Monday, May 30, 2011

... and then there was one

A big transfer enters the Yale Bowl this fall

Yale has officially/unofficially announced what looks like 29 of the 30 incoming football freshmen by allowing Head Coach Tom Williams to comment about the class in The New Haven Register's Portal 31 Yale blog.

That leaves Columbia as the last school to remain mum on its class of 2015.

One of the most interesting parts of the article is the fact that the dicey minefield of admissions never really ends. It's almost June, and the admissions status of some players is still in doubt.

The other curious item is that not one player is slated as a QB. That seems like a gamble.

The big excitement in Bulldog land is over Duke transfer DL Tevin Hood. Hood was good enough to get some playing time for the Blue Demons last fall and at 6-1 and 280 lbs., you can see why he could be a force in the Ivies.

I'm also impressed by 6-4 240 lbs. DE Davis Franks from Knoxville, RB Kahlil Keys from Casa Grande, CA by way of Choate, and Jeff Schmidttgens from Benet Academy outside Chicago, (the same school where Columbia grabbed Connor Nelligan for this fall).

Coach Williams highlighted some other players in the interview as potential impact players. They were Tyler Hutchison, Ben Carbery, Ethan DaSilva and Rob Coury.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's Never too Late...

Justin Nunez (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

... to compete as an Ivy athlete.

Even if you graduated years ago.

Just ask Justin Nunez '07, who is one of the favorites in "The Decathlon," the competition to find the best athlete on Wall Street.

This year's competition will be at Wien Stadium on October 22nd.

Nunez is a veteran of this event, placing third last year.

Proceeds from The Decathlon go to charity.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Name and Cornell's List

Augie Braddock #5

According to this news release forwarded to me by my friend Bruce Wood of Big Green Alert, a speedy WR/RB named Augie Braddock is coming to Columbia this fall.

You can see Braddock’s > highlight reel here.

I can’t find Braddock’s height and weight numbers, so this is still incomplete info.

Braddock comes to us from Saint Thomas Academy in Minnesota, where we also found Nathan Walcker ’09.

That makes 28 reported commits to our class of 2015:

Colton Bishop DB 5-10 180 lbs. Chaparral HS Scottsdale, AZ

John Brady LB 6-2 220 lbs. Lakota East HS Liberty Township, OH

Augie Braddock WR/RB Saint Thomas Academy Mendota Heights, MN

Tom Callahan OT 6-6 280 lbs. Lyons Township HS LaGrange Park, IL

Wells Childress* DE 6-4 263 lbs. Kinkaid HS Houston, TX

Sean Coffinger LB 6-4 215 lbs. Desert Vista HS Phoenix, AZ

Alec Fisher DB/RB 5-11 185 lbs. Bishop’s HS La Jolla, CA

Ryan Flannery WR 6-3 185 lbs. North Attleborough HS North Attleborough, MA

Percee Goings QB 6-1 180 lbs. Friendship Collegiate HS Washington, DC

Tyler Hamblin CB 6-0 190 lbs. Cretin-Durham Hall Eden Prairie, MN

John Keefe WR 6-1 185 lbs. Choctawhatchee HS Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Josh Keiles 6-3 OL 295 lbs. Lakewood HS Lakewood, CA

Joe Kopp OL 6-4 260 lbs. Arundel HS Gambrills, MD

Hunter Little DL 6-4 225 lbs. The Webb School Knoxville, TN

Connor Nelligan WR 6-2 190 lbs. Benet Academy Lisle, IL

Ijeoma Odigwe DL 6-2 220 lbs. Chandler HS Chandler, AZ

Carey Parker OL 6-6 290 lbs. Central Catholic HS San Antonio, TX

Ray Pesanello LB 6-2 215 lbs. Mahwah HS, Mahwah, NJ

Kal Prince QB 6-4 198 lbs. Owensboro HS Owensboro, KY

Chris Proctor OL 6-6 258 lbs. Pine Crest HS Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Vinny Pugliese LB 6-1 210 lbs. Walsh Jesuit HS Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Roy Schwartz DL 6-2 240 lbs. Westlake HS Austin, TX

