10 Late Movers
With 10 days until the Spring Game, the real focus for many fans will be on the somewhat unheralded returning players and trying to see which one will start emerging as perhaps a surprise star for the 2010 season.
With that in mind, I thought I'd list 10 recent Lion football players who were "late-bloomers" and broke onto the scene as upper classmen. In almost every case, the Spring Game was the first inkling that the coming season would be very different.
Ray Rangel (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
2009: Ray Rangel
Coming into 2009, Rangel had 581 total yards rushing and a sub-par 3.5 yards per carry average. But in his senior season, Rangel had 502 yards and a 5.8 yards per carry average before getting injured and lost for the season after the Dartmouth game. Rangel was particularly impressive in the opening week win over Fordham with 118 yards and a TD. He had 130 yards rushing the following week against Central Connecticut with another score.
Conor Joyce (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
2008: Conor Joyce
Conor was never exactly a superstar, but he played a very effective role for the 2008 Lions on the defensive line. Conor had a total of 35 tackles and just 2.5 tackles for a loss in his first three years at Columbia. But in his senior campaign of 2008, had 37 tackles, 4.5 TFL's and 1.5 sacks. He was one of the big factors as the Lions made huge improvements on the defensive line compared to 2007.
Bayo Aregbe (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
2007: Bayo Aregbe
There really wasn't a total sleeper senior for 2007, but Bayo Aregbe came pretty close. After leaving the team in 2006 due to injury, Bayo came back and fought more injuries through a solid senior year. Aregbe finished 2007 with 40 total tackles and provided some important senior leadership on a very young team.
Darren Schmidt (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
2006: Darren Schmidt
Calling Schmidt's 2006 senior season a "breakout year" would be an understatement. Before '06, Schmidt had a grand total of one tackle in three years with the Lions. Then in his senior year, he exploded for 50 tackles, 16 for a loss, and tied for the Ivy League lead in sacks with 7. He made All Ivy Honorable Mention, and even had the highest GPA of all the Lions.
Craig Hormann (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
2005: Craig Hormann
Craig was hardly a dark horse in 2005, but he was a rare sophomore starting QB and he put up stronger numbers than many would have predicted on what was the weakest Lion team of the decade. Hormann finished with 1,481 yards passing and 7 TD passes. He looked especially good in Columbia's two opening wins for the season against Fordham and Duquesne.
Rashad Biggers carries the ball
2004: Rashad Biggers
In what was another very disappointing season for the Lions, Biggers was a rare bright spot as he came back from a serious injury to lead Columbia in rushing with 770 yards and six TD's. His best game was a gutty performance on Homecoming against Princeton when he ran for 137 yards and two TD's. He also had 129 yard against Yale.
2003: Ayo Oluwole
Oluwole wasn't even on the team during the 2002 season, but he had 903 yards, a 4.2 YPC average and five TD's in 2003. He was a huge surprise in a year when no one expected anything from the CU rushing attack after Rashad Biggers went down for the year in the preseason scrimmage. Ayo had 110 yards in the win over Bucknell, 166 yards in the loss at Lafayette, and 138 yards in the win over Cornell.
2002: Evan Tryforos
Evan missed the 2001 season due to injury, but he burst on the scene in '02 by leading the team in tackles with 73. The linebacker had his best game in the season opening stunning win over Fordham with 12 tackles.
2001: Jerry Bailey
The defensive end broke through for an Honorable Mention All Ivy season with 42 tackles and four sacks. He wasn't a complete dark horse, since he had posted 20 tackles and a sack as a sophomore, but the improvement was big a year later.
The incomparible Johnathan Reese
2000: Johnathan Reese
It's ridiculous to say Reese was a "surprise" after his stellar freshman and sophomore seasons... but his junior year just so good that it deserves as much recognition as possible. Reese still holds the single season Columbia rushing record he set in 2000 with 1,330 and he scored an incredible 19 total TD's. Neither record seems to be in much danger of being broken anytime very soon.