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My Lehigh Football Head Coaching Shortlist of 15 Names (and three more)


We didn't want to be here, but we're here now once again.  Lehigh fans have entered this offseason wondering who might be on the Lehigh Athletic Department's shortlist for the next head football coach of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

I do not know who has applied, or who is under active consideration for the position.  However as the biggest Lehigh football follower you know, I have some ideas, ideas I am sharing with you now.  (For free!)

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.  What all of these candidates have in common is that any one of them would be tremendous candidates to be Lehigh's next head football coach.

Let's get to it.

UPDATE: Four more names.


John Allen

Current Position: Wide Receivers Coach/Passing Game Coordinator, UConn (2022-present)

Resume: Allen, with a long list of qualifications, is well known, as his UConn bio notes.  “To find a coach with more experience than John Allen would be a difficult task, and I’m thrilled that he will be joining the UConn football family,” Mora said.  “John is an excellent recruiter who knows the commitment it takes to be successful at this level.  John’s knowledge of the game and coaching acumen will make an immediate impact on the young men in our program and I know he is going to hit the ground running.”

Area Connection: He's well-traveled and has had stints at Bucknell and Penn State early in his career.

How he fits: UConn was always going to be a tough job for any coach, but Allen's experience has to have been a part of what has made "bowl eligible UConn" a thing in 2022, something few would have predicted last May.  For a team that is looking to become "FCS Playoff eligible Lehigh", that holds a lot of appeal.

Analysis:  His combination of experience, recruiting, and his presence in "bowl eligible UConn" makes him an interesting name to consider.

Bryant Appling

Current Position: Head coach, Buford HS (Georgia), 2019-present

Resume: Appling, who got the head-coaching job in 2019 after 15 seasons as a Buford assistant, is the first coach in GHSA history to win three state titles in his first three seasons as a head coach.  His team went undefeated in league play but lost in state playoffs this year.

Area Connection: He's a beloved former Lehigh university linebacker who has had tremendous success in the state of Georgia.

How he fits: Appling put in a tremendous amount of time as assistant coach at Buford and it paid off in a huge way through transition (the school physically moved and changed classifications twice).  His knowledge of Georgia, a Lehigh recruiting hotbed, is unmatched.  He's also a proven winner.

Analysis:  Folks seem to think lack of D-I head coaching experience should disqualify candidates, but I don't.  Plenty of candidates have gone from high school to Division I head coach.  Could Appling come "home" to Lehigh to do it?  Would he? 

 

Terence Archer

Current Position: Assistant Head Coach/Wide Receivers/Pass Game Coordinator, 2022-present

Resume: Returning to the East Coast after a successful time at Sam Houston, Archer came back to Delaware this past year and rejuvenated an offense that had flatlined to some degree at Delaware.  This season, Delaware returned to the Top 20 offenses in all of FCS, won a first round playoff game, and is still playing.

Area Connection: He lives closer to Lehigh than he does Delaware, and he went to school at Monmouth.

How he fits: Terence is a proven offensive commodity at the FCS level, and his rapid turnaround of Delaware's offense definitely bears notice.  

Analysis:  Archer's has a fairly interesting resume in that he's got both the track record at the FCS level and also experience with a quick offensive turnaround.

Chris Boden

Current Position:  Assistant Coach (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks), Villanova (2019-present)

Resume: Developer of Villanova QB Daniel Smith, Boden's offenses have been on display against Lehigh now for the last three seasons.  Boden helped the Wildcats averaged 30.1 points per game and 380.0 yards of total offense per contest in 2021, while his 2019 offensive unit amassed 37.3 points per game and ranked eighth nationally in scoring.

Area Connection: His "area connection" is in large part from his time at Villanova, where he is a former QB and NJ/PA recruiter.  Notably, he's consistently delivered a large number of high-academic recruits to Villanova.

How he fits:  Ever looked at Villanova, especially on offense, and thought "that's what Lehigh should be aspiring to these days"?  Boden's one of the guys who could actually do that.

