Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Call them the "Killer M's"

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It's time, past time really, to buy your tickets NOW for the Columbia home games and BUY EXTRA! Get your friends and family to come and make it an outing.

DON'T FORGET that if you buy season tickets, you also get passes for the Athletic Director's pregame tent for ALL six home games!

AND you get a 10% discount coupon for the Lion Store which sets up shop in a great trailer right in front of the stadium each week.

I know I've been repeating this message a lot lately, but these are things you NEED TO KNOW.

... and WHO ELSE is going to tell you?


You can do that by clicking here, and tell them Roar Lions Roar sent you!

Seriously, PLEASE do that by adding a note if you can, (there's a box where you can do that), and if you send a snail mail donation, please mention this blog.

I don't get a commission, so this is a charitable request.

I just made a small donation myself, and I will do so again several times through the year!

This is part three of a four-part series previewing the 2011 Columbia Lions and the players you should know. Scroll down for part one and my entire league overview for the season

Chris Woods is the new man in charge of the "D"

Defensive Line

New defensive coordinator Chris Woods has switched Columbia to the 3-4 defense, and I have to believe that was done to get the most out of two fantastic young Lions who will now move to the linebacker position.

More about them later...

But the D-line personnel will be essential is achieving JOB 1 for Columbia this year: STOP THE RUN.

The Lions' front line defenses, especially right up the middle, have been weak for two years running after some encouraging progress in 2008.

Pass rushing also fell off alarmingly last season after the graduation of all-time Columbia sack leader Lou Miller.

In fact, the pass rush was so problematic, that opposing passers often made the secondary look a lot worse than it was because of all that extra time.

Injuries have taken their toll on some of the best players on the defensive line over the years, chief among them is senior Owen Fraser who hopes to come back and make some kind of significant contribution this season like he did in '08. But I think Fraser will probably be a backup.

The only D-lineman I'm confident will be starting, if healthy, is senior Ben Popeck who had a breakthrough season last year.

I also looked like sophomore transfer Wells Childress was a leading candidate to start, but some questions about his speed may change all that.

Senior Chris Groth had a great season in 2009, fell off the radar a bit last year, and seems further down the depth chart again. But if he can regain his sophomore year form, he could easily become a regular starter.

Junior Seyi Adebayo was voted defensive most improved player of the spring, and he remains in perfect athletic shape. He has the speed that guys like Childress seem to be lacking right now.

Big junior Shad Sommers will get lots of playing time too, especially in the middle of that line.

Will Patterson is a another junior who's had enough playing time to be considered a solid weapon as well.

In all, this group remains one of the biggest question marks on the season for Columbia. And this is no small matter. Without improved play up front on defense, Columbia will not be able to truly compete in this league.


Despite the graduation of two time 1st Team All Ivy Alex Gross, this unit is something to be excited about.

In fact, I think we should call it "The Killer M's".

(For those of you ancient enough to remember the Miami Dolphins' "Killer Bees" defense of 1982, this will mean something to you).

The best weapons are juniors Josh Martin and Ryan Murphy. Both are ferocious pass rushers with tremendous up side in this league. Martin already flashed some brilliance last season en route to a 2nd Team All Ivy membership and he's ready for more.

In the middle, we have another "M" in senior Nick Mistretta. Mistretta had been splitting time with Marc Holloway for two years, but now that Holloway has graduated this could be his time to shine... maybe.

It's not clear if the coaches are ready to give him the key leadership role on the defense, but the Lions need him to be at his best and consistently so in 2011.

Another rising star at LB is sophomore Zach Olinger who made an impact as a freshman on national TV against Yale in week 7. I expect him to be in the starting mix.

Another "Killer M" with lots of experience is senior Evan Miller. Lou Miller's younger brother is his own man now and a team favorite. He has too much experience with the varsity and admiration from his coaches to count out.


This group loses a couple of All-Ivy players in Calvin Otis and Adam Mehrer. But there is still plenty of experienced talent here.

The top talents in my mind are two more "Killer M's": seniors AJ Maddox and Ross Morand. Morand is also a co-captain.

