With the 2012 season right around the corner - is it really just twenty days until opening day kickoff vs. Monmouth? - I wanted to kick off a new feature here at LFN called the "Hawk Squawk", where I talk to members of this year's Lehigh football team.
To kick off this exciting new feature, I squawk first with senior WR Ryan Spadola.
LFN: The expectation is of a three-peat - the Hawks are picked to finish first and are 16th in the nation. Any thoughts as to how difficult this is going to be for your team?
Ryan: Setting out to win another Patriot League Championship is always a tough battle, because there are five other teams looking to do the same thing. What’s great about this team is that no one is complacent. Every player is looking to improve and set higher goals each coming season.
People may say that we have a bull’s eye on our back, but we ignore that. Everyone in the program is real hungry and focused on getting our third straight championship. We don’t get hunted, instead we hunt.
LFN: What do you feel your leadership role is with this team, this year?
Ryan: My leadership role with this team is one where I am expected to lead by example. Everyone expects me to perform at the highest level every snap, whether it be at practice or on Saturdays. Also, since I am a senior who has played on the previous two championship teams, I am going to have to help underclassmen and help develop them into the best players they can be.
LFN: QB Chris Lum has now graduated, and while it's senior QB Mike Colvin's job to lose, he hasn't been handed the starting job. Are you doing anything in particular to develop a working relationship with Mike and the other QBs, and if so, what in particular?
Ryan: The best thing quarterbacks and receivers can do is run routes. This enables receivers and quarterbacks to understand each others tendencies and ensure that the ball is thrown in the correct spot on time. This summer, myself along with other receivers, worked with junior QB Brandon Bialkowski and Mike Colvin almost everyday after our evening workouts.
LFN: Obviously the end of last season was a major disappointment for you. Does it help motivate you in any way this year, and has it changed you in any way?
Ryan: Of course last year’s ending was a major disappointment. I let down not just myself, but my teammates, coaches, athletic department, and university as a whole. Having to watch my teammates play in the biggest games of their lives on TV back at school was extremely hard. No player wants to go down like I did and I hope now through my mistake others will learn.
Though with that said, I have never been more ready for a season to get underway. You never know when your last play will be and from that experience I’ve taken to heart the true meaning of going 110% every play whether it’s running a route or blocking.
Now with many questioning the type of person I am, I am ready to work day in and day out with my teammates to get us back to that stage again, where we can prove to everyone Lehigh is a powerhouse.
LFN: Talk about your depth in the receiving corps. While WR Jake Drwal graduated, you have senior TE Jamel Haggins, junior WR Lee Kurfis, junior WR Sergio Fernandes-Soto, and a lot of guys who have caught passes returning.
Ryan: Jake was not just a great player, but he was a great mentor as well to myself and other young receivers. He will be missed, but we have tons of talented guys who are capable of making plays for us.
You saw it last year with Jamel in many games and he is going to continue to be a great asset to our offense. Sergio and Lee have really stepped up this past spring and are ready to step into the spotlight and show teams why we are the best receiving core in the country. And underclassmen sophomore WR Josh Parris and sophomore WR Alex Buford are going to continue to develop and help the offense be successful.
LFN: Do you have any specific areas of your game where you've been looking to personally improve?
Ryan: You can never be perfect, so there are areas in my game that I am always looking to improve upon. This offseason I’ve mainly being focusing on playing the ball in the air and getting off press releases. It’s expected that there won’t be many times where I will be completely left alone.
I am going to have to work and fight to create space for our quarterback, and I am looking to increase my mental side of the game as well - being able to better understand our offense and recognize coverage schemes quicker.