Lehigh wants to get defensive over Patriot title

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(STATS) - So much firepower returns on Lehigh's offense that the defending Patriot League champion needs a lift from its defense to try to take a bigger step in 2017.

The Mountain Hawks believe they have been putting the pieces together during spring practice, which concludes this weekend. They'll play their annual intrasquad game Saturday at Goodman Stadium before having a final get-together on Sunday.

Lehigh should have one of the stronger offenses in the FCS, buoyed by the return of running back Dom Bragalone and wide receivers Troy Pelletier and Gatlin Casey, who combined for 42 touchdowns last season, as well as an experienced senior quarterback, Brad Mayes.

The defense, which returns six starters, must improve against the run. That was particularly evident when Lehigh surrendered 364 yards on seven yards per carry to New Hampshire in a 64-21 loss in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

Coach Andy Coen gets his entire rotation back on the defensive line, led by Tyler Cavenas and Jimmy Mitchell. The secondary also is experienced and will get back cornerback Quentin Jones from a season-ending injury he suffered midway through the 2016 campaign.

But the Mountain Hawks are replacing all three of last year's starters at linebacker. Junior Mark Walker is expected to contribute in a big way after he replaced an injured Colton Caslow in the playoff loss.

Lehigh will begin defense of its Patriot League title Sept. 2 with a home game against CAA Football power Villanova.