On the Mend, On the Rise
Columbia's potential MVP for 2010: A repaired ACL
Let’s start with the good news, shall we?
All reports out of Columbia training camp, (and not just the ones they put on the web site) tell me that returning 1st Team All Ivy linebacker, and 2007 Ivy Rookie of the Year Alex Gross is going at 100% or maybe even 110% play after play. Despite a massive knee injury last season, Alex is hitting harder and faster than ever. I’m crediting this miraculous recovery to the surgical staff at Columbia-Presbyterian, Alex’s age, and of course Alex’s heart.
Indeed, much of the 2010 season seems to ride on the fortunes of players coming back from injuries. We know about Owen Fraser, but Matt Moretto is a wild card that most Columbia opponents will flat out not be ready for if he’s back to 100% after his 2008 injury.
Another lesser-known name is Dan Cohen. The right tackle broke his foot last year, costing him a chance to really tune up for what looks like a starting role this year. If he’s back to full strength, that will open a lot of doors for the offense.
I’d also love to see Nico Gutierrez get back to his 2007 health, but he’s had two ACL tears since his junior year of high school… a daunting challenge indeed.
But Gross’ progress is a positive on so many levels. He is personally recovered, and his enthusiasm and success serve as an example to the many other key Lions looking to come back from injury.
Based on some of his recent backhanded shots at Columbia football, it’s not surprising to see that Craig Haley’s predictions for the Ivies at The Sports Network buries the Lions in 7th place for 2010.
Other than mentioning that Columbia loses Austin Knowlin and Ray Rangel to graduation, Haley doesn’t make much of a case for putting us behind Princeton and struggling teams like Yale and Dartmouth.
Of course, as much as I loved Rangel, the 2009 Lions won two major games, (in a season with four wins total), well after Ray was already out for the year, so downgrading our chances based on his absence makes little sense.
I also doubt Haley has seen Sean Brackett play live. I don’t expect everyone to agree that he’s the best overall QB in the league, but I do expect all experienced Ivy-watchers to realize he is something very special.
The most troubling thing about Haley’s report is his seeming ignorance of the particularly dire situation at Princeton. I have reported about this a few times this year already. More than one source has confirmed to me that the transition to the new coaching staff has not, repeat not, gone well at all. Morale is dangerously low. There have been some serious player defections from a squad that wasn’t that good to begin with. Haley should know this considering he covered Princeton exclusively for years. Either he knows this and he is sugar-coating, or he doesn’t, and he’s curiously out of the loop.
Haley has been covering the Ivies for a long time, and I don’t doubt his general knowledge of the league. But he also seems to be infected with the same “downgrade Columbia first” disease most other pundits suffer from. In his defense, until the Lions string together a few winning seasons you can’t blame him too much. The same kind of positive knee-jerk response the pundits have given Brown recently, (picked third by Haley this year and in the league-wide media poll), is what the Lions could expect if they turn the program around like they have in Providence since 1994.
On the other hand, I think Haley is way, way off this time and I will lay out the reasons this Friday when my detailed predictions for 2010 Ivy League Football goes live on this blog.
The Boston Globe’s quick look at the Ivies is based on the final rankings in the media poll. It has a slight inaccuracy when it says the Lions have three returning All Ivy players. It forgets to mention Owen Fraser and Alex Gross, pushing that number to five.
Two days to go before week 2 opponent Towson begins its season with a visit to the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington.
Last year, Towson played the cupcakes to Northwestern in the season opener and the Tigers were mauled, 47-14.
Towson Head Coach Rob Ambrose had this priceless quote about that game today:
"Last season, I think we let the atmosphere at Northwestern shake us up," recalls Coach Ambrose. "Our players were surprised at how good they were. Before we knew it, we were down by 30-0. Once we got over the shock factor, we played a good second half."
Um, what I think Ambrose meant to say was that once Northwestern took out its starters, Towson played a "good" second half.
The just-released Towson game notes, don't say who's getting the starting nod at QB, (they're just posting one of those "either-or" deals for a choice of THREE QB's).
But the Tigers look like a pretty good-sized team overall, especially on the defensive line. They may not get pushed around by the Hoosiers as much as you think.
One player who caught my eye was starting cornerback Ollie Thomas, who measures in at just 5-foot-8. I think the Wildcats will be testing him early.
The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network, but most of the country will see it on tape delay as the network has opted to show the Marshall-Ohio State game live.
Sadly, there is no update on my favorite reality show blog, "The Real Housewives of Towson Football."
Not one update since April 24th in fact!