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Preview of the Brown/White Lehigh Spring Game

Some of you out there might perhaps be browsing over here for the first time, looking for information about tomorrow's Brown/White Spring Game. For those folks - and my regular readers, too- don't fret, a full-blown analysis awaits. But I thought I'd do things a bit differently this year.

In years past I wrote a quick "players/position battles to watch" as well as some general observations. But during the season I post full game previews of each Lehigh game here at Lehigh Football Nation, complete with game notes, a weather report, "drink of the week", and a complete breakdown of the opposition. I thought I'd approach the Brown/White Game the same way this year.

Obviously, this is a "mirror match", to take a page from Mortal Combat - the Lehigh offense knows its opposition this week, and it's the Lehigh defense. It should be spirited competition - with any sort of luck, free of any injuries. But that doesn't mean that there should be any less of a preview of the game - sorry, technically it's a "scrimmage" - this weekend.

Audio coverage of the game will be on Lehighsports.com, starting at Murray Goodman Stadium at 2:00 p.m. Video previews of the games are also available on the internet: one on YouTube courtesy of Service Electric 2 Sports, and the other from Lehigh athletics courtesy of Yahoo! Video.

Here's a taste of what you'll be getting during the season - the rich, extensive analysis everyone loves.

Game Notes
Normally during the season I would post links to the game notes here along with injury information, but as this isn't a regular-season game these are not available. There is, however, the spring prospectus that is available online for your viewing pleasure.

Following an up-and-down start to the 2008 season, Lehigh rebounded to win three of its final four contests, including a 31-15 victory over archrival Lafayette in Easton. That win sent the Mountain Hawks into the offseason with plenty of momentum and optimism on what the future holds. Following a solid winter conditioning program, Lehigh enters the spring of 2009 with a good deal of experience and talent returning on both sides of the ball. Head coach Andy Coen, now entering his fourth season, expects plenty of competition throughout the spring segment of practice and into preseason camp, where the Mountain Hawks will look to fi ll several holes as well as develop depth in a number of areas. “We entered the offseason on a high note and I think that really motivated our guys to work hard throughout the winter months,” Coen said. “That said, there are plenty of areas we need to improve in and become more consistent with. We also have a few key spots on both sides of the ball where kids will be competing on a daily basis for playing time at.”


As for injuries, I don't know of many but sophomore C Keith Schauder has a thumb injury on his snapping hand, which means he'll will probably get limited action and when he does play it will be at guard, not center. I'd also expect to see light duty for some of the senior linebackers, senior LB Matt Cohen, senior LB Heath Brickner, senior LB Troy Taylor, and senior LB Al Pierce, who reportedly have some nicks.

Weather Report
You couldn't ask for a better day for a spring football game. The weather report calls for 74 degrees and sunny temperatures, which should be nearing their daily highs once Lehigh takes the field at 2:00 p.m. I can't think of a place I'd rather be on a spring afternoon, do you? (Certainly not doing yardwork.)

Last Time Out
This year, Lehigh comes into the spring game coming off their first win over "that school in Easton" in five years. But last year's Spring game had even more uncertainty. Questions No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 were: with the graduation of QB Sedale Threatt, who would win the battle to replace him? The spring game didn't exactly give a clear-cut answer: QB Chris Bokosky, junior QB J.B. Clark, and junior QB Trace Cisneros all turned over the ball - and in the process, meant the battle for the starting QB raged on in August.

Of course, that also meant that the defense showed signs of being a solid unit going into 2008, with DT Brian Jackson, LB Tim Diamond, FS Brendan VanAckeren and SS Quadir Carter all shining against the offense. It would end up being a unit that would take some time to gel into a powerful unit by years end.

LFN's Drink of the Week
It's been a while since the third weekend of November. Are you out of practice, your plastic-cup-bearing hand unable to bench-press that liquid refreshment? Perhaps the near-summer weather might also keep you, the Lehigh tailgater, out of your comfort zone.

It's not a time for Red Death, Screaming Vikings or some of the more hard-core tailgating beverages. It's time for a gentler, spring-ish tailgating drink. Yuengling Black & Tans, of course, are a good start - but something for the ladies might be also a good choice. While they're a bit more complicated to make, how about Mint Juleps? You can make the sugar syrup on the grill and then add the bourbon, or make it beforehand and chill it in a cooler before heading to Goodman's parking lot. (Be sure to bring plenty of ice.) I like my mint julep with a mixture of rum and whisky - your choice.

As always, Drinks of the week have a place in responsible tailgates: that means being over 21 and drinking responsibly. Please do that.

Breaking Down the Brown & White
Offense
What a difference a year makes. Last year, Lehigh was wondering who was going to be the starting quarterback in the fall. This year, there is no doubt who is starting - that's junior QB J.B. Clark, the MVP of that little game against "that school in Easton" last November - but who might be behind him will be interesting.

The 6'4 lefty, junior QB Trace Cisneros, poses an interesting change of pace to the rifle-armed righty Clark, but he'll defintely be pushed by sophomore QB Chris Lum, the 6'2 righty that was the MVP of the scout team last year. Who might emerge? It's a tough call, and the play during the spring game might determine the spot.

