NEW YORK—This is the first part of a preseason series previewing each of the 2017 Columbia Football position groups. For our position group preview, we first take a look at Columbia’s offensive line in 2017.
The offensive line is one of Columbia’s most experienced units as Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Jon McLaughlin welcomes back a deep and talented group that returns three starters including senior Charlie Flores (15 career starts), junior center Tyler Schonewolf (10 career starts) and senior Bewley Wales (30 career starts). Two other players with experience—senior Markham Paukune (two starts last year) and sophomore Parker Coogan—will also factor in. Two starters depart the program in left tackle Kendall Pace, who is on the Washington Redskins roster, and Nathan Gibbs.
Through the first week of preseason training camp, McLaughlin’s line has featured Wales at left tackle, Flores at left guard, Schonewolf at center, Coogan at right guard and Paukune at right tackle.
“The great thing coming into day one of preseason was recognizing the amount of work that was done in the offseason,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve got the best strength facility and the best strength staff in the league, by far. You can see how much growth we’ve had even from the spring. It’s fun to have a meeting room with 21 guys who have really bought into the culture and the continuity in the system, how we drill and the continuity of our drills. It’s also fun to have a group of 21 guys who have really built the system.”
One of four team captains, the multi-talented and versatile Wales has started all 30 consecutive games of his career at Columbia. The Tulsa, Okla. native began his career as the squad’s left guard as a first-year in 2014, moved to center in 2015 and played right tackle in 2016. After missing the 2015 season with an injury, Flores bounced back to start all 10 games at left guard as a junior. Listed as a senior, Flores has one extra year of eligibility. Schonewolf started all 10 games as Columbia’s center in 2016. Paukune, who saw extensive action in seven games with two starts last year at right guard, makes the move to right tackle and Coogan served as the Lions’ backup center in 2016.
“First and foremost, we start with our seniors,” McLaughlin said. “Bewley, Markham and Charlie are three guys who’ve started and played a lot of football here, but you can also look at a guy like Reid Stables who has probably done more to teach our guys about our offensive system than I have. Every meal, in between every team meeting, he’s over there talking to our young guys, teaching the schemes, teaching the vocabulary of our offense, non-stop. He’s as unselfish as any player we have in our program. Then Bewley and Markham as our starting left and right tackle both are setting a high bar. The great thing about both is they continue to work hard and improve. They come out and practice hard every day and the great thing about both of them is that there still is room to improve. They haven’t even scratched the surface of what they can become. It’s been fun to follow their lead. It’s been a great group. We have great depth. We have 21 guys in the meeting room right now and every one of them has a key role in this program. Every one of them has a really, really bright future. It’s fun to work with.”
Also returning to compete for playing time include junior Brock Anglin, who served as Pace’s backup last season at left tackle, junior Benjamin Robbins, who saw action in two games last year, junior Michael McGrath (three games), senior Reid Stables, senior Peter Szymanski, junior Adam Armesto and sophomores Joseph Scowden, John Fischer II, Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal, Drew Schoeberl and Isaac Werkman.
“It’s tough for freshman,” McLaughlin said, “Not just the physical aspect. We have some physically talented freshmen. There’s so much to learn about the position, the language of the position, understanding what every word means, the vocabulary. Then, there’s the emotional aspect. It’s learning that you survive getting knocked down and not shy away the next snap. There’s a lot of growth and maturity required to play the position. A lot of young guys have to go through the battles to develop that toughness. If the time comes, there are a couple of guys who could step and be ready. The sophomores—the Drew Schoeberl’s, the Joe Skowdens, Isaac Werkman and John Fischer—are working themselves into roles where they’re going to be the next guy if needed. It’s great to see their growth from one year to the next. Obviously, sophomore Parker Coogan has worked his way into a role where we expect him to play at a high, high level. He’s lived up to that expectation after eight practices.”
PRACTICE EIGHT NEWS & NOTES
The second week of training camp began this afternoon as Columbia went through a two-and-a-half hour practice from 2:45-5:15 p.m. The rest of the practice schedule this week looks like this: Tuesday—4:50-7 p.m.; Wednesday—5:30-8 p.m.; Thursday—3-5:30 p.m.; Friday—Scrimmage vs. Montclair State, noon; Saturday: Media/Photo Day, 9:30-11 a.m., Practice—4-6 p.m.; Sunday—3-5:30 p.m.
A member of the Detroit Lions scouting staff attended practice on Monday.
We are one week away from Columbia’s preseason scrimmage against Montclair State. Columbia will host Montclair State in a preseason scrimmage at Robert K. Kraft Field on Friday, Sept. 1 at noon. Admission is free and open to the public.
Columbia will practice 24 times before it opens its 2017 season on Saturday, Sept. 16 against Wagner at Robert K. Kraft Field. All practices are open to the public. Click here for a complete schedule of Columbia’s preseason practices.