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Fare Thee Well, J.B.

Some days, the words flow easily.  But not today.  It's not every day that a two-time MVP of "The Rivalry" decides to leave the program.

In a stunning turn of events, QB J.B. Clark announced that he is leaving the team after learning that he was dropped to third on the depth chart behind junior QB Chris Lum and sophomore QB Michael Colvin.

I wasn't surprised, necessarily, to see Clark not be anointed the starter.  But I was stunned to see Clark demoted to third string and leave the team.  Lehigh's most experienced quarterback on the roster this spring is now gone, leaving big questions that will need to be answered by the Drake game.  (more)


In the spring game, it appeared that Lum and Clark were at least even in the competition at QB with near-identical stat lines.  Last year, of course, Clark started the year extremely poorly and Lum came in as the starter to replace him - who no better results than Clark.  So going into camp, it at worst seemed like a dead heat for the starting role.

It is entirely possible that if Clark had been anointed the starter, Lum might have been the one looking to transfer.

How ironic that the kid who won a quarterback battle in 2008 with QB Chris Bokosky to become the starter would lose his starting job two years later in the same way in which he won it.

“As a coaching staff, we felt it was important to share with the quarterbacks their status after the scrimmage so they know where they stood heading into the final week,” Coen explained. “JB was third as he was outperformed by the other two quarterbacks on Friday. Upon being told the news, JB has unfortunately decided that he would like to leave Lehigh and find an institution where he can be a starting quarterback.”
 Coen then offered his thoughts on Clark’s departure, “While I am obviously disappointed in his decision, I will support JB because I think highly of him as a person. He’s a tremendous competitor and he wants to be out there playing on Saturday afternoons. I appreciate the hard work and dedication he has given to our football program and wish him nothing but success moving forward.”
 “From a leadership standpoint, we’re sad to see JB go,” added senior OL Will Rackley. “But there’s no negativity towards him, and I don’t think he has any towards us. As a team, we haven’t missed a beat. We still have the same goal, to win a championship, and we’re going to go out every day and work with Chris, Mike and senior QB Trace Cisneros and try to make that happen.”
Clark's leadership was what seemed - from my distant vantagepoint, anyway - the X factor that could have decided a close decision between Lum or Clark for the starting nod.

You could argue about his mechanics, or his frustrating tendency to try to force completions (that too frequently became interceptions), but the single thing you couldn't argue about was he had that intangible - that "determination gene", or whatever it is - that kids rallied behind.  There was a reason he was the starting quarterback in the biggest games of the last two years.

But in the end, it wasn't enough.  Dave Cecchini appeared to want to go another direction with the offense - a type of West Coast offense, with precision passes and multiple reads all over the field - and Lum appears to have fit the bill better than J.B. did.


The D-II season starts this weekend, so in my opinion it is unlikely that he'll transfer in time to play this year.  If he transfers to another FCS program, my understanding is he'll need to do so now and have to wait an entire year to play.  He might not get transferred in time to play in the first game of next year.

If I had to put money on it, I'd guess he'd transfer to Jacksonville of the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League (which is in the same league as Drake).  He has to, in effect, sit out a year anyway, and it's closer to home for him.  Assuming he wins the starting job down there, he at least would be able to say he was a starting QB at a Division I school for three years.


*****

I remember last year's 27-21 win over Lafayette like it was yesterday.  Clark, despite enduring six sacks and an extraordinary amount of pressure from DT Ian Dell, LB Mark Leggerio and the rest of the fearsome Leopard defense, somehow managed to pick himself up after each sack, dust himself off and push forward for the Mountain Hawks.

Despite the fact that Lehigh felt like they should have been way behind after the first half, they took every Lafayette punch and still stood.  And then Clark took over.

Clark then led Lehigh on the best offensive drive of the year. Again Lehigh would find themselves with third downs to convert on the drive, and again Clark would will the ball to convert them. 3rd and 7? Clark to Drwal, 14 yards. 3rd-and-3? Clark to Wojcowski, right at the sticks. 3rd and 8? Clark threads a ball to sophomore WR De'Vaughn Gordon, who then evades two tacklers and rumbles down the center of the field to the Lafayette 6 yard line. After the 63 yard pass play, suddenly, there are even more believers in the Lehigh stands.

Clark's version of "The Drive" - followed by a score in overtime - would be enough to win only the second overtime game in "Rivalry" history.  An unforgettable day where Clark's determination seemed - for a day - to be enough to beat "that school in Easton".