Analysis: Boden is one of a surprising number of candidates on my shortlist that don't have a direct link to Lehigh in terms of coaching trees, or even Patriot League experience. That shouldn't matter.  Boden is simply really good at what he does, and Lehigh fans have seen this up close.

Vincent Brown

Current Position: Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/LB coach, William and Mary (2019-present)

Resume: Brown, a three-time All-Pro linebacker for the New England Patriots, has been a trusted right-hand man for William and Mary head football coach Mike London in all his stops in Division I football (Richmond, Virginia, Howard, William and Mary).  Brown was a standout player at Mississippi Valley State, and there isn't much that he hasn't seen already in his coaching career.

Area Connection: Clark was a key coach for standout DT Bill Murray at William and Mary, where he had 143 tackles, 32.0 TFL, 19.0 sacks 10 blocks, six PBU, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

How he fits: Brown could be one of the best-qualified African-American candidates in the FCS coaching landscape today.  His knowledge base is unique and could truly bring a great new perspective to the Patriot League head coaching ranks, all based in successful scholarship FCS recruiting and high academics.

Analysis: As a defensive guy, he probably doesn't fit the presumed mold of "offensive savior" that many Lehigh fans might be expecting.  But if I'm Lehigh, I am definitely fielding this phone call, because I think he would be a tremendous head football coach. 


Clayton Carlin

Current Position: Defensive Coordinator/Safeties, Sam Houston (2016-present)

Resume: Carlin has had a long and storied career at the FCS level in assistant coaching, with a multitude of stops including Nebraska, Cornell, Villanova, and Bucknell of the Patriot League.  Most recently he helped build Sam Houston's defense into one of the best in the nation - a FCS National Championship-caliber defense.

Area Connection: His father, Leo Carlin, worked with the Philadelphia Eagles for 55 years as their ticket director, so for Clayton this would be a homecoming.

How he fits:  Carlin would be a homecoming for a coach that started off on Tom Osborne's staff in Nebraska to the FCS National Championship with the Bearkats.  His national experience and ability with defenses make him an intriguing name.

Analysis:  His presence on the national scene, and his seeming desire to head back "home", makes him an interesting, splashy wild card. 


Jim Clements

Current Position: Head Coach, Kutztown (67-25, 8 seasons)

Resume: Former head coach at Del Val (D-III). He is the winningest coach in Delaware Valley history with an overall record of 66-24 from 2006-13, including a perfect 10-0 regular season in 2011. At Kutztown, he's never had a losing record.  In 2021, KU matched a program single-season record with 11 wins, earned its second PSAC crown and won a NCAA Second Round game, advancing further than any team in its 105 season history has. Clements earned his second straight American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II Region 1 Coach of the Year and PSAC East Coach of the Year that year as well.

Area Connection:  Has extensive ties to the area as former Del Val head coach and is a PA resident.  He followed Drew Folmar as Kutztown head coach after Folmar left to become Lehigh's offensive coordinator under Andy Coen, and Kutztown didn't miss a beat.

How he fits: Clements is simply a winner, and was allegedly considered in 2018 for the head coaching position at Lehigh.  You have to think he would a strong candidate again this time around.  His knowledge of PA recruiting would certainly be a huge factor.

Analysis:  It feels like Clements has been here before - that's because he has.  Everything that's been said about him still applies - he coaches defensive minded teams that win.  Eventually he's going to get a Division I head coaching job - it's just a matter of time.  Is this the time?

Billy Cosh

Current Position: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks coach, Richmond (2021-present)

Resume: He's still working in the FCS Playoffs right now coaching QB Reece Udinski, the phenom QB he also coached when he was employed at the same position at VMI.  He deserves a huge heap of credit for discovering Reece Udinski, and recruiting him to VMI which as any Division I head coach will tell you is not an easy sell.   He's also got coaching in his blood:he is the son of long-time collegiate coach Chris Cosh, who has been a defensive coordinator for eight FBS schools and also served as the Spiders’ defensive coordinator in 2016.

Area Connection: He doesn't have any true ties to the Valley. However, his recruiting of Pennsylvania, notably local product WR Jakob Herres, really bears notice.

