Austin Knowlin (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
It's not often that two team leaders emerge at the same position.
But that's what happened over the last four seasons as superstar WR Austin Knowlin and steady, gutty WR Taylor Joseph made their impact on the Lion football team.
Now both of them are graduating, and you can forgive a lot of Columbia fans for feeling a little panicky about the wide receiving corps, (and the "p" is silent, Mr. President! Sorry, private joke), for 2010.
The remaining leader at this position is rising senior Mike Stephens, who had a solid season and almost completely duplicated his '08 stats despite playing one fewer game in '09. Stephens is more than just his stats though, as he improved his elusiveness this past year and made more of an overall impact on the team.
The second most experienced returning receiver is another senior, Nico Gutierrez, who got back onto the field more in 2009, but it's not clear if he has fully recovered from an ACL tear in the final game of 2007. Lion fans still long for a return to the 29-catch 372-yard numbers he posted that freshmen year. If Nico can come back to that level, it would be like a secret weapon unleashed on Columbia's foes this year.
Rising juniors Mike Muston and James Burrell have to be in the mix here as well, but they just don't have the kind of stats to judge what they might be able to add to the picture.
As for the younger guys, I've heard great things about rising sophomore Price Pinkerton's talents, but can he be molded into a controllable weapon on the field? I like the size Ian Cummins and Michael Williamson bring to the table, but we just haven't seen enough of them on the field.
The incoming freshmen are always an x-factor.
And if anyone is just thinking about throwing up their hands and saying that the Lions should just eliminate most of our pass plays and focus solely on the run, consider this:
The top two QB's on the final 2009 depth chart are dynamite passers with great arms.
Sean Brackett's arm strength absolutely stunned me when he broke onto the field the first time and started in the Yale game.
Jerry Bell is a pure pocket passer with deadly aim.
And rising senior QB Paul Havas has great speed as a runner, but can throw too.
It would be a shame to to run some kind of single-flanker offense next season without fully exploring what Brackett, Bell or whoever else goes under center can give us through the air.
With Knowlin and Joseph's graduation, our Ivy opponents are sure to be looking to cheat a little off the pass coverage in 2010. That could provide an opportunity for the offense.