Sunday, July 08, 2007

Who's Your Pick to Click?

Put 'em on the board...... yyyyyyyyessss!

If you ever watch Chicago White Sox baseball broadcasts on WGN, (and you should for the comedy factor alone... the announcers are hillarious), you're familiar with the little "Who's Your Pick to Click?" segment they do before each game. It's a fun way to predict something either than who they think is going to win.

So much of this incoming freshmen class is a mystery as always. But I have about a half-dozen freshmen who are my "picks to click" by breaking into the starting lineup, making a huge impact, or both.

Last year, Columbia's top freshmen could be put in three catagories:

I. Major Impact/Starters

1. Andy Shalbrack
2. Austin Knowling
3. Justin Masorti

II. Big Contributors/Key Backups

1. Lou Miller
2. Taylor Joseph
3. Matt Bashaw

III. Liked What We Saw, Need More Data

1. M.A. Olawale
2. Pete Stoll
3. Ray Rangel

Even for a team without a lot of seniors, getting NINE freshmen to contribute as much as the guys named above did in 2006 was extraordinary. And now the word from the coaches is that this class is going to be even better.

Based on what I've read and seen so far, and considering Columbia's specific needs this season the following incoming freshmen are my "picks to click."

1) Marc Holloway, LB

Columbia needs lots of linebackers in the 3-5-3, and to stay fresh the Lions need to shuffle a lot more than 3 pure linebackers and 2 spurs in and out of the lineup a lot more than usual. Holloway is an all-star player from a top-notch Catholic league in Philadelphia, the same league that produced Shalbrack. He should fit very well into the Columbia system and could be this season's Justin Masorti. I also see him fitting into the mold of all-time Columbia great Rory Wilfork.

2) Calvin Otis, DB

This highly sought-after recruit may be coming to Columbia thanks to his mom, who got her MBA at CU. Whatever the reason, he has the perfect size and speed to be a shutdown corner and possibly fill in at some other positions. With two senior corners in JoJo Smith and Eugene Edwards needing to be replaced at the end of the year, I expect Coach Wilson to give Otis plenty of on-the-field training in game situations.

3) Nico Gutierrez, WR

Columbia desperately needs to find another wide receiver threat to compliment Austin Knowlin. Gutierrez needs to prove he's recovered from a bad injury, but he did return to track competition in the spring. Before he went down, he was a legitimate Division I prospect. If he teams with Knowlin, they would comprise an all-Connecticut receiving corps. That would make games at Yale pretty interesting.

4) Leon Ivery, RB

Ivery is another player whose stock fell a bit because of injury, but who has reportedly recovered. Ivery's stats are eye-popping, but he comes from a prep conference in Northern California that is hit-or-miss. I expect the coaches to give him a very good look in training camp.

5) Shane Kelly, QB

You don't go out and grab a Division I transfer and not see what he's got to offer. There's a very good chance starting QB Craig Hormann will need to sit out some portions of games this season either because of his injury or to protect him from re-aggravating it. Kelly is officially a sophomore, but he has two years of taking practice reps facing off against some sacry defensive players at Temple under his belt and should be ready to play.

6) Derek Lipscomb, LB

Lipscomb is not quite as much of a prospect on paper as Holloway, but he could make a big impact for the same reasons. He comes from a top-notch high school conference, and he fits into the pure linebacking role nicely. His height makes him a great choice for covering tight ends.

Hey, Where's My Kid?

I realize this list leaves out about 33 of the other incoming freshmen, any of whom could bust out as the star of the class. The reason I left a lot of the other most promising names out of my "picks to click" is because they were linemen or at some other position where the Lions are already strong. But even with my best reasoning, I'm sure I've missed a few "sure things."

The really good news is that when I look at the other Ivy schools and their incoming class, I'm hard pressed to find as many "picks to click" by the same standards. A lot of schools had one, or even two prospects who seemed like they were better than any of Columbia's freshmen. But that's usually where it ended. In a sport where you have 11 guys on the field at all times, quantity and quality can even out pretty quick. In other words, six second-team All Ivy players far outweigh the impact of one Bushnell Cup winner.

The best news is that we will soon be able to blow off all this guesswork; training camp begins in 42 days.


At Sun Jul 08, 08:45:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, Let me say that if only some of the history I have learned over the last three months since discovering this site were made available to the families of potential recruits our results would surely be more fruitful. I’m glad you brought up the “competition factor” when evaluating the freshmen. The 2000 yd season for one back could be a 200 yd season playing in a different league! I am from southern Ohio and have wondered why the Ivy League didn’t pull more recruits from leagues similar to the GCL (called potentially the toughest schedule in the country by USA Today and It’s not academics, with most GCL schools requiring tough entrance exams. Currently there are six former GCL players in the Ivy (Cornell 1, Penn 1, Princeton and Columbia have 2 each) but they are all from the same school. This may be in part to the great relationship John DeFilippo created with the St. X coach before John moved on. I would like to see Columbia develop the same with some of the other big programs from Southwest Ohio. My point was actually that if the Philly Catholic League is anything like the GCL, Marc Holloway will be a ready for prime time player upon arrival!!

