Already in the Fold, Part 3
Matt Moretto (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
I am generally a bigger fan of the 4-3 defense than the 3-4 alignment.
One of the reasons is I like the emphasis it puts on the pass rush and pressuring the outside lanes for running backs and scrambling QB's.
But one of the things that makes me nervous about the 4-3 is the added pressure it puts on those three linebackers to cover as much territory as possible.
Columbia's shift to the 4-3 last season had mixed results for the linebackers. But you have to consider the fact that superstar linebacker Alex Gross only played three games before his injury finished him off for the rest of the season.
Marc Holloway and Nick Mistretta each had flashes of brilliance at the crucial middle linebacker position, but they also suffered setbacks. I expect one of them to grab more authoritative control of the starting position in 2010.
Corey Cameron was a revelation at one of the outside linebacker slots last season, cashing in on his 5th-year gamble, (at Columbia's tuition prices, exercising your right to play a 5th season because of injury really is a financial gamble), by grabbing a spot on the Honorable Mention All Ivy Defense.
But Cameron is now gone to graduation and we won't know just how effective Gross is until summer training camp when his re-hab will be over.
That means the linebacking corps probably needs a boost for 2010.
I'm excited about some of the incoming freshmen, especially Brian East from Carmel HS in Carmel, Indiana.
But the Lions have some returning players who could really make a major impact if they step it up a bit for the fall.
Rising junior Evan Miller had some great moments last season when he was pressed into duty after the Gross injury. He ended up with 38 tackles, with two for a loss.
Rising sophomore Will Patterson was a revelation in the last two games of the 2009 season, especially showing some pass rushing ability from the outside.
But the biggest boost for the linebackers could come from rising senior Matt Moretto, who missed all of 2008 due to injury and some parts of the 2009 season also for injury reasons.
Moretto impressed everyone from the get-go when he first arrived on campus in the summer of 2007. He went on to play in all ten games as a frosh and recorded 45 tackles in 2007.
Last season, he got into seven games and had just eight tackles. But I think Matt was still recovering for most of 2009 and he has a better shot at getting back to 2007 strength in 2010.
Moretto shows a unique ability to defend the run and the pass, a crucial need for a linebacker in the 4-3.
Having Morretto's abilities back up to 100% going along with his senior experience would be a major boost for the Lions this season. And that would make Moretto a sleeper candidate for stardom in 2010.