How he fits: I am impressed with this young coach in a big way - not only how he recruited Udinski when few others did, and how he developed him into one of the best QBs in FCS. His offense, which depends on Udinski's precision, resembles "Air Lehigh" a lot more than people realize.

Analysis: Cosh's rise has been fast (he's only 30 years old).  He's grown up around football and understands how it works.  He understands some of the intricacies about recruiting at a high-academic place like Lehigh.  I have no doubt he'd adapt fast at Lehigh and do well here.

Drew Folmar

Current Position:  Associate Head Football Coach (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks), Elon (2017-present)

Resume: Drew coached three years at Lehigh as offensive coordinator/QB coach and had great success here.  Folmar's Lehigh offense run by QB Nick Shafnisky put up 483.8 yards per game, ranking sixth nationally in total offense in 2016. Lehigh averaged 38.8 points per game to rate ninth nationally.  At Elon, he has developed several great QBs, notably QB Davis Cheek.

Area Connection:  The first of our candidates who are part of the Lehigh "coaching tree", his offenses  ranked in the top 10 in passing efficiency (fifth), passing offense (sixth) and third down conversion percentage (sixth).

How he fits: His success at recruiting and developing QBs is exciting, and he knows Lehigh, The Rivalry, and everything around South Mountain.

Analysis: Folmar returning to South Mountain unquestionably would be a jolt of excitement to the program, and instantly bring back some positive vibes from the "Shafnisky-tossing-aside-the-Lafayette-DB" years of the program.  But does he want to return to Bethlehem?  

Jeff Gallo  

Current Position: Offensive Coordinator/TE Coach, Monmouth (2019-present)

Resume: A former all-conference player for the Hawks and veteran of the Monmouth coaching staff, Jeff Gallo has been a member of Jeff Callahan's staff for the last eighteen years.  His offenses have been electric, leading to a pair of Big South titles, FCS Playoff appearances, and an invite to the CAA.  RB Jaden Shirden is the leading rusher in all of FCS, and it was under Gallo's offense.

Area Connection: Gallo is a resident of South Jersey, and a graduate of Cherokee High School, but no true Lehigh Valley "connections".  To me, however, South Jersey is a pretty "local tie".

How he fits: His resume in terms of offense speaks for itself - so many great Monmouth offensive players have been a part of his teams.

Analysis:  You could consider him an out-of-the-box hire, but should you?  He hasn't been a part of a Patriot League staff or had to deal with Patriot League rules, and he's not part of the Lehigh head coaching tree.  But he's undoubtedly an exciting offensive mind that would generate buzz, and you can point to his development of some great FCS offensive names. 

Kevin Higgins

Current Position: Associate Head Coach/Wide Receivers, Wake Forest (2013-present)

Resume: The head football coach at Lehigh under arguably the most dominant stretch of Lehigh football in history, 1998-2000.  During that stretch the Mountain Hawks went 32-1 during the regular season and made the playoffs three times, winning iconic games at both Richmond (1998) and Western Illinois (2000).  In 1998, Higgins' team was 1st and goal away from upsetting the eventual I-AA National Champions UMass.  Oh yeah, he's also been incredibly good at Wake Forest with fellow Lehigh coaching alums Warren Ruggerio and Dave Clawson, too!

Area Connection: Did you not just read he was the head football coach at Lehigh under arguably the most dominant stretch of Mountain Hawk football in history?

How he fits: He fits as a sort of Mack Brown type who can recruit at Lehigh (he's done it before!), and you don't need to make a powerpoint showing him what the Rivalry is.

Analysis: If he comes back to South Mountain, he'll be 67 years old.  But he would be a great guy to build the program back again in intangible ways.  And if any guy could assemble a great staff, it's Higgins.


Pete Lembo

Current Position:  Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator, South Carolina (2021-present)

Resume: A nominee for this year's Broyles award (given to FBS Assistant Coach of the Year), Lembo has built a great reputation at the FBS level in developing special teams units at Maryland, Rice, Memphis, and now South Carolina.  He also was head football coach at Elon and Ball State.

