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Lehigh Offense Mic'Ed Up And Jacked Up For The Season

Lehigh's newest online multimedia involves the Lehigh coaching staff on microphone.

This week it was newly-promoted defensive coordinator Joe Bottiglieri, and in the video below you see the coach in various stages of instruction.

The piece of the video that relates to the offense, though, is the highlight of the piece.

Sophomore TE Zach Bucklin, "built like a small Volkswagen", as coach Bott himself mentioned, barreled into Lehigh's defensive coordinator, sending them both to the ground.

In an odd sort of way, Bucklin's tire tracks over Bottiglieri's back signifies what Lehigh's offense hopes to be in the 2014 season as well.

Sure, Lehigh will still have the type of offense that will work fast and spread things out.  Sure, the playbook will still be as think as a phone book.  But to think of this as a finesse team may be a mistake.  They may very well be a team that simply is also going to try to out-run and out-muscle you more often.

And, if necessary, run you over.

Lehigh's offense has always had at its core a series of stellar offensive linemen to make the best laid plans of its coordinators work.

And this year, with so many skill players lost to graduation, like QB Brandon Bialkowski, RB Keith Sherman, and WR Lee Kurfis, physical play up front, especially early, will be critical to the teams' success.

In that sense it is fitting that senior OL Ned Daryoush seems to be a quiet leader for the offense.

"Ned's a great kid," Coen told me in the spring.  "He's a great player who may have an opportunity to play after Lehigh.  He's a great example for everyone to follow.  He's a great student, works as hard in the classroom as he does on the football field.  There's nothing negative I can say about him - I'd bet you he hasn't missed a practice since he missed some time with back issues his freshman year."

After those back issues as a freshman, as a sophomore, he quietly, through hard work, lifted himself to the level of starting tackle for the Mountain Hawk .

Through the last two seasons he's been the ironman of the offensive line, not missing a single start.

Senior OL Ned Daryoush (#70)
"Ned is incredibly self motivated - a trait that is a must for players at any level if they want to be great," offensive line coach Brett Sawyer told me.  "He is a lead by example player whose productivity is a result of hard work and commitment.  Other players have seen this and they are responding positively."

He also can't be accused of having a sense of entitlement in terms of Lehigh's football success, either.

"I think we've kind of ridden the coattails of our previous success the last couple of years," he told Greg Joyce of the Express-Times. "As a team, none of us have accomplished anything. We're trying to change the mentality that our team has. Now is the time to prove what we're all about."

A 10-1 record his sophomore year?  A couple of successful seasons, with wins over New Hampshire, Princeton, and Colgate?  Beating Lafayette once?  Don't tell Ned that it was a success.

"They [Lafayette] honestly embarrassed us at home and took the championship away from us," Daryoush said. "I always get a little fired up when I see pictures of them holding up the trophy on our field, nonetheless. Insult to injury."

In 2012, it was Colgate celebrating on Lehigh's field.  Last year, it was Lafayette.  And this year, Ned's senior year, it's his mission to make sure that this time it will be the Mountain Hawks doing the celebrating somewhere.

"Our great teams in the past have had some talented players like OL Will Rackley, OL Ricky Clerge, and now Ned - recognizable names," Sawyer said.  "But those teams and offenses wouldn't have survived for a minute out there without the "grunt" type OLmen like OL Keith Schauder and OL Jim Liebler.  Tough, hard working guys that would do anything to win and just refused to lose.  We are starting to see some of these grunt type guys emerge on the OL."

You can sense Ned's quiet, intense leadership in this Lehigh football offense - and maybe even the physical nature of him, too.

As always you'll be able to pencil in Ned at the tackle position, while junior OL Wenner Nunes, senior OL Shane Rugg, sophomore C Brandon Short and junior OL Matt Ford seem to be poised to be the starters across the line, with senior TE Tyler Coyle and senior TE Dylan Colgate flanking them on both sides.

They'll be protecting sophomore QB Nick Shafnisky, who won the preseason quarterback battle with injured senior QB Matt McHale.

Sophomore QB Nick Shafnisky (April Bartholomew/Morning Call)
Shafnisky, from nearby Whitehall, provides a lot of excitement from the folks that have followed his career through high school.

