Monday, February 27, 2017

Taking the Ball

Tanner Thomas

After considering staying on for a 5th year, I can now report that RB Alan Watson is not going to come back for the 2017 season. That means his role as the lead ball carrier will need to be filled.

Before I list all the possible contenders, it's important to note that the two seasons Columbia has played so far under Head Coach Al Bagnoli have seen the same scenario unfold when it comes to the starting running back. Both Cameron Molina in 2015 and Watson in 2016 really hit their strides at the end of those seasons. The trick in 2017 is finding a way to get a RB who can hit that peak level of performance either on day one or at least before mid season.

The top returning RB's are sophomores Tanner Thomas, Lynnard Rose, and senior Chris Schroer. Joining them in the mix are what I consider to be the top two incoming freshmen running backs in Broderick Taylor and Marquavious Moore. But don't forget local product Anthony Filacouris from Long Island and Jalen Allen from Michigan.

(DISCLAIMER: This assessment of the incoming frosh is just my opinion).

Thomas, Taylor, and Moore look like contenders to be lead backs, while Rose's talents seem to lean more to a guy who gets about 5 carries a game and 3-4 passes from out of the backfield. And Schroer, now going into his senior year, could end up being a surprise winner in this race for #1. He would at least continue the trend of seniors getting the job under the Bagnoli coaching regime.

But based on how Bagnoli did things for most of his tenure at Penn, I believe he wants to have a running attack more by committee. The problem is so far at Columbia, only Molina and Watson really stepped up. He may have enough horses to run a two-back attack this fall.

While the continued development of senior QB Anders Hill remains the top priority, that job will become a lot easier if the Lions show a potent running attack on day one. A big reason why Hill played so well in the final two games of the 2016 season was because Watson played so well too. It's really as simple as that.

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