Mike Skalitzky DB 6-1 180 lbs. Marist High School Chicago, IL

Steve Silvio FB 5-11 235 lbs. Spain Park HS Hoover, AL

Dan Slivka WR 6-3 196 lbs. North Allegheny HS Wexford, PA

Malcolm Thaxton CB 6-0 190 lbs. Fuquay-Varina HS Fuquay-Varina, NC

Ryan Thomas OL 6-4 275 lbs. Buchholz HS Gainesville, FL

Chad Washington DL/TE 6-2 220 lbs. Bishop O'Dowd Oakland, CA

*=Transfer from Texas A&M

Cornell’s Class

Cornell is the 6th Ivy school to release the names of its class of 2015 football class.

Only Columbia and Yale remain unannounced.

Here are some of my overall impressions:

-At 26 members, this class seems light. Perhaps there will be some walk-ons and late adds.

-Just two running backs in the whole class. This is not unique to Cornell; it seems every Ivy school is finding it harder and harder to grab ball carriers.

-Overall, it’s not a very big group but there are some very big exceptions to that rule.

-Three of the players are coming from the same team, Brooklyn’s Poly Prep… not exactly a breeding ground for D-I football.


Ben Green TE

At 6-7 and 245 pounds, Green is a monster in the making. His PG year at Phillips will help prepare him better academically as well.

Dylan Ledet RB

A two-time all-stater from a decent Catholic HS program in Louisiana.

Shane McManamon DL

Another monster at 6-2 and 275 pounds. A real star coming from a tough football conference near Cleveland.

Kyle Osborn OL

A 6-5, 300 pound kid from Oklahoma. Definitely has potential.

Don Pavlov LB

At 6-1, he’s a good size for a linebacker. And he’s coming out of another good program in the Cleveland area.

Lucas Shapiro WR

Big time, and big sized target at 6-5. State champion.

Sam Wood QB

Big and tall prospect who played at two different high schools along the way.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Numbers Game

Marty Domres wore #21, even as a QB

Any day now, we’ll get the names and maybe even the preliminary uniform numbers of our incoming freshman football class.

That leads me to kickoff a discussion about the greatest wearers of specific uniform numbers in Columbia history.

It is not practical to retire numbers in college football. With 100+ players on most teams in any given year, you really can’t afford to part with any number. So this is a way to honor some of our all-time greatest players.

Let’s just take some numbers from random and draw some lines from past to present.

This is just the BEGINNING of this conversation, so I know I am leaving out a lot of numbers and players.

Here goes:

Marcellus Wiley wore #5, today our aggressive and impressive DB A.J. Maddox wears that number.

Columbia’s all-time greatest running back Johnathan Reese wore #7, and no one has that number right now. It’s likely a lucky incoming freshmen will get that number this summer

QB great Don Jackson wore #10 as does current QB Sean Brackett.

All-time great CU QB John Witkowski wore #18 in the early 80’s, as did talented QB Jeff McCall from 1998-2001. QB-turned-speedy-WR Paul Havas wears 18 now.

Archie Roberts wore #20, plugger RB David Chao wears that number now.

Two great QB’s, Gene Rossides and Marty Domres, wore #21. LB Mike Waller wears it today.

All-American Lou Kusserow wore #41 as did fellow All-American Paul Governali. LB Nico Papas is the current owner.

Sid Luckman briefly wore #44 but mostly #42 as a Lion and a member of the Chicago Bears… and I can’t think of many Lion stars who have worn that number since. FB Griffin Lowry wears that number now.

Rory Wilfork wore #45 as he made linebacking history at CU. Promising sophomore LB Eddie Hitchcock wears it today.

Des Werthman wore #49 as did Andy Shalbrack for ONE YEAR before Shalbrack switched to #6. Our current #49 is returing 5th year senior Mike Murphy.

