Posted: 08/07/2012 | Last updated: August 8, 2012 at 01:54 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Fresh off back-to-back Patriot League titles, the Lehigh football team returned to work with the beginning of preseason camp. The Mountain Hawks reported to campus on Monday for physicals and meetings and held their first workout of camp Tuesday under the lights on Frank Banko Field. Lehigh will have almost four full weeks of practice leading into its September 1 season opener against Monmouth at Goodman Stadium.
Head coach Andy Coen begins his seventh season at the helm of the Mountain Hawks’ program. Coen liked what he saw from Lehigh’s first official practice of 2012.
“I thought we had a really good go today,” Coen said. We did very well in our conditioning test that started the practice and that always pushes the guys. They responded well. There were some mistakes, which will happen with 27 new faces out there but some of those guys showed some good things. Overall I’m pleased with the first day.”
Last season Lehigh captured its second straight Patriot League title and league-leading tenth championship overall. The Mountain Hawks followed up a 10-3 2010 campaign with an 11-2 season that featured a ten game winning streak. Lehigh won its second playoff game in as many years, downing Towson 40-38 in a second round contest in Maryland, and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. The Mountain Hawks finished the year ranked fifth and sixth in the two major polls, and captured their eighth Lambert Cup, awarded to the top Eastern team in the FCS, and their first in ten years.
With every new season, Coen allows his seniors to come up with a theme for the year. This year, the theme is “REAL.”
“It stands for Relentless Effort Achieves Legacy,” Coen explained. “It’s fitting. We’ve talked about the great tradition of Lehigh football and each senior class has the ability to leave their mark on the program. It’s pretty creative and the players have ownership of it.”
Coen then addressed some of the goals for his team in the early part of preseason camp.
“A lot of guys stepped up and did a nice job in spring football but there are some juniors and sophomores who I want to see elevate their play,” he said. “We see the freshmen on their recruiting visits and then we don’t see them again until they get here. It’s a good freshman class, I can tell that already. I saw a lot of good things from those guys tonight. We need this early portion to evaluate everybody we have.”
With the loss of Walter Payton Award runner-up Chris Lum to graduation, the Mountain Hawks will have a new starting quarterback. Coen saw good things from all four signal-callers in Tuesday’s opening practice: senior Mike Colvin, junior Brandon Bialkowski and sophomores Gerard Poutier and Matt McHale.
“I was really impressed by Mike, I thought he had a great night,” Coen said. He threw the ball well and made good decisions. The other three guys got reps as well. Brandon did some good things. He needed to get his feet wet a little bit. We’re not in a hurry to anoint a starter. I want there to be some competition, but Mike had a good night.”
In terms of other areas to watch, Coen would like to see depth develop at wide receiver, on the defensive front seven and on the offensive line.
“Sergio (Fernandez-Soto) looked good,” Coen stated. (Lee) Kurfis looked okay. We need to develop depth there. The hope is that Lee can pick up some of the slack from Jake Drwal. That’s one area. Getting some depth on the defensive front is also important. The first group is going to be very good; we just need some guys to step up. We saw some good signs, just how guys were moving around. Rickey Layton looked good. It was good to get Billy Boyko back on the football field, he looked really good. The O-Line seems to change around a lot during camp but getting depth and solidifying depth is real important.”
In accordance with NCAA rules, Tuesday’s workout was conducted without pads, just helmets for the Brown and White. Over the next few days Lehigh will progress to uppers (helmets and shoulder pads only) before donning full pads for the first time on Saturday morning. Coen is committed to teaching and playing physical football in the early part of preseason camp.
“We’re going to get after it really good here,” Coen said. “We’re going to scrimmage at our 13th practice. Up until that point and through that point we’re going to get after it really hard and figure out the depth on this football team. We want to see the guys that are ready to play. It’s important to have a physical camp. That’s what the kids expect. It really helped our run game and our run defense last year, so we’re going to continue to do that and reassess where we are around the middle of camp. “
Lehigh’s preseason camp will run through Sunday, August 26 with the annual Alumni Steak Fry taking place that afternoon.
The Mountain Hawks will open the 2012 season on Saturday September 1 when they host the Monmouth Hawks at Goodman Stadium. Kickoff is set for just after 12:30 p.m. Tickets to the Monmouth game and all Lehigh home football games can be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME or by visiting Lehighsports.com.