#9 Lehigh FCS Football 2017 Preview


Lehigh Mountain Hawks


Overall Rank: #9

#1 Patriot

Lehigh lost their first two games of the season against Monmouth and Villanova. And after that the Mountain Hawks reeled off nine straight wins and earned the Patriot League’s automatic bid to the playoffs. And it was fortunate that they did since the conference failed to get an at-large bid. Lehigh made the playoffs, but it was a forgettable trip. They lost 64-21 to New Hampshire in the first round.
2016 Record: 9-3, 6-0
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Andy Coen (77-49 at Lehigh, 77-49 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Scott Brisson
Defensive Coordinator: Craig Sutyak
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Dominick Bragalone, RB, 1,171 yards
Passing: Brad Mayes, QB, 1,386 yards
Receiving: Troy Pelletier, WR, 1,278 yards
Tackles: Tyler Cavenas, DL, 55
Sacks: Tyler Cavenas, DL, 5.0
Interceptions: Sam McCloskey, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Gatlin Casey, OL Zach Duffy, OL Tim O’Hara, OL Brandon Short, DL Harrison Johnson, K/P Ed Mish
Key Losses: QB Nick Shafnisky, WR Derek Knott, LB Evan Harvey, LB Colton Caslow, LB Pierce Ripanti, DB Brandon Leaks, DB LaQuan Lambert
One the nation’s most potent offenses could be even better in 2017. Dominick Bragalone will lead the ground game after rushing for 1,171 yards and 14 scores as a sophomore. With one of the best offense lines in the FCS, led by Zach Duffy, Timothy O’Hara and Brandon Short, Bragalone will have another great season. However, the ground game will take a step back without Nick Shafnisky. The quarterback ran for 302 yards and 11 touchdowns and threw for 2,489 yards and 20 scores. Brad Mayes started three games under center last season and two back in 2015. Last year he threw for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns, with just three interceptions. He may not be a dangerous rusher like Shafnisky, but he is an efficient passer and can keep the Mountain Hawks as the Patriot League’s most potent passing offense. Wide receivers Troy Pelletier and Gatlin Casey both eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving plateau last season. Pelletier caught 96 passes, while Gatlin is the team’s top big play threat.
The defense was not particularly good last season, especially against the run. However, they did enough to put the offense in a position to win games. Lehigh does have a lot of holes to fill, but they are talented in the trenches. Tyler Cavenas tallied 50 sacks and 55 tackles last season and Jimmy Mitchell and Harrison Johnson are experienced as well. There are much bigger concerns in the back. There is not much experience outside of safety Sam McCloskey. He will have to turn into a leader on the field while Coach Andy Coen finds some new faces to fill in around him.
The Bottom Line:
Lehigh will once again open their season against Villanova and Monmouth. The season opener against the Wildcats will be a great test for a Lehigh team that has playoff aspirations. As usual, the big conference games will be against Colgate and Fordham. This year Lehigh has to play both on the road. That gives hope for both Colgate and Fordham to unseat the Mountain Hawks from their perch atop the conference standings. However, Lehigh has the offensive firepower to beat both of those teams away from home and head into the playoffs with a ton of momentum.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 158.9 (54th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 324.9 (6, 1)
Total Offense: 483.8 (6, 2)
Scoring Offense: 38.8 (9, 2)
Rushing Defense: 205.8 (100, 6)
Pass Defense: 212.2 (51, 3)
Total Defense: 418.0 (89, 6)
Scoring Defense: 26.9 (54, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.75 (16, 2)
Sacks: 2.25 (40, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (63, 2)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#74 Evan Chadbourn