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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Seven Positive Thoughts About All the Patriot League Recruiting Classes

It's recruiting season.  Every incoming recruit is a Patriot League all-star, everyone is a first team all-American, everyone is undefeated.  It's all good times, a chance for kids to be admitted to some of the best Universities in the world.  In that, it's a win for everyone.

While we wait for each of the remaining recruits to be announced as a part of their recruiting classes, I thought I'd comb through all of the incoming classes of the Patriot League and tell you what sticks out to me.

This summart isn't a ratings-based system, than folks like 247Sports have in terms of measuring the number of "starred recruits" (they list Holy Cross as the "winner"), or even a hybrid-based system, like LFN's yearly Patsy Ratings (last seasons "winner": Lehigh) or HERO Sports' list of the top overall FCS recruits (which lists Lafayette as the "winner").  It's just one guy, looking at the recruit lists, and giving his opinion.

Let's start.
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Why Just Sticking To Sports Will Never Work

One of the hottest topics in the sportswriting niche of the world has been the following online debate, kicked off by Bryan Curtis over at The Ringer.  The name of his piece was "The End of 'Stick to Sports'", and it was a thinkpiece that truly got writing minds thinking.  "Sportswriters have been awakened by Donald Trump’s presidency," the byline read.  "Is that what their readers want?"

It's had an interesting effect on the entire sportswriting community - a response veering from general agreement, to "we never really did stick to sports anyway" and "I will always stick to sports and let others talk about politics."

What it isn't is cut and dry.  I think the problem with this so-called "debate" is that it attempts to make sportswriting into a binary choice - either you stick to sports or you have your sports explore other topics.

Art is not a series of binary choices, and if you agree sportswriting is a form of art, then "sticking to sports" will never work.  It's like saying to Lady Gaga "stick to singing show tunes".  It doesn't work that way.
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Lehigh’s 2017 Recruitment Class Big on Championships and Big on Versatility

(Photo Credit: Dan Gleiter/PennLive)

Head coach Andy Coen came into the conference room at Taylor Gym with a broad smile on his face - the type of face that comes from winning a Patriot League Championship last year, of course, but also the type of face that comes from a man quite happy with his incoming recruiting class.

The fifteen names in the incoming class, "with four extra guys to announce later [on]", Coen said, seemed to fill Lehigh's needs, the fifth consecutive year that Lehigh has been recruiting with the same type of  scholarships as the rest of FCS.

"We had to shore up some depth, we really had to get a little bit of everything," he said.  "We graduated a lot of guys in the secondary, so it was important to get a good group there this year, and I think we did that."

Four defensive backs were announced today as being a part of the incoming class, DB Divine Buckrham, DB Tre Cundiff, DB Tre Neal, and DB Jaylen Floyd.

"The four defensive backs are not only capable of being corners but can also play safety or potentially grow into our rover position," Coen explained in Lehigh's official release. "That's always good when you have kids who start out with the ability to be very versatile in our defense."

In fact, the theme for this entire incoming class could be one of versatility - versatile defensive backs, a versatile running back in RB Evan Chadbourn (a "triple threat type of guy", according to Andy), and even a versatile quarterback in QB Addison Shoup (who is listed as a pro-style quarterback but showed some running ability in his the highlight reel that Lehigh Athletics showed of all the recruits announced today).

"Addison is a very active quarterback," Coen said. "He has a strong arm and does a lot of different things with his feet. He's a little different from QB Nick Shafnisky as he's more of a pure passer than Nick but he's capable of beating defenses by throwing the ball and running with it."

It felt like the guys Andy announced today on offense and defense could be used in a variety of different roles, and that's just how he wanted it.

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Recruit Q+A With DB Dre Blue-Eli

In the run-up to signing day, I caught up with a few of the new recruits to ask them about their recruiting stories and their high school football career.

Today our subject is DB Dre Blue-Eli, who competed at Paulsboro High School in Paulsboro, New Jersey.

Paulsboro HS is considered the "home of Champions", largely to their football championship history.  The Red Raiders have won 18 sectional championships in their history, including a 29-26 win over Salem last season.

Playing at both wide receiver and defensive back, Blue-Eli had a critical fourth down stop on defense in that championship game deep in their territory.

The momentum from his stop led to a 67 yard touchdown run on the very next play, giving Paulsboro a lead they would never relinquish.

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Recruit Q+A With DB Divine Buckrham

In the run-up to signing day, I caught up with a few of the new recruits to ask them about their recruiting stories and their high school football career.

Today our subject is DB Divine Buckrham, who competed at The Kiski School, which is based just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.

The Kiski School is an all boys, small, private school with an enrollment of 210 students.

Despite its small size, it has a long, storied history of football, too.

"From the early 1950's to the present, it is well documented that Kiski has fielded teams deep in football lore and history," Kiski's team website says. "Many of the country's greatest football players of the time started their careers at Kiski."

Situated not far from State College, PA, Kiski graduates include QB Darryl Clark and RB Curtis Enis, two names which should be well known to Nittany Lions fans.


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The 2017 Pre-Signing Day Big Board for Lehigh

With a little over a week to signing day, the incoming football class of 2021 is in real focus.

I'm always hesitant to jump the gun on verbals to Lehigh.  I've been around this long enough to realize that commitments can change.

But I've also found that when you get this close to signing day, you've got a fairly good picture as to what the class looks like.

All verbals are considered "verbals" and are very much unofficial until signing day, but many student-athletes have tweeted their commitments and their tweets are included below.

So a week before signing day, here's some information as to what we know here at LFN about the incoming class.

(A huge thank-you to Rich Heelan and Todd Cuddington, who have done a great job as they always do tracking recruits.  Their constantly-updated spreadsheet is here.)
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Story Of Philadephia Eagles’ 1968 Mud Bowl Parallels 2016 Election

How do you write about sports when it doesn't feel like a game anymore?

This is the crux of the question I've been struggling with over the last few weeks.

Like many of you, I was shocked at the election of Donald Trump to become our next President.  Also like many of you, I paid as he did things differently when it came to talking about the political foes he defeated, how he went about assembling a cabinet, and how he engaged the press.

Everything about this point in time in history feels historic.  No set of Americans have ever elected someone like Donald Trump as President.  Nobody, not Trump of the mobs of Twitter people that seem to follow him, have used Twitter to attack people so directly almost like a weapon, especially focused at journalists that are trying to get at the truth.

Frankly, nobody knows what's coming next.

So how do you write about sports at a time like this?  How do you compartmentalize what you're feeling about the election, and crack open the vault which waxes philosophic about Lehigh's latest and greatest postseason award for football, or latest achievement in basketball or wrestling?

The answer appears to be to look to history - and to look to sports - to find narratives.  And I found one.

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Lehigh Football Recruiting: Analyzing Needs For Class of 2021

Is it already time to ask Santa for a bag filled with new Lehigh recruits?

Since the conclusion of Lehigh's championship 2016 football season, head coach Andy Coen and all of his assistant coaches have been on the trail recruiting the next great Lehigh football players.  While it's a "quiet period" now, as per the NCAA, the Mountain Hawks have been busy.

But what, exactly, does Lehigh need in regards to the offseason?

I forgot; that's why you're here.  Let me share what I think.
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The Bonds That Tie The Lehigh Family Are Strong, May They Never Be Broken