Maddox and Morand will probably be the starting corners, but senior Kalasi Huggins has been playing with the varsity since freshman year and he will get into the mix as well.

And who can forget the great game junior Christopher Thomas played in the Spring Game? He might make a move on the field too.

I think the top candidates for safety slots are senior Neil Schuster and junior Steven Grassa. Both played a lot last year with the varsity and are great hitters.

Another "Killer M" with a real shot at more playing time at safety is 5th year senior Mike Murphy.

Other defensive backs we may see on the field are sophomore Marquel Carter, junior Brian DeVeau, (who's back at DB after playing WR last year), and sophomore Chris Alston.

In general the entire defense has a lot to prove in 2011. With Brackett running the offense, this group figures to be the weaker of the two units, but so far in preseason it's looked better than the offense!

Woods has his work cut out for him, but if he can get this crew -- especially the suspect defensive line -- to really produce, he will deserve hero status in Morningside Heights.


Columbia got an unexpected upgrade last year when sophomore Luke Eddy took over the placekicking duties in the middle of the opening game and never looked back. His booming kicks that never seem to come down are a sight for sore Lion fans' eyes. But he didn't look great in the Spring Game, so we'll see if he's still at that top level this fall.

Junior Greg Guttas did a great job as the punter and kickoff specialist last season and he seems to have improved in the offseason. Sophomore Tyler Feely may get more chances to do some punting as well.

If they maintain 2010 form, Eddy and Guttas make up an especially strong kicking staff.

The returning corps loses the talented and effective kickoff returner Craig Hamilton to graduation. The race to replace him and take the punt returning duties from the also graduated Nico Gutierrez is one of the most mysterious battles at Columbia this summer. I say mysterious because there's really no telling who is in the lead for the top spots right now.

But after last year's injury during a punt return, I would bet Mike Stephens will not be returning punts this year unless no one else is remotely competent. I expect Ross Morand, Steven Grassa, and Mike Murphy ro be in this mix. Beyond that we'll just have to wait to find out.

Bottom line, the Columbia special teams could be indeed special this season and they could be the Lions' ticket to an improved year. But until we see who is doing the returning and how well, we really won't know.


At Wed Sep 14, 08:38:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am surprised by the Rome of the report on the D line. Is Groth now too heavy at 319? And is Childress actually too slow to play on the D line in the Ivies? And why the negativity on Fraser?

At Wed Sep 14, 10:27:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those of us who don't live close to NY, what is the best way to hear and/or see the game on Saturday? Go Lions!

At Wed Sep 14, 11:08:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, you have given us another great report on our beloved Lions, but thru no fault of yours, the report is mostly speculation, as no one in the Athletic Department has bothered yet to disseminate any information yet on the team other than what appears in the brief biographical profiles. Very puzzling indeed. In any event, I suppose there will be Notes and a Two-Deep issued by Thursday or Friday, whereupon we loyal Lion fans will look to you for your valuable midnight comments.

At Wed Sep 14, 08:09:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how things shape up. The last 2 years the emphasis on the DL was speed by keeping weight down in the 70s or less. I think that was the primary reason Groth didn't play as much last year and why we had problems stopping the run against the bigger OLs. I took a quick look at the stats from last year and it appears Groth had the most sacks and yards lost of the DTs. It was only 2 sacks which also says volumes on that defensive scheme considering his limited playing time.

I am guessing they will be rotating Summers, Fraser and Groth in the middle. I would really like to see Fraser at DE and/or 2nd DT in a nickle. If Groth’s weight is primary muscle gain and he maintained or even improved his speed, he could be a major factor at NT.

Childress was a DE at Texas A&M and based on his size I am expecting him to play that position here. I’m not sure where the speed comments are coming from considering nothing is out there about that. I would think his speed would be good (maybe great) considering he was recruited at Texas A&M for the position. Learning the play scheme hopefully will be his only challenge.

At Wed Sep 14, 11:46:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was surprised by the comments about Groth. It seemed like last year the DL was more effective when he played. His job isn't to be fast, it's to occupy two blockers and create push so others can make tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. At 319, it seems like he should be able to do that. Go Lions!


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