The great captain-turned-coach-turned-Chairman of the Board of Trustees Bill Campbell wore #67. That number is untaken for now, so another lucky freshman is about to grab it.

Miracle WR Bill Swiacki wore #81 and did Columbia single-season receiving yardage record holder Don Lewis. Senior WR Mike Muston wears it today.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Slow Starters

Columbia needs to rev the engine sooner

Don’t forget that tonight is the first of two special shopping nights for Columbia athletics at Fairway Market.

Getting it Going

Something Columbia needs to do this coming season is find a way to get the offense warmed up a little sooner.

In ten games in 2010, the Lions scored a total of 17 points.

The second quarter wasn’t much better, with a total of 55 points scored in all of the ten second frames combined.

The third quarter was the best for Columbia last season, with 78 points scored, and the fourth quarter was also better overall with 72 points notched in the final stanza.

But the late-starting Lion offense cost the team dearly many times, especially in the losses to close losses to Yale and Fordham and the loss to Harvard which was closer than it appeared.

Points and game results don’t even tell the whole story. The stark difference in the way the Lion offense performed in the second half compared to the first half of most games was remarkable. Very often, Columbia went from a team that could move the ball to one that started to bulldoze through opposing defenses on drives that rarely even saw a third down challenge.

A lot of this is GOOD. You want a team that gets stronger down the stretch. And it proves that Columbia’s coaches DID make adjustments with their play calling, despite a lot of fans who say otherwise.

But you don’t want to start so far behind the 8-ball every time.

Also remember that a lot of the top skill players for the Lions last year were either underclassmen or very new at their positions.

Sean Brackett was a sophomore in 2010, as was Nick Gerst. Kurt Williams was playing WR for the first time at the collegiate level, despite being a junior. And veteran WR Mike Stephens was injured just about the entire season.

A little more experience, a little less injury, and this Lion offense is likely to show more consistency and overall punch in 2011.

But that’s just my take. Why do you think we were so punchless in the first half in 2010 and what can we do to fix it this fall?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Time to Rebound

They are the champions! (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

I really like the comments many of you have been posting to my question about what kind of offense we should run in 2011.

Everyone had good ideas, by my favorite was posted earlier today by “Anonymous”:

“The QB takes a lot of hits running option. We can't afford to lose Brackett. It also leads to fumbles. We should expect teams to blitz heavily all year. We will need to run screens, draws and flare passes. We should also use rolling pockets and sprint outs to give Brackett time to evade blitz and throw/run. We also need to stop throwing long sideline passes for 2 or 3 yards. We should also try throwing short passes over middle--by short I mean the 5 to 7 yard variety and not 20 yarders down seam.”

I’m not saying I agree 100% with that comment, but it is a very good one and certainly should give option-lovers a little pause.

Either way, it’s this kind of reasoned discourse that this blog thrives on and I appreciate it.

Let's Rebound

Much congratulations to the Columbia Archery Recurve team for winning the national championship this weekend!

But no one can deny that this has been a rough year overall for Columbia team sports.

I’m not saying that in order to unleash the usual litany of Columbia complaints and self-attacks from our fans.

I do say it to remind the athletic department of its own words from what was a very financially successful fundraising effort launched several years ago.

Those words were: “Mediocrity is Not Acceptable,” and, “We Intend to Be Successful in Our Athletics Program.”

But in the past five years, there appears to be a secular decline in the number League titles Columbia has earned:

2006-07: 5

2007-08: 4

2008-09: 2

2009-20: 3

2010-11: 0

In other ways, the campaign has been successful. I strongly believe that we have better coaches overall, improved facilities, more generous financial aid packages, apparently more support for sports from the school’s administration, improved alumni giving, bigger athletic department budgets, a much improved public relations and marketing.

But the school’s true fans, of which there are a lot more than most anyone realizes, want more. We are not satisfied with the results on the field and it’s important not to settle for less.

