|Title:||Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs Coach|
Former Lehigh tight end R.J. Ryan enters his fourth season in his second stint on the Lehigh coaching staff. Ryan returned to Lehigh following a stint as the Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line and Tight Ends Coach at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He oversees Lehigh’s special teams and coaches the running backs.
In 2011, Ryan oversaw the emergence of running back Zach Barket. Under Ryan’s tutelage, Barket rushed for a career-high 706 yards and four touchdowns in route to a first team All-Patriot League selection. Ryan’s coaching was also crucial in the continued development of Keith Sherman, who also registered a career-high in rushing yards (340). Ryan’s running back committee played a huge role in Lehigh’s 129 rush yards per game. Ryan’s special teams units enjoyed another solid year. Jason Suggs finished fifth in the Patriot League in kick return average while Jake Drwal led the league in punt return yards.
During the 2010 season Ryan mentored three players into All-Patriot League honors with Jay Campbell earning first team honors at running back, John Kennedy as the return specialist, and Alex Smith taking home second team honors at the punter position. Lehigh ranked first in the league in punting with an average of 35.1 net yards per punt. Ryan guided a special teams unit which ranked in the top half of the league in kickoff returns and kickoff coverage, while Kennedy ranked fifth nationally in kickoff returns. His special teams unit also engineered the third-quarter blocked punt touchdown that propelled Lehigh to its third straight win over rival Lafayette.
In 2009, Ryan’s special teams unit led the Patriot League in kick-off returns (23.8 per return) and kick-off coverage (40.7 per return) and ranked second in punt return average at 8.4. John Kennedy led the entire league in kick return average at 25.0 yards and his classmate Jarard Cribbs paced the P.L. in punt return average (8.2). Kennedy went onto earn All-Patriot League laurels for his efforts.
Ryan also oversaw the maturation of Jay Campbell, who developed into a Second Team All-Patriot League pick. Campbell rushed for a team-leading 659 yards last season and eclipsed the 100-yard mark on three occasions. Ryan’s starting fullback Anthony Fossati was also an All-Patriot League pick. One of the more bruising blockers and adept pass catchers out of the backfield in the league Fossati earned a spot on the First-Team.
During his two-year stint at F&M, Ryan was responsible for all aspects of the offense, including game planning, scripting practice and play calling duties. He helped the Diplomats establish the school record for completions in a season during the 2007 campaign, while seven single-game records were either tied or broken by individual players during his time in Lancaster, including net rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, points scored, touchdowns scored, pass attempts, pass completions and touchdown receptions.
Prior to his time at Franklin & Marshall, Ryan enjoyed a three-year run as an assistant coach at Lehigh where he helped lead the Mountain Hawks to a share of two Patriot League Championships (2004, 2006) as well as an appearance in the 2004 NCAA I-AA Playoffs and a final national ranking of 15 following the 2004 season.
Ryan coached the tight ends and running backs while on South Mountain and had an assortment of other duties, including film breakdown, offensive scouting reports, defensive scout team, head coach of the Junior Varsity program, assistant offensive line coach and assistant recruiting coordinator.
After a three-year career in banking, Ryan began his coaching career at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts where he served as the running backs coach and video coordinator. While there his responsibilities included player evaluations and assisting the offensive coordinator with game planning.
Ryan has extensive recruiting experience as well having recruited the entire Northeast during his coaching career.
During his playing days in the Brown and White Ryan was a two-year starter at tight end. He was a member of the 1998 squad that won a school record 12 games and was ranked as high as seventh in the nation. Ryan was also the inaugural winner of the Barry Fetterman Award, for his dedication and determination to the program.
Ryan and his wife Amy were married in the summer of 2012.