#13 Lehigh FCS Football 2012 Preview

Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Overall Rank: #13
#1 Patriot League
Lehigh FCS College Football 2012 Team Preview
Lehigh Team Page


Lehigh has built some high expectations following a superb 11-2 season. Their losses came in week two in overtime to playoff bound New Hampshire and in the quarterfinals of the playoffs to eventual national champions North Dakota State. In the second round of the playoffs, the Mountain Hawks had a thrilling 40-38 victory over Towson. This group may not have the pure talent of last year’s team, but there is nobody in the Patriot League that can catch them.

2011 Record: (11-2, 5-0)
2011 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Andy Coen (42-29 at Lehigh, 42-29 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Cecchini
Defensive Coordinator: Donnie Roberts and Gerard Wilcher

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zach Barket, RB, 706 yards
Passing: Mike Colvin, QB, 27 yards
Receiving: Ryan Spadola, WR, 1,614 yards
Tackles: Billy O’Brien, S, 54
Sacks: Tom Bianchi, DT, 3.5
Interceptions: Bryan Andrews, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: LB Billy Boyko, DL Sajjad Chagani, TE Jamel Haggins, FB Zach Hayden, CB Gabe Johnson, G Matt Lippincott, OT Mike Vuono

Key Losses: WR Jake Drwal, DE Ben Flizack, LB Mike Groome, OL Jim Liebler, S John Littlejohn, QB Chris Lum, OL Troy McKenna, LB Fred Mihal, LB Colin Newton, OL Keith Schauder

The Mountain Hawks defense clamped down against the Patriot League competition, but was susceptible against stiffer foes. They return enough talent to be even better this time around, but the defensive line has some holes to fill. Nose guard Sajjad Chagani is a tough player in the middle and Tom Bianchi has plenty of experience, and tallied the game winning sack against Towson. But the line as a whole is less experienced and will need some youngsters to step up and fill the void. While the line retools, the linebackers will try and pick up the slack. Billy Boyko should emerge as a top tackler during his senior season. The inside linebacker stepped into a starting position in the middle of the 2012 campaign and will need to be a leader to help replace Mike Groome and Colin Newton. With fellow seniors Jerard Gordon and Sam Loughery, who missed most of last year with an injury, the linebackers should have plenty of leadership. There are a handful of other linebackers, including Bryant transfer John Mahoney, who are also capable of stepping up and playing a much bigger role in 2012. Last year it was the pass defense that was horribly inexperienced, yet they had a pretty good season. This year, they are the experienced unit on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Bryan Andrews is a great cover corner who picked off four passes a year ago. Gabe Johnson is a tough player opposite of Andrews and the opposing offense will have trouble throwing the ball either direction. Safety Billy O’Brien will help out the secondary and the rush defense. He gained valuable experience as a starter in 2011 and will be a great asset to the defense.

Quarterback Chris Lum threw for 4,378 yards and 32 touchdowns during his senior campaign. Replacing those numbers will not be simple. Michael Colvin is an experienced senior, but is a very different player than Lum. To say Colvin will not be as effective in the passing game would be a vast understatement, but Colvin can be very dangerous with his legs. The passing game will have plenty of potential with Ryan Spadola in the receiving corps. Spadola shattered school records by catching 96 passes for 1,614 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Without Lum, Spadola may have a disappointing year on paper, but the opposing defenses will have to key in on him and that will open up space for shorter passes to a large group of receivers who are ready to step up and the strong running game. And it is in that running game where Lehigh will look for consistency. Lum and the passing game took all the accolades, but running backs Zach Barket and Keith Sherman performed very well when given the opportunity. Barket was having a great season before suffering a season ending injury late in the campaign. Sherman picked up the slack and those two will be asked to do a lot more work for the offense in 2012.

The Bottom Line:
Lehigh does have a lot of rebuilding to do on both sides of the ball, but this is a program that has built up its depth very well during Coach Andy Coen’s tenure. They will be younger and less experienced in general compared to the magical season of 2011, but it would be unwise to look past Lehigh. The non-conference schedule lacks an opponent like New Hampshire, but Lehigh will take a trip to Liberty, a team they narrowly defeated at home. That and a trip to Georgetown might be the only real test this team faces until, presumably, the playoffs. And by then this group of slightly inexperienced players will not be inexperienced at all.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 129.00 (80th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 340.62 (5, 1)
Total Offense: 469.62 (3, 1)
Scoring Offense: 32.46 (20, 1)
Rushing Defense: 102.77 (12, 3)
Pass Defense: 212.92 (74, 5)
Total Defense: 315.69 (19, 2)
Scoring Defense: 20.15 (22, 4)
Turnover Margin: .46 (35, 3)
Sacks: 2.77 (16, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (27, 2)