So, while we publicly say we’re happy for all the structural changes Columbia has made to improve the department, we’re not forgetting about the won-lost records.

That’s what makes us real fans.

Yes, we’ll stay through thick and thin.

We will donate through thick and thin.

But the last couple of years have been a little more “thin” than “thick,” and that’s worrying.

Let’s get back to where we were in 2006-07 and soon!

Let’s do it fast.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday Forums

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Wyatt Baker

A couple of quick news items before I ask you all to weigh in on some questions:

-Former Columbia assistant coach Chip Kelley makes $2.3 million per year now as the head coach at Oregon. If he were still living in Manhattan that would cover rent for a small apartment for six months… maybe.

-Columbia’s class of 2015 for the wrestling team has been announced. There are some athletes there with impressive football pedigrees, especially Wyatt Baker from Orange County.

Baker played defensive tackle for Servite High School, the same school where Columbia got Ray Rangel '10.

If Coach Wilson et al have imposed some kind of rule against two sport players, (if so, Lou Miller '10 would be an exception), but if so that rule should be broken to see if young Mr. Baker is interested. We're talking about a 6-3 265 pound DT!!! He's just what the doctor is ordering for the Lions priority one: STOP THE RUN.

Okay, let’s hear what you think about these burning questions:

Question 1:

Columbia returns a very strong offensive line, an All Ivy versatile QB, and at least two very promising speedy running backs.

What’s the best way to utilize these assets? Choices below:

1: Run the option offense on every darn play… out of the wishbone if necessary!

2: West Coast Offense, baby! Let Brackett throw short passes to the backs and the WR’s almost all the time. Use the short passes to set up the run and then the bomb.

3: Despite the lack of a proven FB, run the I-formation all the time and mix in lots of play action.

4: Your idea here

Question 2:

Three Ivy schools have yet to announce their incoming football classes of 2015. They are Columbia, Cornell and Yale. Who will be the first team to report next? Who will be the last?

Okay, lemme hear from ya!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Manhattan Transfer II

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Great news for Columbia athletics… and hopefully the kind of thing that will get contagious for the other teams in our program: former high school All-American Kofi Agyapong has transferred from Wake Forest and will play this fall for the Lion soccer team.

Getting transfers is a key to boosting Columbia athletics to the next level. I want to see more stories like this for years to come.

While we wait for that list of incoming football freshman, I did catch wind of an incoming basketball player named Noah Springwater of University High School in San Francisco.

The great Fairway Market is holding two more Columbia “Shopping nights” next week, one in Stamford, CT and one in Pelham Manor, NY.

Fairway is awesome, Columbia athletes are awesome. It’s a good marriage.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Quakers

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Penn makes five Ivy schools that have formally released the names of their incoming freshman football class.

Penn’s biggest “need” this fall is to find a way to replace all the starters graduating from its historically great offensive line.

But freshmen can’t really be expected to contribute to an OL, so it appears the real potential early impact players come from the defensive side of the ball.

Some other overall impressions:

-Only one QB is in this class, not too surprising considering Penn already has a good number of underclassmen quarterbacks.

-Only four incoming frosh are from New Jersey and just two are from Pennsylvania. Usually, the biggest chunk of the Quaker classes come from these states.

-Illinois is becoming a bigger hunting ground for Ivy programs. Penn is grabbing six players from the Land of Lincoln.


Daniel Davis

A 6-3, 230 pound linebacker from football country in Norman, Oklahoma. Could play soon.

Matt Kiefer

A 6-4, 300 pound OL and a Georgia state champion.

Mitchell King

The Quakers haven’t had a big pass-catching TE in a while. King is 6-6 and 235 pounds. Check please!

Spencer Kulcsar

You can’t take your eyes off a star RB coming out of Bergen Catholic.

Michael Mettille

A 6-2, 205 pound all-stater LB from Chicago-area powerhouse Joliet Catholic.

