Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Senior Surprises?

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Senior Surprises

You often hear people say that there isn’t much of a real improvement for Ivy players between their freshman and senior years.

They say good players aren’t really made by the coaches and experience.

But Columbia has had so many players who emerged as seniors just in recent years alone that it’s hard to make that argument stand up.

Consider players like Darren Schmidt ’07, an unknown starter for three years who broke out as a senior in 2006 to lead the Ivy League in sacks.

In 2007, Eugene Edwards was a surprise monster in the secondary and special teams.

In 2009, seniors Jared Morine and Ray Rangel had break out years. In fact, Rangel was on a pace for a 1,000 yard season before he was injured at Dartmouth in week 6.

Last year didn’t feature too many breakout seniors, but Craig Hamilton was an exception as he did a super job returning kicks and in the secondary all season long.

Of course, people like Alex Gross, Andrew Kennedy, Calvin Otis, Adam Mehrer and many other seniors had great 2010 seasons. But none of them was an “unknown quantity” coming into that year.

So, who are my picks to be “breakout seniors” in 2011?

One easy choice is Mike Stephens. No, he’s not an unknown player to Columbia fans and he’s a two-time captain returning for a 5th year senior season.

But because he missed just about 100% of 2010, the rest of the league has not seen what the pumped-up Stephens can do. In his junior year, he had just 20 receptions and one TD playing in the shadows of Austin Knowlin, Taylor Joseph and Andrew Kennedy.

Kurt Williams is another player with “breakout senior” written all over him. As he enters his second full season as a college football wide receiver, Williams has added experience to his already impressive physical attributes as he prepares for 2011. I would be surprised if Williams doesn’t outdo the 27 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns he achieved in 2010.

Two other senior WR’s, Mark Muston and Paul Havas could play surprise rolls. Muston has great size and Havas has great speed.

FB Nico Papas could do some damage this fall depending on what kind of offense the Lions run throughout the season. Columbia’s mostly spread formation attack doesn’t usually give fullbacks much of a roll.

Hard-running David Chao could surprise. He’s been impressive in the last two spring games and exhibits great fundamentals. With speedsters Nick Gerst and Marcorus Garrett already in the backfield, Chao could get a shot to do some power running this fall.

On defense, I would not be surprised to see great things from Neil Schuster at DB. Again, he’s not really an unknown quantity up to now but he is not well known around the league and that’s likely to change.

DL Ben Popeck is also not exactly unknown. You could argue his junior season was already a breakout year with 42 tackles. But Popeck seems primed to make an even bigger impact in his final year.

I know the only real dark horses I mentioned here are Chao, Havas and Muston.

But if any of the other players noted above make All Ivy, that would be considered a big surprise by the standard “Columbia-ignorant” experts around the league.

Top 100 Moments of 2010

#81: Calvin’s First Pick

If Columbia thought they could breathe easy after taking a 21-10 lead early in the fourth quarter against Towson in week two, that feeling didn’t last long.

Hakeem Moore returned Greg Guttas’ kickoff to the Tiger end zone all the way back to his own 32 yard line.

On the first play from scrimmage, Towson QB Chris Hart completed a 25-yard pass to the Lion 43.

But Towson’s aggressive play backfired on the next play when Hart’s deep pass was picked off by Calvin Otis who made a pretty play to grab it at the Columbia nine.

It was the first of three interceptions for Otis who also had 40 tackles and eventually made 1st Team All Ivy.


At Wed Jun 29, 07:46:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure that this is an incredibly oversimplified analysis, but I sometimes think it comes down to this:
CU always has some GREAT players (Adams, Brackett among others), but the top teams in the Ivy League always have MORE GREAT players.

At Wed Jun 29, 07:51:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the chance, I think Choa will be the big surprise.

At Wed Jun 29, 10:11:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Popeck and Mistretta will have all Ivy seasons.

At Thu Jun 30, 03:46:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Greg Abbruzzese CC '91 said...

Look, the bottom line here is that they DO have talent! They have loads of depth at RB (Chao is the best of the bunch), the QB is very good, and the line is on par with the other Ivies (if not better). We lack any real TEs or the ability to utilize a double TE formation. Unfortunately, nobody can stretch the field (above 6' tall). Our DBs and Safties are very good, but our D-Line lacks good size and depth (Childress will be an immediate impact). Our kicking game/special teams should lead the Ivies - that's all about discipline. Now having said all of that, the pluses far outweigh the minuses. The pink elephant in the room is COACHING!!! How many games have we lost from being out-coached? Also, the some of our best players are on the sidelines! Unless Gerst was on crutches, he should have been on the field... somewhere... Havas is another very good athlete, along with McHugh (very big and talented kid)... Yet none really saw the field??? Coaching also includes putting the best players out the to win! Yes, I'm sure that they understand that, but their decision making is tough to understand at times...

