Already in the Fold, Part 2
A.J. Maddox looks to get back on the field in 2010 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
What if I told you Columbia had a talented safety with the coverage skills to help replace Andy Shalbrack and the blistering speed and good kick returning skills to help replace Austin Knowlin?
You'd be excited right?
Well, we have just such a person, and it's not an incoming freshman. It's rising junior A.J. Maddox, who missed all of 2009 due to injury after a promising 2008 season. It does appear that he is 100% recovered and faster than ever.
Maddox could very well be the fastest of all the Lions and that will come in handy as Columbia works to replace Knowlin as the lead kickoff and punt returner.
With the crowded and deep secondary, (three of four starters returning), Maddox may have a better chance of starting with the special teams. But don't sleep on his abilities as a strong safety as he did rack up 16 tackles in his freshman year of 2008. He also played in all 10 games as a freshman, which is always impressive.
Could Maddox expand his role and appear on the offensive side of the ball? That's up to the coaches, but Maddox intrigues me as a possible dangerous weapon in the "scatback" type of role like Dave Meggett was years ago as a receiver for the Giants and Patriots. (Of course, I refer solely to Meggett's abilities on the field, not his personal and legal issues!).
But any way you slice it, the "x" in "Maddox" stands for the big X-factor A.J. is when you predict how the Lions will fare in 2010. If he can make the kind of impact on kick returns he's capable of, and help the defense, Columbia's opponents better not forget to factor a response to A.J. Maddox this season.