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.