"THE CONVERSATION" Episode #32, With Jon McLaughlin, Offensive Line Coach, Columbia University

March 25, 2020

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With nearly 30 years of collegiate coaching experience, Jon McLaughlin was named offensive line coach and assistant head coach at Columbia University in March 2015. Known for top-notch offensive line play and offensive production in both the running and passing game, McLaughlin arrived at Columbia after nine years as the University of Pennsylvania’s offensive line coach, while also serving as the offensive coordinator in his last six seasons with the Quakers. Throughout his 28-year college coaching career, 10 offensive linemen under McLaughlin’s tutelage have played in the National Football League.

McLaughlin, who enters his fifth year at Columbia in 2019, has built the program’s offensive line into a reliable and efficient unit. Offensive line play has enabled the Lions to amass 14 victories over the last two seasons, its highest win total in consecutive years since the institution joined the Ivy League in 1956, and register back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1961 and 1962.

Despite suffering injuries to over 25 key players, Columbia completed its 2018 season with a 6-4 overall and 3-4 Ivy League record. Amazingly, Columbia won games while starting four different quarterbacks as six different players saw action behind center and the Lions still averaged 306.3 yards of offense per game. Parker Coogan earned All-Ivy League honorable mention honors, while captain Markham Paukune, Tyler Schonewolf, Josh Kaminski, Isaac Werkman and Joseph Scowden all played key roles. The group allowed just 19 sacks on the year, which tied for the second fewest allowed in Columbia football season.

In 2017, Columbia’s offensive line bolstered an offense that averaged 359.3 yards per game, along with 240.8 yards passing per contest. Two linemen—Bewley Wales and Markham Paukune—earned All-Ivy League honors, while Charlie Flores, Parker Coogan, Tyler Schonewolf and Joseph Scowden emerged as key contributors. In 2016, Columbia’s offensive line proved to be a team strength as it helped the Lions passing game accumulate 201.4 yards passing per game while running back Alan Watson and offensive tackle Kendall Pace earned All-Ivy League honors. In his first year at Columbia in 2015, the Lions’ run game was on full display as McLaughlin help produce two All-Ivy League selections. Running back Cameron Molina was a first team honoree after leading the conference in rushing during league games. Molina had lead blocking from offensive lineman Billy Lawrence, who earned a spot on the honorable mention All-Ivy League team. The Lions yielded just 25 sacks in 2015.

In his first four seasons as offensive coordinator at Penn, the Quakers were outscored just four times in 28 league games and claimed three outright—and two undefeated—Ivy League titles (2009, 2010 and 2012). During Penn’s most recent Ivy title season in 2012, quarterback Billy Ragone moved into the top-5 all-time at Penn in nearly every single career passing category. In addition, six members of Penn’s starting offense earned All-Ivy recognition. In 2010, the Quakers led the Ivy League in rushing for the first time in 12 years when they finished sixth in the FCS with 242.0 yards per game. For the first time since 2003, Penn also finished atop the Ivy League in total offense and scoring offense, while averaging 32.9 points per game against Ivy opponents. In his first year at the helm of the Quakers’ offense, Penn finished unbeaten in league play to earn the outright Ivy League title—all despite losing three starting quarterbacks to injury. With the fourth-string quarterback starting in the fourth week of the season, Penn won that game and every single one thereafter. At season’s end, Penn’s starting quarterback, running back, tight end and top wide receiver each earned All-Ivy recognition.

Also in charge of the offensive line, McLaughlin has coached a Penn lineman to All-Ivy League First Team honors in each of his first eight seasons and has had a total of three players reach the NFL. McLaughlin helped tutor all five linemen to All-Ivy status in 2010, while another earned All-American accolades. More recently, he guided Greg Van Roten to three straight All-Ivy awards. Van Roten signed an NFL contract following his senior season in 2011, and has spent time with the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and CFL’s Toronto Argonauts.

In his first six seasons in Philadelphia, McLaughlin’s offensive line finished atop the Ivy League in fewest sacks allowed four times. In 2007, only four other teams in the nation allowed fewer sacks than McLaughlin’s offensive line, while in 2006 he directed another dominant line that allowed just 10 sacks and aided a 1,000-yard rusher in Joe Sandberg. Three of its five members — Sean Estrada, Marko Grzan and Andrew Wietstock — all earned All-Ivy League recognition, and Estrada went on to sign a free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

McLaughlin came to Philadelphia from the University of Iowa, where he spent six years, first as a graduate assistant coach and then as a quality control assistant (1999-2005). McLaughlin coached in five bowl games with the Hawkeyes, including four consecutive January bowls. During his time at Iowa, the Hawkeyes finished nationally ranked in the top-10 three times. McLaughlin worked with six offensive linemen who were drafted into the NFL, three All-Americans, two Big Ten Linemen of the Year award winners, and the 2003 Outland Trophy winner Robert Gallery, who was the second overall pick in 2004 NFL draft. He was also heavily involved in Iowa’s recruiting classes that were ranked among the nation’s top-25 in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (ranked among the nation’s top-10).

McLaughlin went to Iowa after serving as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., for three seasons. His first season there he served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. He was also the Muhlenberg baseball coach in 1996-97.

In 1995, McLaughlin was an assistant offensive line coach and head junior varsity coach at Cornell. He served as defensive line coach and special teams coordinator at Hobart College from 1993-94 and was the defensive line coach at his alma mater, Alfred University (N.Y.), in 1992.

McLaughlin coached at the high school level in 1991, serving as offensive and defensive line coach at Watkins Glen High School in Watkins Glen, New York.

He was a four-year starter on the defensive line at Alfred University, earning his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1991. McLaughlin also earned his master’s degree in recreational sports

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