Chris Laviano left Long Island for a taste of the Big Ten, but now he’s back home hoping to lead LIU Post to the top of the Northeast 10.
The Glen Head native and former quarterback at Rutgers and Holy Trinity High School will start the season-opener next Saturday against American International College. He started 19 consecutive games for the Scarlet Knights before transferring to San Diego State for the 2017 season.
“It’s extremely exciting to finish where I started,” said Laviano, a graduate student who comes to Post after a stint at San Diego State, where he fell to No. 3 on the depth chart. He wound up at the Mountain West school after struggling and losing the starting job at Rutgers following a 2-5 start to the season.
With experience competing in one of the nation’s premier Division I football conferences, Laviano appears primed to find success at the less talent-laden Division II level with Post.
After finishing 8-2 last season and narrowly missing the NCAA Division II playoffs, the Pioneers enter this year ranked No. 2 in the Northeast 10 preseason coaches’ poll and will sport a quarterback who threw for 3,102 yards and 21 touchdowns in 24 games with Rutgers from 2014-16.
“He’s got the big arm, he’s big, strong and athletic,” Post coach Bryan Collins said. “He’s got all the tools you want in a quarterback. He’s built a very strong relationship with these players given that he’s local and played with a lot of these guys in high school.”
Collins spoke about the bevy of accomplished teammates Laviano will have on hand, including experienced receivers such as Michael Richardson and Amir Crenshaw, as well as a quality running attack.
“It’s a great situation for him to come into,” Collins said. “All of our skill players from last year are returning, so he’s got a very veteran group of wide receivers. Five of them are seniors and have had outstanding careers. He’s got experience in our two running backs, Malik Pierre and Tim Marinan.
“He has the skill guys there and it’s a matter of just getting the timing down. He’s putting the extra time in after every practice and in the film room and with our coaches. Our players respect him very much. He’s working hard to fit in and get the job done.”
Pierre, a redshirt senior who Collins describes as “a special player,” will bring plenty of experience with his playmaking ability on offense and special teams. He ran for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns on 135 carries and had two kick return touchdowns with an average of 33.7 yards per return last season. Pierre also had 48 receptions for 404 yards and four touchdowns.
He gave a glowing review of what Laviano has brought to the table and how he’s helped improve the offense in his short time at Post thus far.
“He has an amazing ability to throw the ball and his knowledge of the game is outstanding,” Pierre said. “He’s really helped all of us out in that aspect of the game. As far as understanding defenses, route-running, where to be and how to get open, he’s really helped us all.”
Laviano touched on what he believes are the greatest strengths he presents at quarterback.
“For this team and this season, leadership, preparation and leading by example,” Laviano said. “I think the harder you prepare kind of rubs off on everybody. When they see you do the right thing, that’s what leadership is. I think making guys around me better is probably my best quality.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Collins said he also has plenty to be excited about in 6-2, 250-pound graduate defensive end Kevin Petit-Frere, who played in only one game last season because of injury. He was named to the All-NE-10 first team in 2016.
Coming off a freshman season in which he was named to the NE-10 All-Rookie team, cornerback Nazir Streater is projected to be a key contributor in the secondary.
Sept. 8 American International noon
Sept. 15 at Stonehill 6 p.m.
Sept. 22 Bentley, 1 p.m
Sept. 29 at Merrimack 1 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Shippensburg 1 p.m.
Oct. 13: Saint Anselm 1 p.m.
Oct. 20: Pace 1 p.m.
Oct. 27: at Assumption 1 p.m.
Nov. 3 So. Connecticut State noon
Nov. 10 New Haven noon