Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Some Encouraging Stuff

11 Days to Kickoff!!

A lot of those burning questions we've been carrying around since the end of last season have yet to be answered, most notably who will be our starting QB. But I'm encouraged by some of the moves Coach Shoop has made since practice started on August 21st. Here they are:

1) I like that it looks like they simply booted Gordon Radlein off the team, even though it was his starting tailback job to lose when camp started. I mean no personal attack on Mr. Radlein, but I was never impressed by what he did on the field, and obviously he wasn't too impressive in practice either. I don't think his replacement, (looks like that will be Junior James Cobb for now), will be Emmitt Smith-like, but I do think he'll work his hardest knowing that his predecessor got the axe.

Seriously, how refreshing is it that Columbia's coaches seem to value effort and toughness over reputation or seniority now? How many games have we lost in the last 5 years alone because our players lost focus at the key moment? We may not win the league, but I bet a tougher attitude results in one or two more wins this season at a minimum.

2) The starting QB job is still not set. Usually, that would be a concern, but it really looks like Joe Winters and Craig Hormann are both playing too well to be counted out just yet. Shoop does say he will make the announcement sometime before next Monday, so they can have a week of practice before the opener at Fordham with the eventual starter under center. This is another encouraging sign. Winters is a tri-captain and a senior, but he still isn't being allowed to waltz into the starting job. He seems like a great guy, but if Hormann is the man, than all the better. As a sophomore, Hormann stands to get better and better and be a major force by the time he's a senior. We had a 3-year starter in Jeff McCall from 1999-2001, but it looks like Hormann is a lot more talented.

3) The coaches are shuffling some players like madmen... and in the past that's been great for Columbia. Adam Brekke has been one of our better linebackers the last two seasons, but he's been moved to fullback. I'm hoping that means we're deeper at the linebacking position than I thought and we could spare him.

What's NOT encouraging so far? Well, we still have a killer schedule ahead of us, and the only Ivy team that's looking weaker than it did before the summer is Yale, (thanks to a couple of injuries to key starters), so my prediction for a 1-9 season is now only upgraded to 2-8. But if these guys are as tough as they seem to be in training camp, we could have a 2003-like season with 4 or 5 wins.

***Opponent Update***

Fordham started its 2005 campaign with a 34-20 loss to Rhode Island at URI on Saturday. Fordham's starting QB was looking good until he went down with an injury in the 2nd half. There's no word yet on whether he'll play next week at Duquesne, but if he's still out or slowed for the 9/17 against Columbia, that will definitely help the Lions. It appears the Fordham defense played pretty badly, giving up a whopping 387 yards rushing and recording no sacks or interceptions. But their own running game was astonishingly bad, racking up just 33 yards on 34 carries. In their 17-14 win over Columbia last year, their running game was also pretty weak and they beat us with defense. So, if the defense remains as bad as it was against URI, AND their starting QB is still even a bit hurt when the Lions take Fordham on in 11 days, this could become a very winnable game for CU.

Duquesne started things off with a 23-12 win over Robert Morris in their opener. The Dukes are excited about their freshman QB, who racked up some impressive numbers and was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week. It's really going to be hard to measure what kind of an opponent these guys will be since they come from a smaller conference and we've never played them before. But we'll get some help as they get ready to host Fordham this Saturday in a game that should help our advance scouts immensely!

Lafayette started with a 40-21 win over another MAAC opponent, Marist. The Leopards impressive offense looked good again, especially when you consider this was a road game and that Lafayette started slowly last season. But Columbia can still be a bit encouraged by the Leopards' unimpressive defensive showing, and the fact that the game was close until the 3rd quarter. Still, Columbia meets Lafayette at Easton, PA in week 4, when I expect the Leopards to be in mid-season form.


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