Over the last four seasons, head coach Andy Coen and the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks are a combined 39-9, but have missed out on the post-season the last two seasons despite 10-1 and 8-3 records, respectively. Lehigh’s 2014 squad has a few holes that will need filling if they expect to compete with the rest of the Patriot League this fall.
Last season’s senior starting quarterback Brandon Bialkowski signed a free agent contract to become a member of the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Redblacks earlier this off-season before being replaced by former Wisconsin signal caller Danny O’Brien in Ottawa’s training camp. But either way, Bialkowski is out, and his replacement at Lehigh will be sophomore Nick Shafnisky, who threw 5 TDs and 3 INTs to go with his 326 yards as a freshman in ’13 after Bialkowski went down for the season with an injury in the eighth game.
All-American wideout Lee Kurfis, who led the team with 99 receptions, 1,351 yards and 9 touchdowns last season, and 1,000 yard rusher Keith Sherman, have both graduated and will also be leaving a pretty large void in coach Coen’s offense.
Looked upon to fill Kurfis’ shoes will be senior Josh Parris (56 catches, 739 yards and a pair of TDs in career). The 6’2″/190 pound receiver possesses the size and strength to be a key factor in the Mountain Hawk offense this coming season. The position of question will certainly be the running back situation, however. Miami (Fla.) transfer Brandon Yosha will be given the chance to compete with senior Rich Sodeke for the starting spot, but Lehigh will want to rely on one or both backs heavily to keep pressure off of their young signal-caller.
The Mountain Hawks defense returns five ’13 starters, but their biggest concern may be the defensive backfield. Lehigh will have to replace all four starters from a year ago. Luckily, seniors Stephen Wilmington, Jason Suggs, and Jamil Robinson have had some game experience, along with Juniors Oliver Rigaud and LaQuan Lambert. There will certainly be competition for all open starting positions this summer.
The defensive line and linebacking units have familiar faces returning with the likes of Tim Newton, Arturo Gyles, Reed Remington, Colton Caslow, Noah Robb, Isaiah Campbell, and Matt Laub. Both units have depth and Lehigh can count on them to take the pressure off of the defensive backs that lack experience.
If Lehigh’s squad experiences breakout performances from these guys filling voids, 2014 could be the season that Lehigh propels to the very top of the Patriot League with leadership from Shafnisky under center.
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Editor’s Note: This fall Johnny will be covering all of Lehigh’s home football games for us, and will be bringing us extensive coverage throughout the duration of the 2014 Lehigh University football season!
Photo: Chris Shipley/The Morning Call