Friday, March 21, 2008

Quarterback Sweeps

And, they're off!

If the competition for Columbia's starting QB job were a horse race, here's how I'd describe the frontrunners:

Shane Kelly

Transfer from Temple is the only returning player who saw time under center last season. The rising junior showed decent poise in a relief appearance against Cornell in Ithaca, leading the team on a somewhat meaningless TD drive with seconds left in the contest. Has to be considered the favorite at least as of the end of last season.

Paul Havas

Canadian-born Havas impressed the coaches in training camp and led the JV to a 2-1 record. Probably still a year away since he's just a rising sophomore, but he may have the best combined mobility and passing ability of any QB on the roster.

Jerry Bell

Incoming freshman is one of the most highly-regarded QB recruits in recent Columbia history. But he remains a prohibitive long-shot to play for the varsity this year at least until training camp.

M.A. Olawale

Once the leading backup, Olawale still hasn't showed that he can throw as well as he can run. I still expect him to be moved to another position, perhaps kick return specialist.

I'm not sure if the coaches have a favorite right now, but any way you look at it, Kelly seems like the frontrunner. Temple may not be a top-notch D-1 program, but it's still D-1 and Kelly actually saw a little playing time while he was with the Owls. If he loses his chance to start this season, it either means he somehow didn't step up or the young guns Havas or Bell really exceeded expectations in record time.

But while Kelly is more mobile than graduating 3-year starter Craig Hormann, he is not really a scrambling quarterback. I've always been a huge fan of running the QB more in Ivy football, and I've always been frustrated by the fact that so few teams do it. An even somewhat speedy signal-caller is usually too tall an order for Ivy defenders, especially defensive linemen.

Spring practice is just eight days away, and hopefully we will get some clues and encouraging signs for next season.


At Fri Mar 21, 04:25:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You forgot freshman qb Ryan Haslett -- great athlete who was very highly regarded in high school (all-state NJ) and probably our best running quarterback since Mike Cavanaugh -- and he can pass, too, just didn't need to very much in 11-1 season.

At Fri Mar 21, 04:53:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good catch on Haslett; but overall a nice piece of work on Jake. MA remains a mystery to me. He is just too good an athlete to sit on the bench.

At Fri Mar 21, 07:51:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're always in flux, looking for a system to suit our players, and looking for players to establish a system. The QB who emerges will be the one who makes us worry least about the offensive line. I am hopeful that our options at QB will mesh well with the prospects for a much more effective O-line. The other elements of the offense are in place.


At Sat Mar 22, 03:24:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest that field awareness and decision making are as or more important than physical ability. Obviously, a certain level of athleticism in terms of throwing ability is a necessity. But a QB's ability to see and correctly interpret who is where and doing what in the seconds after the snap, and then his ability to make the right decision as to what he should do in response to what he sees and interprets is key. (Interestingly, Tom Brady has said explained that because his greatest strengths as a QB are awareness and decision making and that he does not have great athleticism, he didn't get picked earlier in the NFL draft.) Unless one sees a QB in action over a period of time, it's impossible to guage awareness and decision making. Also, since the game is faster at each higher level (h.s. to college, college to pro) it's difficult to project whether a QB's mental acumen will keep pace. Net/net: each of our QBs is a very different kind of player with very different playing backgrounds, which makes predictions about who has the best mental abililty and, thus, who may win the starting job even more difficult. I would not be surprised if any of Kelly, Havas, Bell or Haslett won the job by the start of the season.

At Sun Mar 23, 02:47:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brady didn't get drafted higher because his college coaches never had confidence in him and alternated him with Drew Henson. People I know who are plugged into Michigan football say it was common knowledge that Brady was the better QB. As far as Brady's athletic skills, they are phenomenal. He was a major league prospect coming out of HS and can make every throw needed to succeed in the NFL. He is a tremendous athlete who can afford to down play his athleticism when he talks about himself.

At Sun Mar 23, 04:28:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from MI and have followed Michigan football closely for decades. Brady was a good QB coming out of h.s. but was not considered a superstar. It was not thought at MI that Brady was the better QB, in fact, Henson was thought to be better and there was a lot of criticism and disappointment that Brady got as much playing time as he did after Henson came. Brady obviously is a very good athlete; his point was that he was not considered, and probably is not, as athletic as some others. He lasted into the 4th round not because Michigan's coaches thought one or another thing but because, at the combines etc., Brady exhibited good but not super physical skills. It was, indeed, his mental QB skills that he did not have a chance to exhibit until he had a chance to play.

