Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Arms Race

I like to call Kyle Newhall-Caballero "KNC"

Now that we know which Ivy veterans are coming back for 2010, it’s time for a frank discussion about which returning players truly are the best at each key position.

Today let’s look at quarterback:

The only serious contenders for this title are Harvard’s Collier Winters, Yale’s Patrick Witt, Brown’s Kyle Newhall-Caballero, and Columbia’s Sean Brackett.

Witt had some flashes of brilliance, (unfortunately most of which came against Columbia in week 7), but didn’t have the consistency to seriously be considered the best veteran Ivy QB coming into 2010. Interceptions were a particular problem for him last season and he must improve in that area for Yale to jumpstart its offense. Witt still has all the tools, and you could argue that his transfer from Nebraska required a shakedown cruise that could now be over.

Brackett started four games as a frosh, won two, and showed superior talent as a runner and a passer. He has a very strong arm, but didn’t really pass the ball enough, (just 63 attempts), to get a the strongest verdict on his accuracy. Nevertheless, he did throw four TD passes, and had a decent 54% completion rate. Brackett needs to cut down on his interceptions, (he threw just three, but that was one for every 21 pass attempts, the same as Witt), and boost that completion rate.

One talent Brackett really showcased was his quick running ability. He ran 53 times for 287 yards, a 5.4 yards per carry average, and a TD. Most of those stats were earned in his sparkling 171 yard rushing performance in the win over Brown that earned him Ivy Rookie of the Week honors.

Brackett has a great arm, great legs, and a very good sense of timing and decision making on option plays. He could very easily be the best QB in this league this year and the next three years. But there isn’t quite enough of a total sample of his stats to definitively say he is the best signal caller coming into 2010.

Next up is Harvard QB Collier Winters, who led the league in passing efficiency last season and was a very good runner in his own right.

But poor Winters has two strikes against him. First, he may not even be the starting QB this fall. I think Andrew Hatch has an inside track on this job despite his transfer away, transfer back, status. I believe Winters has been handed a very tough break here and I would be happy to be wrong and see Winters take every snap of 2010.

The second problem Winters faces is his track record in the most important game of 2009. With a chance to clinch the Ivy title at home against Penn, Winters and Harvard’s offense faltered badly in a 17-7 loss. Having offensive problems against the 2009 Quakers is nothing to be ashamed of, (Penn allowed just 9.5 points per game last year), but Winters really struggled in the game going 10-for-23 passing for just 135 yards. The defining moment of the game came on the ground for Winters as he had two shots to run it in from the 2 late in the fourth quarter but came away with nothing.

Winters is no doubt a very good QB, but football coaches like to obsess about improving as opposed to maintaining what they already have. I think Tim Murphy and company will roll the dice with Hatch, and that will be that for Winters. It’s either that or kick themselves all year for not taking Sean Brackett when they had the chance 18 months ago!

That brings us to the best returning pure passer in the Ivies, Kyle Newhall Caballero. No one came even close to “KNC’s” 2,709 yards passing in 2009, (Winters was second with 1,861). He also blew away the competition with a 62.7% completion rate. I got a chance to watch him play twice last season, in a preseason scrimmage and the week 10 game against the Lions. As they say these days, he really throws a "nice ball."

But the jury is still out on how strong a year Newhall Caballero will have without receivers named Sewall and Farnham to throw to. He threw too many interceptions, 14, to feel comfortable with all the time under center. Brown lost all three games against its fellow “first division” finishers in 2009, and in each game KNC threw more than 40 passes and could not break the key six yards per attempt mark. (Most pundits see 6 yards per attempt as a baseline number for passers and seven yards per attempt is a gold standard that’s kind of like batting .300 in baseball).

I’m sure Phil Estes would like to see the Bears run the ball well enough to avoid too many 40-attempt games by his starting QB in 2010. But whether he throws the ball 40, 30 or even 25 times per game, Newhall Caballero needs to come through a bit better in the big games. Like Winters, KNC has to prove he can come through in the clutch in the big game.

But all in all, he is the best overall QB coming back to the league this year.

So here’s how I’d rank the top four Ivy QB’s for the preseason:

1. Kyle Newhall-Caballero, Brown
2. Collier Winters, Harvard
3. Sean Brackett, Columbia
4. Patrick Witt, Yale

Some of the other returnees, like Penn’s Keiffer Garton and Billy Ragone, have tremendous potential but just didn’t provide enough of a sample from 2009 to seriously make the list at this point.


At Wed Jun 30, 10:16:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Bill Lipovsky said...

I understand last year's Columbia/Princeton game was broadcast on local TV. My son was on the team and I would like to get a copy of this game. Do you have any ideas? Thanks.
Bill Lipovsky

At Wed Jun 30, 10:28:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that Brackett is one heck of an athlete .. the kid moves with a deadly combination of grace and power and will only get better .. however, with only four starts, two of which were against less than worthy adversaries, can brackett really be considered one of the best in the league? .. KNC will be the most dominant returner in the ivy league, but it must be noted that there is an abundance of overall qb talent throughout the league .. the lions in particular boast a three to four man deep quarterback roster,Kevin including the never mentioned Lenehan, now 6'3" 220 lbs, and easily boasts the strongest arm on the lions .. pair that with the intelligence, accuracy and arm strength of the texan Jerry Bell and it looks like Columbia could have the makings of a dominant passing attack .. needless to say, however, Brackett's athleticism will prove to be of great importance this season

At Wed Jun 30, 11:16:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's this about QB Lenehan emerging from total obscurity? "Easily boasts the strongest arm on the Lions"?? Is that a family member speaking, coach, casual observor or what? Tell us more, please!

