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Coach Coen Talks to LFN About the Spring Season

Not too long ago, I talked to coach Coen about this year's spring season with only a few practices left to go before the conclusion of the spring football season. While I didn't conduct the interview in the (very clean-looking) studios where the Lehigh Sports Magazine is filmed every week, here's my interview with him, and his thoughts on the spring season and how the team is shaping up.

LFN:
First of all, how does this year's spring season compare to those in past years?

Coen: I think it's very spirited. We've had some spirited springs before, but this is a little different in that we're a little bit more settled in what we want to be doing offensively. Defensively, kids really understand the package now, some kids have been in the system for four years and now we're moving on and putting in a couple new wrinkles that we think can help us next year. There's a much different comfort level with and confidence level, with both the players and the coaching staff I think, than I've seen before.

LFN: You're pretty pleased so far with the progress the kids have been making offensively?

Coen: We're making mistakes - there's a lot of young players out there, a lot of rising sophomores and juniors. But that's really what the spring is for - for kids to learn on the fly without worrying about winning the game. The young kids have stepped up, we're just trying to get better every day out there.

Sophomore WR De'Vaughn Gordon, who played some last year for us, he's starting to establish himself and coming into his own. He's running better routes and he's more confident in the system and what he's doing. There's a great opportunity for all those wide receivers, and De'Vaughn's certainly taken advantage of it.

LFN: Tell us more about sophomore RB Matt Fitz, a name that came up in the official release on Friday.

Coen: He's done a really nice job. He's an engineer, he chose Lehigh instead of walking on at an FBS school. He's big: he's filled out a little bit - Matt's probably close to 6'1, 210 lbs right now. Runs a little upright, but he's fast and he runs hard. Kind of a slashing sort of guy, but he catches the ball well and he's not afraid to block. He was a kid that hurt his shoulder last year during camp, so he didn't get to do a whole lot and was really relegated to the scout team. He's impressed us with how he's played all spring.

LFN: How about the "O" line?

Coen: That's still a work-in-progress. Junior OL William Rackley is an outstanding player. Sophomore OL James Liebler has had a good spring, and so has junior OL Ricky Clerge. Sophomore C Keith Schauder hurt his thumb four of five practices in on his snapping hand, so we've been playing him some at guard right now, and senior OL Frank Giacalone is at the other tackle. We're stil looking to create depth, though, and there's still a lot of competition there.

LFN: Turning to the defense, that front seven looks pretty fearsome. One of those linemen is huge!

Coen: When we got here, there were certainly good players, but there wasn't a lot of depth. Coming in here I had some concerns graduating guys all-League performer DT Keith Jackson and also DL Paul Bode and DE Jon Warren who were all seniors that did a great job for us. Senior DL B.J. Benning is a real good player, and junior DL David Brown and junior DL Phil Winett are pretty active, they're physical guys there. David is your prototypical nose guard right now, but he's much more active now than he was. As he gets in better shape over the summer here, I think he's got a chance to be a really, really solid player for us. Winett came back off the shoulder injury and he's in great shape, runs well and he's been a pleasant surprise.

At linebacker, with the senior group established and the injury to senior LB Troy Taylor, there are young guys who are getting chances to play this spring. Sophomore LB Devin Greene is getting an opportunity to play, and he's doing a nice job. I'm also pleased with how sophomore LB Fred Mihal has been and junior LB Ben Flizack has come along.

LFN: Turning to the secondary, the emergence of sophomore DB Colin Newton was a pleasant development.

Coen: Newton is a good player. We've got more depth at corner than we've ever had. The whole secondary has done a great job playing outside through the spring.

LFN: And the kicking game?

Coen: Sophomore P Alex Smith is going to be the punter, and I feel he'll do a good job. Finally, junior K Tom Randazza has been getting better throughout the spring.

LFN: Finally, what's the format of the spring game going to be?

Coen: Pretty much the same way it was last year. We'll try to make it like a game situation, but our spring roster numbers won't allow a true brown/white type of thing. It will be an offense vs. defense with a modified scoring system. The offense and defense get after each other, so it should be a lot of fun - good-natured stuff. Good competition.

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