NEW YORK—This is the second 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 defensive line in 2017.
Upon entering the 2017 season, Columbia’s defensive line is easily the Lions’ most experienced and deepest position group. The Lions’ defensive line contributed heavily to a unit that ranked among the nation’s best defenses in several statistical categories including third down conversion defense (No. 5, 29.3), first down defense (No. 7, 177.0) and team tackles for loss (No. 14, 7.6 per game). In addition, Columbia ranked No. 39 in total defense (354.9 yards allowed per game) and No. 43 in scoring defense (24.7 points per game allowed).
Columbia Defensive Line Coach Darin Edwards returns a host of linemen to the squad in 2017. All four starters and seven of its top eight players return to the unit including Second Team All-Ivy League selection Lord Hyeamang (DT), senior Dominic Perkovic (DT), senior Connor Heeb (DE) and junior Mike Hinton (DE). A senior, Hyeamang ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 38 (17 solo) and fourth on the team in tackles for loss (7.0-22), along with a forced a fumble in 2017. He was named one of four team captains this spring. Another defensive tackle, Perkovic started seven of eight games and contributed 31 tackles (12 solo) and 3.5 for loss while battling injuries in 2016. He has played in 27 career games with 20 starts on the defensive line. Both Heeb, who registered 22 tackles last year and has seen action in 26 career games played, and Hinton (16 tackles) started all 10 games at defensive end last year.
But it doesn’t end there. In addition to the starters, several returning players earned significant playing time last season. Those players include senior Alexander Holme, sophomore Daniel DeLorenzi, sophomore Arman Samouk and senior Ian Tyler. Holme, who made 24 tackles in 10 games and three starts last year is basically a fifth starter, stalwart on the line and key contributor on special teams. DeLorenzi, who saw action in nine games and emerged as the season wore on, was a terror last year on third down as he led the Lions in both sacks (5-23) and quarterback hurries (seven). He also made 16 tackles, including 6.0 for loss. Samouk played in nine of 10 games last season and made eight tackles with one sack. Tyler contributed 10 tackles last year and has played in 22 career games.
“Our defensive line has done a great job for us because of our senior leadership,” Edwards said. “Obviously, Lord Hyeamang, one of our senior captains, Connor Heeb, Michael Hinton, Dominic Perkovic, Alexander Holme—it’s not really one or two guys, it’s everyone. They’ve all done a tremendous job in the early-going. Our starters and backups, we can flip all of them in and out, it really doesn’t matter. It’s good, it’s a good problem to have. They’ve all improved over the offseason. We are a year stronger, a year faster and the improvement has been good for us. Hopefully it pays dividends on Saturdays in the fall.”
Other veteran returnees who could factor into the playing rotation include senior Greg Washington, sophomore Taylor Weldon, who is back from injury, senior Charles Melka, junior Cole McDonough, sophomore Zach O’Neill, senior Collin Breckenridge (one game), senior Liam Talty, sophomore Alex Robin and sophomore LinDon Harris.
“The first-years are working hard,” Edwards said. “They’re young and they’re freshmen, but they’re working hard, they’re swimming a little bit at times, but it’s good to have some older guys who can help them along the way. Our veterans have served as great role models and leaders. In meetings they might get on them a little bit, but they also help a lot.”
Edwards also spoke about Columbia’s success on third down and how he’d like to duplicate that success in 2017.
“We hope those guys come back even better this year (on third downs) and possibly add in some younger guys,” Edwards said. “If we can get a guy who doesn’t play necessarily on first or second down, we try to do all we can to have some fresh legs out there and get a jump on the quarterback.”
PRACTICE NINE NEWS & NOTES
Due to Freshman Orientation on campus, the practice schedule is different from the normal schedule. Here is the rest of the week: 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.
We are now three days 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.
Today, Columbia completed practice No. 9. 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.