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When asked last spring by about the one thing that people do not know about Columbia’s football team, senior wide receiver Taylor Joseph said, “We can win the Ivy League championship.”

And when you take into account that the Lions tied for sixth place last season, an Ivy League championship does seem a bit far fetched.

That confidence, however, may come from the faith the Lions (2-8, 2-5 Ivy in 2008) have in their 18 returning starters.

Columbia lost significant members of their defensive unit to graduation, highlighted by linebacker Drew Quinn. Junior Alex Gross has given a promising performance as a weakside linebacker and may be selected as Quinn’s replacement.

Coach Norries Wilson is also confident in the defensive abilities of senior Andy Shalbrack. A three-year starter at strong safety, Shalbrack had two interceptions last season.

Offensively, the Lions will look to several seniors to lead the pack. Both Joseph and fellow wide receiver Austin Knowlin had 365 receiving yards last season. Knowlin, a 2009 All-American candidate and 2008 first team All-Ivy selection, accounted for half of the team’s eight passing touchdowns last season.

This season, however, Knowlin will look to top his previous performances, as he needs 479 yards to go into the record book as Columbia’s all-time leading receiver.

Another senior, M.A. Olawale will lead the Lions’ offense at quarterback. Olawale, who was named the team’s most valuable offensive player in 2008, not only took snaps but led the team in rushing last season with 392 yards as well.

One concern the Lions may have entering this season is their punting and kicking situations. Four-year starter Jon Rocholl is Columbia’s all-time leader in field goals made with 29 and has tallied 132 career points. He graduated last May and will be replaced by one of two freshmen ­— Gregory Guttas or Tai Izawa.

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