Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reading the Tea Leaves

Rabid football fans are always starving for information during training camp. In recent years, Columbia fans have been reduced to visiting the CU website 3-4 times a day hoping for stories or even counting the names on the football roster to see who's still on the team.

This year, we were lucky to get a quick overview of what's going on in camp on the website just one week after it began, (see the story here: Training Camp News).

There's not a lot of great information here, but I think it's clear that Craig Hormann and Jordan Davis will be the starters at QB and tailback respectively. I liked the optimism being expressed about the offensive line, even though mere words may not mean anything here.

I'd like to see Hormann build on what he accomplished in 2005. He kept his stats respectable, and I was especially impressed with his low INT total. He needs to find a way to improve this season by setting and meeting some realistic goals. If I were Coach Wilson, I'd like to see Hormann throw for at least 2,000 yards and 12 TD's with 10 or fewer interceptions. But I think there's a chance he could do much better than that with a decent O-line and running game to back him up. Hormann's arm strength is good and he's one of just two experienced starters, (along with Brown's Joe DiGiacomo), in the Ivies this season. This will be the year we find out if Hormann will become more of a John Witkowski or a Jeff McCall. Witkowski was Columbia's best QB since Sid Luckman, as he took off with outstanding junior and senior seasons. Jeff McCall looked promising after he got considerable playing time as a sophomore, but he never developed into anything more than an average QB and he also never shook his disturbing tendency to throw interceptions that were returned for TD's

As for Davis, he needs to justify getting at least 15 carries a game and get close to at least four yards a carry. Basically, Davis can be proud if he walks away from this season with 600+ yards and at least five TD's.

Getting back to the article on the CU website, there was an acknowledgement that the Lions are looking pretty thin at linebacker with the defections of Daylamani and Behrens. This is either going to be a great opportunity for a few freshmen go-getters or the key to another season of Columbia giving up 200+ yards rushing per game on defense. Stopping the run, or at least beginning to cut down on the bleeding on the ground, is the key to the Lions defense this season.

There are a lot of names mentioned in the paragraph about wide receivers, but despite some nice words about Nick DeGasperis later on in the piece, he is not mentioned as a potential starter at inside or outside slot. That may mean he will be returning kicks or contributing some other way, but I'd love to see his obvious enthusiasm for the game get rewarded with some real catches and touchdowns in 2006.

Of course, the loss of players like Ben Bernstein and Drew Behrens, (they appear to have quit), since the start of camp is discouraging. The Columbia roster is down to 85 players, but at this time last pre-season we were down to 76. There's no way to know yet if the most recent losses are a hint of overall player dissatisfaction and dejection as they were last year, or just normal attrition. If Coach Wilson didn't already know what a tough job he has ahead of him, he's probably getting an idea know.

Until the Columbia Spectator returns from its summer break, we may not get much more information than this, so let's be grateful for what we have.

This Saturday, the Lions will take on the Harvard Crimson in a closed scrimmage at Wien Stadium. Perhaps some information about it will trickle out, but fans might spend the day better tracking the fortunes of Columbia's future opponents Fordham, Georgetown, and Iona, who will all be playing their regular season openers that day.

Just 18 days until kickoff!


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