Friday, May 28, 2010

Phase 1 Completed!

The #1 Feeder School Comes from Queens!

I knew it would be a major undertaking when I decided to catalogue all the high schools that have sent players to Columbia football.

In fact, I quickly knew it would be a lifetime project that would never actually be "finished."

New names will surface from time to time.

Corrections and clarifications, especially for the players from long ago, will be a regular event.

And of course, new classes will always be announced every year.

But this week I finished a major chunk of the project by completing, to the best of my knowledge, the list of high school feeders corresponding to every Columbia varsity season from 1969-2009. Since I am now working a bit out of order, I also have the data complete from the varsity seasons of 1961 and 1962 as well.

All the schools and player names are on my newly-created Columbia Football Feeder site. Please check it out when you can, especially if you think you have some information I may have missed.

So what are the top 5 feeder schools to Columbia football in the period I've catalogued?

1. Stuyvesant HS (New York, NY) - 18 players

2. Saint Francis Prep (Fresh Meadows, NY) - 17 players

3. Deerfield Academy (Deerfield, MA) - 15 players

4T. Boston Latin School (Boston, MA) - 11 players

Brooklyn Tech HS (Brooklyn, NY) - 11 players

Cardinal Hayes HS (Bronx, NY) - 11 players

It's very telling that the current crop of Lions only includes ONE player from these historically top 5 schools, (that would be Carl Constant from St. Francis Prep).

A new trend favoring schools like St. Xavier in Cincinnati and Loyola HS in Los Angeles have me thinking we'll have more non-New York area schools in the top 5 within a few years.

But even with the focus on New York schools in the earlier years, it's amazing how geographically diverse this very long list of feeder schools is. Schools from all 50 states and several foreign countries are represented.

I don't envy the travel burden Columbia football recruiters face. But I am impressed with the work they've done and continue to do year in and year out.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where's the Kicking Beef?

It looks like Coach Estes has more laminated cards than kickers

Brown is usually the last Ivy League team to announce its football recruiting class each year, but this time the Bears have beaten Columbia, Cornell and Yale to the punch with this list released yesterday.

Once again, this new Brown class has a pretty strong local flavor with three Rhode Island high school grads and another six players from the New England area. That's nine total New Englanders out of 26 total incoming frosh, or almost 35%.

One surprise for me is only one kicker is on the list. Brown's kicking woes were about as bad as Columbia's were last season, (maybe worse), but the Lions are bringing a lot of talented kickers, according to published reports. It's possible Brown Head Coach Phil Estes has a walk-on kicker or two up his sleeve, and we'll keep an eye out for that.

Ex-Teammate Alert!

Based on what I've seen about our incoming class for 2014, only one of our projected freshmen could be playing against his former high school teammates in Ivy play. That would be Nick Melka from Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois, who is reportedly coming to Columbia and his current teammates Michael Runger and Philip Schmidt are going to Dartmouth. I'll keep an eye out for the Cornell and Yale lists to see if Nick will be alone on this list for this particular year.

Waiting in the Wings

Jeff Adams leads a talented and big junior class for the Lions in 2010 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

On Monday, I gushed over the amazing 27 seniors on the Lion roster for 2010 and how they represent a 68% retention rate from the 40 incoming frosh announced in May 2007.

Well, if you like 68% as a number, how about 80%?

That's the rate of retention for the junior class... so far... with 28 of the 35 announced incoming frosh from 2008 still on the roster.

I know a lot can happen in the coming year to reduce this number further, but historically, the biggest dropoffs on the Columbia roster come after freshman and sophomore years. Thus, the number of juniors on the roster can sometimes be a lot more of an accomplishment. There have been some years, like 1969, when there were fewer than 20 juniors on the varsity!

(The one anomaly was 1979, when Columbia had a whopping 35 juniors on the roster and still had a very rough season).

There are seven rising juniors who have already started at least one game already and I would say two members of the class of 2012 are already confirmed legitimate all-stars in Jeff Adams, (1st Team All-Ivy in 2009), and Owen Fraser (Honorable Mention All Ivy in 2008).

But the real shot in the arm will come if the juniors who have seen some playing time step things up with stellar years. I have six juniors on my list of players who could change the game big time for the Lions in 2010 if they play All Ivy level football. They are: Nick Mistretta, Chris Groth, Bob Hauschildt, Kalasi Huggins, Ross Morand, Neil Schuster, and Shea Selsor.

At one point or another, any one of those juniors has already exhibited star quality on the field. If they do it consistently this fall, the Lions stock soars.

There are some other juniors who we haven't seen that much of, but are still in a unique position to make a big difference.

They include Kurt Williams, who is making that big jump from cornerback to WR and seems to have the speed and the atheltic build to put a hurtin' on opposing secondaries.

Nico Papas could also be a valuable wildcard at fullback.

And if any one of the junior offensive linemen, other than Adams and Hauschildt, come through that would be a big plus as well. That's Sam Cecil, Ben Evans, and Kyle Stupi.

The big junior "X Factor" is QB Jerry Bell. Bell seems to be the leading pure passing on the squad, but sophomore runner/passer Sean Bracket got the final four starts of 2009. If Bell is forced to step into the starting role or gets tremendous playing time, he would have to work hard to help the team adjust to the very different style he presents compared to Brackett. Columbia did this successfully in 1994 when the Lions shuttled running QB Mike Cavanaugh with passer Jamie Schwalbe, but it's a tough trick to pull off.

Holding on to all of the 28 current juniors will take some big-time defying of the odds. But staying about what I consider to be a magic number of 25 is definitely doable and that bodes well for 2010 and beyond.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Overrated in Philly

There will be no Jake Lewko for the Quakers in 2010

"The Devil Finds Work for Idle Hands to Do"

That's a proverb that almost completely accurately describes what happens to Ivy League football fans during the looong period from the day spring practice ends to day summer training camp opens.

I guess the more accurate proverb would be:

"The Devil Finds Work for Idle MINDS to Do."

Let's face it, the last 150 or so days of the 300-day offseason drive most of us nuts.

One of the things this annual summer mania does to us is it makes us put way too much weight on the published preseason forecasts in magazines like Athlon Sports and The Sporting News.

But I hope even the most information starved fan isn't putting too much weight on the recent #13 ranking Athlon just bestowed on Penn for 2010.

Now don't get me wrong, I hardly think the Quakers will be a weak team this coming season. In fact, if Penn isn't in the title hunt in some fashion in the final 2-3 weeks it'll be a surprise.


The Quakers are a team that lived on its superb defense last season and just about every star player on that defense has graduated.

Another big star, Owen Thomas, tragically committed suicide last month.

I just don't think the 2010 defense will be able to carry the load the way it did in 2009.

The offense may indeed improve this season. The running attack in particular should be effective thanks to a young and talented offensive line and running back Lyle Marsh, who is one of the Ivy's top three ball carriers right now.

But it's also an offense that has yet to show an effective passing attack, and without a stifling defense to back that up I just can't see Penn as a no-brainer favorite to win the Ivies let alone justify a #13 ranking in all of the FCS.

