Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where's the Beef?

We only know about 8 or 9 confirmed incoming freshmen so far, but none of them are the raw-meat-eating kind of offensive or defensive linemen Columbia, (and just about every other Ivy League team), desperately needs.

There are probably 20-25 other, still unknown to us, incoming freshmen right now. I'm hopeful we are getting more tools to boost our presence on the lines of scrimmage, but it's clear the hunting for big-time linemen isn't so good for anyone in the league anymore.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Harvard won the championship last year mostly because of two reasons: 1) continued excellent defensive line play and 2) significant improvement in their offensive line.

I'm sure the Columbia coaches know this all too well. For some reason, quality skill players like QB's, RB's and WR's and defensive players like DB's seem to be in abundance for the Ivies during recruitment time. But the available number of top quality linemen prospects seems to be shrinking.

Penn's recent decline seems to be connected to this problem. While the Quaker defensive line has remained pretty strong, it's offensive line just hasn't been getting the job done since 2003. This is a surprising dropoff for a team that routinely did the best job of protecting the QB and opening holes for its backs. Guys like Joe Valerio come to mind, but memories of players like him are fading fast.

I'm not sure how the league will change if the Ivies continue to be a conference with only one or two teams with effective linemen. Will the games get more or less exciting? Will top QB prospects avoid the Ivies because of bad offensive line protection, or flock to it because of a league-wide weak pass rush? Again, I'm not sure.

But I am sure that the Ivy team that does the best job of recruiting and developing capable linemen will be a consistent powerhouse in the league. If the recruiting ranks are thinning out, then a emphasis has to be put into development of other strong athletes on the team who may have the raw skills, if not the experience, for playing DL or OL. That's what Columbia did when it developed Marcellus Wiley from a scrawny running back into a dominant defensive end.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Don't Mess With Texas

Jerry Bell hopes to compete for the starting spot right away (CREDIT:

Jerry Bell, an impressive QB prospect from the Corpus Christi area, has committed to Columbia.

Bell is 6"1 and 201 pounds, and is hoping to improve his mobility by working out with his high school track and field team this spring. He was recruited by Purdue, Rice, SMU, TCU, Vanderbilt, and Princeton.

Before today, I had no inkling Columbia was in the running!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Another Likely Lion

Go East Young Man (CREDIT:

The emails started coming at me yesterday with links to published reports about wide receiver Christian Daniel from Canyon High School in Orange County. Apparently, he has verbally committed to Columbia but is still holding out hope of walking on at UCLA. And it looks like he was recruited by Northwestern, Stanford, Harvard and Penn.

Daniel had good senior year stats, with 36 catches for 633 yards and 8 TD's, he also played well as a defensive back.

At 6"4 and 195 pounds, he already has the size the compete at the collegiate level.

There is no doubt he would be a great "get" if he sticks with his decision to come to Columbia.

I think some of the comments in the last post discussing why it would be better for young Mr. Daniel to come to New York make for some interesting reading, :).

Movie Magic

Roll 'Em!

About two weeks ago I had a chance to meet with Erik Greenburg Anjou, director of one of the two Ivy League football documentaries we've been waiting to see.

Erik told me the simple issue is funding, (not a surprise), but that he and co-producer Mark Bernstein are geting closer to reaching their goal.

They've also changed the name of the film to "Eight: Ivy League Football and America."

Columbia alum and former footballer Brian Dennehy is now doing the narration for the film, so at least the Lions will be well-represented throughout.

This film is NOT to be confused with the project spearheaded by Columbia alum George Gianfrancisco, titled "The League," which also looks good.

Here's what I've learned about the independent movie-making business in the last year: It's even more expensive and difficult that I thought, (and I really thought it was hard already).

I'm not sure which documentary will hit theaters or just be available on DVD, but I do know we should support both.

If anyone reading this has any connections to distributors, or just plain financial backers, who might be interested in helping these movies finally get released, don't keep it to yourself.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Who We Got

We know we have a lot more commits than you see on the list below, BUT the only names out there in public are these, (in alphabetical order):

1) Ryan Haslett QB Holmdel High School New Jersey

2) Evan Miller LB St. Xavier Ohio

3) Nick Mistretta LB/OL Don Bosco New Jersey

4) Ross Morand DB St. Xavier Ohio

5) Brendan Mulheran LB/FB Lincoln-Way East, Illinois

6) Nico Papas FB Browne & Nichols School Massachusetts

7) Tim Waller LB Wayne Hills High School New Jersey

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"We Need to Get Them Better"

And now a word from the Coach (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

For those of you who missed Coach Wilson's halftime interview a couple of weeks ago with Jerry Recco at the Columbia-American U. basketball game, you can hear it here on the SideLion Pass.

One quote I thought was interesting was when the coach responded to Jerry's question about whether he thought it was an advantage to have so many underclassmen with playing experience returning this coming season. To that, Wilson said: "We don't need to get them back, we need to get them better."

After a 1-9 season, that's for sure.

