Skip to main content

Lehigh Position Analysis: Defensive Backs

Spotlight On: S Sam McCloskey

Lehigh Sports issued a release Friday evening that announced Lehigh's team captains for the 2017 season.

Some of the names, senior OL Zach Duffy and senior OL Brandon Short, were hardly surprises - after all, they were team captains last year.

Another, senior DL Jimmy Mitchell, is a steadying leadership force on the defensive line - again, not much of a surprise.

But the presence of junior S Sam McCloskey as the fourth team captain raised some eyebrows.  It's unusual to be a junior team captain, though QB Nick Shafnisky and LB Colton Caslow had been team captains as juniors.

As head coach Andy Coen explained, "What's really impressive is that in our ballots contain only seniors with the ability to write-in people. A lot of our guys obviously had to write in Sam, so that was really interesting to see. Our coaching staff feels he's ready right now to be a strong captain and his peers obviously feel the same way."


Perhaps one of the reasons the team is so comfortable with him is that, unusually for a junior, Sam has seen a lot of time as a starter.

Midway through his freshman year, the Altoona, PA native stepped in as a starter at safety and never looked back, starting 18 of 19 possible games.

McCloskey had 54 tackles last season, which was the most of any returning starter behind senior DL Tyler Cavenas' 55, and Sam will be expected to perhaps expand on that number in 2017 to further become an elite Patriot League player in regards to that side of his game.

But he's had a great nose for the ball, and that was a huge, sometimes unsung, factor in Lehigh's championship drive last season.

He tied for the team lead in interceptions last season, with three, with one of them coming in the playoff loss to New Hampshire.  On a Wildcat fourth down, he stepped in front of the passing route, and gave the Mountain Hawks the ball back early in the game.

He also had what might have been the most critical moment in the Colgate game last season, forcing a fumble at the beginning of the second half that got the fans up out of their seats and got Lehigh's tremendous second half kickstarted.

It's clear that McCloskey has been no ordinary underclassman the last two years - which goes a long way towards explaining why he was selected with the honor of being a team captain.

McCloskey was humbled by the honor.

"It's a great honor," he told me after the announcement.  "It is a vote by my peers and I'm glad they felt comfortable with me in this position.  There are a lot of guys worthy of this position and that is great for our team."

S Riley O'Neil
Returning Veterans Abound In Secondary

One of the bigger stories in camp is the return of senior DB Quentin Jones, who came all the way back from a scary injury in the Yale game but has been doing great in scrimmages and practice.

McCloskey said that it was exciting that he's back.

"The defense has been working solid as one unit," he told me.  "No one puts themselves before anyone else and we fly to the ball and look to make turnovers."

The top line defensive backfield includes returning starters Jones, sophomore S Riley O'Neil, and junior CB Donavon Harris.  Junior CB Kareem Montgomery saw plenty of time backing up Laquan Lambert at Rover last season, and steps in at corner.  Jones will step in at Rover.

"The DBs are looking sharp, there's a lot of guys that can play," McCloskey told me.  "Riley and I have good chemistry after playing beside each other for a year.  Q Jones is back and he looks great right now."

LB/ROV Jon Seighman
What's the depth look like?

Some questions remain over depth in the secondary, some of whom might be in the mix for starting roles.

Sophomore LB Jon Seighman is a name that has been talked about in terms of the two-deep for linebacker, but could also be in the conversation at rover if Jones is not 100%.  It's possible that there might be rotation at Rover and Seighman might be in that mix, or Seighman might be over at linebacker full-time.

Sophomore CB Marquis Wilson is another name to watch as well.  Primarily playing on special teams last year, he appeared on the depth chart behind Harris and is also a good candidate to get some playing time in the secondary this season.

Junior S Mike Gies is a veteran hand that has seen a lot of time as well, starting in place of McCloskey in the one game he's missed in the last eighteen games.  He'll be backing up O'Neil, and may also step in at Rover as well.  It's clear that he'll be involved as a sort of "sixth man" in the secondary, to borrow a basketball term.

Finally, it will be interesting to see if junior DB Devan Polanis and sophomore DB Alex Duke, who played this spring, will be on the opening two-deep.  They played well in the spring and have a chance to be on the two-deep this fall.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Fifteen Guys Who Might be Lehigh's Next Football Coach (and Five More)

If you've been following my Twitter account, you might have caught some "possibilities" as Lehigh's next head football coach like Lou Holtz, Brett Favre and Bo Pelini.  The chance that any of those three guys actually are offered and accept the Lehigh head coaching position are somewhere between zero and zero.  (The full list of my Twitter "possibilities" are all on this thread on the Lehigh Sports Forum.)

However the actual Lehigh head football coaching search is well underway, with real names and real possibilities.

I've come up with a list of fifteen possible names, some which I've heard whispered as candidates, others which might be good fits at Lehigh for a variety of reasons.

UPDATE: I have found five more names of possible head coaches that I am adding to this list below.

Who are the twenty people?  Here they are, in alphabetical order.

How The Ivy League Is Able To Break the NCAA's Scholarship Limits and Still Consider Themselves FCS

By now you've seen the results.  In 2018, the Ivy League has taken the FCS by storm.

Perhaps it was Penn's 30-10 defeat of Lehigh a couple of weeks ago.  Or maybe it was Princeton's 50-9 drubbing of another team that made the FCS Playoffs last year, Monmouth.  Or maybe it was Yale's shockingly dominant 35-14 win over nationally-ranked Maine last weekend.

The Ivy League has gone an astounding 12-4 so far in out-of-conference play, many of those wins coming against the Patriot League.

But it's not just against the Patriot League where the Ivy League has excelled. 

Every Ivy League school has at least one out-of-conference victory, which is remarkable since it is only three games into their football season. 

The four losses - Rhode Island over Harvard, Holy Cross over Yale, Delaware over Cornell, and Cal Poly over Brown - were either close losses that could have gone either way or expected blowouts of teams picked to be at the bottom of the Ivy League.

Why the Ivy Le…

Remembering Andy Coen's Time As Head Coach As He Steps Down as Lehigh Football Head Coach To Address Health Issue

I read the announcement that head coach Andy Coen was stepping down as head football coach late Friday evening.

It was an announcement that I was expecting, to some degree. 

Those of use who have been following the program closely knew that something was amiss with Andy. 

And yet, the reason for him needing to step down was devastating.

"Life has thrown me a curveball," Coen said in the press release on Friday, December 7th, 2018. "I am in the early stages [of early onset Alzheimer's disease] and it is best for me to eliminate stress and concentrate on my health and well-being.  My wife, Laura, and my children, Molly, Nolan and Finn have supported me throughout my career and are my biggest fans.  This is a very difficult decision for all of us, but it is what is best at this time."

It was the gutting, pit-in-the-stomach diagnosis nobody wanted to be true.  Just like that, a bigger challenge than simply winning football games faces the man who has been heading …