Boys Among Men? Not Quite
Kurt Williams could be a top Ivy receiver in 2011 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)
Bruce Wood at the Big Green Alert site has recently documented the unusually high number of returning starting skill players and defensive stars in the Ivy League for 2011.
At first glance, the Lions seem lacking in this area compared to their rivals.
But looks can be deceiving.
In the QB category, Columbia actually looks very good with the best overall signal caller in the league returning in Sean Brackett. That’s really saying something because all eight Ivy teams have a QB returning this fall with at least some starting experience.
But when it comes to running backs and wide receivers, you have to look a little harder to see the Lions won't be facing vastly more experienced competition.
The Ivy’s top rusher for 2010, Dartmouth’s Nick Schweiger, returns along with Harvard’s very talented Trevor Scales, Penn’s Lyle Marsh and the list goes on.
Columbia returns the speedy Nick Gerst at tailback, and he was virtually a starter for much of the season. Of course, a lot of fans are certain Gerst needs about 40 carries a game. We'll see.
At wide receiver the man who probably would have been the Lions’ top man, Mike Stephens, is coming back for a 5th year after his injury sidelined him for 90% of 2010. There’s also the up and coming Kurt Williams, who will be a senior after an impressive junior season where he was a full-time WR for the first time. Williams is a real wildcard because he is an amazing athlete and he will enter 2011 with a crucial 10 more months under his belt to learn the position.
But no returning Columbia receiver has put up the numbers that returning stars like Brown’s Alexander Tounkara and Jimmy Saros, Yale’s Gio Christodoulou, Cornell’s Shane Savage, and Dartmouth’s Tim McManus and Michael Reilly did in 2010 or previous seasons.
On defense, the need for former backups to really step up and play like veterans is even more pronounced as leaders like Alex Gross, Adam Mehrer, Calvin Otis, and Matt Morretto will all be gone.
All teams go through seasons where a larger number of seniors need to be replaced than usual. But this is happening in the same year when so many of our Ivy opponents are enjoying a bumper crop of returning starters. And that presents a very big challenge for Norries Wilson and his staff.