Kyle Wilcox

One of the top RB’s coming out of the very football-rich state of Florida. Some think he’s the best freshman back coming into the class of 2015 in the Ivies. But can he get playing time with the 1,512 experienced RB’s already on the Quaker roster? J

Brion Wood

Another 6-3 linebacker? Yep. And Wood is another strong kid from the Chicago area.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Coming to Cambridge...

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Niv Sultan

Today, Harvard became the fourth Ivy school to announce its football class of 2015.

And, as usual, it’s an impressive class. But what you have to remember with Harvard is that the Crimson make even their best prospects wait their turn before really giving them a chance to make an impact with the varsity.

That’s especially true for offensive linemen, who usually wait the longest to actually get on the field.

In other words, it may be more than two more years before we really speak about any of these players again!

But the new offensive linemen coming into Cambridge this fall are really impressive. That’s the real headline for this class.

Now let me focus on what look like the real gems in this group.

Zach Boden RB

An all-stater from Georgia who has the perfect size to play Ivy ball at his position.

Tyler Hamblin, QB

A legit 6-3 QB in this league deserves a special look. Hamblin comes from the same Christian Brothers Academy that sent Marty Domres to Columbia.

Michael Mancinelli OL

A 6-5 285-pounder and an all-state player from Colorado. Played for a seriously goof HS program.

Obum Obukwelu DT

A 6-2 265-pound local product from Brockton, MA. Perhaps the top “get” of this Harvard class. Still probably won’t play for the Varsity for real until 2013.

Chris Valenti OL

A big lineman and a two-time all-stater in the ever-better high school football country of Connecticut.

Will Whitman OL

Another two-time all-stater… this time from Kentucky.

And then there's…

I am still really bitter than Long Island’s Niv Sultan,
after playing a season for ROBERT KRAFT’S Israeli semi-pro league, is part of this Harvard class instead of coming to Columbia.

I’m sure Columbia is not in any way at fault for not grabbing this kid, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.

Maybe he has a younger brother?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Front Three Thoughts

Check out this great piece today on the U.S. Marine Corps veterans graduating from Columbia this week.

It contains this very key line as we continue to fight for a halftime ceremony honoring our veteran students:

“More veterans attend Columbia than any other Ivy League college with over 300 enrolled in the 2010 – 2011 school year.”

In other words, Columbia is the place where more veterans have the opportunity to pursue an Ivy education than any other. Columbia deserves a lot of credit for that.

And so, the halftime ceremony we all want will be a tribute not just to the veterans but also to Alma Mater for being so welcoming to them.

And yes, the ceremony would remind people of this bigger picture as opposed to the ugly shouts of a concentrated few.

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If you or a loved one is a member of the incoming class of 2015, you may want to check this item out:


Ben Popeck (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Best Three Feet Forward

If the reports are true and Columbia does employ a 3-4 defense this fall, who would be your starting three?

In my book, the most talented Lion defensive linemen on the roster are Owen Fraser, (if healthy), Joshua Martin and Chris Groth.

Seyi Adebayo and Ben Popeck are just a bit behind them… with Popeck having what I would call an unsung breakthrough season last year with 42 tackles and two fumble recoveries.

The speedy Will Patterson is officially a defensive end, but he plays more like a pass-rushing linebacker. I wonder if his official roster designation will ever change.

And the big wildcard in incoming transfer Wells Childress from Texas A&M.

If all seven of these players come back healthy and stay healthy, there’s a really good chance Columbia will have a strong defensive line after suffering last season without the injured Fraser and the graduated Lou Miller '10.

But even if new defensive coordinator Chris Woods doesn’t shuffle the defensive line as often as his predecessor Denauld Brown did, the Lions will probably also need good contributions from junior Shad Sommers, sophomore Nick Melka and the others.

But getting back to my top three, I have to believe that even if Fraser remains seriously injury-free, Popeck will still be a de facto starter and much of the Lions efforts to stop the run in 2011 rest on his shoulders.

