I really like this picture
Well, after two profiles of our thin-looking running back corps and defensive line, I thought I'd focus today on one area of the Lions where we seem to have oodles of talented and experienced players.
There are two areas actually - wide receiver and linebacker - but today I want to look at the wide receivers.
Austin Knowlin, Jr.
Austin Knowlin is the team MVP and of course the leader of this crew. He's done all the coaches and fans could have asked for, with an Ivy League Rookie of the Year award in 2006 and a first-team All Ivy selection last season when there were so many very talented receivers to choose from.
One could argue that Knowlin is Coach Wilson's best gift so far to Columbia football, as he was actually a recruit of his at UConn before he got the job at Columbia.
Knowlin has great speed, good hands, and a willingness to cross over the middle of the field. He combines all of these talents to create his greatest weapon: he gets open. Austin gets open even when everyone in the stadium knows the pass is going to be thrown to him. He gets open when the game is on the line. He gets open in the flat, in the seam, and in the end zone.
In 2007, Knowlin had 74 catches for 988 yards, just 12 yards shy of the 26-year-old all-time single season record of 1,000 yards held by Don Lewis. And on a team that scored just 23 TD's all season, Knowlin had 11 of them, (one of them rushing).
He single-handedly outgained every Lion rusher, (including himself... he gained 46 net yards on reverses and direct snaps), by more than 360 yards.
Austin is also well on his way to breaking Columbia's career receiving yardage record of 2,384 yards held by Bill Reggio '84. Coming into this season, Knowlin has 1,541 yards, meaning he could break the record by week 8 or 9 if he maintains last year's per game averages.
Breaking an Ivy team's career records in just three years is becoming a rarity now that the league has allowed freshmen to play varsity for 15 years now. So Knowlin has the opportunity to make a lot of history in the next two seasons.
Last year, Coach Wilson seemed worried that Knowlin might "rest on his laurels" from 2006 and he challenged him to step it up a notch. He certainly did.
Taylor Joseph, Jr.
Knowlin couldn't be as effective as he is without some other credible targets in the receiving corps. And the gutsiest member of his supporting cast is Taylor Joseph.
Joseph hauled in a respectable 38 catches for 409 yards in 2007 with one touchdown. But the numbers don't tell the whole story. It seemed like every catch he made was a tough grab either in traffic, way over his head, or scooped up just before it hit the turf. With 563 total career yards, Joseph has a chance to crack the top 5 all-time receivers list by the time he's done.
Nico Gutierrez, So.
Nico had a very strong, if not sensational, rookie season in 2007. Gutierrez had 29 catches for 372 yards and 2 very spectacular leaping TD's last season. He came to Columbia after falling off the BCS school radar because of an ACL injury late in his high school career. There is some concern about his ability to stay healthy, but we have no definitive word on his status as of now. If he is healthy, we expect great things from him for the next three years.
Josh A. Williams, Jr.
Williams came out of nowhere to make an impact in the Cornell game and he seems like a good contender to get onto the field more in 2008. The San Francisco native did a postgrad year at the Loomis Chaffee school, (that's ANOTHER Connecticut school, making three receivers on the squad with CT connections: Knowlin, Gutierrez and Williams), so he has that added maturity. He appears to have good speed.
Derek Jancisin, Jr.
I thought he might become more of a factor last year, but he ended up with just 2 catches. He still has great size at 6"3 and 213 pounds, so it will be hard not to believe he'll make his mark at some point.
Juniors Jason Pyles, Chase McCaleb and sophomore Mike Stephens appear to be on the outside looking in at this position, but that could change.
Incoming freshmen Peter Batesko, Christian Daniel, J.D. Tyree seem more than just a little promising even at this point. They all have great height and size, but could end up at different positions. Training camp in August could definitely change the equation in this relatively strong part of the team.
If only we had so many riches everywhere else.