But the guy at Athlon who made this prediction probably just went with the base numbers without thinking too much about them. Yes, the Quakers have 15 starters and 11 All-Ivy honorees returning.

But none of them are Jake Lewko, Joe Goniprow, or Chris Wynn.

Again, I want to make it clear that I still believe Penn is going to be good. But until that offense proves it can pass the ball effectively, there's no reason to spend the next 116 days fretting about the Quakers.

Meanwhile, how anyone who watches the league doesn't pick Harvard as the preseason favorite to win the Ivies is beyond me.

Harvard has more key starters returning, and while I am not shaking in fear over what Andrew Hatch may or may not do for the Crimson at QB, I don't think his presence is going to hurt them. (And rest assured, Hatch WILL be playing this fall).

I like Harvard's returning running back corps, led by Ivy Rookie of the Year Treavor Scales and rising senior Gino Gordon.

I also like Harvard's returning receiver corps, led by Chris Lorditch and Adam Chrissis.

But even Harvard doesn't "scare" me because of some serious graduation losses in the offensive line and the overall defense.

The grand truth is that the entire league is looking more competitive than it has in decades as we head into the coming season. And it was pretty darn competitive last year. Remember that Penn won the title on the shoulders of an OT win at Brown and a razor-thin win at Harvard.

Meanwhile, Columbia came in fourth in the league and beat Brown much more decisively than Penn or Harvard did and the Lions fell to the Quakers mostly thanks to their own mistakes.

I'm still three months away from a more formal prediction for the 2010 Ivy race. But even now, I know that as many as six of the eight Ivy teams have every reason to believe they can contend for the title this fall.

What Ever Happened to...

Alex Gross and Paul Havas, still members of the Lion class of 2011

As we await the announcement of the football class of 2014, I thought I would look back at some of the raw numbers from the class of 2011 based on the time we first learned about those players way back in May of 2007.

An amazing 40 freshmen were announced as the Columbia football class of 2011 three years ago this month. (By contrast, I expect 32 new players to be announced this time, and even that is going to be more than most Ivy schools).

With a class that size, you knew there would be some attrition by the time the 2010 season rolled around.

And there has been, but not anywhere near what even the most optimistic fan could have predicted.

Of those 40 players, 27 remain on the Lion roster today. That 27 includes all four captains, and 12 players that I believe will be non-special teams starters or platooned starters this season.

That 68% retention rate alone would justify anyone getting excited about getting the official word on the incoming class of 2014.

But the problem is, no matter how much background data you have, it's impossible to know right now which players will be in that 68% group, (if that rate even holds up).

How impossible is it?

Injuries are the biggest stumbling block. For example, Leon Ivery came into Columbia with a history of painful bone spurs in his feet... and yet he is not only still on the team, but he had a major playing time breakthrough last season.

Meanwhile, another member of the class of 2011 quit the team and school to go play professional poker!

Like I said, you can never tell.

But at the same time, I hate using the "you can never tell" line as a crutch to avoid making predictions or, (admittedly), amateur evaluations of incoming players.

As soon as the list goes official, I'll try to simply stay positive and flag 3-4 players I think look strong as future star prospects.

Back at this time three years ago, I predicted Marc Holloway was going to be a star for the Lions. I also predicted he had the best chance of getting on the field as a freshman for the 2007 season. Holloway did eventually become a starter, but it took two seasons, mostly because he played behind the great Drew Quinn at linebacker.

Meanwhile, I almost completely overlooked the eventual Ivy Rookie of the Year Alex Gross. Other freshmen who made an immediate impact in '07 were WR Nico Gutierrez, LB Matt Moretto, CB Calvin Otis, and TE Andrew Kennedy. Not surprisingly, Gross, Kennedy and Moretto are 3/4 of the captains coming into their senior seasons this fall.

The good news is I think the players, the fans, and everyone else reading this blog is mature enough to read what I'll call "predictive praise" for certain young players without feeling devastated that they or their favorite player isn't mentioned right off the bat. But compared to most of the other sites you see on the Internet, I'll continue to hold off criticizing or downgrading players at all times... let alone before they play a single game in college.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tight Spot

Andrew Kennedy

Most Ivy head coaches talk about how hard it is to recruit top running backs and defensive linemen.

The stats prove that point, especially the fact that there was not even one 1,000-yard rusher in the Ivies last season.

But one position that I think has become super hard to fill with top talent is tight end.

That's why Columbia is relying so much on senior co-captain Andrew Kennedy to have a bang-up final season for the Lions.

Perhaps "bang-up" isn't the best phrase to use, since Kennedy was indeed hurt and unable to play in the spring game. The Lions need him to return at full speed this fall.

Kennedy does a lot of things the traditional tight end doesn't do. Most notably, he's fast and the sight of Kennedy sprinting down the hash marks wasn't uncommon last season. His five TD receptions, (from a total of 21 catches), were the biggest reasons he made Second Team All Ivy for 2009.

The best overall tight end in the Ivies last year was John Sheffield at Yale, who grabbed an amazing 61 passes for 612 yards but had only two touchdowns. But he is gone to graduation. The Ivy coaches were generous in the Honorable Mention All Ivy category, putting three TE's on the list: Dartmouth's John Gallagher, (30 catches, 288 yards and one TD for the rising junior, Harvard's Nicolai Schwarzkopf, (12 catches 174 yards and one TD for the rising senior), and Penn's Luke Nawrocki (11 catches, 88 yards, and two TD's for the rising junior).

Schwarzkopf and Nawrocki were also excellent blockers, but their receiving stats say something about how this position has suffered as the passing totals in the Ivies start to decline.

This all makes Kennedy the preseason favorite for 1st Team All Ivy in 2010. But watch out for Schwarzkopf, who was rated the #1 overall incoming freshmen recruit in the Ivies back in 2007 and he may get a little extra attention in his final year for the Crimson.

As the Columbia staff works to replenish the wide receiving corps after the graduations of Austin Knowlin and Taylor Joseph, it's important not to forget that Kennedy could end up picking up a lot of the receiving slack in 2010.

QB Sean Brackett and Kennedy seem to have established a good rhythm on the field during Brackett's four starts last season. The highlight was the 31-yard TD Brackett tossed to Kennedy in the Yale game.

Columbia's last dominant tight end was Wade Fletcher who was an uncoverable target for Jeff Otis and the exciting 2003 Lion team. Matt Less was also a force in the late 80's.

But the man Kennedy most needs to emulate is Brian Bassett, who made 3rd Team All America in 1994 with 62 catches for 793 yards. Bassett was a key part of an offense that featured speedy Mike Cavanuagh and passing ace Jamie Schwalbe splitting time at QB that season. 1994 was Columbia's first winning season in 23 years, so that was a great combination.

If Brackett is 2010's version of Cavanaugh and/or Jerry Bell is 2010's version of Schwalbe, it would be best of all if Kennedy is 2010's version of Brian Bassett.

Kennedy and Bassett have lots of other things in common. Both are New Englanders. Both came to CU and played TE after playing different positions in high school, (Bassett was a QB, Kennedy was a defensive lineman). And both Kennedy and Bassett began their senior seasons weighing about 230 pounds.

