It still seems strange to write it - no offense meant, junior QB Chris Lum. But there's no time to sit and reflect about the past: what was a quarterback battle in preseason camp between Lum, QB J.B. Clark and sophomore QB Michael Colvin. It's done - and make no mistake, Lum earned his shot the right way. He worked hard in the offseason, and basically out-worked his competition.
Lum took his "lumps", worked through a fierce competition, and earned his place atop the depth chart. (more)
It makes absolutely no sense, but whenever I hear Lum's name I think of that short, horribly dated 90s song "Lump" by the Presidents of the United States of America. It's a song that pretty much is completely irrelevant to Lehigh's quarterback competition: a nonsensical tune involving piranhas, a lunatic woman and something about subsonic speeds.
(Is that an actual early 90s cell phone I spied in this video?)
But head coach Andy Coen's way is to have kids earn their way onto the team. In order to play for the Brown & White, you need to perform in practice and you need to work hard. You are never entitled to your spot; there are no mortal locks for the team, even if you're MVP against "that school in Easton".
If you earn the spot in practice, you're on the team: whether you're a freshman or a senior. That's always been the Coen way. The past few years have seen a record number of underclassmen see the field - because they've taken their "lumps" in practice, gotten "lumps" from hitting (and being hit) hard in scrimmages. Quarterback is no exception.
Some people say that competitions like this harm recruiting - a patently ridiculous claim. If anything, it's a strong recruiting positive: if you survive the competition, you'll play, whether you're a freshman or a senior. You'll get a square deal on this football team. The only thing kids want more in a college experience than a free education is playing time - and Coen says, if you survive the competition you'll be on the field.
Some people think competition should be exempt at certain key positions. Senior OL Will Rackley is on all sorts of preseason all-America lists; why should he work hard in the offseason and earn his position? But that's not the Coen way. "Coach Coen is a great guy to play for. He is really straight forward with all players and lets them know what they need to do to make themselves and the team better," Rackley says on his roster bio page. "Coach Coen gives everyone an equal chance," says senior DB Shane Ryan on his roster bio page, and it's something that is echoed on a lot of the other player bios as well. Even Lum mentions one of the reasons he came to Lehigh was the "competitiveness of football and the coaching staff", words that take on extra meaning today.
Nearly all the players say in one form or another that Coen pushes them hard to compete and do what it takes to help the team out. One of those ways is to give them all "lumps" in competition in practice and the preseason. Some coaches give that competition lip service; not Coen. He's been very consistent about that one topic his entire time on South Mountain.
Which leads us to Drake.
The Lum Era will begin in Des Moines, Iowa, an unlikely place for a Lehigh team to usher in a new era: new season, new starting QB, and even new uniforms - not sure yet if they'll be white jersey, brown pants, or white on white. (Just to link this back to the song, in late August, Des Moines might feel like a buggy marsh - no word on the piranahas, though.)
Lum will take those "lumps" in his first few offensive series - probably from Bulldog senior DE Dain Taylor and senior DE Aaron Asbell. But he'll have to recover from those hits quickly - and lead Lehigh to a victory this coming Saturday.
It may be unfair to put the win all on his shoulders: after all, football is the quintessential team sport. But all eyes are going to be on him now, whether he likes it or not. Folks care about the defense, and whether senior CB Jarard "Main Man" Cribbs can shut down Drake's passing game. They wonder which kicker, sophomore PL Jake Peery or senior PK Tom Randazza, might come out to put a key FG through the uprights. But "how will Lum respond?" is - let's face it - the million dollar question coming from Lehigh fans.
A loss at Drake would mean a lot more than physical "lumps" and a painful plane flight home. There would be a lot more "lumps" to come - this time, coming from Lehigh fans themselves.