Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wither Wagner?

Alex Thomson

With 80 days to go until the season begins, let's start assessing what we know and don't know about Columbia's opponents.

Columbia opens its 2017 season at home against Wagner, a team the Lions have defeated two years running.

Wagner is a very hard football program to really figure out these days, and they didn't make it easier in 2016 with another season where it was difficult to know which Seahawk team was going to show up on any given Saturday.

And making it even harder to gauge this team is the fact that it played three games last season that skewed the statistics in every way. It started the year with two games against tiny schools Concordia and Saint Anselm that were little more than scrimmages, and later played a game where the Seahawks played the role of patsy against Boston College.

But this post isn't just going to be a series of complaints and excuses. Because it's time to give a general overview of what we might expect from our opening opponent.


Wagner returns a pretty decent QB in Alex Thomson, who has good size and arm strength. But last year against the Lions, he simply had a bad game. Thomson completed fewer than 50% of his passes and showed little mobility in taking some very crucial sacks. Maybe it was the rain, but Thomson's performance against Columbia was probably his worst of 2016 and it may not be the best way to judge his abilities for 2017.

The running back situation looks misleading for other reasons. Wagner's top returning RB is Denzel Knight, who only had 5 carries against the Lions last year and saw his overall season stats greatly inflated in those St. Anslem and Concordia games. It should be noted that Wagner couldn't run the ball at all well against Columbia last year, and before you blame the rain remember that CU's Alan Watson ran for 107 yards in one of his best games of the season.

The receiving situation is also a potential problem for the Seahawks. The team's longtime top aerial target, Andrew Yevchinecz, has finally retired. Senior John Williams is coming back, and at 6-6, he creates serious match up problems. He even had back-to-back 100-yard games to end the season. But he doesn't seem to have much help in what looks like a thin overall receiving corps.

The offensive line returns all five of its starters from most of 2016. That's extremely unusual and is clearly a big positive for Wagner. Of course, the Seahawk O-line was also not especially good last year. So the question is how much this very veteran squad can improve.


Wagner's returning defensive stars are many. That's even though their most-hyped defensive player from last year, Najee Harris, has graduated.

Linebacker Santoni Graham, who was the team's top tackler last year, is back along with fellow top linebacker Quintin Hampton who had three sacks against the Lions in their game last year. A third linebacker starter, D.J. Paul, is back for a graduate year. Wagner's best DB, Jesse Flaherty is also back for this season.

The defensive line has key returnees as well. In fact, all three DL starters from last season are back. One is Jordan Baskerville at DE after he led the team in sacks in 2016. Big DL Christian Gore is back for a graduate year, and so is another graduate player Kiser Terry.

For all intents and purposes, it looks like Wagner should be a tougher opponent for Columbia than the Seahawks were in 2016 and definitely 2015. We'll know a lot more about them than they'll know about us since Wagner has two games to play before they come to Wien Stadium on 9/16. One of those games is against St, Anselm, but the other is at St. Francis, which will be more telling.


Chen1982 said...

We should be a tougher team as well, if our offense can carry the momentum of the last four games of last season into the opening game.

alawicius said...

Wagner could threaten with weapons on both sides of the ball,and they'll be looking for a win.