Two for Tuesday

Mickey Brewer is described as a "strong and smart player" (CREDIT:

A couple more names on the "possible" recruit list for today.

Leading off is Mickey Brewer who looks like a top-flight wide receiver.

And next is Neal From a tight end from New York City.

Monday, January 21, 2008

More Riches from St. X

Ross Morand (CREDIT: MaxPreps)

In addition to Lou Miller's little brother Evan, perennial power St. Xavier is sending another excellent looking prospect to Columbia.

His name is Ross Morand and my sources tell me he's well-known for bone-crushing hits on receivers that often result in dropped passes and fumbles.

This is an "expecially," (a new word I've coined for special players from "St. X"), gratifying "get," since Morand's older brother plays for Cornell and he was considered a good bet to follow his footsteps.


Please remember that we are still trying to raise money to help former Lion Bobby Ray '90 in his brave fight against ALS, (Lou Gehrig's Disease). You can donate to help Bobby here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Let's Bring It In for Bobby"

Bobby Ray and his Wife Claudia (CREDIT: BALSFUND.ORG)

I received some very sad and yet also uplifting news this afternoon. Former Lion footballer, Bobby Ray '90, has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Yes, the disease that is named for Columbia's greatest-ever athlete has stricken another Lion.

But the uplifting news is that Bobby is not giving up, and so many of his former teammates are working to raise money for Bobby's efforts to get treatment abroad, (where certain stem cell-based treatments are government-approved).

Bobby's teammates' efforts are impressive, and we all know how close-knit and dedicated to one another the Columbia football players from the late 1980's are. As one of them put in an email to his fellow players: "Let's Bring It In for Bobby"

But this is one battle they should not be fighting alone.

PLEASE take the time to visit and donate to help Bobby here.

As fans, I think it would be a great thing to let Bobby know we care for and are praying for him, even though we may have never known him personally.

No one gets left behind.

Now is the time for the Lions to truly roar.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Special Visitor

Zack Fortier (CREDIT: Muskegon Chronicle)

One of Michigan's best linebacker/running back prospects is about to visit Columbia on a recruiting trip.

Zack Fortier is a LB/RB from the Grand Rapids area. Here's an article that featured him at the beginning of this past high school football season.

More Millers

Thanks to the readers who let us know about the newspaper articles telling us that Lou Miller's brother Evan is deciding to come to Columbia this fall and join the team as a linebacker prospect. Welcome Evan, and thank you for having boys Mrs. Miller!

More Prospects!

Here's a quick list with links to some other high school stars considering Columbia:

J.D. Mason

Matt Coyne

Alex Thomas

Brandon Hirneise

Bruce Eisenhauer

Rafael Lopez

Jonathan Wazeka

Carlo Audagnotti

Christian Daniel

John Manoogian

Kamran Baghbeh

Isaac Serwanga

Uaita Emosi

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Austin's House

Attention potential Lion QB'S: Austin Knowlin will be the straw that stirs the drink (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyars)

My thanks to the posters last week who wrote in about Austin Knowlin being named an honorable mention FCS All-American by "The Sports Network."

It's just the latest piece of evidence that Knowlin an extremely talented player, but it should also serve as a little reminder that the 2008 Lions, (and probably the '09 team as well), belong to Austin Knowlin.

First off, whoever takes the reigns at QB will almost definitely be the passer who gets in sync with Knowlin the best and the fastest. With the short spring practice session still about three months away, and no QB other than the departing Craig Hormann really getting any playing time in 2007, there's no time to waste.

Knowlin is a game-breaker. A player who can hurt you with a deep route, a crossing pattern, a reverse, a direct snap, etc. Columbia cannot afford to lose any fraction of his potency in the coming two seasons while it waits to break in a new quarterback. That means as much as some of us may want a more mobile QB, if a slower signal caller connects better with Knowlin, he'll probably have the edge. (But for the record, it's not really clear if any of the QB's on the CU roster are more mobile than another).

The only QB to get any snaps other than Hormann in 2007 was Shane Kelly, who played a significant portion of the 2nd half in the 34-14 loss to Cornell, but finished off with a nice TD pass to... Knowlin, of course.

Kelly's status as a junior or a senior next season is still a mystery to me, but either way he has to be considered the favorite to start in '08 at least for now. It certainly appears that Kelly has no trouble working with Knowlin, but we don't have enough of a sample to be sure. Rising soph Paul Havas got the nod as the lead QB for the JV team, and he's probably the top backup guy in everyone's mind for now, but we have a long way to go.

But another consideration is the fact that Columbia seems positively stacked at the receiver position. Nico Gutierrez is showing all the signs of being a star after a solid rookie year. Rising junior Taylor Joseph made tough catch after tough catch and has become the epitome of the possession receiver. His fellow rising junior, Josh A. Williams showed some strong signs of becoming a decent contributor as well.