At Sun Mar 23, 09:21:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger DOC said...

Could a freshman with no college experience such as Bell start the season? Have any Columbia Quarterbacks started as true Freshmen?

At Sun Mar 23, 10:55:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

I think it would be too much to entrust the qb job to a freshman unless he had phenomonal running ability to overcome mistakes he would inevitably make in the pass game during his learning process. Remember the freshmen have about 4 weeks after arriving before the first game. That is a very short time to get acclimated to school and gain confidence in the playbook enough to lead a teams offense. Also, was Brady a 4th rounder? I thought he may have lasted longer than that,like maybe round 6.

At Sun Mar 23, 01:57:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't remember any CU QB starting season as first stringer, but didn't Hormann get a start towards the end of his first year? Not sure. It would be highly unusual for a frosh to start at QB for all of the reasons stated above, but there are exceptions, we don't have an established QB. . . . In other words, no way of telling. I don't recall if Brady lasted into the 6th round, thought it was 4th, but I may be wrong.

At Sun Mar 23, 11:33:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brady was a 6th rder and Norries will not be starting a freshman out of the gate at QB. If Kelly,Havas etc don't produce,he might get a shot down the road during the season but let's hope that isn't even a discussion. The pace of play even in the Ivies is much much quicker then even Texas Hs football.

At Mon Mar 24, 01:09:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why wasn't Jerry Bell heavily recruited (i.e. official visits) by I-A teams (Big 10, SEC, PAC 10)?

At Mon Mar 24, 02:04:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry Bell is only around 6'1" and D1 QBs are all 6'4" or so these days. Don't tell that to Drew Brees! Brady was a 6th rounder.

At Mon Mar 24, 03:04:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Hormann played about half the game against Cornell in his freshman year, but that was week 9. A freshman QB has never really been a contender to start since they started allowing frosh to play in 1993.

At Mon Mar 24, 06:38:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As others have noted, the important quality for a QB is: what is between the ears.

You should read a pre-draft report written by one NFL scout. (check google). The scout is not impressed by Brady's below-average arm nor athlethic ability in general, but several times in his report, marvels at Brady's grace under pressure.

At Mon Mar 24, 06:42:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is true that coming out of high school, Brady was not a five star recruit (USC did not offer him a scholarship).

In youtube, there are several of Brady's HS tapes, and in one game, Brady completes something like 10 consecutive passes (short, medium, long) to one receiver.

This talk about Brady leads me to ask this: If Brady of 2008 entered Columbia as a freshman in fall 2008, what would Columbia's record be in 2008?

At Mon Mar 24, 09:53:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are the "quarterback sweeps" for the starter opening day or later in the season?

At Mon Mar 24, 10:25:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a safe bet that Shane Kelly will start at quarterback on opening day, with M.A. Olawale and Paul Havas in reserve; but the smart money has to be on Jerry Bell seeing significant playing time later in the season. I'm betting on the Texan!

At Tue Mar 25, 10:05:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would you consider moving your second most experienced quarterback to "kick-return specialist?" That will not happen. A much more likely scenario is that the four players listed on the roster as quarterbacks-- Kelly, Olawale, Havas and Coe--will all have a chance to play that position during spring practice and during the pre-season. Although the very athletic Olawale may seem better suited to play running back, you cannot switch him or any other player to another position without lots of discussion with the player and what it means to him and the team. I agree that Olawale appears to have outstanding open field running ability, but I have no idea whether he wants to play running back or wide receiver. In any event, switching Olawale makes no sense at this time and he may very well win the starting quarterback position on this team.

At Tue Mar 25, 11:29:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I agree that Olawale appears to have outstanding open field running ability, but I have no idea whether he wants to play running back or wide receiver."

He can run. But he can't hide from the question of whether he can pass.

He appears to be a real talent and the hope is a place can be found for him on the field.


At Wed Mar 26, 05:25:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MA has to find a way to get on the field; he is too good an athlete.


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