*****

Lum is going to be the unquestioned starter now - it is, as of this moment forward, his team.  The paragraphs and stories will now all become about him as the spotlight turns in his direction, and there will be plenty to talk about in the weeks to come with him.

He has a wonderful opportunity available to him.. A chance to win football games, to play against a playoff team and the defending national champions, to bring a winning record back to the Mountain Hawks, to become a leader on this team.  Head coach Andy Coen and the rest of the coaching staff have confidence that he can bring this team a Patriot League championship.

But he'll have to prove that he's as determined a competitor that Clark once was.

I think J.B. has earned at least that much from us.

Fare thee well, J.B., wherever your football dream takes you.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I can see being droped to 2nd string, becuase he didn't seem to have a feel for coverages.

I cant see a starter being droped to third. New coach or not. Coen is still a high school coach at best.

Poor leader, no personality, he continues to try to keep his head above water by making very dumb decsions.

Prediction the last three year in a row.... after this season "Fare The Well, Coen" It's about freagin time!
Anonymous said…
Agreed. You don't drop a kid who has spent 3 years dedicating himself to a program to 3rd string. That is absolutely wrong. Coen is a joke.
Douglas said…
It is a shame but I think Dave C has total control of the offense.... I would bet that was a condition of him coming in.. He wanted a different style of QB....

I frankly don't think he'll go to JU either... they are building up their program with former Gator QB Kerwin Bell who wants to move them in the full scholarship direction.
Anonymous said…
Let the circus begin. So much for building experience and depth. More youthful mistakes with underclassman as seniors are thrown overboard. This move is another indication of past coaching decisions that paved the wave for years of excuses and dissappointment. This should not be a rebuilding year as this senior class and especially JB, deserve the opportunity to lose those positions on the field. A third string role, what does that say about the evaluation of talent by this coaching staff and their ability to build a mature and experienced senior class for which is a proven formula for winning championships. These situation sure can't help recuriting. This is a talented group of players and the coaches need to express confidence in their seniors to provide leadership. . Underclassman just don't get that respect, they need to mature and develope. Contrary to my comments, this team is resilent and talented enough to win the Patriot League. "YES" Coaching will rise above the critics and this my friends is a proud Lehigh fan who has faith this programs dedication and committment to winning will finally pay-off. Today, as fans and alumni, we need to be postive and supportive if we are to overcome this doomed mentality. This has to be the year! Let's not throw the season away before it begins. Save it for the end of the season. GO Lehigh!
ngineer said…
Why the 'entitlement' attitude that unfortunately permeates today's society at all levels? The new 'sheriff in town', Cecchini, is installing a new offense and if JB could not handle it, so be it. Do you mean the person who performs the best is going to get the job?!! How novel an idea!
Yes, Clark is to be admired for his dogged determination in not quitting...last year and his clutch play against Laugheyette, but, it is no secret he did not have the physical tools of Lum or Colvin and if he wasn't performing better than those two, what message is sent by starting him or labeling him #2 if he wasn't? If starting positions are based on MERIT, then make the tough decision, and Andy seems to have done that, and this may be an example of him having grown in his first HC job.
We've had several senior QB's in the past who stuck it out when not given the starting nod. Keating answered the bell admirably when injuries occured, and don't forget the great performance of the backup, senior QB in 2001 when Hall went down. What is unfortunate is JB's decision to leave school 9 months from getting a Lehigh degree. There comes a point in time when all of us have to face reality and realize that 'the game is over' and it's now time to focus on the future. If he had the skills for a potential in the pros, then I'd understand an attempt at another shot to play. He could have still provided leadership on the sideline as a senior with much experience. Examples of perseverence, dedication and loyalty have much worth.
I think this says a message that if you perform, you play. It's not based on class, or being a good guy. The idea is to get this program winning again and everyone needs to look forward to an exciting year.
There were a lot of eye opening plays Wednesday night. The talent is there. Consistency and confidence in their ability to get it done when spotlight goes one is what is needed.
Anonymous said…
Big disappointment JB gave his all to the team for three years--most valuable player twice against Layafette which probably saved Coen's job--how could they drop such a fine young leader and dedicated player to third string?
Anonymous said…
I think this goes much deeper then this one very poor decsion.

This, unforunatley has been the history of one of the worst coaches in the great tradition of Lehigh football.

Coen has made poor decsions every year, using mostly a shot gun approach to try to hold on to his job.

Unfortunatley, it is the kids who pay the price who have worked so hard for the past 3+ years.