With so few teams featuring a truly dangerous TE, any Ivy team that does have one has an advantage. Columbia must grab this opportunity this fall.


My Columbia football high school feeder site is now updated for the varsity years 1969 through 2006! Please visit the site and report any errors, omissions, or other good observations you might have.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Ultimate Test

It's not as nice up close

My revered blogging colleague Bruce Wood of Big Green Alert wrote this yesterday about the news that Brown will open its Ivy schedule this season with its first ever night game, and it's against Harvard:

"I could be wrong but given that it is the first night game in stadium history, it's early enough in the season that the weather should be warm, it's Homecoming and it's against Harvard, it would be a surprise to me if that game doesn't come close to selling out the 20,000 seat facility."

Let me make this clear right off the bat: I hope Bruce is right. For the sake of the Ivy League, for the sake of actual students playing competitive collegiate sports, I pray he's right.

But I'm not so sure.

I've been watching the Ivies for more than 25 years, and I have never seen any Ivy team with weaker overall fan and alumni support than Brown football.

That does NOT mean the people who do pull for the Bears aren't into it.

It's just that there aren't enough of them. And that's despite a breathtaking turnaround in fortunes that began in the mid-1990's and has continued almost uninterrupted ever since.

Brown's stadium is the worst in the Ivies, bar none. The press box is not comfortable. The field has a pronounced "crown-type" curve that makes you feel like you're cascading downhill when you go to the sidelines. The student support is non-existent and the campus attitude is the most hostile towards football than anywhere else I've seen.

I have said time and again that what Head Coach Phil Estes has done with this Brown program with what he has to work with is nothing short of a gold medal achievement that should make every other Ivy program motivated and maybe a little embarrassed by contrast.

Of course, to be as fair as I possibly can be, let me remind everyone that the Brown Football Association is making a splash by fronting the money for the temporary lights, and that's definitely a positive development. That's alumni support and the very visible kind of support too.

But if this game is poorly attended, (and I would say anything fewer than 11,000 fans showing up is not good. Anything fewer than 8,500 is REALLY not good, and anything fewer than 7,500 is a disaster), it will be a terrible black eye for Brown and the league.

By contrast, a sellout would be a great selling point for everyone even remotely involved.

If I were in the Brown ticket office, I would be promoting this aggressively starting NOW. Mailings to all the incoming freshmen kids and their families would be one place to start. A major alumni promotion would also make sense.

And at the game, the Brown promotional machine, (if there is one), should be in full force. T-shirt and other school paraphernalia should be for sale all around the stadium and outside the stadium. There should be live bands playing at the practice fields. Free BBQ's for the students who show up with game tickets, etc. The fact that this is Homecoming should not mean the aged alums get too much attention. Go for the families, the students, and get them in the seats so you can have a new market and audience for years to come.

I and the rest of the league's pundits will be watching.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quick Quakers

Lyle Marsh has a lot on his shoulders

Penn has released the names of its incoming freshmen on the Quaker roster.

Historically, Penn and Columbia have had the most overlap going after the same potential recruits so the Quaker class is always worth looking at closely.

There are some other interesting quick observations to note about this group:

-Perfect synergy: 12 incoming frosh offensive players, 12 incoming frosh defensive players.

-If you include 2009 recruit Josh Scott, Penn has just two incoming running backs this year. I see that as a big vote of confidence in rising sophomore Lyle Marsh and his future as the backfield leader for the Quakers.

-Like what we have seen from reports about the incoming Columbia class, speed seems to have trumped size in this year's Penn recruits. The heaviest new Quaker is Jake Schwertner at 275 pounds and a big number of incoming frosh have good posted speed records.

-Think Penn will get back to their traditional pro set with heavier passing in 2010? Think again. Despite the graduation of 2009 leading receiver Kyle Derham, the Quakers are bringing in just three new WR's. By contrast, my still incomplete records show the Lions are bringing in at least four players who played WR fulltime in high school and another four who split time at the position. I see this as a continued shift towards more running at Franklin Field this season.

New Tiger Head Coach Bob Surace

Princeton came out with its football class of 2014 late last week.

The big thing that jumped right out at me was that it includes just two QB's when the Tigers have been so light at that position the last two seasons.

I think this is a result of a new head coach coming into the picture and skewing the recruiting pipeline.

Also, there are reports that one QB recruit for Princeton bolted to walk on at Stanford.

This QB crisis in Princeton is yet another example of how the school's no transfer rule is hurting football. It's also another example of why all the other schools that DO accept transfers should do it and do it often to at least play up the advantage against Princeton!

Oh, and did I mention the Tigers lose all their starting offensive linemen to graduation?

Consider these reasons #125 and #126 for why I think Bob Surace is going to have a rough couple of years to start his tenure at Old Nassau. Princeton and Surace may have similar returning talent as fellow newbie Kent Austin at Cornell. But Tigers fans have higher expectations than Big Red backers and Surace's honeymoon period may be a lot shorter. Also, Austin's previous head coaching experience in the CFL is a major asset Surace isn't even close to matching.

Getting Defensive... Again

Mike Donnelly today

How good a job did Aaron Kelton do in his two years as defensive coordinator?

Since the Ivy schedule went from nine to ten games in 1980, Columbia defenses have held their opponents to a cumulative total of fewer than 250 points, (or 25 points per game for you non-math majors), just eight times.

2008 and 2009 were the only two seasons the defense managed to keep their opponents below 250 two seasons in a row. That's 220 points last season and 245 points in 2008.

The best numbers put up overall by Columbia defenses were 159 points allowed in 1996, under defensive coordinator Mike Donnelly, 163 points in 2006 under defensive coordinator Lou Ferrari, (with Kelton on that defensive staff), and 1998 with 175 points under defensive coordinator Erv Chambliss.

Stats aside, the best Lion defense I ever saw was that '96 squad that led Columbia to an 8-2 record despite a really weak offense overall, (the offensive line was strong, but the skill positions were not exactly stacked). Donnelly is now the head coach and the defensive coordinator at Muhlenberg College and he is the winningest head coach in school history with a record of 84-54 (.609) in 13 years.

It's imperative that the new defensive coordinator, whoever he is, continues coach Kelton's recent trend of cutting the total points scored against the Lion defense. It will be a tall order this coming season with all the injured players recovering and the graduations of Lou Miller, Andy Shalbrack and Corey Cameron.

All I can say now is: "good luck future defensive coach X!"

Don't forget tomorrow is the day to head to Long Island and shop at the Plainview Fairway to raise money for Columbia athletics.

Fairway Market, Plainview is located at 50 Manetto Hill Mall, Plainview, NY 11803. The telephone number is 516-937-5402.

Monday, May 17, 2010

BREAKING: Coach Kelton Leaving for Williams

Aaron Kelton

Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Kelton, who stepped into the job when Lou Ferrari left suddenly during the summer of 2008, has been tapped as the new head coach at Williams.

This is a great honor for Kelton, but I and the players who really loved learning from him are going to miss him. This is also a double loss, because Kelton handles the secondary coaching duties as well as the overall defense.

