Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Best Defense

Jake's Columbia Football Team of the Decade: DEFENSE

In the 2000's, Columbia was blessed with many very talented defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.

Sadly, not enough of them played at the exact same time. Thus, Lion defenses gave up an average of 27.6 points per game in this decade and suffered through four seasons where they allowed more than 30 points per game.

But there were some good years and 2006 was the best. The Lion defense allowed just 163 points that season and no less than five of the members of my all-decade defense were contributors on the 2006 squad.

DT-Michael Quarshie '05

Quarshie was a great example of how the transfer rule can really work to create a great Ivy player and scholar. The Finnish native came to Columbia via Saint Peters College and he became one of the most dominant defensive players in Lion history. He once notched an incredible eight tackles for a loss in a SINGLE GAME, and was 1st Team All Ivy as a senior, 2nd Team as a junior.

DT-Todd Abrams '07

After three solid seasons as a linebacker, the coaches asked Abrams to bulk up and move to the nose tackle position for his senior campaign of 2006. The switch proved to be fantastic as Abrams was on the front lines for the huge turnaround that saw the Lions go from giving up almost 34 points per game in 2005 to allowing just over 16 points per contest the following season. Todd also scored two of the most important defensive TD's of the decade: the initial score in the season opener against Fordham on a bad snap that landed in the end zone and the key turning point TD against Brown in the season finale after the Bear QB fumbled during a sack.

Lou Miller

DE-Lou Miller '10

The Lions all-time and single season sack leader finished his career by leading the Ivies in sacks his last two seasons. Lou is one of the most respected and feared pass rushers in Columbia history. Like Abrams, he made the shift to defensive line from linebacker. Two-time 1st Team All Ivy.

DE-Jeff Roether '04

A great pass rusher who led the team in sacks in each of his final two seasons. Honorable Mention All Ivy as a Junior.

Adam Brekke (Credit: Columbia Athletics)

LB-Adam Brekke '07

A fantastic team leader on and off the field for four full seasons at Columbia. Truly a leader of the linebacking corps from day one when he was pressed into duty as an emergency starter when captain Chris Carey went down with injury. Brekke was named captain himself for his senior season of 2006, and he responded with monster stats including 80+ tackles and a huge INT return for a TD in the Cornell win in week 9. Brekke was recently accepted to med school here in the U.S. Made 2nd Team All Ivy as a senior.

Alex Gross

LB-Alex Gross '11

Even with just two full seasons under his belt, Alex Gross was a huge impact player for the 2000's. Broke into the league in 2007 and won Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors and followed that up in 2008 with a rare 1st Team All Ivy slot for a sophomore linebacker. Much of the Lions hopes in 2010 hang on his ability to come back from his bad knee injury in week 4 at Lafayette.

Drew Quinn

LB-Drew Quinn '09

One of the great, and often wounded, warriors of the 2000's. Quinn started getting on the field regularly during his freshman year of 2005, but he really started contributing seriously in 2006. He had 82 tackles that season, 88 in his senior season of 2008 and 62 in 2007 despite playing with a painful leg injury that entire season. Made 2nd Team All Ivy as a senior.

S-Philip Murray

The two-time 1st Team All Ivy and one-time 2nd Team All Ivy safety was the best thing the tiny town of Mesquite, Texas ever sent to Morningside Heights. Murray finished his career, and still is, tied for the Lions all-time interception lead with the great Lou Kusserow with 16. His 85-yard TD return for a TD against Yale in 2001 as time ran out in the first half was one of the five best plays of the decade.

S-Tad Crawford

Crawford was a tackling machine for four years at Columbia, leading the team in that category for each of his final three years. Some of his success was due to the Lions inability to snuff out running plays at the line, but Crawford often made sure the bad didn't turn into the ugly. He was also excellent against the pass. The 1st Team All Ivy star in 2006 has gone on to an impressive career in his home country in the CFL.

Steve Cargile

CB-Steve Cargile '04

Moved from wide receiver to safety just in time for his senior season of 2003, and he made a huge impression in just that one year. He ended up leading the team in tackles and wrecked havoc in the opponents' passing game. Made 2nd Team All Ivy in '03 and went on to the NFL as a defensive back.