Area Connection: Kevin Higgins isn't the only former Lehigh head football coach in the mix for the Mountain Hawks' job.  Pete Lembo, of course, coached Lehigh from 2001-2005 and guided Lehigh to their first home victory in the FCS playoffs.  Lehigh's winning records in those five years: 11-1, 8-4, 8-3, 9-3, 8-3.

How he fits: Although the press box has flipped sides since Pete was last head coach, he knows where everything else is and he knows what he's getting into.  His expertise in special teams is a much, much bigger asset as a Patriot League head coach than many people realize.

Analysis:  Could a Pete Lembo homecoming be forthcoming?  I could see it. 

 

 

John Loose

Current Position: Assistant Head Coach/LB Coach, Army-West Point, 17 overall seasons

Resume: The vast majority of John Loose's career has been spent at two institutions: Army-West Point and Lafayette.  Everywhere he's been he's presided over tremendous defenses. 

Area Connection: Even while still at West Point, his ties to the Lehigh Valley have persisted.  Loose and his wife, Marianne, started Lauren’s First and Goal Foundation. The organization was founded in 2004 and raises money for pediatric brain tumor research. The Foundation has generated more than $2 million and blossomed into the largest one-day football clinic in the country, which takes place through Lafayette College and involves a nationwide network of head coaches and assistant coaches.

How he fits: Loose has embodied the positive spirit of Lafayette athletics for decades, and he's lived and breathed The Rivalry his whole adult life, even while still up at Army-West Point.

Analysis: It would admittedly be a shocking "good guy" turn for someone who has been very closely associated with Lafayette athletics (though it's happened before in the history of The Rivalry).  Getting someone of his caliber of high-academic recruiting and overall football knowledge would be a coup.  But he didn't end up moving down from West Point to pursue the Lafayette job opening last year.  Would he end up moving for the good guys instead? 

 


Shawn Lutz

Current Position: Head Coach, Slippery Rock, 2016-present

Resume: In the six seasons SRU has played since he was named head coach, Lutz has guided the program to four PSAC West titles, four trips to the NCAA Division II Playoffs and an overall record of 58-17, the best in the PSAC over that stretch.  Last year he guided the Rock to a 10-3 record, beating Bob Chesney's old team, Assumption, in the first round of the Division II Playoffs 17-14 despite a deeply depleted squad.

Area Connection: Slippery Rock is in Western PA, more Sheetz than Wawa.  But Western PA is a hotbed of Lehigh talent over the years.

How he fits: Aside from the success on the field - Lutz has spent 21 years at Slippery Rock, first as an assistant, then as a head coach - Slippery Rock has had two national finalists for the William Campbell Trophy (academic Heisman) under Lutz with Marcus Martin in 2017 and Henry Litwin in 2021.  No other PSAC school has had one finalist let alone two - that speaks volumes about Lutz' commitment to the academic side of the house, which is important at a place like Lehigh.

Analysis: Lutz' success at the D-II level - a former D-II head coach of the year - cannot be understated.  Would he want to trade Sheetz for Wawa?

Marco Pecora

Current Position:  Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator, St. Francis (PA), 2019-present

Resume: A member of the Red Flash coaching staff for eight years, five as defensive coordinator, Pecora seems destined to be a head football coach at some point, and the Red Flash's NEC championship this year (and FCS Playoff bid) might be a logical point to start.

Area Connection: His roots are more in Western PA from Richland High School and Pitt, but it is a hotbed of football talent that Lehigh has had success with in the past.

How he fits: A young up-and-coming coach that just needs the opportunity.  He's helped make the Red Flash one of the strongest programs in the NEC.  Before Chris Villarreal and he got there, they were one of the toughest places to recruit in all of FCS.

Analysis: At St. Francis (PA), in only his third year as offensive coordinator, the Red Flash leapt to become a Top 20 offense in FCS.  That alone should be a ringing endorsement as to what he could bring to the table at Lehigh.


Adam Scheier

Current Position: Special Teams Coordinator / Tight Ends Coach, Temple (2022-present)

Resume: Scheier is a long-time assistant coach who has climbed up the coaching ranks and spent time on a variety of different coaching staffs.  He really grew to prominence with his special teams units under Dave Clawson, and soon afterwards he found himself on the coaching staffs of Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Cliff Klingsbury at Texas Tech, and Greg Schiano at Rutgers.  Each step of the way improvements in special teams have followed.