I was always impressed by Kelton's enthusiasm and I also think he got results. The improvement the defense showed in the 2008 season was an outstanding achievement and the way the defense in 2009 stayed competitive despite a raft of key injuries was almost as impressive.

While Williams is a D-III school, the move makes sense for Kelton who is a Massachusetts native. Getting a head coaching job is also harder and harder to do these days. If Kelton succeeds at Williams, he'll be a strong candidate for a head coaching job in the Ivies and other schools in the Northeast.

Now the search for a new defensive coordinator at Columbia begins. When Ferrari left in 2008 it was in the middle of the summer, so there is more time to find or promote his replacement.

I'm not speculating, but just as a point of information, the remaining defensive coach with the most experience on this staff is linebackers coach Greg Sigler. Sigler has been a great recruiter, and he too is a popular figure in the organization.

The other two remaining defensive coaches are D-Line coach Denauld Brown, who joined the staff in 2007 and SAM linebackers coach Matt Hamme.

Again, we wish Coach Kelton all the success in the world.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Northern Exposure

Chris Nugai (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Running backs and special teams Coach Chris Nugai will be a guest coach next month with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL This will be Nugai's fourth go-round as a guest coach for a CFL team.

Speaking of the CFL, Tad Crawford '07 is coming back for his fourth season with the B.C. Lions. Remember that with the three-down football rules in the CFL, having good defensive backs is crucial.

Small World Update #127

I just found out that HB Shannon, who's doing a great job with his Brown Bear Blogger page, lives in Mayfield Heights, Ohio... probably about 2 minutes from the Marsol Apartments that were my home from 1996-97.

There must have been something in the hard water over there.

I have also been told that graduating CU seniors M.A. Olawale and Austin Knowlin are considering careers in the CFL. I'd love to see what Olawale could do with a few years to hone his skills purely as a running back. He could be an NFL player if he learns that position well enough.

And with all the punting in the CFL, I can see Knowlin as a pretty good weapon as a returner.


My Columbia football high school feeder site is now updated for the varsity years 1969 through 2002! Please visit the site and report any errors, omissions, or other good observations you might have.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Jersey Score!

Chris Alston

Okay, Chris Alston is actually from the D.C.-area, but he's done the last two seasons at the Hun School in Princeton after starting at Georgetown Prep in Washington.

Hun is a well-known athletic and academic "brush up" school where lots of very good Ivy athletes honed their skills and GPA's.

You can see Alston's highlight video here. I can't find his senior year stats, but we know Alston's junior year numbers were pretty good, with 400+ yards receiving and three INT's at corner. Hun went 4-4 in 2009 with wins over Peddie, Blair Academy, Lawrenceville and Mercersburg Academy.

Alston seems like a blue chip recruit, at least as far as the Ivies go. He's a CB/WR who was recruited by a number of FBS schools. What's interesting is that the online recruiting sites never listed Ivy or even Patriot League schools as recruiting him. The closest schools to Ivies on his college list online were Rice and Vanderbilt.

I'm not 100% sure, but it looks like Hun hasn't sent a player to Columbia football in many decades. I will confirm that in the coming days.

Alston's best "gamer" performance was probably the 13-10 Hun win over rival Peddie in October. Alston clinched the game with an onsides kick recovery and then caught the winning touchdown of the game. You can see the highlight reel of those final minutes against Peddie here.

Updated Unofficial List of Incoming Columbia Football Frosh

1. Chris Alston CB/WR 6-2 190 lbs. The Hun School (Princeton, NJ)

2. Joey Andrada WR 6-3 190 lbs. Piedmont HS (Piedmont, CA)

3. Marquel Carter QB/DB 6-0 200 lbs. Culver City Senior High School (Culver City, CA)

4. Hunter Coleman TE/OL 6-4 230 lbs. Loyola Prep (Shreveport, LA)

5. Paul Delaney P 6-3 200 lbs. Loyola (Palatine, IL)

6. Duncan Dickerson OL/LS 6-2 245 lbs. Cypress Falls HS (Houston, TX)

7. Lou DiNovo WR 6-0 185 lbs. LaSalle Institute (Albany, NY)

8. Mike DiTommaso CB 6-0 185 lbs. Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, NJ)

9. Brian East LB 6-3 205 lbs. Carmel HS (Carmel, IN)

10. Luke Eddy K 6-2 200 lbs. Worcester Academy (Worcester, MA)

11. Tyler Feely K/P 6-0 155 lbs. Jesuit HS (Tampa, FL)

12. Hamilton Garner TE 6-5 230 lbs. Duluth HS (Duluth, GA)

13. Marcorus Garrett RB 5-10 177 lbs. Pope High School (Marietta, GA)

14. Joe Ghergurovich OL 6-3 245 lbs. Glastonbury HS (Glastonbury, CT)

15. Bruce Grant WR 6-0 175 lbs. Fordham Prep (Bronx, NY)

16. Eddie Hitchcock LB/FB 6-0 200 lbs. Cretin-Derham Hall HS (St. Paul, MN)

17. Tyler Kirkland WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, FL)

18. Dylan Leonard OL 6-3 281 lbs. Ola High School (McDonough, GA)

19. Brad Losee DE/TE 6-4 235 lbs. Eastview HS (Apple Valley, MN)

20. Griffin Lowry RB 6-0 215 lbs. University HS (St. Louis, MO)

21. Mark McClain WR/S 6-2 195 lbs. Upper Arlington (Upper Arlington, OH)

22. Zack McKown TE/LB 6-3 220 lbs. Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, VA)

23. Nick Melka DE 6-2 230 lbs. Benet Academy (Lisle, IL)

24. Jeremy Mingo WR/CB 6-0 180 lbs. Firestone HS (Akron, OH)

25. Chris Mooney TE 6-3 230 lbs. Walton HS (Marietta, GA)

26. Joe Raimondi OL/DL 6-4 255 lbs. Hampton HS (Allison Park, PA)

27. Chris Rapka QB 6-3 200 lbs. Cardinal Gibbons HS (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

28. Maurice Rothschild CB 5-10 165 lbs. Warren Eastern HS (New Orleans, LA)

29. James Valerias WR 6-1 185 lbs. Gonzaga College HS (Washington, DC)

30. Sam Williams RB 5-10 175 lbs. Baylor HS (Chattanooga, TN)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Recovery Ward

The Lions need Calvin Otis back on the field in 2010

Yesterday I wrote about how much the Columbia linebacking corps is relying on key players, Alex Gross and Matt Morreto, to come back from injury.

I wish the list ended there.

But it doesn't.

Luckily, not all the injuries I mention below from 2009 are still a problem. And yet, the list is unusually long.

The defensive line is very much relying on Owen Fraser continuing to heal from a really bad hamstring injury that came under rough circumstances in the season opener last year. (The more I replay the hit in my head, the more I think Fraser was the victim of a illegal block). Happily, Fraser was back and playing pretty well in the spring game.

The secondary was gutted by injuries last season, and yet it was still a great unit even without starting cornerbacks Calvin Otis and Kalasi Huggins. Nevertheless, it would be very nice to get them both back at 100% this fall along with strong safety/kick returner Anthony Maddox, who missed all of 2009 with an injury.

