NEW YORK—This is the third part of a preseason series previewing each of the 2017 Columbia Football position groups. For today’s position group preview, we take a look at Columbia’s running backs.

 

At running back, Columbia must replace departed All-Ivy League Second Team selection Alan Watson. Midway through the 2016 season, Watson emerged as the Lions’ feature back as he ranked fourth in the Ivy League in rushing yards per game (62.7) and led the Lions in rushing yards (627), carries (133) and yards per carry (4.7). He also caught 17 passes for 120 yards and totaled three 100-yard rushing games, including two consecutive to close out the 2016 season. He also led the Lions in all-purpose yardage (816 yards). It was the second year in a row that the Lions had an All-Ivy League running back as Cameron Molina starred in 2015.

 

With the departure of Watson, Running Backs Coach John Audino said that his backfield group is well-rounded and making progress.

 

“We’ve got a lot of ability and talent and we’ve got lot of guys that can do a lot of different things,” Audino said. “We’re not just going to use one back; we can play two, three, four guys. Being a spread team, we’ve got to be able to run inside and outside, run power a bit and also be able to pass protect. The guys have worked hard in the offseason and did a great job carrying everything over to the fall. They came into camp in good shape and I’ve been very pleased.”

 

Upon entering the season, the Lions will count on senior Chris Schroer and sophomores Tanner Thomas and Lynnard Rose to carry the workload. Schroer rushed for 167 yards on 43 carries (3.9 yards per carry) and also caught eight passes for 55 yards. In his three-year career, he has rushed for 282 yards on 80 carries and caught 15 passes for 133 yards. Last year, he earned CoSIDa Academic All-District honors and earned the team’s Class of 1913 Memorial Cup Trophy for his dedication in the classroom. As a first-year in 2016, Thomas ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. He also saw action as a kick returner and proved himself as a durable back. The multi-dimensional Rose, who accumulated 313 all-purpose yards last season (219 kickoff return yards, 57 punt return yards, 25 rushing yards and 12 receiving), contributed primarily as a kick and punt returner. He missed spring drills because he plays on Columbia’s baseball team.

 

“Both Tanner Thomas and Chris Schroer have done a great job and stepped up as leaders,” Audino said. “Tanner looks phenomenal. He’s done a great job and has grown up. He knows the offense, is a good inside and outside runner and has gotten more comfortable with the passing game. He’s also become a leader for us at a young age, being a sophomore. Chris has also done a great job for us. Here’s a guy who has been injured off and on over the course of his four years here at Columbia. He’s played some during his four years and has really contributed to the program. This year, he looks really, really good. Having the spring off really did him well. He’s healthy, bigger and a lot faster. He has a great grasp of the offense. He has looked as smooth as I’ve seen him, is a good pass receiver, understands the scheme, good pass blocker and good runner. Those two guys have played the majority of the snaps.”

 

“Lynnard is back as well. He’s a very instinctual runner and very good receiver out of the backfield. Running the ball, he’s got great feet, good vision and good burst. He catches the ball well and does everything you would want. He should be fine and he’s working himself back into it.”

 

Also returning to the backfield are two sophomores in Van Neils and Alex Gibson.

 

“Van and Alex worked extremely hard throughout the spring practices,” Audino said. “Alex was instrumental on special teams last year. He’s a jack-of-all-trades guy, a good receiver out of the backfield. Van is more a power runner guy who has improved tremendously over the course of a year that I’ve worked with him. He’s a big, strong kid. Both of those guys are still developing and they’ll round a veteran crew.”

 

Audino is also encouraged by his group of talented first-years including Jalen Allen, Alexander Filacouris, Marquavious Moore and Broderick Taylor. He is hoping several will emerge as the season progresses.

 

PRACTICE 12 NEWS & NOTES

 

Due to Freshman Orientation on campus, the practice schedule is different from the normal schedule. Here is the rest of the week: Thursday—3-5:30 p.m.; Friday—Scrimmage vs. Montclair State, noon; Saturday: Photo Day, 9:30-11 a.m., Practice—4-6 p.m.; Sunday—3-5:30 p.m.

 

We are now one day 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.

 

Tonight, Columbia will complete practice No. 12. 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.

 

Kickoff times and television designations for Columbia’s 2017 Football schedule were announced on July 24. Click here for Columbia’s complete 2017 football schedule.