Friday, May 27, 2016

Schedule Previews: St. Francis

With the official list of the incoming freshmen now out, it's time to focus on the 2016 schedule.

And the best place to start is with first-ever opponent St. Francis University, as Columbia will play the Red Flash in the season opener at home on September 17th.

St. Francis is located in Loretto, PA about about midway between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The school is tiny, with just more than 1,800 undergrads. Only about 730 of those undergrads are men, so the football team makes up well over 10% of the entire male undergraduate population. (By contrast, Columbia would have to have well over 400 players on its football team to represent 10% of the total male undergrad population at the College, Engineering, and School of General Studies).

About a third of the team is extremely locally-grown and from the general Central Pennsylvania area. The states of Ohio and New Jersey are well represented on the roster too.

On the field, the Red Flash seems like a pretty good opponent. They went 6-4 last year with blowout wins over Georgetown, East Tennessee State, and Wagner, and some guttier wins over Central Connecticut State, Robert Morris, and Sacred Heart.

The Red Flash's starting QB from last year, Zach Drayer, is back. Last season the pocket passing Drayer put up very good numbers, completing 61% of his passes for 1,977 yards, 15 TD's and 9 INT. He had his best game in one of his teams most impressive wins, the 23-14 win over Sacred Heart where he completed 65% of his passes for 291 yards, two TD's and one INT. Drayer also does most of the punting, and had a decent 35-yard average last season.

Leading 2015 rusher Khairi Dickson has graduated after rushing for 1,003 yards and eight TD's last year. But junior Marcus Bagley is back after notching three 100+-yard rushing games last year, including 272 combined yards rushing on 31 carries in the first two games of the season.

The receiving corps has been absolutely gutted by graduation. The top four players in 2015 receiving yards are all gone, leaving sophomore Kamron Lewis as the most proven veteran even though he only had 11 catches last season for 107 yards and no TD's.

The best news for the Red Flash is the fact that four starters return on an excellent offensive line, including three All-NEC players. With an O-line like this, St. Francis can do lots of damage.

On defense, 1st Team NEC DB Lorenzo Jerome is back. Jerome is also a lethal kick returner and was named an All American at that position by Stats FCS.  James averaged more than 31 yards per kickoff return, including a 99-yarder for a TD and one other TD. Also back is monster Nose Tackle Wesley Nagaseu, a 310-pounder and All NEC selection. Nagaseu's fellow Hawaiian LB Solomon Leaeno is back after notching 12.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks last season. Junior DL Luke Weiss had a strong 2015 as well.

Placekicker Lance Geesey is yet another 1st Team All NEC player coming back for the Red Flash. He hit 94% of his field goal attempts last year, including a long of 46 yards.

Bottom line: this is a very good looking team and certainly isn't much of a downgrade from Fordham. But hey, bring 'em on!


LionAlum76 said...

I'd say the bottom line is St. Francis is going to be the average non-conference team we play for the next 5 years. We are either going to get above this hump (3-0) or stay behind it (0-3/1-2). As an Ivy school we should hope for sooner rather than later as Harvard/Princeton/Dartmouth have done in the past few years.

Chen1982 said...

Any guess as to freshmen that might start on opening day?

alswingman said...

I believe St. Francis has some scholarships and that area is just very deep in talent. Think about it - PA, OH, NJ are all football rich states. This is a good program and will be a tough challenge for CU.

Chen1982 said...

Feels like defense will again be the strength of the can the new offense score just a bit more on average and tip 2~3 more close games our way ?

Jake said...

Yes, St. Francis is a scholarship school.