Most Ivy head coaches talk about how hard it is to recruit top running backs and defensive linemen.
The stats prove that point, especially the fact that there was not even one 1,000-yard rusher in the Ivies last season.
But one position that I think has become super hard to fill with top talent is tight end.
That's why Columbia is relying so much on senior co-captain Andrew Kennedy to have a bang-up final season for the Lions.
Perhaps "bang-up" isn't the best phrase to use, since Kennedy was indeed hurt and unable to play in the spring game. The Lions need him to return at full speed this fall.
Kennedy does a lot of things the traditional tight end doesn't do. Most notably, he's fast and the sight of Kennedy sprinting down the hash marks wasn't uncommon last season. His five TD receptions, (from a total of 21 catches), were the biggest reasons he made Second Team All Ivy for 2009.
The best overall tight end in the Ivies last year was John Sheffield at Yale, who grabbed an amazing 61 passes for 612 yards but had only two touchdowns. But he is gone to graduation. The Ivy coaches were generous in the Honorable Mention All Ivy category, putting three TE's on the list: Dartmouth's John Gallagher, (30 catches, 288 yards and one TD for the rising junior, Harvard's Nicolai Schwarzkopf, (12 catches 174 yards and one TD for the rising senior), and Penn's Luke Nawrocki (11 catches, 88 yards, and two TD's for the rising junior).
Schwarzkopf and Nawrocki were also excellent blockers, but their receiving stats say something about how this position has suffered as the passing totals in the Ivies start to decline.
This all makes Kennedy the preseason favorite for 1st Team All Ivy in 2010. But watch out for Schwarzkopf, who was rated the #1 overall incoming freshmen recruit in the Ivies back in 2007 and he may get a little extra attention in his final year for the Crimson.
As the Columbia staff works to replenish the wide receiving corps after the graduations of Austin Knowlin and Taylor Joseph, it's important not to forget that Kennedy could end up picking up a lot of the receiving slack in 2010.
QB Sean Brackett and Kennedy seem to have established a good rhythm on the field during Brackett's four starts last season. The highlight was the 31-yard TD Brackett tossed to Kennedy in the Yale game.
Columbia's last dominant tight end was Wade Fletcher who was an uncoverable target for Jeff Otis and the exciting 2003 Lion team. Matt Less was also a force in the late 80's.
But the man Kennedy most needs to emulate is Brian Bassett, who made 3rd Team All America in 1994 with 62 catches for 793 yards. Bassett was a key part of an offense that featured speedy Mike Cavanuagh and passing ace Jamie Schwalbe splitting time at QB that season. 1994 was Columbia's first winning season in 23 years, so that was a great combination.
If Brackett is 2010's version of Cavanaugh and/or Jerry Bell is 2010's version of Schwalbe, it would be best of all if Kennedy is 2010's version of Brian Bassett.
Kennedy and Bassett have lots of other things in common. Both are New Englanders. Both came to CU and played TE after playing different positions in high school, (Bassett was a QB, Kennedy was a defensive lineman). And both Kennedy and Bassett began their senior seasons weighing about 230 pounds.
With so few teams featuring a truly dangerous TE, any Ivy team that does have one has an advantage. Columbia must grab this opportunity this fall.
HIGH SCHOOL DATABASE NOW UPDATED THROUGH 2006!!
My Columbia football high school feeder site is now updated for the varsity years 1969 through 2006! Please visit the site and report any errors, omissions, or other good observations you might have.