Davenport, Kpassagnon Only Two Of Possible NFL Draftees Lehigh Faced Last Year

One of the more interesting aspects of covering Lehigh football for so long is the fact that you end up seeing future NFL players on their rise to the big show.

In fact, two players who squared off against the Mountain Hawks in particular have an excellent chance of being drafted on Day 2 or Day 3 of the NFL draft.

But those not the only Lehigh football opponents that will be hoping to get a phone call from an NFL team this Friday or Saturday.

Though few Patriot League, Ivy League or even CAA players enter their football programs with the NFL as their main goal, every football player that matriculates to these schools still harbor the dream of dominating their league and as a result get an opportunity to pursue their NFL dream.

And it is true that NFL scouts come to FCS football games to look for talent that might have been overlooked.  Many years ago I was in Hofstra's press box, watching the Pride take on New Hampshire, with NFL scouts from the Colts and Saints there to watch WR Marques Colston play.  The Saints decision to pursue Colston may very well have come from that game in Hempstead, New York.
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Nick Shafnisky Is Pushing Hard to Get To Play at the Next Level in Football

"Don't take anything for granted, just keep pushing."

Those are the words of QB Nick Shafnisky, told to The Whitehall-Coplay Press all the way back in 2013, about his preparation as a high school athlete.

And they seem to summarize the Whitehall, PA native perfectly, then as now.

Dubbed the "Male Athlete of the Year" by that publication, the article goes on about Shaf's many exploits at Whitehall high school - leading the Zephyr football team to a co-Lehigh Valley Conference title, becoming the first player ever in that conference to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards, and earning the league's co-MVP award as well.

He also was a member of the Zephyrs playoff basketball team, and for good measure also helped set a record for the 4x100 relay team as well.

At Whitehall, and at Lehigh, coaches pushed him, but it was his own hard work that helped make him the best athlete he could be.

This weekend, Shaf, like every eligible college football player, will be hoping that he hears his name called in the NFL Draft somewhere, whatever day, whatever round.  If his name isn't called, he'll be hoping to get a call from an NFL team to get signed for a training camp.

One thing he won't do, however, is stop pushing.  
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Lehigh Offense Continues To Impress During Spring Game, Win 48-34

Some spring games are loaded with drama as to who might be rising into starting positions.

On Lehigh's offense, which boasts a backup quarterback-turned-starter that threw for 1,000 yards last year, a 1,000 yard rusher, and two of the Top 10 receivers in all of FCS, drama for starting positions was, shall we way, lacking.

Instead, the scrimmage became a show as to what Lehigh fans might be able to hope to see in Setpember, a reminder of all the good things that may be in store.

In that sense, even though they started out slow, junior QB Brad Mayes, junior RB Dominick Bragalone, senior WR Troy Pelletier and senior WR Gatlin Casey showed that they indeed still knew how to play some football.

They all came to play, and in the process gave Lehigh fans a taste of an offense that has the potential to be special yet again.
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Despite 48-34 Win By Offense In Brown and White Game, Lots to Like From Defense

Many will look at the spring game final results and stats and see that the offense "won" this Saturday's Brown/White game, 48-34.

They'll see a stat sheet they might expect from a Mountain Hawk team: 121 yards passing from junior QB Brad Mayes, touchdown receptions from senior WR Troy Pelletier and senior WR Gatlin Casey, as well as a touchdown run by junior RB Dominick Bragalone.

But that doesn't tell the full story of the game, played on a wet Saturday morning under mostly overcast skies.

In the early portion of the scrimmage, the Brown defense racked up sacks, tipped passes and shut out the White offense for nearly an hour before Mayes would finally find Casey in the end zone.

If there was any question how the new four-man defensive front might work out for the Mountain Hawks, they were answered today with a solid performance early.
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QUICK RECAP: Offense Prevails In Brown/White Game, 48-34

It was good to see some football in Murray Goodman stadium today.

Battling raindrops under an overcast, spring sky, Lehigh's offense (the White team) won the "official" game, 48-34 over the Lehigh defense (the Brown team), using a modified scoring system.

But the spring practice was defined by the early statement of the defense, with a big interception by junior CB Donavon Harris and a slew of tipped balls by the Mountain Hawks' experienced defensive front.

Eventually, though, the offense would settle down, and junior QB Brad Mayes and his backup, senior QB Matt Timochenko, would start to make hay and put touchdowns on the scoreboard.

Junior WR Cam Richardson, who won the Jim Gum scholarship award before the game, made much of his opportunity working alongside senior WR Gatlin Casey and senior WR Troy Pelletier with the first-string offense.  The Northwestern Lehigh product caught 4 balls for 60 yards, and was a frequent target of Mayes and Timochenko.

Tune in later for more postgame reaction and the progression Lehigh has made this spring.

LFN’s Look at the Spring Offense and Special Teams

(Photo Credit: The Morning Call)

Going to practice this Wednesday, I wondered how things were going with the Mountain Hawks this spring.

You never really know what to expect until you go, and on a surprisingly chilly evening, I arrived up at Lehigh's practice fields.

A lot of times at practice you hear jeremiads from the coaching staff on "spirited competition" and competing for positions.  But you don't always see it on the practice field.

