2016 Preseason Patriot League Preview: Lehigh

2015 Results: 6-5 (4-2)
Returning starters:
Offense 8
Defense 8






Lehigh had its worst season in 22 years in 2014 when they bottomed out at 3-8. They responded last year by getting back to a winning season and competing for the Patriot League title despite a historically bad defense. There’s reason to believe things are still trending up when you look at the amount of experience returning on both sides of the ball combined with having four full scholarship classes to build in depth.  Lehigh figures to once again challenge for the PL title and playoff spot on their offense alone. It’s no secret the defense will ultimately determine if they take the next step or are still chasing Colgate and Fordham.

By all accounts the offense should be among the best in FCS. There is talent and experience at every level. The offensive line returns two preseason first team all-league. There’s  a 3 year starter at quarterback,  a 1,000 yard rusher as a freshman, at RB and a preseason 1st team all-league WR with a potential NFL future. There is depth at every position including QB. Some really like Sophomore QB Mayes because he has a cannon for an arm. The unit averaged 32 points per game and 462 yards a game last season.  The game plan is to get guys in space. Lehigh has very good team speed at the skill positions. Yet, they haven’t as a group, to this point at least, produced a ton of big plays. Part of the reason is the lack of a down the field passing attack. It’s not a QB strength and the OC doesn’t really call deep routes. The other factor is protecting the defense but controlling T.O.P the best they can. If Shaf is able to get better with throwing the ball downfield the offense will be insanely difficult to defend. As it is, it’ll still take a top shelf unit to keep it contained. Villanova will be a great test given how well they’ve handled Fordham recently.

There really isn’t any adjective to describe just how bad the defense has been. Last year was the most points allowed EVER by a Lehigh defense, 388 (35 ppg).  Offenses averaged 452 yards against the Mountain Hawk defense. They gave up 50 points on 3 separate occasions (JMU, Princeton, Fordham). Allowed 49 to Colgate in a 49-42 loss which help decide the PL title.  The inability to create turnovers and create negative plays has been a huge problem.  Last year was Lehigh’s Defensive Coordinator’s second season back in the role. He was previously the DC at Lehigh in ’98 and ’99 (Lehigh won the PL both years and went a combined 22-3).  He instilled a 3-3-5 scheme before last year. The scheme this year will remain but with a lot more attacking principles. The one saving grace is there was an absolute lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball in 2013 and 2014. The defensive line was extremely undersized and had no depth. The linebackers were, at-best, adequate in size and lacked depth. Those two things have been addressed. This will easily be Lehigh’s most formidable defense in terms of measurables and depth since 2012. Outside of getting bigger they must force more turnovers (8 fumble recoveries and 5 INT’s all of 2015) and more negative plays. The forced turnover number has been sub-par for the last 3 years. Spring practice was built around installing a far more aggressive version of the 3-3-5. Its effectiveness and position reshuffling will determine how much the defense improves.


9/3 Monmouth

9/10 @ Villanova

9/17 @ Penn

9/24 Princeton

10/1 @ Yale

10/8 Colgate

10/15 @Georgetown

10/22 @ Holy Cross

10/29 Fordham

11/5 Bucknell

11/19 @ Lafayette

AGS Patriot League Preseason prediction: 3rd place

Written by 

2010 graduate of The University of Northern Iowa. Resident loudmouth and stat nerd on AGS. Follow me on the Twitter, @cdl1018, for random blasts of MVFC stats and thoughts. Want to contribute to The FCS Wedge? Drop me a line on Twitter or email me at [email protected].

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