Monday, September 12, 2011

Meet Your Heroes Part 1


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 if you send a snail mail donation or online in the comments section, (if there is one).

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

This is part one of a four-part series previewing the 2011 Columbia Lions and the players you should know

The 2011 Columbia Football Lions


Let's cut right to the chase: Columbia has the BEST quarterback in the league, the BEST offensive lineman in the league, and slew of playmakers in a revamped defense.

So, why aren't the Lions getting more respect?

Why aren't they picked higher than 6th ANYWHERE by ANYBODY?

The simple answer is track record.

You win championships by er... winning games. And with 16 total victories over the last five years, Columbia just hasn't won enough games.

Those years include seasons where the Lions had all-time stars like WR Austin Knowlin, DE Lou Miller, LB Alex Gross... and the list goes on.

Here are the numbers for the last five years:

16-34 overall. That's more than two losses for every one win.

9-26 Ivy. That's almost three losses for every one win.

With that kind of a track record, only the deserved respect for our QB is keeping the Lions from being picked dead last.

Despite record donations to the program and across-the-board improvements in player talent, Columbia still isn't winning ball games.

But let's not despair

The last time Columbia had this kind of super talent at QB, it was 1983 and John Witkowski was the starter.

You know how many games Columbia won during Witkowski's years as the starter?


That's not a misprint... really, it was just two wins.

Sean Brackett has started 13 games in his two years at Columbia and has won six while losing seven.

This is a young man who has a nose for winning, perhaps more than any other signal caller at CU since Eugene Rossides.

You never want to put all your chips and hopes for a season on a QB alone, but Brackett is a good bet. And at the very least, he's super exciting to watch.

The rest of the team is coping with some brutal graduation losses.

There really is NO tight end to replace Andrew Kennedy... and I mean that literally, there may be NO tight end lining up for the Lions during a lot of plays this season.

The defense will sorely miss LB Alex Gross, who is one of Columbia's all-time greats in every way.

And not many fans are aware of how much the now-graduated Calvin Otis meant to the secondary.

And the 2011 schedule seems like the toughest the Lions have had to face in years.

But there still is enough talent to improve on last year's 4-6, 2-5 Ivy record. Because it all comes back to Brackett and a potentially improved backfield and wide receiving corps. The defense could make some noise too thanks to some realignment and a transfer from Texas A&M.

More about all that later.

But none of these best case scenarios can happen unless the coaching gets better or gets out of the way.

That might happen if more Columbia alums and fans demanded better. But after decades of losing records and few exceptions, a very unhealthy culture of lowered expectations dominates the atmosphere from Morningside Heights to Baker Field.

Head Coach Norries Wilson has the unqualified support of Bill Campbell, and that's not going to change anytime soon.

And frankly, that's not healthy.

In my TV news job, I need to produce results. And like the coach of a sports team, my results are PUBLISHED very PUBLICLY at the end of every DAY.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Believe me, I've worked at places where the ratings were not really talked about or used as a motivating tool.

Working at those places, while less stressful, was like death. I am much more energized to do better where I am now.

Campbell's blank check for Wilson was probably helpful in the first few years of his tenure as coach, but it's not helpful now. Not for Norries, and certainly not for Athletic Director Dianne Murphy, who doesn't get the control she should have over the most important program in her whole department.

Hey, this is no small stuff. We just had the Dean of Columbia College quit because she wasn't given enough control of her school's key financial resources, (they get stolen by the tenured faculty... kind of like the mobsters cleaning out the backrooms while no one seems to notice in that great scene in "Casino"). I know I wouldn't want to work under those conditions.

So, is the talent good enough to make the coaching issues irrelevant? You know, in a 1989 San Francisco 49ers with George Seifert as the "Head Coach" kinda way?

For example, who among the hardest of hard core Lions fans hasn't wondered if Columbia would win more games if Brackett just took over the team meetings and called all his own plays? He's only a junior, but he's not the quiet sort and the leadership experience off the field would do him good.

I suppose it could happen, but let's not forget there are some great coaches on this Columbia staff. OL coach Argast and DB coach Gutekunst come to mind right away. Sometimes... a lot of time actually, coaches in the trenches like that make more of a difference anyway. In Argast and Gutekunst's cases, they already have.

But let's get back to the players.

Here is an impressive list of the top 10 stars Columbia fans should know about, (and should have been told more about in more places than just this blog), and get excited about this season.

Sean Brackett (Credit: Slgckgc)

1. QB Sean Brackett (team captain)

Junior, #10.

Brackett is a combination running QB with great speed and passing QB with a great and accurate arm.

He's also a firecracker who often gives as rough as he gets on and off the field.

And he's just a junior.

Do yourself a favor and just take one game this season and just watch him all game long.

Mike Stephens

2. WR Mike Stephens (team captain)

Senior #1.

Stephens is a speedy wide receiver who really bulked up during the spring/summer of 2010 and is raring to go after missing just about all of the 2010 season due to a game one injury.

Stephens will move inside on the line a bit this year and use his muscle to challenge linebackers in coverage over the middle. He'll even block more too. His presence will give the spread offense a new dimension that will be harder to defend.

Jeff Adams protects Brackett's blind side (Credit: Slgckgc)

3. OT Jeff Adams

Senior #76.

The best "blind side" tackle in the Ivies and one of the best in all of college football. And he has a smile and a face that could sell products on TV.

Adams makes Columbia's entire offense so much better as he gives Brackett time and room to run and pass.