At Thu Jun 30, 09:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

... I love Gerst .... but let's be realistic ... neither he not Garretthave the size I want in there protecting Brackett on 3rd and long situations .... realistically, we will probably be "running back-by-committee" during the season with Chao as the third back in the rotation .... also, there have been numerous postings over the last several months that said he was hurt a good part of the season .... I believe that ....

At Thu Jun 30, 06:43:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knock it off on the coaches! Most of these young men would run through a wall for Norries. He is the man. And he genuinely cares about these kids.

At Thu Jun 30, 08:32:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the point... You guys are missing the BIG PICTURE! Nobody is saying that Norris is a bad guy. The issue is, however, can we say that he (and his staff) are "good" coaches, or "below average" coaches? I think that we can all agree that they are above average recruiters. Yes, "most" of the Kid's like Norris (positional coaches are another story I'm afraid), GREAT! The problem is that he (staff) CANNOT COACH!!! Over Norris' tenure his staff has lacked the ability to make sound decisions on who plays (because clearly the best players were not on the field); and their game-time management has been horrific. Again, this is not a subjective opinion, their record speaks volumes! How can you argue that? By all measure, Dartmouth has surpassed us, and they were three years removed from the basement. If we lose to Cornell and/or Princeton, then what? Renew the contract?

Okay, Gerst was hurt. Chao is a more durable north and south runner anyway. He should have been on the field, and that is my point. He is more than capable!

At Fri Jul 01, 12:06:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to agree the play calling/clock management are dubious at best. Plus, we regressed as 2010 season went on, playing worse each week vs. Yale, Harvard, Cornell and Brown. That speaks poorly of the coaches. Love the optimism on this board but not sure it is justified.

At Fri Jul 01, 02:28:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surprised you did nit mention Mistretta. When healthy he can take over a game

At Fri Jul 01, 02:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. Gerst should have actually been on the field as a freshman. It's was blatantly obvious his speed and elusiveness was better than any Columbia back from day one. In fact he had more raw talent than just about any back in the Ivy's as a freshman.The other programs are always breaking in talented backs year in and year out as freshman.

Get him in motion, in the slot, stretch plays off tackle and watch him go.

Go Lions

At Fri Jul 01, 02:52:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I agree about Mistretta, but as a starter for two years now, I can't say he'd be a "surprise."

At Fri Jul 01, 08:08:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This criticism of the coaches has become pathological. First, after his years at UConn as a key factor in bringing that program from FCS up to BCS success, do you realy think Wilson has forgotten how to assess talent? And do you think he would allow his staff to field any less than the most capable players? And that the players would respect the staff and stay with the program in record numbers if they were getting incompetent coaching? Remember that one coach left for Williams and completed an undefeated rookie campaign, and the tight ends coach was just hired by Wagner as a coordinator. That doesn't happen to bad coaches. Last year's defensive coordinator was not up to the job, and that was resolved right away after the season - he was a last minute summer replacement at a time when Wilson didn't have many options. And look at how many of the assistants are getting NFL fellowships. Surely they get those based at least in part on qualifications; they must be competitive positions. And it unlikely that the coaches return from the experience without having learned something useful.
Ask the coaches why Gerst doesn't get more carries and you'll likely get a reasonable response - and it won't be something like "Well he's the best back we have, but we're afraid if we play him more we might win more games." They want to win just as much as we do, and probably more. Their livelihoods depend on it. And they know a heck of a lot more than we do about how to win football games, and what is going with CU's personnel - and that's true even of Greg (if that indeed is he posting under the Abruzzese name). It is frustrating to all of us, including the coaches, but the ship of CU football takes a long time to turn. If it didn't, it wouldn't be CU football. We can all observe that the program is healthier than it has been in recent memory, and that this staff started from a virtual standstill and has achieved a heck of a lot. So let's cut back on sniping at the coaches and be more supportive. That way we won't undermine the very that that we profess to hope for -a winning tradition at Columbia!
Sorry for the rant, and its sarcastic tone, but it's been a long time coming and I don't have the time for a proper rewrite. The message should be clear, anyway.

