Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Craig's Still the Man

Player Profiles

Today's Columbia Spectator has two good short pieces, one about my game 1 MVP Drew Quinn and another on wide receiver Austin Knowlin. Unfortunately, there's another silly piece on how all good QB's need to have a swagger to be winners. It certainly doesn't hurt to have confidence, and I agree that ex-Coach Shoop made a bad choice in shuttling signal-callers last year, but there's nothing wrong with letting quarterback know he may lose his job if he plays badly.

That said, I think Craig Hormann didn't do such a bad job against Fordham. He was rushed heavily all day and kept his calm most of the time. He also showed a little more mobility than he did last year. He still completed 63.6% of his passes, and some of his incomplete throws were wise tosses out of bounds to avoid sacks. And most importantly, his yards-per-attempt average was 7.0, the gold standard for a quarterback.

Remember, this is a guy who's throwing to an almost totally different receiving corps, and he must really be missing deep threat Brandon Bowser who graduated. I think Hormann will do a much better job against Georgetown this Saturday.

Ivy League Honors

It's early in the season, so it must mean Columbia has some players winning weekly honors from the Ivy League office. I don't mean to be crabby, but it seems like CU players get a little edge in the early season because the league officials know our team doesn't usually have much to crow about later in the year. Let's hope we change that trend this season.

Jon Rocholl won Ivy League Special Teams player of the week for his 3-3 field goal kicking performance. Austin Knowlin won Ivy League Rookie of the Week, and Eugene Edwards and Drew Quinn made the weekly honor roll.

Scouting Georgetown

The Hoyas are very difficult team to read and my sympathies go out to the Columbia coaching staff. Last week they knew Fordham would rely heavily on the run and the Lions could focus on stopping tailback James Prydatko. Georgetown doesn't have any one weapon as lethal as Prydatko can be, but it has a more balanced offense and a slightly tougher defense.

The biggest mystery is who will be the Hoyas' starting QB. Former NFL QB Jeff Hostetler's nephew Ben Hostetler was the starter for the first three games. But he has been unspectacular and was yanked in the second half last week against Brown. He was replaced by junior Matt Bassuener, a converted defensive back, who looked sharp, albeit in "garbage time," going 17-for-21 for 154 yards and two touchdowns. His, and Hostetler's, favorite target is 5"11 165-pound junior wide receiver Brent Craft who had six catches, but none for more than 18 yards. The other notable target is sophomore Kenny Mitchell, who had three grabs, but two were for touchdowns.

No matter who gets the start for Georgetown, Columbia will have to rush him hard. And that could be easier than it was last week, because while Fordham had a very big offensive line, the Hoyas' front five is positively puny with an average weight of 268 pounds and no one starter over 290. For anyone who thought Columbia would always be the smallest guys on the line, here come the Hoyas to disabuse you of that belief, (Columbia's O-Line averages 280 pounds). But the most glaring possible weakness is at center where Georgetown is starting a 240-pound freshman named Dan Methany. I like Columbia nose tackle Todd Abrams and his chances for plugging up the middle and dominating this kid. This may be the one time this season when Columbia's D-Line gets a nice advantage. The defenders certainly made the most of their opportunities against that big Fordham line, and unless the Hoyas have a bunch of guys with super athleticism that covers up their size issues, this looks good.

But the defense will still have a tough time, even with that small Hoya offensive line in front of them. I thought the Lions benefited greatly from excellent guess work against Fordham. After all, the Rams had James Prydatko and nothing else so it wasn't too hard to figure out what they were going to do most of the time. Georgetown will mix it up, and it will be a true test of the new 3-5-3 defense to see if the Lion linebackers can react quickly to a varied attack.

Another concern is the Columbia secondary. This unit has been the best on the team since 2004, but it was not tested last week and we haven't seen what it can do without the graduated Prosper Nwokocha and Keenan Shaw. If Bassuener starts and it turns out he does have real talent, he could hurt the Lions. Again it's a mystery, but a mystery Columbia must prepare for with aggressive and smart play.

Georgetown's defense is the better of the two units on this team. Their best strength seems to be rushing the passer, as they Hoyas have recorded seven sacks in three games this season, and at least two in each game. Brown did roll up 34 points on these guys last week, but Brown has a very experienced QB in Joe DiGiacomo, a great offensive line, and a true star wide receiver in Lonnie Hill. But it should be encouraging for the Lions to see that five different Bruin rushers gained a total of 207 yards on the ground Saturday for a 4.6-yards-per-carry average. Columbia should test Georgetown's run defense early and maybe even mix Jordan Davis and James Cobb in the first quarter instead of waiting for the second half to insert Cobb like they did last week.

Ultimately, I like Columbia's chances. The team must know the competition really only gets tougher from here on out, (with the exception of Iona in week 4), and this is just about a must-win if the Lions want to achieve a successful season. I think the defense will eventually take advantage of the small Hoya O-line and the offense will improve over last week's performance. One big advantage is on special teams, where Jon Rocholl is picking up where he left off last season. Georgetown kicker Eric Bjonerud has been perfect on PAT kicks, but he has yet to attempt a field goal all year.


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