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LFN's 2015 Spring Preview - Offensive Line

Senior OL Matt Ford
We live in a world where we can judge the work of an offensive line by the overall output of the offense.

Gone are the days when you can look at a starters' height and weight and judge whether they will be a great Patriot League player, or not.  And at Lehigh, especially, the bar is particularly high for offensive linemen, with OL Will Rackley making the NFL, and players like OL Ned Daryoush, OL Keith Schauder and countless other all-Patriot League offensive linemen to provide the protection and push to keep drives alive and allow the skill players to make things happen.

Yet last year's statistics, overall show again that, as a unit, this team too needs to improve.

Chip Kelly's Oregon teams averaged 82 offensive plays per game, which allowed the Ducks to become a perennial Pac-12 powerhouse while he was there.  By this admittedly high standard, Lehigh's 70 offensive plays a game falls short.

Some statistics that show signs that Lehigh's offensive line did a good job in 2014 - like 4th down conversions (24th in the nation) and rushing offense (58th).  But one thing's for certain - this unit, with four returning starters, will need to make one more leap to the next level if Lehigh is to compete for Patriot League championships once again.

One of the things that has to keep Andy Coen and offensive line coach Brett Sawyer up at night is how many healthy linemen they'll have to conduct the spring session.

With junior OL Zach Duffy and junior OL Brandon Short held out during the spring to recover from injuries, it's going to be a challenge to get a squad together if anyone else on the 51 man spring roster gets dinged up.

Fortunately for Coen and Sawyer, though, the offensive line's talent level across the board is fairly solid, and deep.

In 2015 Lehigh will undoubtedly be looking for the seniors on the O line, senior OL Matt Ford, senior OL Matthew Cohen, senior OL Stephen Camasta and senior OL Ryan James to be a huge part of the Mountain Hawks' offensive output.

Ford was an 11 game starter in 2014, and Cohen played in all 11 games, starting in eight of them.

Camasta was pressed into service when Short went out for the year, starting at center in the last four games of the season, while James also started in four games as well and played a lot of positions along the line.

One of their most important jobs this spring?  Protecting junior QB Nick Shafnisky, who will be attending practices but not throwing, according to Keith Groller of The Morning Call.

"Nick will still be out there with us," Coen told him. "We just wanted to shut him down throwing-wise this spring. I'd love to have him out there going full bore, but we have to be smart about it and make sure he's ready to go in August."

All the dings on the offensive line mean that sophomore OL Tim O'Hara and junior OL Evan Sweeney should get a lot of reps this spring to develop depth along the "O" line, which will be something to watch this spring as well.

LFN's unofficial guess at the spring depth chart:

1st: Senior OT Matt Ford, Junior G Micah Tennant, Senior C Stephen Camasta, Senior OL Ryan James, Senior OT Matt Cohen 
2nd: Sophomore OL Tim O'Hara, Junior OL Evan Sweeney


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