Martin had a slightly more noticed breakthrough year in 2010, and he showed tremendous skills as a relentless pass rusher. Few Columbia fans will forget his performance in week two against Towson where he seemed to be living in the Tigers’ backfield.

Adebayo’s coronation as the most improved defensive player in spring practice is a tantalizing prospect given his obvious physical abilities. But he too seems to primarily be a pass rusher, and that just adds to the responsibilities for Popeck and Fraser against the run.

Of course, the linebacking corps will have something to say about that as well, and I’ll the names of my top four returning linebackers tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Millennium Club?

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My favorite item today comes from the “Outlet” section.

It’s this GREEN Columbia t-shirt made for Saint Patrick’s Day.

No offense to the holiday, but I have an underhanded reason for liking this item.

Columbia is Dartmouth’s Homecoming opponent up in Hanover this October 22nd.

Wouldn’t it be funny for a group of Columbia fans to mingle with the crowd all clad in green but upon closer examination, they’ll be in Columbia attire?!?

Okay, maybe not laugh out loud funny, but silly enough to get me interested!

Nick Schwieger

Speaking of Dartmouth, a lot has been written here and elsewhere about all the returning veteran QB’s in the Ivies for the 2011 season. But only Dartmouth has a returning 1,000-yard rusher in Nick Schwieger.

That’s kind of a tricky fact, because there were only two 1,000-yard rushers last season in the Ivy League last year and the other one, Harvard’s Gino Gordon, is graduating.

Still the two 1,000-yard rushers in 2010 were two more than the league had in 2009, and that makes the rising senior Schwieger that much more of a commodity for the coming fall.

Almost as important as Schwieger’s raw yardage, was his scoring prowess. He led the league in scoring in 2010 with 14 TD’s.

The rest of the top 5 running backs returning are:

Lyle Marsh, Penn

Marsh was hurt most of last year but he made a big impact in his 2009 freshman year. The chances he’ll get 1,000 yards this fall are still a bit slimmer since Penn really runs the ball by committee and it has so many talented backs. But I still think he’s more dangerous than Brandon Colavita, who was darn good as a 2nd team All Ivy back in his own right last season.

Treavor Scales, Harvard

On almost any other team, Scales would have logged a lot more carries and yards by now. But behind Gino Gordon, Scales has had to wait his turn. Now, it’ll be his turn and the rest of the league better be ready. Scales averaged six yards per carry last season!

Alex Thomas, Yale

Some Yale fans had this kid pegged as the second coming of Calvin Hill a few years back, and he has hardly been that. But he logged a career-high 137 yards on the ground against Columbia last year on his way to 2nd Team All Ivy honors. He has a good move to the sidelines and can be really dangerous.

Mark Kachmer, Brown

Kachmer had 557 yards, a 4.2 average per carry, and most importantly eight TD’s last year. Some of the banged up backs who were out for much of 2010 for Brown will be back this fall, but my money’s on Kachmer to remain the premiere runner for Phil Estes in 2011.

I really love Columbia’s overall running attack too. Our offensive line combined with a running and gunning QB like Sean Brackett and speedsters Nick Gerst and Marcorus Garrett make me very optimistic about the Lion ground game for 2011. But I really just don’t see any one of our backs getting the ball often enough to take a serious crack at a 1,000 yard season. It’s total touches, not total ability that mostly stands in the way of our ball carriers.

As for Princeton and Cornell, there isn’t any real known top talent there to even recklessly predict a 1,000 yarder for 2011. Besides, I think both of those teams will be focusing more on the pass anyway.

The Trials of Youth

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I have to admit, I have long been Jonesing on this Sid Luckman replica jersey.

Here’s what Sid looked like using that jersey for real in
a 1938 game against Colgate at Baker Field.

(Father’s Day is coming up… hint, hint).

Owen Thomas

Penn’s championship run last year is even more impressive when you realize that it came after the suicide of one its captain-elects for the 2010 season.

