Posted: August 3, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh football team will begin preparations for the 2009 season on Thursday as the Mountain Hawks open preseason camp. Lehigh will have just over four weeks of practice time before the season opener on September 5 and head coach Andy Coen is looking forward to getting back to work in this his fourth season at the helm. “We’re very excited for the beginning of another camp. The coaching staff is particularly excited for this camp because the entire team has gone through the recruiting process with our staff and they understand what we are trying to accomplish.”
Coen continued, “We’re looking to begin camp with the same energy level that we displayed throughout the spring segment and into the offseason. We had a good number of players remain on campus during the summer months working hard and holding one another accountable and so we’re ready to get going.”
Like last season Coen said a major focus throughout camp will be keeping his players healthy for the grueling season ahead. “We’ll have a similar structure to last year during this camp,” Coen explained. “We don’t want our guys on the field for too long, so we’ll go hard for shorter amounts of time. We’ll sprinkle in a few days off here and there to try and give their legs a rest, too.”
As always a major point of emphasis throughout the preseason for Lehigh will be developing depth along the offensive and defensive lines. “We should have some flexibility along the D-line,” Coen commented. “Having Phil Winnett back is very big and even though we lost four key players to graduation there are a number of younger guys who saw time last season and into the spring which should make that a strong unit.”
Coen then commented on the state of the offensive line. “The biggest thing with that group is the number of bodies we have at the position. That will create tremendous competition during camp. I liked what some of the younger guys did during the spring and now we need them to build on that.”
After losing the tough-nosed running of Matt McGowan to graduation, Lehigh’s backfield has an important few weeks in front of it. Leading the charge for the Mountain Hawks running backs is junior Jaren Walker, who missed nearly the entire 2008 campaign due to injury. “Jaren coming back is very important – and it will be great to have him out there because of how competitive he is,” Coen explained. “Jay Campbell had a solid spring for us and we’re expecting a good camp from him, while Matt Fitz has shown flashes and is very versatile with his ability to catch the ball.”
He continued, “Our two freshmen Zach Barket and Tony Kablan have a great opportunity in front of them; the running backs always see a lot of action and get a high number of reps during camp so each one of those guys will have a chance to show what he’s capable of.”
Along with the running back position, Coen said the wide receiver spot will also feature lots of competition after Lehigh lost its top three pass catchers to graduation. “We have a nice mix of veteran and younger guys at that spot and we’re excited about the freshmen as well. This is another position that will get lots of reps during camp and give the kids a chance to show their abilities.”
One area that Coen can sleep easy over is the quarterback position where junior JB Clark won the starting nod last season and went onto throw for over 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns. “JB should be getting better every day we’re out there,” Coen said. “Along with JB we have good depth at that position with Chris Lum and Trace Cisneros and so I expect those three to push one another and create lots of competition. It’s a much different situation than last year.”
Coen was then asked what he’s looking for out of the newest Mountain Hawks, the freshmen class who will be going through their first preseason camp. “The biggest thing is we want those guys to come in and compete. It’s nice that every kid in the program has been recruited by this coaching staff because they’re all hearing the same message. We’ll look for our upper class kids to lead and the freshmen can follow them and learn how to do things the right way.”
The Mountain Hawks will report to campus on Thursday, August 6 and go through physicals, equipment distribution and a series of meetings before hitting the field for the first time the next day. Lehigh will conclude camp on Sunday, August 23 with the annual Alumni Steak Fry taking place that evening.
Lehigh kicks off its 2009 season on Saturday, September 5 as the Mountain Hawks play host to the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils at Goodman Stadium. Kick-off is set for just after 12:30 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.