Area Connection: Scheier was a former special teams coach for Lehigh for both Pete Lembo and Andy Coen.  He also did double duty on South Mountain, also coaching wide receivers and running backs at different times.

How he fits: He's a direct member of the Lehigh coaching tree with the added bonus of having been around in the world of power college football. 

Analysis: He's a Lehigh guy through and through, with a link to not just the Coen and Lembo eras but also to Kevin Higgins via Dave Clawson.  

 


Chris Smith

Current Position: Offensive Coordinator, Holy Cross (2022-present)

Resume: Smith, a former Holy Cross player, has leaped from strength to strength in his rise through the coaching ranks, first at New Haven and now at Holy Cross.  Smith came in Year One with head coach Bob Chesney and has arguably had a piece in every part of their success there - starting with the offensive line (4 years), the offense (this year in their 11-0 season), and recruiting (all six years).

Area Connection: None, though he's faced off against Lehigh a multitude of times as a player and a coach.  He played offensive line at Holy Cross at a time when Tom Gilmore was head coach.

How he fits: He knows the Patriot League, and knows how to recruit and win in this league, and he literally has the exact toolset needed here. 

Analysis: On paper, it feels like it's Smith's time to be a head coach somewhere, and he brings an absolute ton to the table.  So why not Lehigh?  But technically he would be outside the typical Lehigh coaching tree. 

Phil Stambaugh 

Current Position: Notre Dame-Green Pond High School Head Coach (2017-present)

Resume: He's a Lehigh Valley legend for a myriad of reasons - Pius X football star; Lehigh University star QB from 1997-2000; and hugely successful head football coach at Pius X, and later Notre Dame-Green Pond.

Area Connection: You literally could not pick someone more in tune with the area than Phil Stambaugh.  He was one of the "overlooked" FCS players of the area recruited by Kevin Higgins; you could bet there won't be any stone unturned in terms of local football talent. 

How he fits: Phil's reputation as a high school coach in the Lehigh Valley is top-notch.  He has a very loyal group of fans that would likely be very excited for him to get this opportunity - and this shouldn't be underestimated.  His involvement would really engage the local area in a way other hires wouldn't.

Analysis: Like Appling, the argument that a high school coach couldn't step in and coach at Lehigh doesn't hold too much water for me, as long as they can get the job done.  He's clearly done that at ND-GP.

Mike Willis

Current Position: Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/TE Coach, Princeton (2016-present)

Resume: Willis has had a meteoric coaching rise at Princeton.  A former Tiger offensive lineman, in the span of five seasons he went from the youngest position coach in the Ivy League to Assistant Head Coach and offensive coordinator.  Lehigh fans have seen up close and personal what Willis' offenses have been able to do over the years against the Mountain Hawks- 29-17. 32-0, and (shudder) 66-0. 

Area Connection: Princeton is by definition a "local tie", but also very encouraging is that he is one of Bob Surace's key recruiters in New Jersey, i.e. Princeton's (and Lafayette's and Lehigh's) backyard.  He's originally from Rutherford, New Jersey.

How he fits: You can't argue Willis' outstanding success at Princeton.  Not only would he bring his recruiting savvy, he may also bring some of Princeton's dynamic offensive style to Lehigh as well, revitalizing the offense.

Analysis: He's risen to every challenge given to him at Princeton, and it would be hugely exciting to see what he could bring to the table.  Is he willing to leave a lucrative spot at Princeton to do it, and would Lehigh be serious enough to make an offer for him to seriously think about it?