On offense, there aren't as many walking wounded... thank goodness. But there are some players who could really help the team enormously if they can recover from some serious injuries.

The crowded situation at wide receiver would clear up significantly if senior Nico Gutierrez can finally get back to where he was as a freshman in 2007. Gutierrez tore his ACL in the last game of '07, made a great effort to get back to running shape by 2008, and even got onto the field a bit in 2009. Co-Captain Mike Stephens is a great returning weapon at WR, but the Lions need to not only replace Austin Knowlin but also Taylor Joseph. Knowlin and Joseph combined for 76 catches and seven TD's last season.

The offensive line has three starting spots to fill, but one key backup from last year who was injured, Dan Cohen, seems healed and he did play in the spring game. Cohen broke his foot at midseason. Right now, this looks like a strong unit for the Lions despite the losses to graduation and Cohen's continuing recovery.

At tight end/h-back, the injury bug has been a little more serious. Andrew Kennedy was unable to play in the spring game, but I have confidence he'll be 100% pretty soon. On the down side, promising sophomore Dallas Hartman was hurt all last year. And Peter Holst-Grubbe, who could fill in nicely at that H-Back position, has missed his first two years on the field because of injuries.

The running backs returning for this year stayed generally healthy last season. That's after the graduating Ray Rangel, who looked like he was on his way to a 1,000-yard season, went down for the season in week six. Rangel's loss did give rising seniors Leon Ivery and Zack Kourouma some great extra experience to bring to the table this fall.

At the spring game, QB's Sean Brackett and Jerry Bell showed little ill effects from some heavy shots they both took in 2009. QB Paul Havas seems completely healed from the injury that kept him out of the entire 2008 campaign. Keeping Brackett healthy seems like an obvious major key to success next season.

The bottom line is the injured players in 2009 who the Lions most need to come back strong are Fraser, Gross, Moretto, Gutierrez, and Otis. If they all come back 100%, not only will they make Columbia better, but they will also make the 2010 Lions much more of a mystery for opposing teams trying to scout them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Linebackers Wanted?

Keep Getting Better Alex!

Many of the pundits are focusing on how Columbia will replace the graduating Austin Knowlin and Taylor Joseph at wide receiver and the three starters graduating from the offensive line: Evan Sanford, John Seiler, and Will Lipovsky.

Me? I'm more concerned about the linebacker position where Columbia is losing just one starter to graduation: Corey Cameron.

The problem is not so much graduation, although Cameron did make Honorable Mention All Ivy last season, but injuries.

Just about all worries will be off if Alex Gross can come back from his big knee injury last year against Lafayette. Gross is going to be a two-time captain and was one of the top linebackers in the league over his first 23 games on the varsity before his injury.

The good news is this: if there's anyone who has the heart and push to get better in time for the season, it's Alex Gross.

Including Gross, Columbia has 10 total returning linebackers and at least two more are coming in with the class of 2014. There is definitely talent and experience in that group. For example, Marc Holloway and Nick Mistretta waged a season-long battle for the starting middle linebacker job last year and both players reaped some serious rewards from the experience. But Coach Wilson said a few times that he wanted one of those players to step it up just a bit more and really own the job.

Filling in for Gross at outside linebacker last year, sometimes with stellar results, were Evan Miller, Matt Moretto, (also coming off a major injury), Augie Williams, (who is still officially listed as a strong safety), Chris Paruch, (also officially a safety and also battling injuries), Will Patterson, (who is really acting more like a pass-rush specializing defensive end), and a few others.

Moretto is essentially the same story as Gross, a super talented player who would make a major impact if he keeps healing and plays at the level he did in 2007. I wrote more about what a solid return by the newly-named co-captain Moretto would mean to the team last month.

The incoming freshman linebacker that we know the most about is Brian East from Indiana. East is indeed an outside linebacker coming from a perennial state championship program. But freshmen are, well, freshmen.

Since Columbia uses the 4-3, having three healthy starting linebackers and three or four effective backups will be crucial for the 2010 season. So linebackers coach Greg Sigler has an important job to do this offseason and we wish him the best of luck.

Meet the Coach!
Remember tonight is the special reception for Head Coach Norries Wilson at the home of Matt Sodl in the general L.A. area. In addition to getting to know or catching up with Coach Wilson, a big goal for the evening is to help boost the football program's presence in Southern California for both fan support and recruiting.

Honors for Five Seniors

The National Football Foundation's Hampshire Society is recognizing five graduating Lions, Andy Shalbrack, Evan Sanford, David Brekke, Lou Miller and Jared Morine.

The NFF's growing connections with Columbia, (remember it renamed its premiere award, the Draddy Trophy the Bill Campbell Trophy last year), are a good omen for the future of football and good academics.

Our Coach Madden

Pat Madden was an assistant coach under Ray Tellier and Bob Shoop for six years, now he is joining the staff of the new Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. Madden was a secondary coach all his years at Columbia, and that's still his job with his new team. Madden will join former Princeton Head Coach Roger Hughes who is also on the Nighthawks staff as wide receivers coach.

During Madden's years, he helped develop some truly great Columbia defensive backs including Steve Cargile, Prosper Nwokocha, Philip Murray, Keenan Shaw, and Tad Crawford.


And a bagel break, a turkey break, etc. etc...

The following announcement is brought to you by Columbia athletics, and my stomach:

Fairway Market in Plainview, Long Island is hosting a shopping event to support the Columbia University Lions on Wednesday, May 19th.

Fairway offers a ginormous variety of specialty and imported items to traditional groceries, always at the lowest everyday prices. Come to discover fresh baked-from-scratch goods, top quality produce, a cheese and deli selection to-die-for, and so much more!

Intrigued? Print out a registration form here , or go to Fairway Plainview at the Columbia Lions table from 2:00pm – 9:30pm on May 19th, and 25% of your shopping purchase will go to support Columbia’s 700+ student athletes! You can also pick up a free gift from Columbia Athletics!

Supporting a good cause has never been so delicious!

Fairway Market, Plainview is located at 50 Manetto Hill Mall, Plainview, NY 11803. Tel: 516-937-5402

For more information, call 212-854-7031.

Jake's Angle:

Fairway has been a really good friend of Columbia sports, and is a sponsor of the TV broadcasts on

The Plainview Fairway in particular is a favorite in my house and we even used them to cater the party we had for my younger daughter when she was born.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Quick Hits

John Eisen (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

The wild financial markets are cutting into my blogging time right now, so I only have a few quick bullet points for today:

-It was a tough loss for the Columbia faithful yesterday as the Lions lost the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series to the Dartmouth Big Green in three games. But this is still a very young and talented team with a great future. I just want to thank Coach Boretti and all the players for an exciting season.

-Harvard's incoming freshmen class is now posted on the Crimson website. There are a lot of names on that list that were known targets of more than one Ivy school, including Zak Aossey, Bisi Ezekoye, and Blake Barker.

