the name until he clears.)

One fact I was able to confirm, however, was that WR Travis Artim, a freshman in 2007 with 9 catches for 124 yards, has returned to the team. The Whitehall High School product will have three years of eligibility left. He should be welcomed back with open arms after Lehigh's top three receivers from last year - WRs Sekou Yansane, Mike Fitzgerald, and Nick Johnson - graduate.

Comments

ngineer said…
Enjoyed the interview LFN. Good questions and I was glad to see Coen's responses in terms of Lehigh being in the hunt for a lot of excellent students. The Coach's comment about the ever-shrinking pool of eligible students as well as the increasing number of FCS schools offering pure athletic scholarships is well taken. The PL will have to change it's philosophy as to football if it really wants to be competitive with other national FCS conferences and truly compete for a national championship. The beating we and Colgate received at the hands of Villanova last year spoke volumes as to the widening gap between the PL and the scholarship conferences. The PL must make a decision on which direction it wants to go.

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