Keep an eye on this guy because he will probably be playing on Sundays next year.

Gerst goes in for a score (Credit: Slgckgc)

4. RB Nick Gerst

Junior #34.

A BIG fan favorite from nearby Bergen Catholic, this junior tailback has all the tools for a big season if he can stay healthy. Considered too small to take it to the defense, he still has enough speed and smarts to turn the corner and also be a lethal weapon coming out of the backfield as a screen pass receiver.

In my six years-plus of writing this blog, NO player has generated more fan support than Gerst. This could be the year he begins to really earn it.

Martin, #95, near the top of your screen (Credit: Slgckgc)

5. LB Josh Martin

Junior #95.

This is the guy who Columbia unhooked from a commitment to the University of Wyoming and he really started paying dividends last season.

Martin is moving to the linebacker position this season to capitalize on his pass rushing skills, which are formidable.

Martin's number is 95... check the faces of the opposing QB's after every game if that number is imprinted on their faces.

Ryan Murphy puts the pressure on (Credit: Express News)

6. LB Ryan Murphy

Junior #4.

A Texas high school product who gets across the line of scrimmage about as quickly as any Columbia player I've ever seen.

Murphy will line up on the other side of the line from Martin in hopes of putting opposing backfields in a sort of vise on every play.

Nick Mistretta

7. LB Nick Mistretta

Senior #57.

A senior with virtually three full years of starting experience who is now taking the crucial leadership role on the defense. If he has a good season, Columbia has a good season... it's as simple as that.

Wells Childress

8. DL Wells Childress

Sophomore #79.

A very intriguing newcomer transfer from Texas A&M.

The son of NFL sack legend Ray Childress, Wells is a big kid at 270 pounds and he's ready to make an impact in the Ivies.

Columbia's job one is stopping the run this year, and they will need Childress to help out on that score.

Bob Hauschildt... up close

9. C Bob Hauschildt (team captain)

Senior #63.

Columbia's second best OL and he's being asked to move over to center this season to the Lions better strength and protection up the middle.

Maybe the smartest player on the team for pure brains, and he's a great person to trust to get the snaps off cleanly and identify the opposing defensive schemes time after time.

Luke Eddy with former Lions Kicker, Larry Walsh

10. K Luke Eddy

Sophomore #30.

This sophomore plackicker booms kicks higher than any kicker I've ever seen in about 30 years of watching Ivy football. He's coming off an injury though, so we're holding out hope he'll be just as strong this season.

Top 100 Moments of 2010

#5: The Touchdown

Probably Columbia's best moment of last season was when Sean Brackett triumphantly lept over the goal line to complete Columbia's come from behind 20-17 win over Cornell.

Why take my word for it?

You can see it and hear it yourself in this video.


At Tue Sep 13, 02:12:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recco's interview with Stephens on

At Tue Sep 13, 02:30:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a few thoughts.

1) I have to disagree with you. If the team doesn't show improvement this year I think Norris will be gone. I think the changes in coaching on the defensive side after last year is an indication of that. If he wasn't at risk, those changes wouldn’t have happen.

2) The biggest issue remaining in the coaching staff is the OC. Year after year his paly calling and inability to adjust early has always kept people scratching their heads. If they have another of those years he needs to go or Norris and him need to go.

They have one of the best teams on both sides of the ball this year. They need to use that talent properly or a major change should happen.

At Tue Sep 13, 02:48:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great analysis work, Jake, as usual. You are indeed the greatest authority on Columbia football in history. Only one gripe: you have continually written how great our players are, but yet have predicted us for 6th, which is not much to cheer about. It can't ALL be about coaching that never gets us into the top half... Clearly our players are good, but not good enough(?)

At Tue Sep 13, 03:00:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake....I think you are all there on this...The staff the head coach surrounds himself with always determines his success..The next big question is do the players like playing for the coach and utilization of the talent....That question resonates louldly with the offensive coordinator


At Tue Sep 13, 04:04:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that has to stop -- the offense lines up, ready for the play, and then the OC calls Brackett over to the sideline. A total morale and momentum killer!

At Tue Sep 13, 04:20:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a number of teams do the same thing on TV last Sat. I believe, but am not sure, that offenses do this, i.e., line up right away and only then get calls from the sidelines, in order to prevent defenses from substituting.

At Tue Sep 13, 07:17:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got a smile from the line about George Seifert and the subtle dig at Cornell.

At Tue Sep 13, 10:31:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would expand the list of star returning players to include WR Kurt Williams, punter Greg Guttas and defensive back Ross Morand. Of course, you would include NT Owen Fraser on the list if he has regained his freshman year form. Adebayo, Groth, Huggins, Maddox, Mistretta, Olinger, Popeck and Schuster are just some of the key players on defense who could rise to stardom this year.

At Tue Sep 13, 10:18:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is apparent that this blog is a very powerful tool and it is definitely appreciated especially from a parent of an incoming freshman. I enjoy the different views and opinions.
I see that this blog will ignite a flame under some who should be held accountable. The head coach knows he is under watch all the time (any great leader would be able to recognize it comes with the job) and the OC knows he is second on the list. I do wonder how the team actually meshes with the coaching staff. If there isn't a level of respect there then our season is shot. Also, if they do have the respect but read this recent posting the doubts will start coming and the season is shot. Either way, we risk morale when we comment on the inability of the leadership. I say... take it to them directly instead of putting them on blast for the entire world to see. Go Lions!


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