Hold That Line
Phil Mitchell Needs Some Help Up Front (Credit: Columbia Athletics)
You may want to make sure you've digested your lunch fully before reading the statistics I'm about to publish below. They are very ugly:
2007 Columbia Lions Defense
Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game: 231.1
Rushing TD's Allowed: 30
Average Per Rush: 4.4 Yards
Rushing Attempts Per Game: 52.4
Where do we begin with numbers like these? The 2006 Lions weren't exactly stingy against the run, (they allowed more than 150 yards per game), but these 2007 numbers are eye-popping and they weren't just empty stats. Columbia lost game after game last year because it could not stop opposing rushers. It started in week one when not one, but two Fordham backs ran for more than 100 yards against the Lions. A total of eight backs tallied at least 100 yards on the ground against Columbia last season. And time and again, they made their yards simply by dashing straight up the middle.
Perhaps the most telling stat is the average number of opposing rushes per game. When your opponent can run the ball more than 52 times a game against you, you've been beaten and beaten thoroughly.
And the worst part is the woeful stats versus the run mask other weaknesses or relative weaknesses on the squad. It turns out Columbia's pass defense was tops in the league, allowing just under 170 yards per game. But who needs to throw when you can run and run so easily so often? I do happen to think Columbia's pass defense was and remains solid, but tops in the league? Probably not.
The biggest job in helping to improve those run defense stats in 2008 will go to the starters on the defensive line. Whether Columbia goes with a 3-man or 4-man front, here are the leading contenders for the top spots:
Phil Mitchell, Sr.
Mitchell played with some rough injuries last season and still managed to bag 57 tackles and 5 sacks. Mitchell could be a team captain this coming season and it would be nice to see what he can do for a full season injury-free.
Matt Bashaw, Jr.
Bashaw followed up on his freshman year promise with 41 tackles and 4 sacks as a sophomore in 2007. It would be a surprise not to see him starting in 2008.
Brian England, So.
England got decent playing time, getting into all 10 games and putting some bulk on the defensive line at key moments in several games.
Conor Joyce, Sr.
Joyce didn't have the breakout year the coaches wanted from him in 2007, but he still has the size and experience to make a difference this season.
Eli Waltz, Sr.
The senior nose tackle battled injuries most of the season but still managed 38 tackles in nine games.
Mack Loughrey, Jr.
Saw some time at nose tackle, but recorded only 12 tackles in eight games.
Freshman linemen who make a real contribution are a true rarity, but there sure are some opportunities for talented newcomers at this position:
Owen Frazer, 6-1, 300 lbs. NT/OG, Trinity-Pawling, Newburgh, N.Y
Hey, he seems like he has good size... not that that would be enough, but it's a start.
YOUR NAME HERE
(I expect to get the names of one or two more good defensive line prospects when the full recruiting class is named next month)
Bottom line is that, like tailback, the cupboard seems pretty bare at this position too. Linebackers and wide receivers we've got up the wazoo right now, but linemen... not so much. Of course, the D-line needs to do better providing a pass rush as well. The 2007 Lions had just 14 sacks compared to 20 in 2006. But other than Mitchell, there don't seem to be any real 1st, 2nd or Honorable Mention All-Ivy candidates here. Hopefully, some new names will emerge in spring practice or perhaps some of the older names will make a surprise impact.