|Title:||Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach|
Donnie Roberts is in his eighth season as the Mountain Hawks defensive line coach and his second as the Mountain Hawks’ co-defensive coordinator. Roberts, who returned to Lehigh in 2006 for his second stint, previously served on the Lehigh staff from 1994-1999, with then-assistant coach Andy Coen. During his time at Lehigh, Roberts has coached 12 All-Patriot League selections, and three All-Americans.
In 2012 Lehigh led the Patriot League in scoring defense, while once again leading the league and ranking sixth nationally in sacks. Seniors Tom Bianchi and Sajjad Chagani both garnered first team All-Patriot League honors after combining for 19 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. Along with strong contributions from senior Anthony Verderame and sophomore Tim Newton, Lehigh’s defensive line accounted for 19 of 34 sacks on the season.
All three of Lehigh’s starting defensive linemen earned All-Patriot League honors in 2011, with Ben Flizack garnering first team honors and Andrew Knapp and Chagani earning spots on the second team. Roberts’ defensive line was vital in Lehigh ranking in the top 20 nationally in rushing defense and total defense.
Roberts’ defensive line played an integral role in Lehigh’s Patriot League Championship season in 2010. Led by second team All-Patriot League tackles Ben Flizack and Andrew Knapp, Lehigh led the Patriot League and ranked in the top-15 nationally in sacks, with the defensive line rotation contributing 14.5 sacks and 32.5 tackles-for-loss. The Mountain Hawks ranked second in the Patriot League in rushing, passing and total defense. In Lehigh’s NCAA Playoff win at UNI, the Mountain Hawks defense registered four sacks and three takeaways, while limiting the Panthers’ high-powered rushing attack well below its season average.
During the 2009 season Roberts was instrumental in the Lehigh defense leading the nation in sacks with 39 and ranking 12th in the country in tackles-for-loss with 83. Lehigh’s defense led the Patriot League in pass defense and red zone defense, and ranked second in scoring defense and total defense. The Mountain Hawks defense also shut out Georgetown 27-0, marking the first time in over two decades that the Brown and White shut an opponent out in three consecutive seasons. From an individual standpoint BJ Benning ’10 was named to the All-Patriot League First Team was named an ECAC All-Star. Benning finished the 2009 season ranked second in the league in sacks with 7.5 and eighth in the P.L. with 9.0 tackles-for-loss.
Two members of Roberts’ 2008 “D” line earned All-Patriot League honors, including Brian Jackson ‘09 and B.J. Benning, who combined to help the Mountain Hawks lead the Patriot League in sacks and rank second in scoring defense and rush defense. Benning totaled 6.0 sacks during the season, which was second best in the entire league, while Jackson, who was named an All-American for the second straight season, closed his career out in style, registering a career-best 3.5 sacks in Lehigh’s victory over archrival Lafayette. Paul Bode ’09, Jon Warren ’09 and Keith Johnson ’09 also enjoyed solid final seasons in the Brown and White along the defensive line under Roberts’ tutelage.
In 2007, Roberts mentored a Lehigh defensive line that combined for nearly 200 total tackles, including 19.5 for loss, and 6.5 sacks. A pair of those linemen, Brian Jackson and Kyle Adams, earned spots on the All-Patriot League squad, and later went onto earn All-America distinction, with Jackson being named a Second-Team pick. Roberts also oversaw the maturation of returning lettermen Paul Bode, BJ Benning and Phil Winnett.
During the 2006 season, Roberts mentored First-Team All-Patriot League selections Paul Fabre, Eric Rakus and Royce Morgan. That trio accounted for 121 total tackles, including 20 for loss, and 6.5 sacks. The Mountain Hawks defensive line helped contribute to a defense that led the Patriot League in fewest points allowed (20.2 ppg), and ranked second in total defense.
Prior to his return to Lehigh, Roberts taught Social Studies and served as head football coach and assistant athletics director at Allentown Central Catholic. At ACCHS, Roberts’ 2003 squad was named District XI 3A champions, while his 2005 team finished with a 9-3 record and won the Eastern Conference 3A championship.
Roberts began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh. He also coached at Lock Haven University before joining the Lehigh staff in 1994. During his first stint at Lehigh, Roberts was a part of two Patriot League championship teams, including 1995 and 1998. In addition, he coached First Team All-American, Nick Martucci ’99, during the 1998 season. Roberts then moved on to the University of Connecticut as an assistant before returning to the Lehigh Valley in 2001.
A three year letter winner and two year starter on the offensive line, Roberts earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Kutztown in 1986.
Roberts and his wife Jane reside in Whitehall with their children Nathan Patrick (19) and Dana Noelle (13).