Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bearish Times

The Bears look like they'll go hungry in '07

Last in a team-by-team look at the Ivies, (Yale is my pick for first, Penn second, Princeton third, Columbia fourth, Harvard fifth, Cornell sixth, and Dartmouth seventh.

8. Brown

Last year, I was probably the only idiot who thought Brown was going to repeat as Ivy champs instead of basically last, which is what they basically did, (true they were TECHNICALLY tied with Columbia and Dartmouth, but both Columbia and Dartmouth beat the Bears).

In my defense, Brown didn't look like the worst choice a year ago. They had the most experience QB in the Ivies in Joe DiGiacomo, most of the very good offensive line that had blocked so well for Nick Hartigan, two very talented wide receivers in Lonnie Hill and Paul Raymond and a major defensive star in Zak DeOssie.

In reality, what happened in 2006 is that DiGiacomo played like a freshman, no one consistently took advantage of the good run blocking, and DeOssie and the rest of the defense just didn't look as good as they had in 2005 when that great running game was cutting into their opponents' time of possession.

But the biggest mistakes Brown made last season were mental. How else can you explain a squad that finished 2006 with a negative-14 turnover ratio? And that might be the good news for Brown because if you focus on personnel alone, the cupboard looks a little bare.

Coach Phil Estes and company need a new starting QB, a tailback, and a new leader to make sure the talented group of returning players on defense lives up to its potential.

Estes is very optimistic about the season. He doesn't see it as a rebuilding year, and you have to admire his confidence. But the truth is that it is a re-tooling season for the Bears and I expect this team to be at or near the bottom of the league in mid-November.


Raymond is now a senior and he leads a strong corps of wide receivers that includes sophomore Buddy Farnham. The tight end is converted wide receiver Colin Cloherty, a junior. Look for him to be a regular target for whomever gets the starting QB job this season.

The defense looks strong overall, especially in the secondary where seniors Jose Yearwood and Matt Mullenax are in charge. The linebacking crew loses DeOssie, but senior Eric Brewer knows his way around the field and was All-Ivy last season. The defensive line isn't exactly fearsome, but it does have a lot of experienced players returning. Brown is an oddity in the Ivies, with its 4-3 defensive alignment.

On special teams, Brown's Steve Morgan is an excellent kicker, period. He is more unreliable from 40+ yards out than some other kickers like Columbia's Jon Rocholl, but he is deadly accurate from 35-yards and closer. He's also super-consistent on PAT's. Punting-wise, he is probably the best in the league right now.


Having to start a new QB and find a new leading tailback is a tall order and something that I suspect will be a problem for the Bears all season long. Some of the scoring stats may look a little thin at year's end.

Meanwhile, the offensive line needs to be re-tooled with three 2006 starters gone to graduation.

Another key graduation loss is Brandon Markey, an excellent and dangerous kick returner who was a major cog in Brown's offense last year and in 2005.

And then there's the mental factor. Brown committed so many turnovers and lost so many close games that I can't help thinking a lot of Brown's woes last year stemmed from the fact that the team was unable to cope with life after Nick Hartigan. Now it will have to live without DeOssie and the occasional brilliance of DiGiacomo as well.

If anyone can rally the troops its Estes, who has always been a pretty good motivator, but this season presents just too many obstacles.


Let me make this short by saying that I think Brown will probably go 2-8 or maybe 3-7 with wins over Duquesne, possibly Rhode Island, and then one Ivy team they catch on a bad day in Providence. That could be my pick for seventh place, Dartmouth, but also a stronger contender like Princeton on the Bears homecoming weekend.

Predicted Final Won-Loss Record: 3-7, 1-7 Ivy. 8th place.

BUT ALL BETS ARE OFF IF: Brown finds a great QB, RB, and offensive line all at once.


At Wed Aug 22, 02:19:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since there's a mention of Duquesne in this story (which obviously means that school wishes to up its own athletic profile somewhat by playing Ivy teams), does anyone know why Columbia hasn't fulfilled the away half of its own two-game commitment with the Dukes yet? And does it have similar contracts with Georgetown and Iona awaiting fulfillment? For that matter, is there to be an away game with Marist?

I also noted the sur-print of "stock photo" on the picture of the bear and laughed. Because I always think "stock offense" when I think of Brown, and sometimes it works and sometimes, like last year and probably this one too, it doesn't. Estes is perhaps not the most innovative of coaches, I feel.


At Wed Aug 22, 03:25:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...


I don't think we have any return engagement deals with any of those teams, but some of that may be because Duquesne and Marist have such small seating capacities.

Estes was innovative until Hartigan came along and made things too simple for his own good. Now he has to prove he can wave the magic wand again.

At Wed Aug 22, 04:23:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, at the time the Duquesne game at Wien was announced, it was in fact announced as a home-home deal. The game at Pittsburgh was even originally skedded for last season until, I believe, relatively late in the pre-season, when it was replaced by a home contest against Georgetown.

Even the Iona game, that was explained in the game program as the idea of Iona in the first place. If so, wouldn't we logically expect the contract also entailed an away game for us? (Especially since Iona drew so few of its fans from nearby New Rochelle in the first place.) So I still think there's something amiss here, and you seem to now be the one with the contacts to find out why.

As for the issue of "small seating capacity," last season I got to Wien there very early in order to be one of the 3000 "first" fans to get a free Roar-ee bobblehead. At game's end, as they were lugging away entire unopened pallets of the dolls, they gladly gave me two more for my daughter and a friend. (I even assume they're still selling the remainders off at gocolumbialions.com at $18 a pop. Surely, in other words, Duquesne and Marist can handle "crowds" of 2000-3000 as well as Columbia can.


At Wed Aug 22, 05:42:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Columbia's coaching history is closely intertwined with Georgetown. Coach Little was a big figure in both schools coaching history. Any chance of seeing the Hoya's again soon.

At Thu Aug 23, 03:22:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Leonlion said...

Duquesne and Columbia are entwined through Lou Little.


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