Comments

Brian Bartelle said…
Coach Higgins would make Lehigh great again! The man gets the most out of his players…
Unknown said…
Lots of great choices here. I guess I still feel that at the collegiate level it is still not about the Xs and the Os buy about the Jimmys and the Joes.So guys like Phil and Bryant that are so close to todays generation of prospects might have a distinct edge there. Now I was a Lehigh faculty member during the Fred Dunlap years. I was pretty sure that Fred was not the best tactical football coach, but his sincerity, his authenticity, his humbleness, maybe even his vulnerability made him a great recruiter, and someone the Jimmys and the Joes and the Charlues and the Kims .... would go all out for.
Anonymous said…
We don't need any retreads, high school Harrys, or ex-Lehigh players. And keep Sterrett out of the decision-making since he created this mess.
Anonymous said…
Retreads? Kevin Higgins and Pete Lembo are two of the best coaches in the country!!
We would be luck to have them!
Anonymous said…
Shawn Lutz. Slippery Rock Head Coach. Saw someone tweet at you earlier saying it and believe his resume and coaching style fits
Anonymous said…
I played for Coach Higgins with Stambaugh and Appling. Pretty sure Bartelle gave me my nickname. I doubt Higgins (or Lembo) would be interested at all in returning to FCS level having risen to right hand man of the HC's at their respective ACC & SEC schools. I'd be happy and excited for Phil or App if they were to get the nod but the only reason I found this blog is because I've got a candidate I've known my whole life that's not on your list I'd like all to consider. I personally think he may be the right man at the right time. Check out
Rod Milstead.
Anonymous said…
To the last commenter,
I am sure Coach Milstead is a great person and inspiring person. But haven't we had enough with HC candidates coming in with really poor coaching records? I don't see anything on the Milstead resume that would warrant any interest. No real connections to Lehigh except through his former LU player/friend. Agree that Lembo and Higgins see Lehigh in their rear view window and would be unlikely to take a step down for nothing but headaches in rebuilding from the ground up. Life is not bad at the Asst. level of FBS.
Anonymous said…
There is no choice other than to hire a younger current head, or associate head, coach - most likely at a D-II or D-III school with - with a strong winning record and, better yet if possible, evidence of having turned around his existing football program via recruiting. In other words, a winner who is looking to move up the coaching ladder to a D-I (FCS) program on his way to a Power 5 conference. I do not know who this is but Holy Cross found such a candidate four years ago (and we found Coach Gilmore). All of this stuff about "local ties" and the "Lehigh chanching tree" is nonsense. If we can find a strong, tireless and ambitious young coach, the rest will take care of itself.
Anonymous said…
Clements should have been the choice last time! Better grab him while you can!
Anonymous said…
Agreed. Local ties or even ties to the program are the least important qualification when you need to rebuild and establish a new system and culture. Don't want someone who's only going to use us as a stepping stone to the next level as soon as possible either. The Lutz guy from Slippery Rock sounds solid. Need someone with HC and program building experience willing and able to recruit outside the usual parameters and attract the best 2 or even 3 stars from all over the country.
Anonymous said…
Carlin! Go get him!
Anonymous said…
Money, money, and money is the problem with Lehigh Football and all sports at Lehigh. The leadership of the university have no clue how integral men's and women's sports are to the school. They would rather build buildings and boast about their falling national academic rankings than pay for quality coaching for their student athletes. A long time ago I loved the institution and planned to will the university a tidy sum, but no longer. I moved south so I wouldn't be tempted to follow Lehigh sports very closely. The school and many of the people responsible for its future make me sick with their false piety and political correctness. Spend the money on people who mold the lives of the kids.
Anonymous said…
Clements should be the guy for the job! Hope the committee doesn’t make the mistake again of focusing their attention on the name of the school that is attached to the candidates resume. Should be focusing on the coach’s winning percentage as a HEAD COACH!
Anonymous said…
Clements is your Coach!!! He wins has connections in the whole tri state area!!! Don’t make the same mistake 4 years later.
John Hardy said…
Such a great match. I this one. Everyone was so excited for this match. Keep it up. I will share more good updates. Now it's time to avail Roofing Services in Wayne for more information.
Ben said…
I love this team. Selection is the best ever. I think this team archive more goals for us. These 15 players are the best. Best wishes for them. Now its time to avail party bus dc for more information.
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Anonymous said…
Clements need to be the one applying! I hope the committee avoids making the same error once more by concentrating only on the candidate's resume's school name. As a HEAD COACH, you should be paying attention to the coach's winning %!
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