Posted: August 7, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – With less than one month until the season opener, Lehigh will open preseason camp this weekend with its sights set on September 6 when the Mountain Hawks take on Drake University. The freshmen reported to campus on Thursday morning, while the upperclassmen arrived in the afternoon and soon afterwards the entire team was together going through physicals, equipment distribution, an administrative meeting and positional meetings. Head coach Andy Coen is entering his third season on South Mountain and is anxious to get to work. “It’s a great time of year and very exciting to begin another football season,” Coen explained. “We’re looking forward to getting all of the guys on campus and working hard to erase the memory of what was a tough season last year.”
After a frustrating season in 2007 that saw a large number of Mountain Hawks hit with injuries, Coen said part of the focus heading into the 2008 camp is to keep his players healthy. “We spent a lot of time with our strength and conditioning staff and our medical staff throughout the off season and looked at ways to not only prevent injury, but also to speed up recovery time.” He continued, “We’re going to do a few things different this year as compared to last with hopes of keeping everyone on the field.”
Due to the number of injuries last season, Coen was forced to play a large number of freshmen in key spots. Many of those first year student-athletes more than held their own, giving Coen reason to believe a few freshmen will make their way onto the field in 2008. “You need to keep an open mind on who is going to play for you and that includes freshmen. Everyone is certainly going to be given an equal opportunity to earn playing time throughout camp and once we get into our season.”
One of the biggest injuries to hit Lehigh last year was running back Matt McGowan, who got hurt early in camp and appeared in only three games. “Having Matt back as well as a seasoned Jaren Walker is a big-plus and will allow us to do some different things on offense. Matt was someone we were counting on last year and it really hurt to not have him.”
Coen then discussed the current state of Lehigh’s offensive and defensive lines. “I feel very good about our starting defensive line and the depth that we’ve developed there. Every one of those guys who is back saw plenty of time last season.” He continued, “The offensive line is still a work in progress, but with Kevin Bayani, Chris Tiefenthal, Frank Giacalone and Will Rackley returning we have a strong nucleus. This is the biggest offensive line we’ve had since I’ve been here, but we’re still young and we need to answer a few questions as we move through camp.”
A major question mark throughout spring practice was how Lehigh would replace its entire crop of corner backs from 2007. But Coen said he’s pleased with the progress shown by that group. “I’m comfortable with where we’re at right now with them. Throughout the spring, John Kennedy, Jarard Cribbs, Casey Eldemire and Femi Ajewole worked extremely hard to improve themselves and they showed a lot of growth.” He added, “I’m very comfortable with our safeties, Brendan Van Ackeren and Quadir Carter, and know they’ll do a great job mentoring those younger guys.”
Now in year three as head coach Coen said not much will change with his approach to camp. “The big thing is the injury prevention. Last year I thought the kids gave great effort, but it was tough some days with the injuries we had. The way our camp schedule lays out, it will allow for us to take some time off and let the kids recover.”
The team will hit the practice fields for the first time on Friday afternoon followed by split squad practices on Saturday and Sunday. The Mountain Hawks first double practice sessions will take place on Thursday, August 14, while the team will finish up camp on Sunday, August 24, one day before the fall semester begins.
Lehigh begins its 2008 season on Saturday, September 6 when the Mountain Hawks play host to the Drake Bulldogs in the first-ever meeting between the schools. Kick-off is set for 12:30 from Goodman Stadium and tickets can be purchased in one of three ways: by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by visiting the Lehigh Athletics Ticket Office located in Grace Hall between the hours of 10 and 4, or by logging onto Lehighsports.com.