Returning Arms Race
The buzz around the Ivy League is once again very much about Andrew Hatch and his future at Harvard.
Officially, there is no word yet on whether the Harvard-to LSU-back to Harvard transfer is cleared to play in 2010.
Unofficially, that's a load of bunk.
I am willing to bet a considerable amount of my overpriced mortgage that Hatch will be playing and probably starting for the Crimson this fall.
In fact, I'm still trying to figure out why he wasn't allowed to play last fall, but I'll leave the answer to that question to the league office and the conspiracy theorists who are springing up these days about the whole Hatch affair.
Like last year, I'm amused by those who seem to think Hatch will be some kind of monster on the field for the Crimson and play head and shoulders above his peers at QB.
I don't think so.
Hatch will be good, maybe even very good. But while BCS teams like LSU are eons ahead of Ivy squads, that difference is not really the case when you look at some individual positions.
I would say the two positions where the top Ivy players could very easily play at the BCS level are QB and offensive lineman, followed closely by the best kickers.
Hatch wasn't really a prolific passer in his time with LSU anyway, but I don't think he can be underestimated as a legitimate All Ivy prospect for 2010.
Meanwhile, Collier Winters had a very good year for the Crimson in 2009 and can't be written off without a fight. But either way, I expect Harvard to emphasize the run a lot more this season with phenom Treavor Scales and solid veteran Gino Gordon in the backfield. All the attention on the QB position and passing may be a classic smokescreen.
Hatch or no Hatch, who are the top Ivy QB's coming back for 2010?
Bruce Wood over at the Big Green Alert blog listed the top returnee stats just the other day.
But here's who I think are the top three QB's coming back for 2010:
Brown's Kyle Newhall-Caballero
1) Kyle Newhall-Caballero BROWN
"KNC," as I call him, posted a super 62.7% completion rate and he throws some of the best looking spirals I've seen in a long time in this league. How will he do as a senior in 2010 without Bobby Sewell and Buddy Farnham? Probably not as well... at least to start. But the dangerous Trevan Samp returns and this guy throws the ball so well I think he'll find some new targets among Head Coach Phil Estes' steady pipeline of receiving talent. One knock on KNC is he threw 14 INT's last season, but he was throwing so often that he only had one pick for every 30 passes attempted... which is not so bad. Another slam on him is that he doesn't really run, but that's not what he's expected to do at Brown.
KNC is the best pro-style, non-running QB in the league bar none.
Sean Brackett (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
2) Sean Brackett COLUMBIA
The rising sophomore has all the tools, and unlike almost every other sophomore QB in recent Ivy history, he's already shown them on the field. Brackett has a strong arm, very fast wheels, and impeccable timing and poise running the option. The fact that Brackett was able to play at the level he did just about 11 weeks after he first arrived on campus is remarkable.
Brackett is officially listed at 6-1, but he seems more like 5-10. You expect smaller QB's like that to be quick, but Brackett was quicker than most people expected.
His arm was so much stronger than anyone expected that the first two TD passes of his career against Yale were clearly surprises to the Eli defensive backs who were shorting their coverages on those plays.
Watching Brackett run the option was, quite simply, a thing of beauty. The timing and crispness of his tosses were something I'd more expect to see from your typical 7th year senior playing at Oklahoma rather than an Ivy frosh. He also had a better than 7 yards per attempt passing average, an absolute rarity in college. When he trots onto the field wearing that #10, he really reminds me of Fran Tarkenton.
Fran Tarkenton goes under center
The knocks on Brackett are he did seem to try too hard a few times and he had two crucial fumbles after big gains when he tried to milk just a little more out of the play than necessary. You also have to worry that he will get injured if he continues to run so often.
But if the worst things you can say about a QB are that he tries too hard and might get hurt, you're in good shape.
3) Collier Winters HARVARD
A big part of me would like to see the very talented and hard working Collier Winters have a monster senior season in 2010. It would be fun to see the Hatch hype burst and reward this young man who had to wait a long time to get his starting job and still might lose it again.
Winters can also run very well and his TD-to-INT ratio was the best in the league.
But he's still not the best passer overall, and he will not have the luxury of the graduation Matt Luft to throw to this fall.
BEST OF THE REST
Keiffer Garton PENN
When he's healthy, he's also a complete package. He runs hard, and as Columbia learned the hard way last year, Garton can also thread the needle with super passes into coverage.
The trouble is, the rising senior is barely healthy enough to be considered a safe bet to start consistently for Penn in 2010. I still don't think Garton's knee is going to be 100% or even 90% for the fall or anytime. It's not like Penn doesn't have some great alternatives, namely Billy Ragone who looked very good in limited duty last season.
The best news for Garton is that if he can get that knee working well enough, he'll have a very experienced offensive line in front of him and one of the best running backs in the Ivies, Lyle Marsh, behind him.
Patrick Witt YALE
Witt's best moments came last year in the second half against Columbia when he brought the Elis back to win the game with a series of brilliant quick-release passes. That's what earned him a starting job briefly at Nebraska before he transferred away from Lincoln.
Unfortunately for Yale, Witt rarely played like that the rest of the season. But he has the right tools to be more of a positive factor in 2010 if he can show the maturity another year of adjusting in New Haven should give him. He also needs to find a way to scramble better and cut down on his interceptions. Witt threw one pick for every 21 passes thrown in 2009.