Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Freshmen 15

My advice to the freshmen: Start training... heavily

This is going to be a controversial post, because it will inevitably make some people mad.

But every year, people ask me the understandable question: “Which of the incoming freshmen are the best in the class?”

And with nine days to go before camp opens, it's time for me to try to answer

There are so many disclaimers I have to tick off before I can even begin to answer that question, but here are the most important ones:

1) These are all just predictions. Not rankings or scouting reports, because I am not a scout.

2) I am going to leave someone out who doesn’t deserve to be left out, but I’d like to give some recognition to the players I truly do think are especially promising.

3) To make it even more clear, this is just MY GUESS based on some facts, outside-the-Columbia program sources, and gut reactions.

4) I am very likely to overlook the player who will be the long-term biggest star in the class of 2014. I'm not a genius, far from it. That's why.

5) I suspect the REAL breakout stars this season are more likely to come from the SOPHOMORE and JUNIOR classes.

6) I am going to be woefully wrong about at least one of these kids either listed or not listed.

But first, a word about playing freshmen on the varsity vs. JV.

If you don’t think a JV program is a strong or better alternative, see Harvard and Brown. They’ve made honing youngtalent over the initial two-year period an art. Columbia’s renewed commitment to JV football since 2007 is already reaping rewards in this same way.

Another thing I’d like to do is look back at the last three seasons and point out who ended up being the best performing freshman in his initial year on the team.

In 2007, it was easy to choose: Alex Gross was a breakout star and the 2007 Ivy League Rookie of the Year. But even with Gross' super year, there were also standout performances by then-frosh Nico Gutierez, Adam Mehrer, Matt Moretto, and Andrew Kennedy. In a “non-Alex Gross” year any one of them could have been the top frosh.

In 2008, Owen Fraser emerged right away on the defensive line. He was the biggest reason why Columbia’s weak 2007 rush defense turned into a strength overnight. Kalasi Huggins and AJ Maddox made great strides as frosh, but were in Fraser’s shadow in that department.

Last season, Sean Brackett was obviously the biggest freshmen star. He started the final four games of the season at QB, winning two of them and was Ivy Rookie of the week in the finale against Brown. I thought Will Paterson also made a nice splash at the end of the season, showing some real quickness as an outside pass rusher.

If you’re alarmed by the relatively smaller number of freshmen stars since 2007, see what I wrote above about JV football and see the overall won-lost records for Harvard and Brown since 1999.

Also consider Jeff Adams, who didn’t play much more than a minute for the varsity as a frosh in 2008. But he starred on the JV and then became the top left tackle in all the Ivies in 2009.

Okay, disclaimers over.

Based on my research, here are the freshmen who just MY OPINION seem most LIKELY to be top players for us in the near and more distant future:

1) Marcorus Garrett RB

Tremendous speed and agility at a position where top-level talent is becoming harder to find in the Ivies. The upside here is almost unlimited. Could have an immediate impact.

2) Bruce Grant WR

Another speed demon, this time with local pedigree. The catch is… can he catch? He’s a converted running back who may have no trouble burning the coverage and taking a hit, but will he grab the ball on the fly?

3) Brian East LB

Starred for a top level high school program in Indiana. With some key players at linebacker graduating at the end of the season, he’s well positioned to make an impact for three years or more.

4) Nick Melka DL

Already the right size to play his position and may be coming to CU at just the right time with Lou Miller graduating last May.

5) Luke Eddy K

Nobody is denying the Lions need to shore up the kicking game right away, and Eddy looks like a real contender as a FG and PAT specialist.

6) Paul Delaney P

I thought Greg Guttas really came along as a punter last season, but Delaney comes from a top-level high school program and could challenge for this job right away.

7) Chris Rapka QB

Has a lot of the tools to be a future star, and good size too. Comes from a good competitive school and program in Florida.

8) Hamilton Garner TE

Great size and experience, and comes from a good conference in Georgia. I don’t expect him on the field this year for the varsity, but he’s a good candidate to replace Andrew Kennedy after this season.

9) Brad Losee DL

Great looking prospect from football-rich Minnesota. May need a year or so to get the right size to play up front, but he already reminds me somewhat of Lou Miller.

10) Marquel Carter DB

Outstanding athlete and the kind of guy Columbia and the Ivies would love to serve up as the poster boy for all that’s good about this league. But he’ll have to prove it on the field in a very crowded group of defensive backs for the next few seasons.

11) Duncan Dickerson OL

A top-rated long snapper, Dickerson could be seeing playing time very soon as the Lions had some troubles in this area last year.

12) Maurice Rothschild WR

Another speedy skill player who could surprise this year or next. How bulked up he is or isn't when he comes into camp may mae a big difference for him.

13) Griffin Lowry RB

Every Ivy team has a player like Lowry; a top-flight BCS-caliber recruit who becomes available at our level because of a junior or senior year injury. I am in no way opposed to bringing 1-2 of these guys on board each year, because the upside is tremendous if they recover fully. But fans need to not expect it to happen. So far, the list of players like this who have become big-time Ivy stars is small. But so is the list of HEALTHY players who become stars! This is rarefied air we’re talking about after all. It’s been years since the Lions have had a dominant fullback and Lowry could be that guy one day.

14) Zach Olinger LB

Another product from a real rich football conference who could make a difference on defense. A gym rat, Olinger is a good example to others about putting in the hard work with the weights.

15) Joey Andrada WR

At 6-2, he’s tied for the top spot as Columbia’s tallest receiver. With all the shorter, speedy guys vying for a chance to play, he may stand out.