How many other programs do you see QB's leaving like ours?

Coen has "0" respect for his lack of leadership and his handling of personel decsions.

Why cant the administration see this? the players do, the recruits do!

If the end game was to have the O cordinator take over at the end of this season, why wait?
Anonymous said…
Bravo "ngineer"! If Lum performed better in preseason he should be given the job. I can't believe this was an easy decision for the coaches. People were upset that Andy Coen kept his job. So, OK - everyone was happy with the new OC coming on board. Changes and decisions are being made with his help. Andy is "damned if he does and damned if he doesn't." I honestly believe some people don't want Lehigh football to be successful. They'll have to find something else to complain about.
Anonymous said…
The plan is JB will graduate with a Lehigh degree.A really nice kid.
Anonymous said…
This sort of player movement is not at all unusual when coaching changes occur, it happens in all sports, it is part of the process. Coaches have to make tough calls and move in the direction that puts the team in the best position to win. JB was not denied the opportunity to stay and fight his way back, he chose not to take it so it seems.
Anonymous said…
It is not the fact that hard decsions need to be made, it is the stupid ones this guy keeps making!

And, I think it is the people that want to see Lehigh football revert back to it's winning tradition that are complaining so loudly.

These less than mediocre seasons are frustrating and shouldn't be accepted by the admin, but for some reason they are.

The simple truth is, Coen puts himself in these situations and one day, you will all wake up and see the light!

Unforunateley, many other players will have to suffer through this debacle that dont deserve it.

I wish the team all the luck in the world, I'm sure they will rise to the ocasion despite the lack of good leadership.
Anonymous said…
With all due respect, you've probably never coached a college football team a day in your life, that seems obvious, put in your time there, then come back and preach your gospel
Anonymous said…
I have coached a college team as as assistant. Coen had the guts to make an unpopular decision and pick a QB with a rifle arm. To sit a senior you like is hard, but you play your best. Everyone complained about our records, but JB was the QB.He would have shown more leadership by staying as did Kyle Keating. In that one Keating stayed , kicked and showed character. JB is taking his toys and going home. I wish him luck and hope he does not regret his decision. See you at the Steak Fry.
Anonymous said…
So since I was never President of the United States I guess I have no right to criticize the idiot in charge?
Anonymous said…
Since you are an admitted idiot , you have every right to criticize,but your remarks will be given weight in that context.
Anonymous said…
For someone who has supposedly coached at the College level and just maybe is coaching now, seems to be happy with "status quo" and loosing season after loosing season.

I might suggest you find another form of employment.

JB was supposed to have an arm ( I saw more ducks thrown the last few seasons then ever before)

A "rifle arm" does not make for a good QB alone.

I did not see good decsions being made last year when Lum got his shot.

Undoubtly he has gotten better, but there is no substitute for live game action. You cannot judge how a kid is going to react in game situations by completing 70% of your passes in practice. I think JB was a good example of that.

JB had 2 years to get to a certain comfort level. I suppose only having JB for one year and Lum for 2 played a big part in this decsion and Coen will be the scape goat at the end of the year. Good job Coach C!

Coen seems to think he has another year to experiment!
Anonymous said…
Apparently Lehigh grads can't read with comprehension.
Anonymous said…
Just read Lafayette site. Our esteemed commentator Rich H. posted several knocks on Lehigh program and QB situation. Perhaps should change name to Maybe Lehigh Football Nation.
Anonymous said…
I saw that too Rich H is with what team? I think he may have an allegiance to Frank's Tanks...stay there Rich H please!
Anonymous said…
Whoever made the decisions, whatever the reasons were...JB left his team. His true colors are showing that he was a team player as long as it was all about him. Being MVP for two years (and last year, I believe there were several others on the team who deserved that honor) does not entitle you to get the job this year if someone else earned the position.
Anonymous said…
First of all, I wish JB well in the future and thank him for his contributions to LU. However, it does say something about his level of commitment to the team when he decides to leave the team. At the same time, he needs to do what is best for him.

I played for both Coen and Cecchini in the late 90's, and I have complete confidence in the decisions they make. Cecchini has proven himself to be a talented offensive coordinator. Look at his resume and you will see that he is winner. He led offenses that put up impressive numbers at The Citadel, Harvard, and Lehigh. The last few years have been difficult but the pieces are coming together. Given the tough schedule this year, my expectations are not as high as they otherwise would be. This coaching staff can turn things around, and I believe they deserve some more time to do that. At the same time, the clock is ticking and it is time for results.

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