If the Lions can ever get some kind of a consistent running attack going, (perhaps with super-talented incoming freshman fullback Nico Pappas?), we could have all the makings of a lethal run-and-shoot attack not unlike the one the Houston Oilers used so effectively in the early 1990's, (hold the jokes about how the Oilers often choked, their problems were mostly on defense back then). That team shredded a lot of opposing defenses with Warren Moon at QB, big Lorenzo White at fullback, and a bevy of great receivers including Haywood Jefferies, Earnest Givins, and Webster Slaughter.

Well, it's a thought.

So Much for Wishful Thinking

The annual Gold Football Dinner will be held on March 6th. That's the good news. The potential bad news is that Eugene Edwards, who I thought had another year of eligibility, is being honored and that PROBABLY means he won't be back in 2008. I hope I'm wrong, but the Lions secondary is going to look pretty thin on experience without Edwards.

The 23% Solution

Reports show that acceptances to Columbia University’s binding early decision program decreased by one percentage point from last year, to 23%, (so that means it fell 1/24 or 4.1%). I'm not truly sure if that spells bad news for the football team in some way, but it's yet another stat to chew on.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lion Targets

Well, now I have some names of some POSSIBLE incoming freshmen thanks to some of those online scouting websites.

Again, I attribute all this information to, ESPN's "Insider" service, and the random voices in my head brought on by having a newborn at home. None of this info came to me via tips or other breaches of NCAA rules.

Rememeber, NONE of the names listed below can be considered "definite" incoming freshmen by any stretch. Many of them are probably just high on our "hoped for" list right now.

Okay, disclaimer over.

Harnish Ayora (CREDIT:

First up is Harnish Ayora, a speedy running back from Arizona. Click here and scroll down to the very bottom for a look at Ayora's eye-popping numbers from his final regular season game.

Next, we have defensive end Julien Buck, a 6"3 defensive lineman from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Massachusetts. It looks like Buck had 41 tackles and two sacks in six games this past fall.

WR/DB/KR Davis Burck from Strake Jesuit in Houston, TX caught 15 TD's in his senior season. Check out his highlights here.

Dan Cebula (CREDIT:

All-purpose back Dan Cebula from Lincoln Way East High School in the Chicago suburb Frankfort Illinois. In 13 games last season, Cebula had 765 yards rushing and 348 yards receiving.

C.J. Croft (CREDIT:

C.J. Croft is a QB from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I've got his picture above, but not his stats.

Chris Garcia is a running back from New Mexico. We've had an eye on him since July.

Ryan Haslett (CREDIT:

Ryan Haslett is a QB from Holmdel High School in New Jersey.

David Slapyznski is another QB from Fraser, Michigan.

Dan Vanik is a kicker from Catonsville, MD.

Andrew Weiss Revs up the Crowd (CREDIT: Bangor Daily News)

And Andrew Weiss, a quarterback from Rockland, Maine warms my heart because 1) He's from a HS not far from my former, (briefly), home of Bangor, and 2) Because he's secure enough to double as a cheerleader, (see above). Now that takes guts!

2008 Schedule Released

The Lion will thaw in about 8 1/2 months

Sept. 20 FORDHAM (Liberty Cup)

Sept. 27 at Towson

Oct. 4 PRINCETON (Homecoming)


Oct. 18 at Penn


Nov. 1 at Yale

Nov. 8 at Harvard


Nov. 22 at Brown

More analysis to come, but to me the headline is that Towson is back on the schedule after nine years. This, even though Towson is no longer flirting with Patriot League status.

There are no other surprises, save for the fact that Duquesne, Marist, Iona, and Georgetown are not on the schedule despite the Lions getting home contests against each in the last three seasons.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Follow the Bouncing Ball

John Baumann: The extra "n" is for extra "nasty." (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

As we await the avalanche of news on the class of 2012 that will come in the next few weeks, it's nice to know we have a contending basketball team to watch this winter.

The Ivy League men's basketball season tipped off officially today with Tommy Amaker's Harvard Crimson routing Dartmouth at home. Columbia doesn't face it's first Ivy opponent for another two weeks when it visits pre-season favorite Cornell in Ithaca.

I'm no basketball genius, but it would appear inconsistency is the only thing holding back this Lion hoops squad. When player of the year candidate John Baumann gets hot and big 6"8 center Ben Nwachuku avoids silly mistakes, I don't think there's anyone in the league who can beat them.

We shall see.

Something I've always wondered about is how the success of the basketball team helps the football team and vice versa. Columbia's best years on the gridiron in this quarter century followed Buck Jenkins and the bball team's serious run at an Ivy title in 1992-93. (The football team's very strong 1994-96 seasons came just after that).

Basketball stumbled a bit in the mid-90's while the football team got better, and then Craig Austin and friends put together some decent basketball teams from 1999-2001.

It might be a coincidence, but I do think these two teams feed off of each other a bit, first when it comes to recruiting and then when it comes to a winning attitude.

Either way, we should all do whatever we can to support the Lions hoopsters in the coming weeks.