Erick Tyrone, right, was an anchor of the 2000 O-line. He went on to a law school scholarship
I've made my lists for the best Lion offensive and defensive players in the 2000's, (special teams is coming next week).
But here's a more specific, and possibly more important question.
What actual Columbia team had the best offensive line in this past decade?
I'd like to make the argument that the 2009 front five of Evan Sanford, John Seiler, Jeff Adams, Will Lipovsky and Ian Quirk was the best... maybe by far.
First let's look at the stats:
Columbia gained 1,586 yards rushing in 2009 and allowed just 21 sacks. The rushing total was the second best of the decade, just a tad behind the 1,620 yards gained in 2000. And there were only three seasons in the 2000's where the Lions allowed fewer than the 21 sacks coughed up last year. The 2000 team allowed 26 sacks.
But the stats don't tell the whole story.
Remember that 2000 saw the single greatest individual rushing performance by a Lion runner. Johnathan Reese '02 broke all the key rushing records at CU that year and they all still stand.
Columbia's 2009 rushing greatness was down by committee. Ray Rangel carried most of the load at tailback, but Zack Kourouma and Leon Ivery did a lot of work, and M.A. Olawale and Sean Brackett rushed for big numbers from the QB position.
I think the general success each of those runners enjoyed in '09 is huge proof that the offensive line was stellar. No matter who was doing the running or what their style, the blocking was there.
As for those 21 sacks, the fact is that while Olawale is a great runner, he did not do a great job of scrambling away from sacks in the early part of the season. I think he took as many of seven or eight sacks he didn't need to take and he did improve on that score later in the year. In other words, I really don't put even half of the 21 sacks allowed on the O-line's shoulders.
Then you have to look at the individual players. We were told Adams was going to be a star even as a sophomore and he ended up 1st Team All Ivy. The rest of the players didn't get enough accolades from the league, but they deserved them. Seiler was a great team leader. Sanford was always there in the trenches. Lipovsky, who came the longest way to get a starting slot, got better and better as the year wore on. And Quirk, the one not enough people talked about, went from a solid starter as a soph in 2008 to a true talent as a junior in 2009.
When it comes to building football teams, a lot of people will tell you the most important unit is the offensive line. I can't think of a team that needed more rebuilding in this area than Columbia did when Head Coach Norries Wilson arrived in December, 2005.
Not only did that job get done by last year, but I believe the Lions have stockpiled a considerable amount of talent at this position for the future. That's good news, because Sanford, Seiler and Lipovsky graduate in three months.
Of course, not all the years in the 2000's were blessed with great offensive lines.
Exhibit A: The 2005 team rushed for just 464 yards and allowed 33 sacks.
Exhibit B: The 2002 team ran for just 917 yards and allowed a whopping 38 sacks.
On the brighter side, the 2006 team allowed just 16 sacks despite a huge amount of passing, (averaging 34 attempts per game). The 2008 team also allowed only 16 sacks despite passing the ball average 28 times a game.
Hopefully, Columbia has a lot more All Ivy players and sub-20 sack seasons ahead.