In retrospect, McHale's offseason surgery last season made him slow to get back up to 100%, giving "Shaf" the opportunity to earn the starting position.  As a result, he's had most of camp to train with the first team, which has helped immensely with his comfort level with the offense.

"He's getting better every day he comes out here," Coen told Keith Groller of the Morning Call. "He has started to overcome some things. He can make a bad play and come right back and overcome it on the next play. He has been throwing the ball well, makes plays with his feet and he has done a nice job with his leadership.  He's light years ahead of where he was last year. Twenty practices ago I wouldn't have told you that, but he's really stepped up."

Mobile and tough, "Shaf" was thrown to the wolves to some degree last season after Bialkowski was lost for the season.  With a full camp and preseason with the first unit, though, Saturday promises to be quite different for the local native.

That will certainly help, especially with an already large playbook getting larger with the presence of new offensive coordinator Drew Folmar.

"I really like some of the new stuff we're doing and he [Folmar] definitely gets in your face, which is what any position needs," Shafnisky also told Groller. "You want a coach to help you positively, but at the same time, if you're having a lackadaisical practice, he'll let you know that. You won't do the same thing again."

You can see the wiry Folmar's energy in Lehigh's "Mic'ed Up" segment - he almost looks like he's ready to suit up himself and knock some heads.

("You're freaking me out here, man," you can hear him say in the video, "You don't know who John Lennon is?" he asks Shaf.  "You've never heard of the Doors?  Tell your Dad that.")

Folmar's energy, along with Shaf's progression in the offense, is key to the success of the season, of course.  But Shaf will have to rely on new players to shoulder the load.

At running back, University of Miami transfer sophomore RB Brandon Yosha and senior RB Rich Sodeke will be the 1-2 punch out of the backfield, with sophomore FB Mackenzie Crawford coming in during running situations.  This unit has the potential to be an exciting, explosive group, with freshman RB Chris Leigh and freshman RB Nana Amankwah-Ayeh potentially providing depth that hasn't been at this position in years.

"Yosha's presence in camp has pushed everybody," Coen told me in the spring.

At receiver will be another local guy from Palisades that is expected to step into the very big shoes of Lee Kurfis, WR Ryan Spadola and WR Jake Drwal.

Senior WR Josh Parris (Chris Post/Express-Times)
Senior WR Josh Parris is ready to go.

"He's been practicing at a different level," head coach Andy Coen said after the spring game.  "I'm very very pleased with him."

Coen said that had Kurfis not been there last year, Josh would have been the go-to guy last season, though he still had 443 yards and 2 TDs, good enough for second on the team.

"I want to be a great receiver here," the quiet Parris said, somewhat uncharacteristically, in the spring. "I want to be one of the best players that ever came through Lehigh.  The season is nearing and realizing you gotta enjoy the opportunities you've been blessed with. It's been awesome."

He'll have his chance to step up in the first game - hopefully having the sort of game that Lee Kurfis had his opening game senior year, where he had 7 catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns.

"Josh has a great work ethic and has really pushed himself," coach Coen told me.

Echoing Daryoush's feelings, Parris talked as well about the utter frustration of the last two years.

"We're real hungry to get [a ring]," he said. "We got one when we were freshmen. But a lot of us didn't really play on the field. We don't really feel like we as a class earned that.  So we're trying to come out here and earn one for ourselves. We've been there the past two years and come up short. This year, something's gotta be different. This is the year we want to make some noise."

To Parris, the sense of urgency is palpable.

"We have more hunger, more fire in our eyes than before," Parris told Keith Groller. "Having been to the championship game two years in a row and having lost both of them at home, that leaves a real bitter taste."

Alongside Josh trying to make that noise will be a solid stable of receivers in the form of junior WR Derek Knott, senior WR Max Anderson, senior WR Derek Gaul, junior WR Stephen Sansone, and a cast of many others who may see time from week to week.


Rounding out the positional preview, Lehigh will be breaking in a new punter this season in junior P Austin Devine, while sophomore PK Ryan Pandy returns at placekicker after a very successful 2014 (8/12 on FGs, log of 41 yards, 42/44 on extra points).

In the past senior WR Josh Parris has returned punts, while sophomore CB Brandon Leaks had a very solid freshman year as a kick returner.  But it remains to be seen if these areas will be filled by new players, as Parris and Leaks will be starters.


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