Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Returning Starters

Josh Smith could be the answer for the void left at DE (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Let's look at Columbia's starting lineup from the final game of the 2009 season:

QB 10 Brackett,Sean*
RB 39 Kourouma,Zack*
TE 82 Kennedy,Andrew*
WR 29 Joseph,Taylor
WR 1 Stephens,Mike*
WR 83 Knowlin,Austin
LT 76 Adams,Jeff*
LG 62 Seiler,John
C 79 Sanford,Evan
RG 67 Quirk,Ian*
RT 70 Lipovsky,Will

DE 97 Bashaw,Matt
NT 61 Groth,Chris*
DT 96 Fleming,Bruce*
DE 59 Miller,Lou
LB 40 Cameron,Corey
LB 56 Holloway,Marc*
LB 44 Williams,Augie*
CB 28 Morand,Ross*
CB 42 Morine,Jared
FS 47 Mehrer,Adam*
SS 6 Shalbrack,Andy

*=returning for 2010

Officially, the Lions have 6 returning starters on offense and 6 returners on defense. That's not bad.

But the truth is even better than that.

Also returning to the defense this year will be Alex Gross and Owen Fraser. These are two All Ivy players back in the fold. And Calvin Otis, while never an All Ivy, is also coming back from injury and he is one of the best corners in the league.

At middle linebacker, Marc Holloway may have had the official start against Brown, but Nick Mistretta also started much of the 2009 season at that position. You can count him as an extra starter.

In actuality, Columbia is bringing back 10 players on defense with significant starting experience. About half of those 10 are All Ivy or All Ivy caliber. Whoever gets the job as defensive coordinator will be dealing with a pretty deep roster filled with lots of talent.

On offense, that "6 returning starters" figure is also a little misleading. Since the coaches officially started three wide receivers and one tailback in the Brown game, it leaves out the fact that RB Leon Ivery is also coming back and he would normally be in the starting lineup.

So the number of returning offensive starters is really 7 and one of them is the most important returnee you can hope to have in the QB Sean Brackett.

You can conservatively say 15 of the 22 starters are back in 2010, and only a slight embellishment boosts that figure to 17 out of 22.

Of course, two of those starters are once in a generation WR Austin Knowlin and Columbia's all time sack leader Lou Miller.

You can't really "replace" a player like Knowlin, but I do expect Columbia's offense to adjust to his absence by using different weapons. I think TE Andrew Kennedy will get a lot more receptions this season, and Brackett could end up running a lot more than even M.A. Olawale did.

I;m also confident the three graduated starters on the offensive line will be more than just adequately replaced, even as I realize that's not something you can take for granted.

On defense, I like Josh Smith to make a great run at filling the void left by Miller at defensive end. Smith isn't as unstoppable as Miller on the rush, but he did finish the 2009 season with 3.5 sacks and showed a lot of promise.

The point of today's post is to pre-emptively strike back at the inevitable parade of pundits in the coming weeks who will talk about how graduation has "gutted" the Lions or how Columbia will need another 1-2 years to recover from losing Knowlin and so much of the starting O-line.

That's bunk. The REAL question for the Lions is whether they'll develop that killer instinct that will take games like last year's losses to Yale, Lafayette, Central Connecticut and even Penn and turn them into victories.

It's hard for people who haven't watched this Columbia team for many years to realize this, but the talent level to post winning seasons is and has been there for the last two years at least.

Now it's time to expect victory every week and achieve it.


At Thu Jun 17, 01:59:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, that's one great pre-season write-up. This Lion Team has more talent and depth than any I can remember and in all liklihood will be competing for the Ivy League Championship this fall. In particular, I agree with you regarding the strength of the Lion Defensive Line which has nearly ten excellent returning players plus, of course, Owen Frazer, who missed virtually all of last season with an injury. Frazer was clearly the best freshman defensive lineman in the Ivy League two years ago and just missed being picked as the Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Watch out for the sophomores--Patterson, Adebyo, Martin and Sommers. All of those guys have huge potential

At Thu Jun 17, 01:11:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Previous poster forgot rising soph DL Greg Lee who was 1st Team All-State California (small schools) at Francis Parker High, which just sent its two senior stars to Yale.


Post a Comment

<< Home