-Erik Greenberg Anjou, the director of the excellent Ivy football documentary, 8: Ivy League Football and America, writes this great news:

"8 has been picked up by 5 PBS affiliates for this summer, including WGBH-Boston, and we're hoping an additional 5 will sign on within the next couple of weeks."

Erik is also out with his new movie, it's not about sports but still an exciting topic. It's called The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground, and it has its U.S. premiere this Wednesday in Los Angeles. Incidentally, Erik will thus be able to attend Matt Sodl's reception for Coach Norries Wilson the night before.

-I was watching the NFL Network's documentary about the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers last night and I just couldn't stop thinking about one thing: In the '74 draft, the Steelers picked four future Hall of Famers. FOUR! (They were Lynn Swan, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, and Jack Lambert).

When I think about that I wonder about the best recruiting classes in not just Columbia history, but Ivy history. Keep in mind that each Ivy team usually can bring in 30 players or more every year and that's a lot more than any NFL team can draft.

Has any one single Ivy recruiting class produced four all-time great players? Again, I mean all-time greats as compared to the entire league, not just individual school history.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Meet up at Matt's!

Matt Sodl

The great Matt Sodl '88 has asked me to remind everyone in the Southern California area that he is hosting a special reception at his home for Head Coach Norries Wilson this Tuesday May 11th.

You have to register for the event by clicking here.

A second reception for the coach up north in Palo Alto is slated for the next night.

This will be a great chance to speak with the coach, some ex-players and lots of Lion fans out west.

And to bone up on just who Matt is, (in addition to clicking on his name link above), make sure you order the film 8: Ivy League Football and America by clicking here. Matt's story is one of the best features of that excellent documentary.


You just knew at least one Ivy school would grab one of the dozens of eligible players from the suddenly discontinued Hofstra football program.

Dartmouth is the first to make it public. The Big Green are getting sophomore DT Julian Flamer.

I will be surprised if he is the only Hofstra player to go Ivy. But Flamer was a natural choice as he was recruited by Dartmouth before he chose Hofstra a few years ago.

One team that must be thinking about Hofstra is Brown. The Bears had serious kicking game problems last season and Hofstra had two kickers on its roster who were high school merit scholars.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Big Weekend

Hal Robertson Field

Please try to either show up in person or watch and listen online to the Ivy League Championship Series at the Baker Athletics Complex.

Columbia takes on Dartmouth in a rematch of the 2008 ILCS won by the Lions, two games to one up in Hanover, NH.

A Few Things to Consider:

-Head Coach Brett Boretti is really creating a great legacy at CU in his five seasons so far at the helm. I think he is the perfect example of a great recruiting coach and excellent on the field manager. That's a rare combo in any sport in the Ivies.

-College baseball games tend to be a bit higher scoring, but the ILCS games are like Major League Baseball playoffs in that the pitching starts to dominate. These games tend to be less wild, but more thrilling to watch and better played overall.

-Admission to the games is free. Did I say, "free?"


To make scrolling and searching through this blog easier, I have put my list of high school feeders to Columbia football on a separate site.

It is now updated from 1969 through 1999. Please report any mistakes or omissions to me when you can.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Five Boro Pipeline

Don Jackson, center, was one of Columbia's and Stuyvesants' finest

We wish Fordham Prep's Bruce Grant congratulations on coming to Columbia next year, and we hope he can become the next young man from a New York City high school to blossom into a star for Lion football... but it's been a long time.

How long?

Consider this: the last 1st Team All Ivy Columbia player who came out of a New York City high school was Sean Cannon.

Sean Cannon was actually a two-time 1st Team All Ivy player at offensive guard... but that was in 1979 and 1980.

Yep, it's been 30 years since the Lions had a top player come out of a city school.

And you have to go all the way back to 1971, 39 years, to find an offensive skill player to make 1st Team All Ivy at CU after playing for a city high school. That player was QB Don Jackson '73.

But there is one good omen for the future...

Like Grant, Cannon came from a Catholic high school in the Bronx. In Cannon's case it was Cardinal Hayes HS on the Grand Concourse. Hayes was once a major pipeline to Columbia football, but that spigot has almost been turned off completely.

Jackson came out of Stuyvesant HS, still the number all-time feeder to Columbia football, (and probably the number feeder to Columbia, period), but fading fast with just one or two players coming to us from that school in the last decade.

On the team now, I expect Horace Mann graduate Dan Cohen to be a starting offensive lineman this coming season, fellow OL Carl Constant is a big body who is a good veteran out of Saint Francis HS in Queens. The only other New York City high school veteran is safety Mike Murphy from Staten Island's Saint Joseph-by-the-Sea.

The greatest New York City QB's in Columbia history were Sid Luckman and Eugene Rossides, both products of Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall HS.

Will the New York news media suddenly start filing five stories a week about Columbia football if Grant turns out to be a star in 2-3 years? I wouldn't bet on it, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. Some degree of added media attention and fans in the stands would be a very likely result.

And while I think the overall quality of New York City high school football has fallen hard over the last 30 years, I still think the city schools are producing some great athletes who remain as a somewhat untapped resource for Ivy sports.

As for the other Ivies with city-bred athletes, Princeton may have the best prospect right now in rising sophomore defensive lineman Caraun Reid out of the Bronx's Mount Saint Michael Academy.

And of course, there's all the buzz over incoming frosh QB Cole Marcoux at Dartmouth. Marcoux is about to graduate from the Bronx's Fieldston School.

With big cities across the country facing so many budget cuts, you can't expect athletics to remain very strong in city high school systems like New York City.

But we can always hope.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Nice Local Addition

Bruce Grant

The New York Post is reporting that super speedster Bruce Grant from Fordham Prep is coming to Columbia to play slot receiver.

Grant was a running back at Fordham Prep and a prolific weapon for the Catholic High School Football League.

The Post article says Columbia's 40-28 win over the Fordham University Rams helped convince him to join the Lions.

Grant is a bonafide track star. He should join the ever more crowded field of wide receivers at CU and shake it up a bit.

It's been a long time since Columbia had an incoming football recruit from Fordham Prep. The last one was Ashley Hernandez '90, who was also a speedster. Hernandez had limited playing time over his four years at running back.

The biggest Columbia star from Fordham Prep in the modern era was defensive end Mario Biaggi '80. The son of the Bronx Congressman of the same name was the original sack master for the Lions and an All Ivy player in the late 1970's.

You can't overestimate the value a local high school star could bring to Columbia if Grant can make it in the Ivies.

And it's been such a long time since we had a real impact player at an offensive skill position come from a New York City high school.

My unofficial list list of incoming football freshmen now grows to 29.

