HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Lehigh.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Lehigh (3-8 IN 2018)
Patriot League (Lehigh finished T4th in 2018)
COACH: Tom Gilmore – At School: 1st year Overall: 1st year
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2017 (First Round)
2018 OFFENSE: 16.6 ppg (114th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 35.1 ppg (99th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 5 @ Colgate: What better way to kick off conference play than to play the defending champs? Lehigh could make the Patriot League title race interesting right away with a win here.
SUM IT UP: A new era of Lehigh football is underway. Longtime head coach Andy Coen stepped down from his position in December under unfortunate circumstances following a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Tom Gilmore was hired about a month later. He spent time as Lehigh's defensive coordinator from 2000-2003 and was most recently on the Wake Forest defensive staff in 2018. Gilmore is familiar with the Patriot League. He was the head coach for 14 seasons at Holy Cross from 2004-2017 and was a two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year.
He inherits a team looking to get back to its winning ways. The Mountain Hawks made the playoffs in 2017 and were 9-3 in 2016. The experience is definitely there to take a step in a positive direction. Lehigh has eight starters returning on offense and eight coming back on defense.
The priority is replacing two big offensive players. Brad Mayes was an All-Patriot League quarterback and Dominick Bragalone was a workhorse back and an All-American. Tyler Monaco has the most experience coming back at quarterback and Rashawn Allen has massive potential to be a great feature back and has an offensive line that returns five starters. Lehigh has its top two pass catchers coming back in Jorge Portorreal and Devon Bibbens.
Allowing 35.1 points per game won't get it done, but improvements are expected. The Mountain Hawks get their top three tacklers back: Keith Woetzel, Sam McCloskey and Riley O'Neil. Overall, eight of the 11 top tacklers return.
OUR TAKE: This is a young team in 2019. About 30 freshmen are expected to be on the roster and there are a number of young guys that got experience last year. But this is a program that expects to win and be at the top of the conference standings. It may not happen in one year. Like we said, there is still some inexperience and the losses of Mayes and Bragalone are significant. But the future is bright with young talent. The Mountain Hawks signed four players in 2019 that made our Top 300 recruits ranking. This looks to be a building year where Lehigh takes steps forward to get back on track.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr../WR Jorge Portorreal (All-Conference First Team, No. 1 receiver last year with 55 rec. for 794 yards and 3 TDs)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./DB Sam McCloskey (All-Conference Second Team, No. 2 tackler last year with 77); So./RB Rashawn Allen (Top returning rusher with 328 yards and 3 TDs); Sr./WR Devon Bibbens (33 rec. for 576 yards and 3 TDs); Sr./LB Keith Woetzel (Top tackler last year with 89); Sr./DB Riley O'Neil (62 tackles)
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DB Brandon Spencer (No. 81 ranked FCS recruit in 2019, had 5 FBS offers)
THE QUOTE: "Lehigh is a place I've always held in high regard. I worked here as an assistant for four years and thoroughly enjoyed everything about that experience; the campus, the athletic department, the community. We had really good teams. Everything about those four years I spent here, was awesome. It's close to home for me, so it really feels like I'm coming home in a lot of ways. I'm really excited to get going and looking forward to meeting the team and the staff and personnel within the department." — Head Coach Tom Gilmore said
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Lehigh Preview
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SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast