HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Columbia.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Ivy League (Columbia finished 4th in 2018)
COACH: Al Bagnoli – At School: 5th year (19-21) Overall: 37th year (254-119)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: N/A
2018 OFFENSE: 23.1 ppg. (94th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 25.2 ppg. (40th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 5 @ Princeton: Princeton went 10-0 overall and won the Ivy League title last year. It's a great opportunity for Columbia to begin conference play and make a statement.
SUM IT UP: Coach Bagnoli is college football’s active winningest coach at any level, and his winning ways are starting to take root at Columbia. The Lions went 8-2 in 2017 and 6-4 last year, the program's first back-to-back winning seasons since 1961 and 1962. And here's the thing: that record in 2017 is more indicative of what this team can accomplish in 2019 than last year's record.
More than 25 players suffered injuries last year, with a handful of those playing a key part in the 2017 campaign that saw a 5-2 mark in Ivy League play. Nine players that have earned All-Conference honors in the last three seasons are on the 2019 roster: WR Josh Wainwright, PK Oren Milstein, OL Parker Coogan, DB Will Allen, DL Daniel DeLorenzi, LB Michael Murphy, WR Ronald Smith, P Drew Schmid and KR/PR Mike Roussos.
Overall, Columbia returns 16 starters, seven on offense and nine on defense, and several other players that saw a lot of playing time in 2018.
Expect a ton of improvement on both sides of the ball with the number of guys coming back, but especially offensively. That unit suffered injury after injury last season. Josh Bean is the expected starter at quarterback. He played in just four games last year while battling injuries. Wainwright is a top target at WR and he missed all of 2018. Dante Miller has tremendous speed at running back, but could only showcase it in six games before an injury ended his season. With four of the five starting offensive linemen back, this group could be one of the better ones in the conference.
OUR TAKE: Look, a football team and its coaching staff are never going to use injuries as an excuse. There's too much pride there. But it is quite obvious that Columbia enters 2019 a much better team than its 6-4 record indicates. The Ivy League is going to be insanely competitive this year. There's no reason the Lions shouldn't be looked at as one of those teams battling at the top. Hitting eight wins again should be the goal for this team, with the ultimate goal of winning even more.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./DL Daniel DeLorenzi (First Team All-Ivy, 9.5 sacks, 10.5 TFLs)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./P Drew Schmid (Second Team All-Ivy); Sr./OL Parker Coogan (All-Ivy Honorable Mention); Sr./WR Josh Wainwright (Injured in 2018, a 2017 First Team All-Ivy); Sr./WR Ronald Smith (2-time All-Ivy, 36 rec. for 399 yards and 2 TDs last year); Jr./QB Josh Bean (Likely to be QB1, battled injuries last year); So./WR Mike Roussos (All-American kick returner); Sr./LB Michael Murphy (2-year starter, 39 tackles last year); Sr./CB Benjamin McKeighan (2-year starter, 8 PD and 7 PBUs last year)
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./K Alex Felkins (HS First Team All-American kicker)
THE QUOTE: "We are extremely excited to add a coach with the experience, work ethic and expertise of Ryan Larsen. As an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Stevenson over the past four years, Ryan's offenses set 37 school-records and helped elevate the program to tremendous success. He is a valuable addition to our coaching staff and we are excited to see how he will impact our quarterback position." — Head Coach Al Bagnoli said about new QBs coach Ryan Larsen
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Columbia Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Ivy League
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast