Waiting in the Wings
Jeff Adams leads a talented and big junior class for the Lions in 2010 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
On Monday, I gushed over the amazing 27 seniors on the Lion roster for 2010 and how they represent a 68% retention rate from the 40 incoming frosh announced in May 2007.
Well, if you like 68% as a number, how about 80%?
That's the rate of retention for the junior class... so far... with 28 of the 35 announced incoming frosh from 2008 still on the roster.
I know a lot can happen in the coming year to reduce this number further, but historically, the biggest dropoffs on the Columbia roster come after freshman and sophomore years. Thus, the number of juniors on the roster can sometimes be a lot more of an accomplishment. There have been some years, like 1969, when there were fewer than 20 juniors on the varsity!
(The one anomaly was 1979, when Columbia had a whopping 35 juniors on the roster and still had a very rough season).
There are seven rising juniors who have already started at least one game already and I would say two members of the class of 2012 are already confirmed legitimate all-stars in Jeff Adams, (1st Team All-Ivy in 2009), and Owen Fraser (Honorable Mention All Ivy in 2008).
But the real shot in the arm will come if the juniors who have seen some playing time step things up with stellar years. I have six juniors on my list of players who could change the game big time for the Lions in 2010 if they play All Ivy level football. They are: Nick Mistretta, Chris Groth, Bob Hauschildt, Kalasi Huggins, Ross Morand, Neil Schuster, and Shea Selsor.
At one point or another, any one of those juniors has already exhibited star quality on the field. If they do it consistently this fall, the Lions stock soars.
There are some other juniors who we haven't seen that much of, but are still in a unique position to make a big difference.
They include Kurt Williams, who is making that big jump from cornerback to WR and seems to have the speed and the atheltic build to put a hurtin' on opposing secondaries.
Nico Papas could also be a valuable wildcard at fullback.
And if any one of the junior offensive linemen, other than Adams and Hauschildt, come through that would be a big plus as well. That's Sam Cecil, Ben Evans, and Kyle Stupi.
The big junior "X Factor" is QB Jerry Bell. Bell seems to be the leading pure passing on the squad, but sophomore runner/passer Sean Bracket got the final four starts of 2009. If Bell is forced to step into the starting role or gets tremendous playing time, he would have to work hard to help the team adjust to the very different style he presents compared to Brackett. Columbia did this successfully in 1994 when the Lions shuttled running QB Mike Cavanaugh with passer Jamie Schwalbe, but it's a tough trick to pull off.
Holding on to all of the 28 current juniors will take some big-time defying of the odds. But staying about what I consider to be a magic number of 25 is definitely doable and that bodes well for 2010 and beyond.