1. Joey Andrada WR 6-3 190 lbs. Piedmont HS (Piedmont, CA)

2. Marquel Carter QB/DB 6-0 200 lbs. Culver City Senior High School (Culver City, CA)

3. Hunter Coleman TE/OL 6-4 230 lbs. Loyola Prep (Shreveport, LA)

4. Paul Delaney P 6-3 200 lbs. Loyola (Palatine, IL)

5. Duncan Dickerson OL/LS 6-2 245 lbs. Cypress Falls HS (Houston, TX)

6. Lou DiNovo WR 6-0 185 lbs. LaSalle Institute (Albany, NY)

7. Mike DiTommaso CB 6-0 185 lbs. Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, NJ)

8. Brian East LB 6-3 205 lbs. Carmel HS (Carmel, IN)

9. Luke Eddy K 6-2 200 lbs. Worcester Academy (Worcester, MA)

10. Tyler Feely K/P 6-0 155 lbs. Jesuit HS (Tampa, FL)

11. Hamilton Garner TE 6-5 230 lbs. Duluth HS (Duluth, GA)

12. Marcorus Garrett RB 5-10 177 lbs. Pope High School (Marietta, GA)

13. Joe Ghergurovich OL 6-3 245 lbs. Glastonbury HS (Glastonbury, CT)

14. Bruce Grant WR 6-0 175 lbs. Fordham Prep (Bronx, NY)

15. Eddie Hitchcock LB/FB 6-0 200 lbs. Cretin-Derham Hall HS (St. Paul, MN)

16. Tyler Kirkland WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, FL)

17. Dylan Leonard OL 6-3 281 lbs. Ola High School (McDonough, GA)

18. Brad Losee DE/TE 6-4 235 lbs. Eastview HS (Apple Valley, MN)

19. Griffin Lowry RB 6-0 215 lbs. University HS (St. Louis, MO)

20. Mark McClain WR/S 6-2 195 lbs. Upper Arlington (Upper Arlington, OH)

21. Zack McKown TE/LB 6-3 220 lbs. Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, VA)

22. Nick Melka DE 6-2 230 lbs. Benet Academy (Lisle, IL)

23. Jeremy Mingo WR/CB 6-0 180 lbs. Firestone HS (Akron, OH)

24. Chris Mooney TE 6-3 230 lbs. Walton HS (Marietta, GA)

25. Joe Raimondi OL/DL 6-4 255 lbs. Hampton HS (Allison Park, PA)

26. Chris Rapka QB 6-3 200 lbs. Cardinal Gibbons HS (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

27. Maurice Rothschild CB 5-10 165 lbs. Warren Eastern HS (New Orleans, LA)

28. James Valerias WR 6-1 185 lbs. Gonzaga College HS (Washington, DC)

29. Sam Williams RB 5-10 175 lbs. Baylor HS (Chattanooga, TN)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Returning Arms Race

Andrew Hatch

The buzz around the Ivy League is once again very much about Andrew Hatch and his future at Harvard.

Officially, there is no word yet on whether the Harvard-to LSU-back to Harvard transfer is cleared to play in 2010.

Unofficially, that's a load of bunk.

I am willing to bet a considerable amount of my overpriced mortgage that Hatch will be playing and probably starting for the Crimson this fall.

In fact, I'm still trying to figure out why he wasn't allowed to play last fall, but I'll leave the answer to that question to the league office and the conspiracy theorists who are springing up these days about the whole Hatch affair.

Like last year, I'm amused by those who seem to think Hatch will be some kind of monster on the field for the Crimson and play head and shoulders above his peers at QB.

I don't think so.

Hatch will be good, maybe even very good. But while BCS teams like LSU are eons ahead of Ivy squads, that difference is not really the case when you look at some individual positions.

I would say the two positions where the top Ivy players could very easily play at the BCS level are QB and offensive lineman, followed closely by the best kickers.

Hatch wasn't really a prolific passer in his time with LSU anyway, but I don't think he can be underestimated as a legitimate All Ivy prospect for 2010.

Meanwhile, Collier Winters had a very good year for the Crimson in 2009 and can't be written off without a fight. But either way, I expect Harvard to emphasize the run a lot more this season with phenom Treavor Scales and solid veteran Gino Gordon in the backfield. All the attention on the QB position and passing may be a classic smokescreen.

Hatch or no Hatch, who are the top Ivy QB's coming back for 2010?

Bruce Wood over at the Big Green Alert blog listed the top returnee stats just the other day.

But here's who I think are the top three QB's coming back for 2010:

Brown's Kyle Newhall-Caballero

1) Kyle Newhall-Caballero BROWN

"KNC," as I call him, posted a super 62.7% completion rate and he throws some of the best looking spirals I've seen in a long time in this league. How will he do as a senior in 2010 without Bobby Sewell and Buddy Farnham? Probably not as well... at least to start. But the dangerous Trevan Samp returns and this guy throws the ball so well I think he'll find some new targets among Head Coach Phil Estes' steady pipeline of receiving talent. One knock on KNC is he threw 14 INT's last season, but he was throwing so often that he only had one pick for every 30 passes attempted... which is not so bad. Another slam on him is that he doesn't really run, but that's not what he's expected to do at Brown.

KNC is the best pro-style, non-running QB in the league bar none.

Sean Brackett (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

2) Sean Brackett COLUMBIA

The rising sophomore has all the tools, and unlike almost every other sophomore QB in recent Ivy history, he's already shown them on the field. Brackett has a strong arm, very fast wheels, and impeccable timing and poise running the option. The fact that Brackett was able to play at the level he did just about 11 weeks after he first arrived on campus is remarkable.

Brackett is officially listed at 6-1, but he seems more like 5-10. You expect smaller QB's like that to be quick, but Brackett was quicker than most people expected.

His arm was so much stronger than anyone expected that the first two TD passes of his career against Yale were clearly surprises to the Eli defensive backs who were shorting their coverages on those plays.

Watching Brackett run the option was, quite simply, a thing of beauty. The timing and crispness of his tosses were something I'd more expect to see from your typical 7th year senior playing at Oklahoma rather than an Ivy frosh. He also had a better than 7 yards per attempt passing average, an absolute rarity in college. When he trots onto the field wearing that #10, he really reminds me of Fran Tarkenton.

Fran Tarkenton goes under center

The knocks on Brackett are he did seem to try too hard a few times and he had two crucial fumbles after big gains when he tried to milk just a little more out of the play than necessary. You also have to worry that he will get injured if he continues to run so often.

But if the worst things you can say about a QB are that he tries too hard and might get hurt, you're in good shape.

Collier Winters

3) Collier Winters HARVARD

A big part of me would like to see the very talented and hard working Collier Winters have a monster senior season in 2010. It would be fun to see the Hatch hype burst and reward this young man who had to wait a long time to get his starting job and still might lose it again.

Winters can also run very well and his TD-to-INT ratio was the best in the league.

But he's still not the best passer overall, and he will not have the luxury of the graduation Matt Luft to throw to this fall.


Keiffer Garton PENN

When he's healthy, he's also a complete package. He runs hard, and as Columbia learned the hard way last year, Garton can also thread the needle with super passes into coverage.

The trouble is, the rising senior is barely healthy enough to be considered a safe bet to start consistently for Penn in 2010. I still don't think Garton's knee is going to be 100% or even 90% for the fall or anytime. It's not like Penn doesn't have some great alternatives, namely Billy Ragone who looked very good in limited duty last season.

The best news for Garton is that if he can get that knee working well enough, he'll have a very experienced offensive line in front of him and one of the best running backs in the Ivies, Lyle Marsh, behind him.