At Fri Jul 01, 10:29:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just being the fastest, quickest, or biggest player on the field is jjust part of the job. Players have to be able to do pre and post snap reads correctly, pick up blitzes, know the plays, run the correct routes, catch, block, tackle, be in condition, take the correct angles, etc. It's tough to know a lot of these varriables as a fan looking at a player that partakes in just a few plays. Are there personnell gaffes? I don't know, but it doesn't matter how much football any of us know - it's tough to make those calls unless we're watching each of those guys take multiple reps in practice. Also, as a fan we also don't know how banged up any of those guys are. Over a 10 game season with no byes people become less effective as they get singed up.

We should have a very good O-line, there's talent at RB, D-line and the outside backers (such as Martin) also should be good, special teams should also be above average, and QB should be te best in the ivies barring and injury. Who knows what's going to happen at TE, how WR after #1 will pan out, and how good the middle LBs and secondary will be. However, football is won on the line of scrimmage and hard work before the game. I like our chances of being above average on both sides of the line of scrimmage this year especially if the players are working out 20+ hours a week this offseason.

At Fri Jul 01, 11:02:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice dissertation. The talent is there. There would not be so much talk about Gerst unless it was obvious to so many that he needs to be on the field.

Time to win games. 4-6 is just not good enough

At Fri Jul 01, 08:01:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former player under coach wilson, I can honestly say I think he is a great man, but a terrible coach. After winning 16 games in 5 years, it's time for a replacement. It's time to end this bad expirement and move on.

At Sat Jul 02, 08:01:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I see here is a great deal of passion, which is fantastic! Clearly, there are alums, ex-players, what appear to be administrators (and coaches), based on certain insight and the way things are being written, chiming in here as well. I think that we can all agree that they have talent. There are some key areas where there is depth (RBs, DBs), and other areas where things may be challenging (O-Line, D-Line). Unfortunately, those are critical areas. These positions have, however, been addressed in this year's class of incoming Freshman. We hope to see the fruit of that class within the next few years...

Regarding coaching... NOTHING will happen to this staff for at least two/three years! Call them idiots, geniuses, good guys, bad guys, great recruiters, poor recruiters, it doesn’t matter; so save your breath. The Football Committee is not blind. The Athletic Administration is not blind either. The Staff’s record over the past few years is not what we expected, or what were “promised” when they arrived (all coaches do that), or is even satisfactory by any reasonable measure. The Godfather on the West Coast calls all of the shots. Unless you have a direct line to him, it’s not worth it.

To the comment about Edsall’s transition from 1-AA to 1-A, and comparing that With NW, please see below... I appreciate your defense of coach Wilson, but your point is moot when you see the actual record since being a 1-A independent (500 after three seasons, 9-3 in season four, and the Motor City Bowl - Big East - in season 5). Below that you can see NW's record. Do you really want to compare the two?

Also, to the comment about bloggers negatively expressing their concern about the program and undermining the program by overzealously criticizing the coaches, I feel is a bit naive. To imply that things are all rosy, and that NW’s record is acceptable, shows a lack of understanding about the game and what it takes to win. His record is 16-34 (overall) and 9-26 (in-league). Honestly, are we having this conversation??? I do not think that is acceptable, nor do the majority of alums (or people who understand football in general), but like I said, my (our) opinion means nothing because that record appears to be acceptable on the West Coast. The other post was correct; these kids are putting 20+ hours in a week off season, combined with work, so I applaud them! I feel sorry for the kids on the team. They deserve better, not us.

Connecticut Huskies (I-A Independent) (2000–2003)
2000 Connecticut 3–8
2001 Connecticut 2–9
2002 Connecticut 6–6
2003 Connecticut 9–3
Connecticut Huskies (Big East Conference) (2004–2011)

2004 Connecticut 8–4 3–3 T–5th W Motor City

2005 Connecticut 5–6 2–5 T–6th
2006 Connecticut 4–8 1–6 T–7th
2007 Connecticut 9–4 5–2 T–1st L Meineke Car Care

2008 Connecticut 8–5 3–4 5th W International

2009 Connecticut 8–5 3–4 T–4th W

2010 Connecticut 8–5 5–2 T–1st L Fiesta †

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/Playoffs Rank#

Columbia Lions (Ivy League) (2006–present)

2006 Columbia 5-5 2-5 6th
2007 Columbia 1-9 0-7 8th
2008 Columbia 2-8 2-5 6th
2009 Columbia 4-6 3-4 4th
2010 Columbia 4-6 2-5 6th
Columbia: 16-34 9-26
Total: 16-34

At Sun Jul 03, 04:52:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the immortal words of Bill Parcells, "you are as good as your record is"


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