Skip to main content

Patriot League Offseason 2009: Lehigh

Of all my installments concerning the Patriot League offseason, this one is my favorite (which you probably guessed). Aside from the obvious fact that I'm a crazy Lehigh fan, it also means when I complete this installment it means that college football season is right there - I can taste it. Only four more days until I can go to Goodman stadium and see Lehigh open up a can of whoopass against Central Connecticut State. For me, completing this finalizes the fact: it's football season.

Nation, I bring you *yours* - and mine - the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

LEHIGH
Coaching Changes: Usually you hear of assistant coaches leaving a program, but rarely do you hear those same guys coming back. But that's what R.J. Ryan did (Franklin & Marshall; Special Teams) after last year's special teams coordinator Adam Scheier left to join former Lehigh coach Dave Clawson over at Bowling Green. Coen is very happy to have Ryan back. Aside from that change, almost his entire original staff remains, including offensive coordinator Trey Brown and defensive coordinator David Kotulski, who return for their fourth consecutive years at those positions. Add to them Sal DeWalt (Moravian; Offensive Line assistant) to round it out, and you have great stability in this year's coaching staff.

The Hardest Guy To Replace: Lehigh lost a lot more than you might think from last year - almost the entire receiving staff, both starting safeties, an all-league defensive lineman. But the player that will be the toughest to replace is clearly RB Matt McGowan, who was a hard-nosed, quick, physical, runner that - at times - could dominate a game. Injuries limited his production his entire time as a Mountain Hawk, but when he was in there he was called the "heart and soul" of the offense - which now needs another.

Big Name in the Incoming Class: It's all about the Bark. Freshman RB Zach Barket (Schuykill Haven HS, PA) comes to South Mountain with the sort of numbers that just pop off the page, including two Pennsylvania High School single-season records: 4,195 yards rushing and 66 TDs. (That's not a typo - they are indeed single-season records.) The 5'9, 200 lb freshman may have been looked over by some other programs because of his size - but it seems like Coen got steel - er, a steal - from the Anthracite.

Incoming Class Grade: B+. Keep in mind that I'm rating this as a Lehigh homer, but once again I'm thrilled at the talent represented in this incoming class. Coen keeps stockpiling huge linemen (300 lb freshman OL Ryan Weitz; 265 lb freshman DL Lex Utt), two running backs with huge upside (Barket and freshman RB Tony Kablan out of Minnesota), a speedster from California (freshman WR James Flynn) - brother, what's not to like? In an ideal world I'd have liked another linebacker or two to replace the five seniors on the roster this year, but once again this group on paper seems like a great one.

Preseason So Far: Overall, Coen seems to have a bit of a spring in his step he hasn't had in previous offseasons. Beating Lafayette, no doubt, has something to do with that, but it's clear from the official reports that he especially likes what he sees for the 2009 Mountain Hawks. Certainly the emergence of a solid "D" line with some depth (senior DT B.J. Benning, junior DT Phil Winett, junior NG David Brown) helps, as is the emergence of junior RB Jay Campbell on first-team duties running the ball.

There is a concern, however, involving injuires. Senior LB Al Pierce's leg injury sounds like the type of hurt that will keep him out for a while - if not the entire season - while the final preseason practice saw many starters sit out with some injuries. How healthy will Lehigh be going into the year?

Fan Base: It's one thing to be talking smack and predicting Patriot League championships when your team has been racking up FCS playoff bids for years. It's quite another to be doing so after finishing a 5-6 season - which is where Lehigh fans appear to be at this point in time. For the first time as far back as I can remember, Lehigh fans are optimists.

Historically, this is a very odd place for Lehigh fans to be - who in the past have seen dark clouds and criticism in seemingly every game, including two-touchdown wins, never mind losses. Optimism? Lehigh fans? Really?

Part of it has to be that Lehigh fans' mood, after suffering though so much to Lafayette in "The Rivalry" before last year's 31-15 victory over the Leopards, have nowhere to go but up. But there's more to it than that. Lehigh fans have to be asking, is there that much farther to go, really, for Lehigh to sit atop the Patriot League once again?

