Sunday, September 12, 2010

Encouraging Day

My Saturday began with a visit to the Baker Athletics Complex for the football team's Media and Picture Day.

First off, the women's field hockey field is now much bigger, no longer needing to share space with the softball field in the area in front of the Chrystie Field House. On football Saturdays, this means the picnic area will be much larger too, in theory at least.

When the team started coming on to the field for their individual pictures and full team shot, I got a chance to talk with some of the players. Each one couldn't have been nicer or more articulate. Truly they were credits to Columbia, the football program and the Ivy athletic ideal overall.

Perhaps more importantly, all the players looked pretty healthy, especially the guys coming back from injury like Owen Fraser, Matt Moretto and Alex Gross.

Jeff Adams and I spoke first and not only does he look bigger, but he seems taller too! The most important thing he told me was how much he enjoys running the option. And anyone who watched the Lions execute the option after QB Sean Brackett got into the lineup knows how well it worked in 2009 after years of iffy results.

Gross, with his new beard and long hair looks like a very different person. But he's inspiring the entire team with his enthusiastic play in practice after a massive ACL/MCL tear last season. Alex and I talked about how important it was for the Lions to do better against the run this season, and he's ready to do it. Alex also told me more about the backups at linebacker, that include Augie Williams and Ryan Haslett, despite the fact that they played as DB's last season, (or at least were listed as DB'S). Alex was high on how well they're playing as well.

He also told me that he has no plans to play a fifth year. He would have needed the Ivie brass to overlook the rules for that anyway, since he injured himself on the first play of the 4th game of last year and, natch, the 4th game is the cutoff to be considered as having lost a season to injury. Alex wants to graduate with his class, and that's understandable.

Moretto was also upbeat about Columbia's chances to do better against the run, and he agreed that the Lion's first several opponents have a lot of ground weapons that will provide a serious test in that area right away. Incidentally, Matt spent the summer as an intern at the Department of Justice in Washington.

Andrew Kennedy talked about his unusual role as a deep route, speedy tight end. He loves it. We also talked about the stellar play of freshman TE Chris Mooney, and how we shouldn't be surprised to see him and Kennedy on the field at the same time this year in two-tight end sets. Finally Andrew let me know that despite being a Connecticut resident, he was born in New York City and is a HUGE Giants fan.

Mike Stephens talked about how he didn't just bulk up this off season; it's actually a process he's been dedicated to every off season since coming to Columbia. He likes the deep reserves the Lions have with 13 wide receivers in the chamber and he had special praise for Mark Muston and the excellent fundamental skills he possesses. He also feels Nico Gutierrez is back to his 2007 form.

I listened to Seyi Adebayo talking confidentally with Jerry Recco, and it's looking more and more like he's going to be getting that starting slot to replace Lou Miller at defensive end. Jerry believes Seyi is going to be just as fast at 260 pounds as he was last year at 230 pounds. I like the possibilities Adebayo, Will Patterson, and Josh Smith present for the pass rush and TFL's in general.

Later, Head Coach Norries Wilson conducted a long interview with the students from the Columbia Spectator, and I thought the highlight of that was his prediction that the Lions will surprise a lot of people this year.

Wild Night for Columbia Opponents

Much of my evening was devoted to following the progress of Columbia's three non-Ivy opponents. Each game was a thriller, with what I have to call encouraging results for the Lions' chances.

Week one opponent Fordham squeaked by Rhode Island, 27-25, at home. Fordham used a weird short kickoff, (not a classic bouncing onsides kick), to turn the momentum around in the game. But it took a pass break up in the end zone on 4th and two with 11 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Week two opponent Towson played a super thriller, a FIVE-OVERTIME epic against two-score underdog Coastal Carolina ended with a 47-45 Towson win.

But the most shocking game of the night was Georgetown's 28-24 WIN over week four opponent Lafayette in Easton. The lowly Hoyas probably pulled off the greatest upset in Patriot League history by beating the 20-point favorite Leopards.

Obviously, none of these opponents are going to be pushovers for Columbia. But none of them looked like they were unbeatable last night. And if Lafayette's loss means this is a real down year for that traditionally tough squad, it's nice that the Lions will also have home field advantage in that matchup as well.


At Mon Sep 13, 08:47:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need a new picture of the BFAC (Baker F....). New venues were built this summer. We used to call them "fields".

At Tue Sep 14, 12:12:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to you, Jake, we are starting to get some specific information on this year's football team. I am particulary happy to hear that Nico G appears to have returned to his 2007 form. He deserves to have a big year. Also, it's good to know that we have some depth at tight end with freshman Chris Mooney coming on quickly to back-up Andrew Kennedy. Hazlett and Williams at LB sounds good too.


Post a Comment

<< Home