Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Do List

Alex Gross is back, so the outside running lanes are now closed (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Columbia’s players report to training camp this coming Sunday.

So what do the Lions need to work on the most?

I could go with the easy answer, and say the Lions should focus more on improving the kicking game than anything else. Not only does it need improvement, but there are a lot of new players joining the veterans to sort out.

But with just three weeks for training camp, the coaching staff can’t blow too much time on just special teams, (as important as they are).

What really hurt Columbia too many times last season was the inability to stop the run as well as it did in 2008. The Lions fell from third in the league in rush defense in ’08 to sixth last season, allowing 65 yards more per game.

Weakness against the run directly led to the losses versus Central Connecticut and Dartmouth, and the more than one minute negative gap in overall time of possession for the entire season.

The best news in this department is that two key run-stoppers return from injury in Owen Fraser and Alex Gross.

But the Lions can’t take for granted that Fraser and Gross will be 100% as healthy and effective as they were before their 2009 injuries.

Perhaps an underreported, (by me), story is the play of Chris Groth. Groth made huge strides in 2009 as a sophomore and there’s a good chance he gets into the All Ivy mix as a junior.

Another slightly under the radar player who will contribute to stopping the run in 2010 is Josh Smith, who showed a good ability to get into the backfield from the defensive end position last year.

Bruce Fleming is another player who doesn’t get a lot of press, but he filled in very well for Fraser last year and he’s now gearing up for a big senior season.

As far as some of the younger players goes, I see Seyi Adebayo, Shea Selsor and Josh Martin as being better pass rushing weapons than run stopping specialists.

The sophomores that I’d like to see pop in this area are bigger boys like Shad Sommers, Greg Lee, and Anthony Villamagna. Freshman Joe Raimondi packs 270 pounds and a championship wrestling pedigree, (like Lou Miller), to this area as well.

Getting back to the linebacker position, the list of returning veteran run stoppers other than Gross is not as deep as I think the coaches would like it to be. But one guy to keep your eye on is Matt Moretto, who looks like he’s got a great shot to replace the graduated Corey Cameron. He too is coming off an injury that actually happened in 2008 and was not fully out of his system last season. Evan Miller could also become a serious factor if he shows some improvement from pretty solid play at outside linebacker last year. Will Patterson looked fantastic in limited duty last season, but mostly as a pass rusher.

Another burning question at linebacker is what seems like the continuing battle for the starting middle linebacker job. Will this be the season that either senior Marc Holloway or junior Nick Mistretta really grabs the job for good? How the Lions perform against the run could be the top determining factor in that battle.

Another factor people sometimes forget is that the secondary has to come up big as well to make sure opposing running attacks get stopped.

To that end, Coach Wilson mentioned in the media day conference call that Adam Mehrer is getting better as a tackler every season. He even had a tackle for a loss on a run last year. Ross Morand is a hard hitter from the cornerback position.

I am actually very confident that Columbia will make a big reduction in rushing yards allowed this season. And I realize there are some other big priorities like re-igniting the passing game without Austin Knowlin and the pass rush without Lou Miller.

But because stopping the run in 2010 relies so much on some recovering players, and because failures in this area cost the Lions so much in 2009, I put this as my top training camp priority for this year.


At Wed Aug 18, 12:23:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One aspect of our game which needs work is more consistency in our pass defense. Gutey will be able to help with technique. Specifically, some of our DBs play the receiver rather than the ball on the deep pass. I'd like our "to do" list to emphasize playing on the ball rather than the receiver.

At Wed Aug 18, 03:49:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm o.k. with Marc Holloway and Nick Mistretta sharing playing time at the middle linebacker position as long as they both have outstanding years. Having two middle linebackers of their caliber going into the season is a huge plus for the Lions. I'm also comfortable with the host of speedy young Lion defensive ends who seem ready to inflict some deep wounds on the opposition. It seemed to me that some of the defensive ends looked pretty good against the run in the spring scrimmage game. Overall, they certainly have the quickness to stop the outside running game. I'm not worried about that. As for the inside running game, that's where size and strength is particularly important. You need s&s to fight off a 290 pound offensive lineman. Hopefully, our defensive ends have bulked up a bit during the off-season. If not, maybe we can get Marcellus back on the field this fall.

At Wed Aug 18, 04:08:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, we're # 4; nice jump from 9 in the annual survey by USNews etc

At Thu Aug 19, 12:55:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right there at the top of the "to do list" is the need to improve our kicking game. Hopefully, with the return of two talented kickers and the additon of three outstanding prospects, we will be able to delete this item from the list early in the season.


Post a Comment

<< Home