The Lions need Calvin Otis back on the field in 2010
Yesterday I wrote about how much the Columbia linebacking corps is relying on key players, Alex Gross and Matt Morreto, to come back from injury.
I wish the list ended there.
But it doesn't.
Luckily, not all the injuries I mention below from 2009 are still a problem. And yet, the list is unusually long.
The defensive line is very much relying on Owen Fraser continuing to heal from a really bad hamstring injury that came under rough circumstances in the season opener last year. (The more I replay the hit in my head, the more I think Fraser was the victim of a illegal block). Happily, Fraser was back and playing pretty well in the spring game.
The secondary was gutted by injuries last season, and yet it was still a great unit even without starting cornerbacks Calvin Otis and Kalasi Huggins. Nevertheless, it would be very nice to get them both back at 100% this fall along with strong safety/kick returner Anthony Maddox, who missed all of 2009 with an injury.
On offense, there aren't as many walking wounded... thank goodness. But there are some players who could really help the team enormously if they can recover from some serious injuries.
The crowded situation at wide receiver would clear up significantly if senior Nico Gutierrez can finally get back to where he was as a freshman in 2007. Gutierrez tore his ACL in the last game of '07, made a great effort to get back to running shape by 2008, and even got onto the field a bit in 2009. Co-Captain Mike Stephens is a great returning weapon at WR, but the Lions need to not only replace Austin Knowlin but also Taylor Joseph. Knowlin and Joseph combined for 76 catches and seven TD's last season.
The offensive line has three starting spots to fill, but one key backup from last year who was injured, Dan Cohen, seems healed and he did play in the spring game. Cohen broke his foot at midseason. Right now, this looks like a strong unit for the Lions despite the losses to graduation and Cohen's continuing recovery.
At tight end/h-back, the injury bug has been a little more serious. Andrew Kennedy was unable to play in the spring game, but I have confidence he'll be 100% pretty soon. On the down side, promising sophomore Dallas Hartman was hurt all last year. And Peter Holst-Grubbe, who could fill in nicely at that H-Back position, has missed his first two years on the field because of injuries.
The running backs returning for this year stayed generally healthy last season. That's after the graduating Ray Rangel, who looked like he was on his way to a 1,000-yard season, went down for the season in week six. Rangel's loss did give rising seniors Leon Ivery and Zack Kourouma some great extra experience to bring to the table this fall.
At the spring game, QB's Sean Brackett and Jerry Bell showed little ill effects from some heavy shots they both took in 2009. QB Paul Havas seems completely healed from the injury that kept him out of the entire 2008 campaign. Keeping Brackett healthy seems like an obvious major key to success next season.
The bottom line is the injured players in 2009 who the Lions most need to come back strong are Fraser, Gross, Moretto, Gutierrez, and Otis. If they all come back 100%, not only will they make Columbia better, but they will also make the 2010 Lions much more of a mystery for opposing teams trying to scout them.