At Thu Jul 01, 12:50:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot attest to any personal attachment to Lenehan other than having the opportunity to see this young man throw the ball during several practices and after summer work out sessions at the field as a casual observer. He throws the ball with a Flacco like arm motion, and the ball flies off his finger tips. He is a very big kid as well. I don't know much about him beyond what I have observed, I must admit, but one night watching this kid sling the ball would make any football fan excited to see what he could do in a west coast styled attack.

At Thu Jul 01, 01:29:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous CU Football Fan said...

This is what I like to see! A little discussion of the least known Columbia QB. As a member of the Columbia football community, I too can testify to the pure power of Lenehan's arm. He really can whip the thing around effortlessly. He's smart too, definitely a guy to look for this camp.

At Thu Jul 01, 03:40:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does he have a strong and accurate arm or just a strong arm?

We had a QB in the 80's who was 6'5and had an absolute cannon of an arm, you might even say he physically resembled Flacco. But he was not terribly accurate and could not read a defense that well.

At Thu Jul 01, 08:54:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regard to reading defenses, he seems to be a bit of a risk taker throwing the ball down the field, but it is obvious that he knows very clearly what he is seeing on the field..His accuracy needs to improve on deep routes, but on any quick routes or come backs, he is very precise.

At Thu Jul 01, 10:00:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, I'll bet you a buck that the leading passing game in the League is wearing green this year. I will also bet you that two of the five leading rushers in the League are wearing green.

At Thu Jul 01, 11:28:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I like Kempe myself, my gut is that his stats won't be as good because Teevens prefers a balanced approach. Kempe will have to spend quite a bit of time handing the ball off to Schwieger, Patton, and perhaps others, while other Ivy QBs air it out. Doesn't mean that he's not among the best QBs, though.

At Fri Jul 02, 02:34:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brackett (4 games in 2009, 34-63, 4 TD, 3 INT, 287 yds rushing) is ranked #3 on the list, but Garton (5 games in 2009, 43-64, 4 TD, 3 INT, 150 yds rushing) "just didn't provide enough of a sample"? Sure...

At Fri Jul 02, 02:52:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmmm, Teevens and balanced approach, I haven't witnessed a team pass more than Dartmouth- 45 and 52 times a game is not in the middle or the low side of the League. For example:

I do think, however, the Green will be more balanced given the improvements and experience on the OL. Nevertheless, both the Green passing and running games will be on top of the league-- its just a buck Jake!

At Fri Jul 02, 03:14:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, is it going to be Teevens or this guy calling the plays for Dartmouth and does that change your opinion if he is---

At Fri Jul 02, 03:51:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The greatest fans of Yale's Patrick Witt play in the secondary at Harvard and Princeton.

At Fri Jul 02, 04:21:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

First, let me answer Mr. Lipovsky: You may be able to get a tape of the game by calling Patriot Media/Patriot Cable in New Jersey. I once bought a tape of Columbia's 2003 win over the Tigers from them.

As for the $1 bet. I think I risk a whole lot more than a dollar by posting my predictions on this blog every day. So let me just say that I stand by my predictions and if I'm wrong, I won't delete this post and you can post the link at the end of the year and remind the world just how wrong I was!

Now, as for Keiffer Garton and having enough of a sample, I see your point... But Garton was really injured all of 2009 and I consider all of last year to be a faulty sample for him. Brackett played at 100%.

At Fri Jul 02, 08:50:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clarifying my earlier comment regarding Teevens. The key word is "prefers" a balanced approach. You cited the Holy Cross game, when we fell behind by quite a bit early. Teevens didn't have much of a choice but to try to air it out to catch up. If you look at the stats for the Cornell and Columbia games (when things went well for Dartmouth), its obvious that Teevens "prefers" an even distribution of running and passing.

At Fri Jul 02, 11:11:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brackett has already reached his potential. The element of surprise is gone from the one man attack. I am worried that we are going to see the same kind of story that happened with Millicent A. Olawale. The offense was shaped around him, and when he was injured, it was hard to adjust. We need to spread the field and allow Brackett to use all his athleticism as an escape mechanism, but we can't use Brackett's running speed as the central component of the offense. The small-framed Brackett may take an absolute beating. Look at the way Olawale emerged from relative obscurity his junior year to become a nightmare for defenses. Why was Milli still a nightmare this year?..BECAUSE HE WEIGHED 240 pounds and ran a 4.5! The Yale cornerbacks at one point described tackling him as getting run over by a Mack truck. Brackett is much smaller. I don't want Brackett's athleticism to go to waste.


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