Patrick Witt YALE

Witt's best moments came last year in the second half against Columbia when he brought the Elis back to win the game with a series of brilliant quick-release passes. That's what earned him a starting job briefly at Nebraska before he transferred away from Lincoln.

Unfortunately for Yale, Witt rarely played like that the rest of the season. But he has the right tools to be more of a positive factor in 2010 if he can show the maturity another year of adjusting in New Haven should give him. He also needs to find a way to scramble better and cut down on his interceptions. Witt threw one pick for every 21 passes thrown in 2009.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Busy Weekend

Lou would be proud

Non-football news is really dominating the landscape for Columbia sports right now, because all the news is pretty big.

First, the baseball team has clinched home field advantage for the Ivy League Championship Series beginning at noon on Saturday at Hal Robertson Field. The opponent will again be the Dartmouth Big Green, the same team the Lions edged for the title in Hanover in 2008 and the defending Ivy champs.

Kyle Smith

Second, we have a new men's hoops coach. Long-time St. Mary's assistant Kyle Smith was named yesterday and there will be a news conference at Levien Gymnasium this Wednesday to formally introduce Smith to the Columbia community.

There is an interesting St. Mary's-Columbia football connection that was established 15 years ago. In 1995, St. Mary's came to Wien Stadium and defeated the Lions 34-14. Three years later Columbia defeated the Gaels in northern California in an exciting 20-17 win.

The series helped the Lions solidify recruiting lines in the area and the 1998 game at St. Mary's remains Columbia football's only trip to California other than the 1934 Rose Bowl win over Stanford.

Sadly, St. Mary's has since discontinued football. But unlike a lot of other colleges that discontinue football and only promise to re-focus their efforts on other sports, the Gaels have done that successfully. St. Mary's basketball has really improved in recent years and the Gaels made the Sweet 16 this March.

Kent Austin in his CFL days

Now back to football...

New Cornell Head Coach Kent Austin had huge success as a head coach in the Canadian Football League, and this piece about the Big Red spring game, tells me he may be favoring a CFL-type offense in Ithaca this year.

I don't think you can underestimate how huge it is that Austin is the first new head coach hired in the Ivies in a very long time who comes with previous experience as a head coach elsewhere.

I know a lot of people are expecting Dartmouth to have the biggest improvement based on what seems like a string of great developments this offseason. But don't sleep on Cornell and the tremendous advantage the Big Red could start seeing on the field very soon thanks to Austin. The problem is that Cornell seems to be really lacking in the player talent department right now, so even a potential miracle worker like Austin will need time. But I wouldn't be surprised if the Big Red win three Ivy games this year after getting just one Ivy win in 2009.

Official Recruiting List Coming Soon

Usually by the end of May, the athletic department releases the official list of incoming football freshmen. With all the extra sports news going on this month, I bet the department is very busy these days. But when it comes to covering news like the baseball team's success, I'm sure no one is complaining.

I'm republishing below my very unofficial list of incoming frosh that stands at 28. I say unofficial because in the past, some of the players I've listed didn't pan out. And there have always been 5-6 additional names I missed.

This year, I'm pretty sure I've missed at least four names.

1. Joey Andrada WR 6-3 190 lbs. Piedmont HS (Piedmont, CA)

2. Marquel Carter QB/DB 6-0 200 lbs. Culver City Senior High School (Culver City, CA)

3. Hunter Coleman TE/OL 6-4 230 lbs. Loyola Prep (Shreveport, LA)

4. Paul Delaney P 6-3 200 lbs. Loyola (Palatine, IL)

5. Duncan Dickerson OL/LS 6-2 245 lbs. Cypress Falls HS (Houston, TX)

6. Lou DiNovo WR 6-0 185 lbs. LaSalle Institute (Albany, NY)

7. Mike DiTommaso CB 6-0 185 lbs. Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, NJ)

8. Brian East LB 6-3 205 lbs. Carmel HS (Carmel, IN)

9. Luke Eddy K 6-2 200 lbs. Worcester Academy (Worcester, MA)

10. Tyler Feely K/P 6-0 155 lbs. Jesuit HS (Tampa, FL)

11. Hamilton Garner TE 6-5 230 lbs. Duluth HS (Duluth, GA)

12. Marcorus Garrett RB 5-10 177 lbs. Pope High School (Marietta, GA)

13. Joe Ghergurovich OL 6-3 245 lbs. Glastonbury HS (Glastonbury, CT)

14. Eddie Hitchcock LB/FB 6-0 200 lbs. Cretin-Derham Hall HS (St. Paul, MN)

15. Tyler Kirkland WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, FL)

16. Dylan Leonard OL 6-3 281 lbs. Ola High School (McDonough, GA)

17. Brad Losee DE/TE 6-4 235 lbs. Eastview HS (Apple Valley, MN)

18. Griffin Lowry RB 6-0 215 lbs. University HS (St. Louis, MO)

19. Mark McClain WR/S 6-2 195 lbs. Upper Arlington (Upper Arlington, OH)

20. Zack McKown TE/LB 6-3 220 lbs. Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, VA)

21. Nick Melka DE 6-2 230 lbs. Benet Academy (Lisle, IL)

22. Jeremy Mingo WR/CB 6-0 180 lbs. Firestone HS (Akron, OH)

23. Chris Mooney TE 6-3 230 lbs. Walton HS (Marietta, GA)

24. Joe Raimondi OL/DL 6-4 255 lbs. Hampton HS (Allison Park, PA)

25. Chris Rapka QB 6-3 200 lbs. Cardinal Gibbons HS (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

26. Maurice Rothschild CB 5-10 165 lbs. Warren Eastern HS (New Orleans, LA)

27. James Valerias WR 6-1 185 lbs. Gonzaga College HS (Washington, DC)

28. Sam Williams RB 5-10 175 lbs. Baylor HS (Chattanooga, TN)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Streak Starts Now!

The scene today at the Baker Atheltics Complex will be bright and sunny, not only literally but metaphorically as the Columbia baseball team will begin its final day of the regular season with its second Lou Gehrig Division title in three years already in hand.

But almost 22 years ago, it was a dreary rainy day when the Lion football team took the field in hopes of finally ending a record 44-game losing streak... on Homecoming no less against the preseason league favorites, the Princeton Tigers.

Martin Huberman, a filmmaker who graduated a year ahead of me with the class of 1991, is putting together a movie about the extraordinary young men who finally ended the streak that day and forever proved to themselves and taught everyone else the lesson of perseverance.

As a young freshman in the stands that day, (someone who was very torn about missing the Mets playoff game that was on TV that same afternoon), I was forever impressed with what those guys achieved. Over the years, I've become even more impressed as I now realize the kind of commitment and toughness it took to get through that ordeal.

A featured character in the film is the great Greg Abbruzzese, who ran for 182 yards that day. In the years since, Greg has become a good friend of mine and an even better friend of Columbia athletics. I'm glad that so much of the video Martin is making available now shows what Greg could do when he first joined the varsity.

Martin is looking for more backers for this project, so please enjoy the information and film clip linked above and let's get this thing done!


April visits to this blog were up 31.3% year-over-year. Thanks for reading!