Tuesday, April 08, 2008

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 Contenders?

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.


(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.


At Tue Apr 08, 11:55:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger cathar said...

A depressing, if well written and well done piece of analysis Did you really have to post it up, Jake? (Did I have to read it?)

Oh well, it's only spring...

At Wed Apr 09, 04:35:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger DOC said...

It is truly amazing that with that many rushing yards allowed that we were in so many winnable games. Not surprising about the lack of sacks since the opponent faced third and shorts and we were not able to focus on the QB without regard to the run. If we can turn those stats around just a little we will have a great year. I have complete faith in the fact that the interior line with another year of experience and maturity will excel. What is the scuttlebutt regarding the 4-3 defensive front for this year? Who would move up?

At Wed Apr 09, 10:04:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

Uh, I guess we're not supposed to talk about new alignments or Jake will 86 the comment.

At Wed Apr 09, 05:39:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I won't nix comments that are just benign speculation. No one has said anything about us going to a 4-3, (actually, I think it's much more likely that we will see a more traditional 3-4... but that's just a GUESS), so there's nothing wrong with that.

What I would nix is something that could be or actually is a "tip" without clearance, etc.

At Wed Apr 09, 07:56:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger 4th n Ten said...

I think change in the offensive and defensive schemes is inevitable for 2008. Last yr it was all about lack of protection for a pocket passer on offense and a bad injuries to key players and a smart Fordham coach on defense. Our roster contains 8 more non-freshman with weights over 250 lb than the previous yr and they have had another yr to get bigger. If these men are trainable they can allow the staff to do things on the O lines and D lines that will freshen the playbook. Things like option offense and 4-3 defense that have been mentioned in previous posts. So look for a few players to switch from O line to D line. that's who could move up.

At Wed Apr 09, 08:55:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger ibmuloca said...

Freshman recruit, J.D. Tyree (DE), has been selected to play in the Virginia All Star Game on July 4th.

At Wed Apr 09, 08:58:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger ibmuloca said...

Freshman recruit, J.D. Tyree (DE), has been selected to play in the Virgina All Star Game on July 4th.

At Wed Apr 09, 09:30:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Cliff Montgomery said...

I think we are going to be much stronger up front than we were last year. We have everybody back, a year older and stronger. Mitchell will go back to DE, where he can be a dominating player. Joyce, England and Miller are all good players. We ae loaded at LB and DB. And we have some good players coming in. On offense, I hope we play with a two back set.

At Wed Apr 09, 11:40:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger rich said...


Do you think that Williams College football team can beat Columbia?


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