On Wednesday, though, it was there.  I saw it.

Maybe it's a product of a lot of players knowing where they fit on the team, and that's certainly what is my impression in regards to the Lehigh offense.

When you have returning all-Patriot League players at running back, wide receiver, and the offensive line, that's one level of comfort.  When you have a returning quarterback that started three games, including an FCS playoff game, and led an 63-35 win over Yale with 524 yards passing, that's yet another level of comfort.

Perhaps that's why it was an entertaining scene of players jawing at one another and competing against each other.

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LFN’s Look at the Spring Defense

Last season, a disappointed LB Colton Caslow talked about the Lehigh defense after a top 26-21 loss to nationally-ranked Villanova.

Caslow, LB Pierce Ripanti and LB Evan Harvey had combined for 27 tackles against the Wildcats, but it wasn't enough to spring the upset.

"None of those plays I made would have been possible if I didn't have the fantastic teammates I have around me out there," he said after the game.  "Everyone's just been flying around, we're getting all eleven players to the ball, everyone has a lot higher energy out there, and we're in a lot better shape than we were last year."

Caslow's disappointment would be the last time he'd experience that emotion after a regular-season football game, as Lehigh then proceeded to win their next nine games and the Patriot League championship.  Caslow, and the defense, never averted their focus and improvement from that point forward.

This weekend at the Brown/White spring scrimmage, we will see what the 2017 Lehigh defense will look like, but the emphasis on being in great shape and getting all eleven players to the ball will almost certainly remain.

The biggest question mark on the defensive side, though, remains which athletes will step up to replace Caslow, Ripanti, Harvey, ROV Laquan Lambert and CB Brandon Leaks - and which existing players will step into the leadership positions that these seniors had as well.
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Curley, Schultz and Spanier May Serve Time in Jail in Penn State Scandal, But it Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

Finally, I hoped, some justice would prevail.

It had been 19 years since the then-President of Penn State, Graham Spanier, had emails hit his inbox that Gerald Sandusky was being investigated about an incident involving Sandusky and a child in the showers in Penn State's Lasch building.

Already a former Penn State athletic director, Tim Curley, and former Penn State legal counsel, Gary Schultz, had pleaded guilty for the lesser charge against them - endangering the welfare of children - to avoid the spectacle of a public trial.

But Spanier didn't shrink from the public trial, instead choosing to fight his way in court that he was innocent - that the reams of information unearthed by Louis Freeh's report were wrong about his involvement with Sandusky's crimes.

Late on Friday afternoon, on a day of many other news events and distractions, the verdict was in: Spanier was found guilty of the same crimes for which Curley and Schultz pleaded guilt last week - endangering the welfare of children, the cold, sanitized description of the act of allowing Sandusky to go free without much consequence and continue to go throughout Centre County, and even all of Pennsylvania, to molest more children.

It's a verdict that seems to make nobody happy, and also appears a compromise that doesn't seem to fit the facts, whether you find Spanier either guilty of a cover-up or innocently trying to do the right thing for Sandusky and the Penn State football program.

Curley, Schultz and Spanier may serve some time in jail.  But it doesn't feel like enough.

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Position Switches Something To Watch In Lehigh’s Spring Session

Probably the biggest news from the first few days of spring practice is a few changes on the depth chart that may not seem that important at first, but could pay off later this fall.

It's the switch of rising senior Marc Raye-Redmond to the offensive side of the ball, and rising junior Nick Thevaganayam to the defense.

Raye-Redmond last season played mostly on special teams, and was listed as a defensive back.  In his role on special teams, Marc excelled, not only notching 12 tackles but also getting 184 return yards alongside rising senior WR Gatlin Casey on kickoffs.  Against Princeton last year, he had two returns for 49 yards.

Thevaganayam also mostly appeared on special teams, rushing the ball a couple of times, but was buried on the depth chart behind junior RB Dominick Bragalone, junior RB Micco Brisker and senior RB Nana Amankwah-Ayeh.


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Lehigh’s 2017 Spring Season To Feature Continuity On Offense And Special Teams, Even With Different Coaches

(Photo Credit: Gaby Morera/The Brown and White)

There's a lot of excitement in Lehigh Nation about the upcoming spring football season as the Mountain Hawks look to defend their Patriot League Championship.

Some things will be very familiar: watching RB Dominick Bragalone running the football, WR Gatlin Casey and WR Troy Pelletier catching them, and C Brandon Short anchoring the offensive line.  Even Lehigh's quarterback, QB Brad Mayes, will be a very familiar face, considering that he's already spent a lot of time on the field the last two years.

But elsewhere, there's a lot of newness - as is common for many FCS programs this time of year.

The departure of offensive coordinator Drew Folmar (Elon), special teams coach Ryan Dougherty (Oklahoma) and running backs coach Jamel Mutunga (Princeton) has meant some promotions and new faces on the coaching staff.

So this Spring, in defense of their Patriot League Championship, what's in store?  Start off with some staff promotions from within that should mean some continuity from last season to this season.
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The Bonds That Tie The Lehigh Family Are Strong, May They Never Be Broken