Youth Out Front
Can any of these Towson fans play offensive line? (CREDIT: Towson Athletics)
Columbia fans know all about inexperience on the offensive line. In 2005, the Lions started just ONE lineman, (Matt Barsamian), with ANY game experience going into the season.
But Towson's just-released depth chart is surprising in that three freshmen are slated to start on the Tiger O-line along with one junior and one sophomore. Two of those freshmen were red-shirted last season, and we all know that released depth charts in game notes aren't always what you see on the field, but this is clearly the greenest front five Columbia is likely to face this year and maybe a few more years to come.
It explains Towson's 40-yards rushing per game average, 1.5 yards per carry, and its 12.8 points per game tally. The lack of stamina from the young blockers may also be the biggest reason why Towson hasn't scored a single fourth quarter point this year.
But a lot of that can also be explained by the fact that the Tigers had to face BCS contender Navy in week one and CAA power Richmond in week 2. But stripping those two games away actually gives you a Towson squad averaging just 38 rushing yards a game and 1.45 yards per carry!
Towson's pass blocking is obviously doing a bit better. The Tigers have allowed 10 sacks in four games, which is not great but not terrible. Clearly, QB Sean Schaefer is doing his damage with quick-release passes and probably while running for his life. And while Fordham's speedy rusher Xavier Martin did most of the damage to Columbia's defense last week, a key play in Fordham's winning drive was a quick slant to Richard Rayborn that went for 47 yards.
If Towson is studying the game film, I suspect the Tigers will try to hit Columbia with quick slants and screens as much as possible. This will be a big challenge for the outside linebackers in particular.
As bad as Towson has been running the ball, it's been worse stopping the run. The Tigers are allowing 317 rushing yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry. To put that in perspective, that's 86 more yards per game and 2.2 more yards per carry than Columbia allowed on the ground last year and we all know how much trouble the Lions had against the run in 2007.
But again, let's strip away the Navy and Richmond games to see if the Tigers did better against more comparable competiton. Again, the answer is: "not so much." Against Morgan State and Coastal Carolina, Towson still gave up an average of 263 rushing yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry.
Last year, the Tigers gave up a much more manageable 177 rushing yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. The Towson defensive line starts one senior, one junior and one sophomore, and it would appear that graduation has also hurt what was a decent defensive front line.
It appears Columbia has an excellent chance to control the lines of scrimmage in a way they haven't done in maybe 4-5 years. What's great about line of scrimmage issues is that the questions are usually answered right away. Whether the Lions start on defense or offense in this game, we'll see immediately if they're able to push Towson's up front players right away.