Sports Illustrated has a column online now about the year since Owen Thomas took his own life. The title of the piece includes the phrase “Questions Remain,” but a lot of the outstanding questions I’ve had have been answered now.

For one thing, the findings are very strong that Thomas was probably a victim of the suicidal depression many football players get after suffering concussions.

And it seems that academic pressure, something that never really leaves many of us, was something that played a bigger role in this tragedy than any of us really thought.

Even those of us who went through an Ivy League education seem to take for granted that just about all our athletes can at least pass their courses without killing themselves with studying.

But it appears many of those reports about grade inflation have been exaggerated.

Is it any wonder why almost 20 years after I graduated, I still have the occasional dream about how I’m about to take a college final I’m completely unprepared for?

This is why I remain such a strong advocate for Ivy League athletes. These kids are under an amount of pressure very few adults and just about no kids their age will ever have to face. They do great honor to their schools simply by showing up to games, practices, and their classes every day.

You can make the case that not every Ivy football graduate deserves to get a great job and a career… but the argument that they do is easier to make.

Don’t believe me? If you get a chance, surf on over to the site that is a good “ear to the ground” for student life at Columbia.

Every year around this time, Bwog does a series of quick interviews with graduating seniors. It’s not a bad piece of journalism for a recurring series.

But read through them all and ask yourself: “Would I hire any of these kids right now at my place of business?”

I’m betting many, if not most of you would not. The most serious of the kids profiled are all doing some kind of graduate work. The rest don’t seem to get it yet that their parents just spent about $200K to send them to Columbia and coming off like an incoherent 18-year-old isn’t cool anymore.

The students Bwog decides to profile are nominated by the readers. Thus, it’s more than a little upsetting that I can’t remember a football, basketball, or any varsity sport athlete ever being profiled. It’s more fodder for my argument that our athletes are still too anonymous on campus, mostly through no fault of their own, but that needs to change.

The football players, women’s basketball players, etc. need to become more likely to become “BMOC and BWOC” again. Student apathy isn’t the problem. The problem is that it takes a little more courage for students to become real campus leaders again.

One more point: I know a lot of us like to bash Al Bagnoli and his Quaker staff, but you have to be impressed with the way he kept the team emotionally strong enough to endure the tragedy of Thomas’ suicide. When the guy 73 of the 82 returning players just elected to be their captain kills himself, that’s a potential disaster for the whole team. Instead, Penn came out and played even better overall than the 2009 championship team.

That’s impressive.

That’s coaching and playing through the pain and the excuses.

That’s a fitting tribute to Owen Thomas.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Primary Concern: The Secondary

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In the last two seasons, Columbia has lost the following outstanding defensive backs to graduation:

Andy Shalbrack

Adam Mehrer

Calvin Otis


When I say “outstanding,” I mean three of the best defensive backs Columbia had in the past 10 years.

Each one was All Ivy.

Each were great at their primary job of covering the pass, Otis being the best at that.

Shalbrack was the best hard-hitter.

Mehrer was the best at making that TD-saving tackle… and he was a great ball hawk.

When Shalbrack graduated in 2010, a lot of fans expected the Lion pass defense to show a real drop off.

It turned out there were some declines – opponent pass completion rates were higher, interceptions were down – but there were also some improvements –TD passes allowed were way down and passing yardage allowed was a bit lower.

I attribute Columbia’s very solid 2010 pass defense to three things:

1) The emergence of A.J. Maddox and Kalasi Huggins at the corner position after injury-plagued previous years as impact-makers on the field. They complemented the premier CB, Calvin Otis, quite well.

2) Excellent contributions from the rotating crop of younger players including Ross Morand, Neil Schuster and Steven Grassa.

3) The hiring of veteran Big 10 coach John Gutekunst to oversee the secondary

With Otis and Mehrer leaving, the pressure will be on all of last year’s improving players to step it up even more.

One wild card could be junior Christopher Thomas who made a big splash in the spring game with his athletic pick-6 that won the game for the blue team.

