#44 Lehigh FCS Football 2013 Preview

George Hammond

Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Overall Rank: #44
#2 Patriot

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The Mountain Hawks finished 10-1 last year yet the season concluded with disappointment when Lehigh failed to receive an at-large berth to the playoffs. Its only loss came to Patriot League champion Colgate. Despite the 10 victories, Lehigh was the only school from an autobid conference with 10 or more Division I victories to be snubbed since the playoffs expanded. The decision ended the career of 19 seniors, including quarterback Michael Colvin and All-American receiver Ryan Spadola. Lehigh went 4-7 in 2009, and then these seniors went 31-6 the next three seasons.

2012 Record: (10-1, 4-1)
2012 Postseason: None
Coach: Andy Coen (51-30 at Lehigh)
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Cecchini
Co-Defensive Coordinators: Donnie Roberts and Gerard Wilcher

Returning leaders:
Rushing: Keith Sherman, RB, 256 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Lee Kurfis, WR, 778 yards
Tackles: Nigel Muhammad, LB, 76
Sacks: Nigel Muhammad, LB, 5.5
Interceptions: Rickie Hall, DB, 2; John Mahoney, LB, 2

Other Key Returnees: QB Brandon Bialkowski, QB Matt McHale, RB Rich Sodeke,  WR Sergio Fernandez-Soto, DB Tyler Ward, DB Russhon Phillips, LB Cody Raup, LB DJ Bourgeois, WR Derek Gaul, OL Kyle Moore, OL Matt Douglas, OL Ned Daryoush, TE Tyler Coyle, P Tim Divers.

Key Losses: WR Ryan Spadola, QB Michael Colvin, LB Billy Boyko, RB Zach Barket, LB Sam Loughery, DE Tom Bianchi, OL Mike Vuono, DT Sajjad Chagani, CB Gabe Johnson, S Billy O’Brien.

The Mountain Hawks’ rich tradition is a strength. And even though they lost a ton of talent, they have suitable replacements. Start at running back, where Lehigh loses leading rusher Zach Barket, but it returns three tailbacks and two fullbacks who have seen action. Keith Sherman returns, but keep an eye on sophomores DJ Kee and Dan Brown. Linebacker also should be a strength as senior Nigel Muhammad, a Patriot League selection in 2012, is back. Meanwhile, senior Tim Divers enters his third season as Lehigh’s punter. He averaged 39 yards a punt last year.

Start with the loss of Ryan Spadola, Billy Boyko and Michael Colvin. Spadola finished his Lehigh career as the second-leading receiver in school history (232 receptions), Boyko was first-team All-Patriot League at linebacker and in his one season as quarterback, Colvin ranked fifth nationally in total offense (3,587 yards). That’s a lot of firepower. Lehigh’s defensive line is a concern, too, where the Mountain Hawks will have to replace all three starters.

The Bottom Line:
If senior Brandon Balkowski, a lefty, is named the starter, he will have had three years’ experience in Lehigh’s system. Lehigh’s success could come down to how well the quarterback plays. Plus, the linebackers must key the defense until the line and secondary matures. There are questions with this team, but the talent is there to have a successful season – maybe not 10-1 though. A murderer’s row slate in the final three games of Holy Cross, at Colgate and Lafayette will be difficult.

Projected Postseason: None

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 128.27 (84th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 283.09 (17, 1)
Total Offense: 411.36 (34, 3)
Scoring Offense: 30.27 (32, 3)
Rushing Defense: 148.27 (49, 3)
Pass Defense: 206.00 (46, 1)
Total Defense: 354.27 (46, 2)
Scoring Defense: 21.82 (34, 1)
Turnover Margin: -0.82 (106, 7)
Sacks: 3.09 (6, 1)
Sacks Allowed: .64 (5, 1)


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