Most Lehigh fans seem to point to the fact that in four of their six losses, they lost in the final two minutes - in two of those games, on the final play. Just fix that - they say - and then we're 9-2 and waiting to see if we're traveling to Appalachian State on Thanksgiving. So little separates the top teams of the Patriot League these days - it feels like one play, one game, can be the difference between a Colgate, Holy Cross, Fordham, Lehigh, or Lafayette championship.

Could it really be that Lehigh is this close to the Patriot League championship once again? One thing's for sure: Lehigh fans really do believe it. Fans the League over better watch out: the arrogant, insufferable Lehigh fan is making a comeback.

Overall Offseason: There's continuity in the coaching staff. There's talent in the trenches. There's young talent. Big talent. Far-away talent. Coach Coen seems as happy as he's ever been as Lehigh's head football coach. And there is genuine optimism on South Mountain for the first time in a while. Beating Lafayette certainly is a huge part of that, but there does seem to be some something more behind it all - injuries be damned.

But is the optimism premature? Was Lehigh really that close to 9-2 last year? Have two straight 5-6 teams addled Lehigh fans' brains so much that they're deluding ourselves in thinking this is the team that will get over the hump? (A fair number of fans around the Patriot League are wondering this very question - bank on it.) Does 5-6 deserve optimism? Can they really beat senior QB Dominic Randolph and Holy Cross if their season depends on it?

One way or another, we're going to start finding out the answers to those questions in four days. And I can't wait.

Comments

Engineer92 said…
Let's go ENGINEERS!

Thanks for the updates Chuck, looks like it will be a great day to start the season!
ngineer said…
Forecast for Saturday: 82 F and Sunny. Salivating already...

Popular posts from this blog

Fifteen Guys Who Might be Lehigh's Next Football Coach (and Five More)

If you've been following my Twitter account, you might have caught some "possibilities" as Lehigh's next head football coach like Lou Holtz, Brett Favre and Bo Pelini.  The chance that any of those three guys actually are offered and accept the Lehigh head coaching position are somewhere between zero and zero.  (The full list of my Twitter "possibilities" are all on this thread on the Lehigh Sports Forum.)

However the actual Lehigh head football coaching search is well underway, with real names and real possibilities.

I've come up with a list of fifteen possible names, some which I've heard whispered as candidates, others which might be good fits at Lehigh for a variety of reasons.

UPDATE: I have found five more names of possible head coaches that I am adding to this list below.

Who are the twenty people?  Here they are, in alphabetical order.

How The Ivy League Is Able To Break the NCAA's Scholarship Limits and Still Consider Themselves FCS

By now you've seen the results.  In 2018, the Ivy League has taken the FCS by storm.

Perhaps it was Penn's 30-10 defeat of Lehigh a couple of weeks ago.  Or maybe it was Princeton's 50-9 drubbing of another team that made the FCS Playoffs last year, Monmouth.  Or maybe it was Yale's shockingly dominant 35-14 win over nationally-ranked Maine last weekend.

The Ivy League has gone an astounding 12-4 so far in out-of-conference play, many of those wins coming against the Patriot League.

But it's not just against the Patriot League where the Ivy League has excelled. 

Every Ivy League school has at least one out-of-conference victory, which is remarkable since it is only three games into their football season. 

The four losses - Rhode Island over Harvard, Holy Cross over Yale, Delaware over Cornell, and Cal Poly over Brown - were either close losses that could have gone either way or expected blowouts of teams picked to be at the bottom of the Ivy League.

Why the Ivy Le…

Remembering Andy Coen's Time As Head Coach As He Steps Down as Lehigh Football Head Coach To Address Health Issue

I read the announcement that head coach Andy Coen was stepping down as head football coach late Friday evening.

It was an announcement that I was expecting, to some degree. 

Those of use who have been following the program closely knew that something was amiss with Andy. 

And yet, the reason for him needing to step down was devastating.

"Life has thrown me a curveball," Coen said in the press release on Friday, December 7th, 2018. "I am in the early stages [of early onset Alzheimer's disease] and it is best for me to eliminate stress and concentrate on my health and well-being.  My wife, Laura, and my children, Molly, Nolan and Finn have supported me throughout my career and are my biggest fans.  This is a very difficult decision for all of us, but it is what is best at this time."

It was the gutting, pit-in-the-stomach diagnosis nobody wanted to be true.  Just like that, a bigger challenge than simply winning football games faces the man who has been heading …