Gutey Announcement

The athletic department has released a fuller bio piece on new DB Coach Jeff Gutekunst today. There are a lot of good tidbits about “Gutey” that I missed last week and a can’t miss funny quote from Head Coach Norries Wilson about how he’ll have to make some personal changes now that Gutekunst is on board.


At Sat Aug 14, 07:50:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This new coach seems pretty legit, nice job by CU to snag him.

At Sat Aug 14, 08:34:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I like about Gutey is that he obviously loves football. Why else would he want to help out his former player at the age of 66?

At Sat Aug 14, 09:16:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's practically impossible to guess which freshman players will make the most impact without having seen them play. Obviously, some players come in more highly rated than others, but you just never know who's going to be a really outstanding player until after the first few games. I suspect that all three of the incoming freshman kickers have the most chance to make an immediate impact. Dickerson also has a good chance of seeing action as a long snapper.

At Sat Aug 14, 09:22:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, if I remember correctly, you said in May, that Griffin Lowry had recovered sufficiently from his injury to play high school baseball this spring. That being the case, I would pick him to be the freshman player who will make the most impact as he was one of the highest-rated football players in the St. Louis area before his senior year. Also, on film, he looks like a powerful running back with the speed to play tailback in in the Ivy League.

At Sat Aug 14, 09:25:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, what about Lou DiNovo, the All-State wide receiver from the Albany Area? From all indications, he's going to be a very good Ivy League football player.

At Sat Aug 14, 09:28:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris Mooney who's switching from defensive end to tight end was highly recruited in Georgia and could be another Andrew Kennedy?

At Sat Aug 14, 09:47:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who knows that will happen when young men transition from HS to college? A strong JV program will grow college players in a program with national scope, from local, hometown HS heroes, which all recruits are. However, forecasting what a recruiting class might or might not do is itself problematic. It reflects a deep uncertainty about the upcoming season and how well the current team will do. Its the same with looking back at past glories. Both reveal an axiety born of the strange marriage of hope and disappointment. Hope, in that the future might be different; disappointment, in having given one's heart to seasons in the past only to have that broken. The hardest thing in sports is to trust in what you have, your current teammates; to have confidence they will do what they say they will do, and all hope they will do. That's what makes resurrecting a program the hardest thing of all. I for one would like to know more about all the current players who will be putting themselves, and the hopes of many, on the line ten Saturdays this fall.

At Sat Aug 14, 11:16:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, let's avoid another Masorti problem. We had this young man pegged as teh second coming of teh great Des Werthman, and it didn't pan out, apparently for non-football related issues. Yet we have had other young men come in with no glitz who have made all Ivy. Let's not create internal jealousies and unrealistic expectations.

At Sat Aug 14, 11:28:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jake, do you know if the incoming freshman perform some combine tests (40 yard dash, 225 bench test, shuttle) or maximum lifts (bench press, squat, power clean)? these tests could do a lot to provide a better look at the freshman class

At Sat Aug 14, 11:32:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a fan of Marcorus Garrett, and being at his last game against Walton (Home of fellow frosh Chris Mooney), i know he's going to make an immediate impact. Mooney also played very well, but on the defensive side of the ball. Im not sure why he is playing offense, but both of these kids should make big impacts sooner rather than later

At Sun Aug 15, 04:56:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Columbia only has three tight ends returning, so Chris Mooney will have a very good opportunity to see significant playing time this year or next.

At Sun Aug 15, 07:29:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would include Mark McClain of Upper Arlington H.S. in Columbus, Ohio and Chris Alston of the Hun School in the list of top freshman prospects. They are both good athletes with excellent size and speed and are capable of playing either linebacker or defensive back in college. They also come from very good high schoolfootball programs.

At Sun Aug 15, 07:48:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chances are that one or two of our speedy freshmen running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs will make an impact returning kick-offs or punts by the end of the season. Possibilities include a number of the players you mentioned already, plus the speedy running back from Tennessee, Sam Williams, and perhaps, one or two others. Some of the new freshmen, need to bulk up a bit, but they all seem to have very good speed.

At Mon Aug 16, 09:55:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No offense Jake, but in my opinion this is not an appropriate post. Hopefully all the incoming freshman will contribute over their careers. We may not see their contributions on the field as they may be great scout team players, inspire others through their hard work or be leaders in the locker room. For all the current seniors and juniors that have had little playing time, this does not diminish in any respect their value to Columbia football or the hard work and sacrifices they have made just like those that play on Saturday. Over one hundred young men have chosen to be part of the Columbia football team, and they are all to be commended.

At Mon Aug 16, 11:15:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Monday's poster. I think that we "olde grads" get too excited sometimes and talk about the players as if they were in the NFL. You are most correct that they all make contributions to the program even if they never get on the field on Saturday. Coach often calls his players " students".
I say thanks to ALL of them.

At Tue Aug 17, 12:03:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake is giving tremendous publicity to ALL the incoming freshmen football players and for that we Lion Football Fans should be very grateful. If Jake wants to guess who is going to be the next Columbia superstars that's ok with me. Thanks, Jake.

At Tue Aug 17, 02:35:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger jdelaney said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Thu Aug 19, 06:53:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone have thoughts on how this incoming class compares to other recent incoming freshman classes? As a group, it look pretty good to me.

At Mon Aug 23, 10:30:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i really like this comment:

...We may not see their contributions on the field as they may be great scout team players, inspire others through their hard work or be leaders in the locker room. For all the current seniors and juniors that have had little playing time, this does not diminish in any respect their value to Columbia football or the hard work and sacrifices they have made just like those that play on Saturday. Over one hundred young men have chosen to be part of the Columbia football team, and they are all to be commended.

roger dennis '66


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