Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting Good Reception

Austin Knowlin leads the dozen returning Columbia receivers (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Being one of the 12 returning wide receivers on Columbia's roster these days must be akin to what it was like to be a realtor in 2008. After some boom times for throwing the ball, the "market" of passes drastically fell last season.

In other words, there were a lot fewer passes to go around.

How much fewer?

In 2007 Lion QB's, mostly Craig Hormann '08, threw the ball 421 times.

In 2008, Columbia passed the ball just 282 times, a 33% dropoff.

Passing yardage went from 2,686 in 2007 to 1,654 in 2008, a 38% decrease.

There were a lot of good reasons for these lower passing numbers, including the fact that Columbia completely revamped its offense, Millie Olawale and Shane Kelly ran the ball quite frequently, and the Lions weren't so far behind in so many games that they had to throw the ball as much.

If Columbia's offense stays as run-oriented as it was last season, the opportunities for wide receivers will seem relatively lean.

Be that as it may, you have to expect a lot of action for two-time All Ivy receiver Austin Knowlin in 2009. Knowlin and fellow senior Taylor Joseph led the receiving corps along with rising junior Mike Stephens, who made a nice splash in 2008 in several games. All three will be worth watching closely in the April 18th spring game.

Another returning junior in focus will be Nico Gutierrez, who fought hard to get back on the field after tearing his ACL for the second time in the 2007 finale. With the added time he's had to recover, it will be interesting to see if he can return to his freshman year form.

I'm also interested to see if returning senior Derek Jancisin will use his great size and reach to make the most of his final year in college.

Joining Jancisin, Joseph, and Knowlin are 4 other returning seniors, Josh A. Williams, Jason Pyles, Chase McCaleb, Tony Knox, making for an embarrassment of experienced riches at this position.

A sophomore to watch in the spring game will be James Burrell. Burrell took a postgrad year at Bridgton Academy, and most players from that school are more than ready to play college ball. Jonathan Roberts and Mark Muston round out the rising sophomore class.

Only four tight ends are on the returning veterans roster, led by rising junior Andrew Kennedy, who has made a number of impressive receptions over the past two seasons. If experience counts for anything, Kennedy has to be the most experienced junior tight end in the Ivies since they allowed freshman to play varsity in 1993. Kennedy scored the first TD of the 2008 season for Columbia, but never found the end zone again. His 23 catches put him fourth on the receptions list for last season.

Kennedy's fellow junior in the tight end corps is Cliff Pope, who seems to have good size for his position.

Rafeal Lopez and Tucker Cain are the two returning sophomores at tight end, and you do expect to see a decent amount of all four of these guys in the spring game if they are healthy.

Oh, and one more thing: even if the offense isn't exactly pass-happy, check to see how these receivers and tight ends do with their down the field blocking. That could be a key to the season.


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