4th n Ten

At Mon Jul 09, 02:05:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based on their high school stats and awards, our immediate needs and my gut instinct, I would add Matt Moretto (linebacker or running back), Andrew Kennedy (defensive end or tight end) and Joe Stormont(pats, safety, punt returns) to your list. Also, there's no doubt that three or four freshman offensive lineman could make the two deep because of our lack of depth on the offensive line.

At Mon Jul 09, 02:32:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

4th and 10:

John DeFilippo was a recruiting legend and for that alone, I wonder if some of his talents are being wasted in the NFL where money, and money alone, talks.

If the Ivies aren't recruiting the GCL very heavily, this may be the result of coaches in the high schools there not directing their prospects to make inquiries everywhere they should. I don't really fault them for that, as they don't get paid enough to be full-time guidance counselors, etc. But I agree, perhaps more of the parents will read this blog and encourage their kids to come to Columbia or another Ivy.

At Mon Jul 09, 02:33:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I would agree about Kennedy and Moretto and Stormont... but I think they are a year away. This is no knock on them as they may become bigger stars as the kids who break out right away.

At Mon Jul 09, 04:06:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, Gutierrez and Ivery were potential D1 recruits who had senior year injuries. I seem to recall that a few other players were in that category. Am I correct? In my view, another great source of impact players tends to be high school athletes who don't have D1 size but do have the same all around ability (Masorti). As for the incoming players omitted from your list I hope a kick return/punt return man emerges. I also like what I see of Egley and England.

At Mon Jul 09, 09:05:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several weeks ago I read an article on the web that Shane Kelly was working out at a top training facility in New Jersey with the Columbia "pro-style" playbook in hand. Does anyone know how he is doing? I agree with you, Jake, that Kelly should be ready to go after facing Temple's big defensive line every day in practice. Incidentally, he did see some brief action against Wisconsin his freshman year. Kelly certainly seems to possess the size and mobility to be a tremendous Ivy League quarterback. I just do not know anything about his passing skills and leadership ability.

At Tue Jul 10, 02:20:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, are we on the verge of a major competition for the QB slot? CH has got to be the favorite but MA is a huge talent and Kelly probably has the most upside as a pure pro passer of any QB in the league. We also have Havas and a few other incoming freshmen. Does MA become a "slash" player, or is he moved to a position which gets him on the field as an every down player?

At Tue Jul 10, 02:54:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree that Holloway, Otis, Lipscomb are real possibilities to get significant PT and contribute. Also think Moretto is in that group; Kennedy, but only if he plays DE. Unlikely that Gutierez or Ivory will, because, Knowlin aside, it's rare for a frosh to get a lot of PT on offense.

At Tue Jul 10, 03:56:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another possible impact player on offense is wide receiver Mike Stephens of Flower Mound, Texas. Stephens made All-District in Texas his senior year which is the same as being picked second or third team All-State in many other areas of the United States. His senior year stats are deceptive. When you catch 6 touchdown passes you're not going to have huge yards per reception since the cutoff point is the goal line. But quarterbacks love to throw the ball to surehanded receivers who make their way into the endzone. So I think Stephens is a good bet for catching some TD passes for the Lions this fall.

At Tue Jul 10, 04:04:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ummm, 5'9" 165lbs, ya right.

At Tue Jul 10, 04:15:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephens may be only 5'9" 165, but that makes him two inches and several pounds heavier than Justin Meadlin, another surehanded receiver from Texas who starred at Columbia a few years ago. The little guys sneak into the end zone because they are quick and athletic.

At Tue Jul 10, 04:56:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How big was Travis Chmelka as a freshman? Try 5'9" and 165.

At Tue Jul 10, 07:29:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

The other recovering from major high school injury is Grant Jefferson, a rising sophomore who is one of my veteran "picks to click" in 2007.

I also like Egley and England, but I think they are a year away. I'd love to be wrong about that.

Mike Stephens was so close to making my list, but I don't know enough about his speed to put him there. But he could be another Justin Meadlin or even a Travis Chmelka in the making.

At Tue Jul 10, 11:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's why I think Stephens must be a very good football player: He was a standout outfielder on the Flower Mound high school baseball team that was ranked third in the nation last year. That means he's one heck of a baseball player. Yet he was recruited for and will play football at Columbia so I have to think he's a pretty darn good football player also.


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