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LFN's 2015 Spring Preview - Defensive Backs and Special Teams

Senior SS Randall Lawson (Morning Call)
Lehigh's defensive numbers in 2014, as I mentioned before, leave a lot to be desired.

And when you look at the secondary, it's the same story.

Out of 121 FCS teams, Lehigh ranked 110th in pass defense, and if you watched the unit last year, you also saw too many big plays allowed by the defense, too.

The silver lining, though, is that Lehigh only graduates two players in the secondary, DB Jason Suggs and DB Jamil Robinson, so the returning starters all have a years' experience under their belt in defensive coordinator Joe Bottiglieri's defensive system.

This spring has also posed some challenges for the Lehigh staff, as there are a lot of secondary players on the shelf with injuries, making it a challenge for the remaining players.


Junior CB Brandon Leaks is sitting out the spring rehabbing an injury, meaning that the Mountain Hawks only have five players healthy in the secondary.  That's a challenge for head coach Andy Coen.

"The DBs are working hard," he told me of the extra reps they've taken.

Many of the DBs that have been healthy this spring are the guys that started last season, most notably senior SS Randall Lawson (31 tackles, 2 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles), senior CB Olivier Rigaud (46 tackles, 7 pass breakups, 1 INT), and sophomore DB Quentin Jones (20 tackles, 8 pass break-ups), who saw a lot of time in third-down packages as a freshman.

All of these guys seem likely to either still be the starters, or getting a lot of playing time in 2015, even if senior FS Stephen Wilmington comes back for his final year of eligibility.  (Wilmington got injured early in the 2014 season and looks to me to have the capability to apply for eligibility for another year, if he and his family choose.)

Without Wilmington and Leaks this spring, though, it gives sophomore DB Marc Raye-Redmond, Jr. and junior DB Brian Githens lots of time this spring to show the coaching staff their capabilities as well.  I'd expect to see both of them in the rotation at defensive back, a position that requires a lot of depth and talent in order to survive Patriot League play.

Another issue of depth comes at a position where one might not expect - placekicker.

Senior P Austin Devine was clearly a huge bright spot for the Mountain Hawks last year, averaging 42 yards per punt and, on more than one occasion, made near-certain blocked kicks into long boots.  As the only specialist on the spring roster - PK Ryan Pandy left the team during the offseason - it seems likely he'll be performing any kicking duties that might come up in the Brown and White game.

Returning kickoffs lat season was sophomore WR Sasha Kelsey, who came in late last year to notch 383 return yards.  Junior WR Michael Anderson (214 yards) also spent time returning kicks, so it seems likely, if there are any kickoff drills, that those two guys will be those players fielding kicks.  Other players that seem likely to see time returning kicks are senior WR Derek Knott, and perhaps sophomore DB Marc Raye-Redmond, senior SS Randall Lawson, or  junior WR Trevor Soccaras.

There's another interesting issue this spring that most fans might not think about - long snapper.  In August, coach Coen is expected to have an incoming freshman handle this critical position, while the returning players who have handled that duty last year either graduating (WR Derek Gaul) or are sitting out the spring season (senior DE/LB Matt Laub).

From Lehigh's spring prospectus, it seems like one of the tight ends on the depth chart will be handling long snapping duties this spring, perhaps junior TE Zach Bucklin or sophomore TE Michael Baur.

LFN's unofficial guess at the spring depth chart:

CB: 
Senior CB Olivier Rigaud, sophomore CB Quentin Jones, sophomore CB Marc Raye-Redmond
SS:
Senior SS Randall Lawson, junior DB Brian Githens
FS:
Senior FS/LB Laquan Lambert, junior DB Brian Githens

Kicking specialist: 
Senior P/PK Austin Devine

Kick Returns: 
1st: Sophomore WR Sasha Kelsey, junior WR Michael Anderson
2nd: Sophomore DB Marc Raye-Redmond, junior WR Trevor Soccaras

Punt Returns: 
1st: Senior WR Derek Knott
2nd: Sophomore WR Sasha Kelsey

Long Snapper:
1st: Junior TE Zach Bucklin
2nd: Sophomore TE Michael Baur

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