At running back, the graduation of workhorse Matt McGowan leaves an interesting competition between junior RB Jaren Walker and sophomore RB Matt Fitz, who reportedly has impressed coach Coen this spring. It will be interesting to see Walker, who sustained an awful abdominal injury last year, and Fitz, in his first true action. Might one, or the other, make a convincing case to be in the top spot come August? And might junior RB Jay Campbell have something to say about that, too?

The starting fullback for Lehigh is pretty much set with senior FB Anthony Fossati, but it will be interesting to see how sophomore RB Bryce Arruda, a converted linebacker, does as his backup.

With the graduation of WR Sekou "Stunt Man" Yansane and WR Mike "Cris Carter" Fitzgerald, wide receiver has been one of the most wide-open position battles all spring. Who might line up as the No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts? Sophomore WR De'Vaughn Gordon has made the most of his opportunity, and it will be interesting to see he and Clark work together. On the opposite side, sophomore WR Travis Artim, who took last year off from football, returns - and may be battling for receiver spots with sophomore WR Jake Drwal, junior WR Craig Zurn, sophomore WR Jimmy Jefferson and senior WR Jimmy Potocnie, along with others. With this group, there's a huge variety of speedsters (Artim, Zurn) and possession receivers (Drwal, Jefferson) - Who will emerge Saturday and look the best and get a big jump going towards August?

At tight end, junior TE Alex Wojdowski appears to be the starter - a very solid blocker as well as a solid receiver. Behind Wojdowski, however, is an interesting battle between junior TE Brad Radke, sophomore TE Mark Wickware and sophomore TE Kyle Holmes. With Radke at 6'4 and Wickware at 6'5, you wonder how either of those two guys specifically might do catching the ball, too - one or the other may not just be power blockers.

The offensive line for Lehigh promises to be a "work in progress", with the "O" line of sophomore C Keith Schauder, junior OL Will Rackley, senior OL Frank Giacalone, junior OL Ricky Clerge and sophomore OL Jim Liebler promising to be in a modified setup from the get-go. Coach Coen is looking to create depth as well and we'll see that tomorrow as well - perhaps with junior OL Alex Rowe and sophomore OL Vinny Pellegrini, too. The size - and depth - of this unit has to potential to be impressive.

Defense
The Lehigh "D" says goodbye to DL Brian Jackson, LB Tim Diamond, FS Brendan VanAckeren and SS Quadir Carter, but the returning starters and an impressive array of up-and-comers hope to give the Lehigh offense nightmares heading into August. Much will be expected from this unit going into the fall, and they hope to demonstrate that this weekend.

Start with the "D" line, who will be anchored by senior DL B.J. Benning and flanked by senior DL Darrell Ray and junior DT David Brown. With Brown, who tips the scales at 315 lbs (!), and Benning, who is 285 lbs, it will be interesting to see the run-stuffing ability of the interior defense, never mind the pass-rushing of Ray, Winett, junior DE Billy Dokouslis and sophomore DE Ted Lasher. When David Brown isn't in there, junior DT Phil Winett will provide some good pass rush. Goal-line stands with Winett, Brown and Benning all in at once will be awfully interesting.

While senior LB Matt Cohen, senior LB Heath Brickner, senior LB Troy Taylor and senior LB Al Pierce may get realtively light duty on Saturday (though we'll definitely see all of them, save Taylor), we'll be seeing more of sophomore LB Fred Mihal, junior LB Ben Flizack and sophomore LB Devin Greene to see how they stack up. These are pretty impressive kids physically - Flizack at 6'7, 245 lbs, Mihal at 6'4, 235 lbs, and Greene at 6'0, 220 lbs - and will provide important depth at this position. Watching them will let me know if Lehigh really is as deep at linebacker as they seem. If they are, it could signal the deepest Lehigh has been on defense in a generation.

The secondary features two locks at cornerback - junior CB Jarard Cribbs and junior CB John "94-to-Paydirt" Kennedy. Replacing Carter is one lock - senior SS Jesse Sanchez - and replacing VanAckeren appears to be senior FS John Venerio. Once again, though, it's for positions of depth that is where the battles are: junior DB Casey Eldemire, sophomore DB Colin Newton, senior DB Femi Ajewole, and sophomore DB John Littlejohn, among others.

Special Teams
Tomorrow's game won't feature a whole lot of kicking, but what will be shown will be of great interest to Lehigh fans. Replacing all-Patriot League punter Jason Leo is sophomore P Alex Smith - will be be using the Rugby-style punt, and will it result in the same punting yardage that Leo enjoyed? And how will junior K Tom Randazza perform tomorrow, with consistency being the key?

The other questions center around the return game. Kennedy and Cribbs did a fine job with the return game last year, but might Coen go with a different face returning kicks - maybe junior WR Craig Zurn, who was a monster on special teams last year, or sophomore WR Travis Artim?

Keys to the Game
Normally I'd post an analysis of "Keys to the Game' here, but this being the Brown and White game, there's only two keys that matter: that is, no injuries, and spirited competition for spots, especially on the "O" line, running back, and wide receiver.

Fearless Prediction
I'm not going to predict a score for this game - but I will predict that the defense will be ahead of the offense once again and "win" the Brown & White game with a modified scoring system. Does J.B. Clark have to buy B.J. Benning wings at 3rd Street? I'm not sure - but I think it will be Benning and the defense celebrating on Saturday.

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