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Nearly flawless Diamond sparkles on field

Tim Diamond posted 107 tackles for the Mountain Hawks last season.

Like any top-shelf college linebacker, one key to Tim Diamond’s success is his ability to shed blockers.

However, the most important blocker he’s dodged in his gridiron career wasn’t a tough-as-nails center or a pulling guard. Instead, it was his mom, Joan.

“My mom didn’t let me play football when I was really young,” says Diamond, who played soccer instead. “But I kept hounding her and eventually by eighth grade, she let me play.”

The decision to channel his inner Butkus rather than to continue to try to bend ’em like Beckham has turned out well. Diamond blossomed into an all-state linebacker for Lakeland (N.J.) High School and had a number of college offers, but chose Lehigh.

Since coming to South Mountain, the hits have kept on coming for Diamond, who has added 25 pounds of muscle to his now 6-foot, 215- pound frame. Last season, Diamond earned honorable mention All- American honors from The Sports Network after leading the Mountain Hawks with 107 tackles (the first Lehigh player to have more than 100 tackles since Anthony Graziani in 2004), including an eye-popping 22 stops against Harvard.

“He’s one of those kids that’s always around the ball,” says Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “He’s smart, tough and has a great motor.”

Diamond, along with junior Matt Cohen (55 tackles in 2007) and Al Pierce (the breakout star of spring ball) will spearhead what looks like a strong linebacking corps. Senior defensive tackle Brian Jackson (60 tackles, 5.5 sacks), a second-team All-American performer, is back to anchor the line. The entire two-deep of cornerbacks from last season are gone, so speedy sophomores John Kennedy and Jarard Cribbs appear to be the new starters. While the corners are young, Coen has two battle-tested safeties, seniors Quadir Carter and Brendan VanAckerman, playing behind them.

On offense, the question that Coen gets asked dozens of times per week is: Who will start under center with Sedale Threatt Jr. gone? Junior Chris Bokosky, who started in place of the injured Threatt three times last year, is the most experienced candidate. But Coen split the practice reps equally during spring ball among Bokosky and sophomores J.B. Clark and Trace Cisneros and won’t make a final call on his starter until August.

The new starting quarterback will operate behind a beefy offensive line that features two returning starters in Kevin Bayani (6-3, 300) and Chris Tiefenthal (6-4, 285). Senior Matt McGowan (198 yards, 3 TDs in an injury-riddled 2007) and sophomore Jaren Walker (378 yards, 1 TD) are back at tailback and will be asked to carry a bigger load following Kwesi Kankam’s decision to stop playing football. Senior wide receivers Sekou Yansane (32 catches, 513 yards, 2 TDs in 2007) and Mike Fitzgerald (35 receptions, 448 yards, 3 TDs in 2007) give the new starting quarterback a pair of proven good-hands people.

For Diamond, the goals are to win the 2008 Patriot League championship and to make the playoffs after a three-year hiatus.

“We want to restore Lehigh football to what it used to be,” he says.

Diamond and Lehigh will begin the 2008 season on Saturday, September 6 when the Mountain Hawks play host to the Drake Bulldogs at Goodman Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased by calling (610) 7LU-GAME, by visiting the Lehigh Athletics Ticket Office, located in Grace Hall, or by logging onto Lehigh Sports.

--Bill Doherty

Posted on Friday, July 18, 2008

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