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Spring Game This Weekend

Could it actually already be time for the Lehigh spring game already?  It seems like just yesterday I was breaking down what needed to be learned this spring on offense and defense.

In the past week and a half we've seen the release of the spring prospectus, a new report from leading into this weekend's spring game (whose time has been moved to 10:30 AM this Saturday), and 10 questions with new offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini in the latest edition of the Brown & White student newspaper.

That's a lot to cover - and only three precious days to do it before the Spring Game.  With two blog postings to go with exclusive interviews with head coach Andy Coen - one on the class of 2014, and another on how the spring season is going - today I'll spend going over what we know going into this crucial final spring weekend. (more)

Let's start with the spring prospectus, which tell us of who's still with the team, and new roster additions that could be intriguing possibilities for the future.  Gone is freshman WR James Flynn, who got a couple touches last year and is now not on the roster anymore.  But joining the spring roster are some walk-ons that are interesting, and you wonder how much playing time they might be seeing in the future.

Sophomore RB Marcus Dormevil, a 5'6 160 pound waterbug-type running back out of Fairfield Prep, "joined the squad as a walk-on last year and was so impressive during practice that he earned the Offensive Scout Team’s MVP award," the prospectus helpfully says.  Whenever you see a 5'6 running back on a Lehigh football roster, you have to hold out hope that he could be the next coming of legendary Lehigh RB Ron Jean, the 5'5 183 lb running back for the really good 1999 team.  The engineering major has a lot of kids in front of him on the depth chart going in - sophomore RB Zach Barket, sophomore RB Tony Kablan, senior RB Jay Campbell, senior RB Jaren Walker, and junior RB Matt Fitz - but you wonder if Dormevil might be able to show off this Saturday what he can do, maybe even on special teams.

I don't think I've ever seen a 300 lb walk-on at Lehigh, but sophomore OL Joe Larach was one last year and he is looking to be a part of the depth chart coming out of the spring.  An economics major, the 5'11 product out of Clearwater (FL) Central Catholic, he's looking to compete to be on Lehigh's "O" line on the two-deep.

Linebacker is a real logjam right now - and still, with senior LB Troy Taylor and senior LB Al Pierce penciled in as starters, if healthy, the strength of this defense - but one guy who is battling to get into the mix is sophomore LB Adam Francis, a walk-on last year who converted from quarterback out of Voorhees High School in New Jersey.  "He put on 25 pounds since his senior year in high school," my number one source of these things told me, and he was a "pretty good athlete".  An engineering major, there are a lot on names ahead of him on the depth chart, but could see time on special teams this year.

One of the positions you don't think of very much is the spot of long snapper - the guy who is your center on punts, field goals, and extra points.  Part of Lehigh's recent struggles with kicking can be linked to long snapping, and it's clearly been a point of emphasis, with coach Coen even signing a guy in the incoming class, freshman LS Kyle Lechner, to compete for this job.  Another walk on, sophomore LS Zach Belair, will be pushing senior FS John Venerio for this duty on Saturday.  A business major out of the Lawrenceville school in New Jersey, he has a great chance to be "the guy:"

Aside from the newcomers, there were some other interesting things to note.

Junior DL Will Reich switched from the "O" line to the "D" line, as the political science/English double-major will get an opportunity to compete for time on defense.  He'll definitely get a chance to show what he can do since senior DT David Brown will be held out this spring with a knee injury, as well as senior DT Phil Winett.

While the defensive secondary is still stacked for Lehigh, both sophomore DB Bryan Andrews and senior DB Shane Ryan were mentioned as "figuring to see plenty of time this coming season as well."  Andrews, a computer engineering major, made a splash as a freshman on special teams and in pass situations last year, while Ryan, a civil engineering/architecture double major who "worked his tail off to become a contributor" as a former walk-on.  Both give Lehigh welcome depth in the secondary, and figure to see a lot of time this Saturday to showcase their talents.

At receiver - another position where Lehigh returns almost everybody - it's sophomore WR Ryan Spadola's name that keeps coming up.  As a freshman, he got in the game on special teams and even got two tackles against "that school in Easton", a sure-fire way to get noticed by the coaching staff.  In addition, he started well in the early part of the spring and might be another guy to watch closely this Saturday to see how he's progressing - and if he can maybe break into the receiving corps.


Lehigh issued a final release before the game, including a video report hosted by the " crew" of Courtney Molinaro, Michael Ojo, Prentice Small, and Chip Kasprzak.  (Molinaro, of course, was a member of Lehigh's 2009 Patriot League champion women's basketball team, and Ojo and Small were a part of the 2010 Patriot League champion men's basketball team.). 

Not too much was revealed in the release, but there was some interesting things to note:

After four weeks of practice Coen said he is ready to see the Mountain Hawks in action on Saturday as players continue to compete for open positions on both sides of the ball.  “On offense we’ve had too much inconsistency throughout the spring,” he explained.  “We’re banged up along the offensive line and so we’ve had to move guys around in order to find the best players to put out there.” 

“At the quarterback position it’s still open at this point.  Those guys have had a lot of competition amongst each other, but they’ve been inconsistent.  One day they do things very well and the next day they struggle a bit.  I think part of that is having (new Offensive Coordinator) Dave (Cecchini) on board.  Not that things are much different than years past but changing progressions around, those types of things are new, so I’m hoping we can work the bugs out during summer camp.”

Coen then commented on Lehigh’s kicking game.  “I’m looking forward to seeing our kicking game on Saturday within the flow of a game-type atmosphere.  We’ll have to see how those phases go for us.”
Building that consistency on offense is what the spring is all about, and this Saturday will be an important view on how much progress has been made on this front.  Junior QB Chris Lum said on the video that there were some "new formations and new plays in there" from the new offensive coordinator, but he also said that the team has worked through those issues and are focusing on making "no errors" this weekend.

It goes without saying that Lum and senior QB J.B. Clark will be front and center in competition on Saturday for the starting QB nod. Many of the folks there will be looking to see how they look, not to mention senior QB Trace Cisneros

The Brown & White's interview with new offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini emphasizes as well the quarterback competition, and echoes the fans' sentiments in seeing the development of their level of play:

Q. What are your goals for next season?

A. First, we have to develop the players that are currently in the system to their fullest potential, in particular the quarterbacks. Second, just to improve the overall production. Whether that's yards or points, the bottom line is: We need to win games.
In that same interview, something else caught my eye:

Q. How much has Lehigh changed in your three tenures here?

A. I was even more shocked, though, in the seven years since I've last been here to see how much this school and the surrounding area has changed. You look back to what Bethlehem was like in 1990 when I was here. Bethlehem Steel was struggling but still operational. You'd hear the clanging of machinery and the trains pulling in the middle of the night. The campus just has a much different look to it.

I don't think about it all the time, but "Chick" is right - much has changed.  A lot of that "new look" is the new Sands casino in town, in part of the place where Bethlehem Steel's machinery clanged and on Sundays the trains would pull through the mill and the center of town, but also the campus, where the new bookstore, student parking, and new buildings have transformed the gateway from South Bethlehem to the school.


Unknown said…
Nice summary, I am intrigued by comments re QB. Want to see who runs which O . Google should get the credit not me
Anonymous said…
I was at a few of Lehigh games last year i thought the snapping was good, i think Veniero is been doing 2 years going on 3

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