Prosper Nwokocha

CB-Prosper Nwokocha '06

A great team leader who burst onto the scene as a sophomore with two crucial interceptions in the 2003 win over Harvard. Two time Honorable Mention All Ivy, and a 2nd Team All Ivy his senior season of 2005. Also a great kick returner, his kickoff return for a TD at Fordham turned the tide in that emotional win for the Lions in 2005.

NEXT WEEK: The Special Teams


At Wed Feb 17, 04:02:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the unsung hero Andy Shalbrack, one half of the greatest defensive play in the near 50 years I have been watching Columbia.

At Wed Feb 17, 09:59:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

solid list there

At Thu Feb 18, 12:16:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Leaving Andy Shalbrack off this list was VERY TOUGH. The thing is, you have to have seen just how good Cargile was in that one year he was in the secondary. He was so good that he became "NFL good." But to be fair, Shalbrack contributed more the defense in his four years for sure.

At Thu Feb 18, 04:16:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, as good as Cargile was, it was the tackle he missed which sticks out in my mind, since I am convinced that Shalbrack would never have missed it. You will recall the last game of Cargile's senior year. We were playing a very good Brown team. We came into that game with a chance to finish at .500. As a former high school defensive back I can tell you exactly what happened, and how Cargile missed the tackle. Nick Hartigan turned the right corner and with a full head of steam started motoring down the sideline. There was one man to beat, Cargile. Hartigan ran over Cargile and went about 60 yards for the score. It was a basic mano a mano open field survival of the fittest situation, in which I sometimes found myself getting bowled over when trying to bring down a bigger running back. Having had the pleasure and privilege of watching Andy play for four years, he never would have allowed Hartigan to run over him. Not that Cargile wasn't a fine DB; it's just that Andy was in my opinion as tough as they came. He was his generation's Howie Hansen.

At Thu Feb 18, 06:19:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy Shalbrak was an average player, safeties are suppose to make plays. I think Tad Crawford was a much better player hence he is playing in the CFL right now, but what about Masorti if he had stuck around for all 4 years In my opinion he was the best football player in that class, hands down.

At Thu Feb 18, 06:41:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hartigan boasts one of the finest ivy running back resumes(3 time first teamer, numerous broken records) you will find and was a beast. For Cargile's one play that sticks out in your mind, the return by shalbrack/merher was one of only a few outstanding ones that sticks out in mine(add the pick six vs princeton in '07). He gave the program four good years, but head to head, Cargile was a tier above.

At Thu Feb 18, 06:48:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Columbia has had some great defensive backs, but none better in my opinion, than Phil Murray. He was a great player.

At Thu Feb 18, 10:28:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I tried my best to stay out of this discussion but I find myself unable to contain myself here. Shalbrack "was an average player?" Four complete years as a starter. His 55 tackles as well as 5 picks and a couple of forced fumbles his freshman year made Crawford's Senior year even better (less to worry about from Ando's side of the field). Similar years for the next three. Check how many "game ending" or "drive ending" plays Andy made in the past 4 years. Shalbrack had more total tackles in his career than the others named in the blog backfield. More starts on defense than any of them. Ther eare reasons he was on the field. What we are suggesting is that you have to "go pro" to be considered a very good player. I reject the premise.

I never saw the other two players at Columbia so I cannot criticize their play nor would I. I think a kid who plays 4 years, uninterrupted, makes plays his entire career, and performs at the highest level academically is not "average" and is deserving of some recognition, which Jake has been very kind to bestow on Andy. The other coaches in the Ivy League that jobbed him for post season honors each year are not being honest. Yeah, I said it.

Check in with former CU Defensive Coordinator (Lou)about what he thought about Shalbrack and his play and leadership. I am quite sure that Ando would have like to have Justin Masorti out on the field with him the past three years.

There, I feel so much better.

The Neckman

At Thu Feb 18, 10:47:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stand corrected. Crawford had more career tackles than Shalbrack. Lesson learned: Never spout off when you are angry.

The Neckman.

At Thu Feb 18, 07:02:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crawford was good, but the reason why he had more tackles was bcause the rest of teh defense was sub-par. It's not great when the safety has the most tackles.


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