On August 8th, the Lehigh football team finished their offseason testing and officially started in with the incoming freshman class.
Head coach Andy Coen was very impressed with the 20 new faces of the incoming class.
"It's always a huge for the freshmen coming from high school to college but I think that group of kids did a really good job," he told LehighSports.com. "I was really impressed that we didn't have as many mental mistakes, especially the young guys," he continued. "That's always good to see. The guys are keeping their faces in the playbook, learning and trying to get better."
So what will Lehigh Nation be looking at during the 2015 preseason?
Let's jump right in.
1. Defensive crispness. Coach Coen always looks at competition at all positions at preseason camp, but it's on defense where the expectations of turnaround will be highest and the competition fiercest. With senior LB Colton Caslow leading the way, intensity shouldn't be a problem on this defense, but execution and attention to detail will be.
It is Year 3 of defensive coordinator Jor Bottiglieri's 3-3-5 defense, and unfamiliarity won't be an excuse anymore as to improvement on defense. While "crispness" isn't exactly an easily measured stat, but it's the little things that I'll be looking at during the preseason.
2. Defensive pressure. Key to making the 3-3-5 work for Lehigh will be improved pressure from the defensive front, and the improvement of players like junior DE Tyler Cavenas and senior LB Pierce Ripanti this offseason. In the spring, there was barely enough defensive linemen to hold a scrimmage, so it was difficult to judge the improvement of this unit. This August, it will be interesting to see who rotates in on the front and how the pass rush in general will look.
3. Tight-End/H-Back Sets. On offense, much returns, especially senior QB Nick Shafnisky, junior WR Troy Pelletier, and sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone, as well as a slew of other important skill players. One area where there will be new starters is TE, though, with a combination of senior TE Zach Bucklin, junior TE Drew Paulsen, junior TE Mike Baur, and others. One of these guys will start, and the others will find themselves on the field in different situations - but how?
4. Offensive Line Depth. Much of the freshman coming in this season are on the offensive line, and are immediately into the mix in terms of competition for spots on the two-deep and special teams rosters. There are some intriguing options as freshmen, for example, freshman OL Alex Motley. Which freshmen will progress in camp, and which ones will be seeing time vs. Monmouth?
5. Who's Punting? One of the more underreported areas of competition for the Mountain Hawks this fall is with two freshmen and the starting punter spot: freshman P Austin Henning and freshman P/K Oliver Clowes. One of these two guys will be the starting punter for Monmouth - which one will it be?