Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Best Defense

Lou Ferrari and his troops

As Columbia looks to fill its open defensive coordinator position, let’s look at the last very successful Lion defensive unit and figure out what they did right.

The most recent dominant Columbia defense was the 2006 squad that allowed just 16.3 points per game, and never more than 24 points in a single contest. That was just one season after the 2005 defense allowed a disastrous 33 points per game, including five Ivy contests where the Lions allowed 40 or more points!

The ’06 team allowed a well-balanced 153 yards rushing and 149 passing per game, both good but not great stats. It also only produced 20 sacks, hardly much to write home about.

So why was that Lion squad so good at keeping opponents from scoring?

It was mostly a combination of two things.

First, then-defensive coordinator Lou Ferrari brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the job and it was contagious. His “11 hats to the ball” philosophy broke the players out of the “stay in your lane” belief that was killing the team when opposing offenses ad-libbed the season before.

Second, the Lions of ’06 enjoyed a +10 turnover ratio that season and those turnovers often came at the most opportune times.

But perhaps the most important thing to remember about that defense is that it was not large, not particularly fast, and only one player, Tad Crawford ’07, made 1st Team All Ivy.

Scrappy players like DL Darren Schmidt ‘07, who was barely 200 pounds, led the team in sacks, (and in GPA).

Smart veteran players, like MLB Adam Brekke ’07, helped direct traffic and made sure the defense bent but didn’t break.

With a more poised and effective offense in 2006, that 5-5 team could easily have gone 7-3 or 8-2. They were that good.

How do we get those ingredients back on defense for 2011?

That will be ultimately up to the new DC, but I certainly hope he looks at the 2006 team for some answers.


At Thu Dec 30, 10:22:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We introduced some nice defensive schemes that year which confused our opponents. We also did some marvellous things in the defensive secondary. It is interesting to note that despite complaints about the size of the defensive line this year's group, and next year's as well, was and is bigger than the 5-5 squad. Whoever becomes defensive coordinator has plenty of talented players to work with although it is critical to the team's success in 2011 that each member of the defense adds some weight and muscle in the offseason. I would like to see a starting defensive line with no one under 250-260. Very talented smaller players like Murphy could become starting linebackers playing all three downs on the revamped unit. At this time, it looks like we are going to have a excellent offense next year and a super kicking game. Only the defense is a question mark and if it improves significantly, the Lions will have a very good all-around football team.

At Thu Dec 30, 06:26:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Ferrari defense was as I recall based on a defense which either W. Va. or Viginia Tech played at the time. It required very fast defensive backs and LBs. I think it caught people by surprise. The next year, it was a disaster and had to be abandoned because we didn't have the right personnel and people were ready for it. In his glory days the Great Carm Cozza used to say that he would put his best 11 on defense because it would keep him in every game.

At Mon Jan 03, 09:03:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the first poster and would like to see the DL at least 250-260lb minimum although I think that is still too small. 280-290 with speed especially at tackle positions would be ideal, but, probably almost impossible to recruit. I believe the underutilized Groth, a sophomore they started using later in the season, and the freshman they used early on are our best bet in the tackle position at that weight. With Owen in game condition and healthy, Groth and him could be a major impact in the middle. I think last year’s starters at tackle were very talented and fast, but, undersized and it showed. Through conditioning add some major weight to them or use them as ends/lbs.


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