Another wild card is 5th year senior Mike Murphy, but he appears to be more slated for special teams.

I generally like what I’ve seen from sophomores Marquel Carter and Chris Alston.

But Gutekunst has a lot of very experienced players to work with as he puts together his best starting unit for the fall.

Morand has had about as much hard-earned experience as you can get for a rising senior. Who can forget his trial by fire in the 2009 game at Lafayette?

Morand was good then, but he’s even better now and at 6-2 and 187 pounds it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup.

Maddox had a fantastic 2010, but at 5-9 it’s going to be hard to keep him ON the field all the time at the corner position.

Morand, Huggins, Schuster and Maddox could end up being the first all-senior secondary in recent Columbia memory. I suspect Grassa has a very good chance to start as a junior this fall.

As much as the Lions must put the emphasis on stopping the run in 2011, they obviously can’t forget about pass defense. And with so many experienced quarterbacks returning to run Ivy offenses this year, the stakes will be even higher than usual.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Separate Piece... of the Pie!

One of those guys could be a star!

Looking at Dartmouth’s incoming class of 2015, you have to give credit to Buddy Teevens and his staff for mixing things up. There are a lot of regions and schools that I haven’t seen a lot of in the last few decades that are making an appearance on the Big Green’s list.

But Dartmouth’s freshmen roster is really a good mix of the old and the new, because along with all those new areas and schools there’s also a serious influx of old school prep prospects.

For whatever reason, prep-dominated recruiting classes in the Ivies started to become a rarity in the late 70’s and have almost disappeared since then. Yes, the quality of New England prep football did decline from the great era of the 40’s and 50’s, but some Ivy experts believe there’s been a resurgence beginning in the late 90’s.

Teevens seems to be the first to realize this, and the Dartmouth class of 2015 includes five players from classic New England preps. (I’m including Princeton’s Lawrenceville Academy here).

Of those five, maybe only one or two will actually make a real impact in Hanover. But Teevens is planting a wise set of seeds right now. I think this decade of Ivy ball will be marked by the return of the prep players to something closer to the forefront of the league.

One of Dartmouth’s most eye-popping recruits is from New Hampshire’s St. Paul’s Prep. He’s Jeff Winthrop, a 6-4, 285 pound defensive lineman who must have induced serious fear in those preppy fans every time he took the field.

Perhaps the leading non-prep in the class is Jordan Are, a 6-2 WR from Houston Columbia had its eyes on too.

I also like the looks of DE Zack Fowler, a 6-3 245 pound DE from Kentucky.

The WR transfer from Clemson, Robbie Anthony, should make an early impact and could help save incumbent QB Conner Kempe keep his job during what will be a furious competition during camp.

Anthony could be an Austin Knowlin-type for Dartmouth which is saying a lot. But other than guys like Harvard’s Clifton Dawson and Penn’s Gavin Hoffman, transfers from BCS-level programs have been more like blue collar pluggers that help Ivy teams rather than stars who make a huge splash.

Either way, coaches and fans love them and I’d like to see Columbia get more as well.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Scouting the Enemies

St. Ignatius HS, Cleveland

You can see Brown’s list of incoming freshmen footballers here.

Here are couple of my quick impressions:

-Estes has done another impressive job, especially when it comes to grabbing kids from some new schools.

-Ohio is extremely well-represented with a whopping seven incoming freshmen coming from the Buckeye State.

-Brown usually recruits the most, or near the most New England-area kids in the league from year to year. But this year, only six incoming frosh are New Englanders and NONE of them are from Rhode Island.

Some of the potential stars:

Daniel Giovacchini
A Massachusetts All-Stater and a 6-3 linebacker.

Robert Grebenc

One of Ohio’s better RB’s and a star at the super-strong Saint Ignatius HS in Cleveland.

Nicholas Lawley

A 6-6 QB and a 1st team All-Stater from Cincinnati. If he adds to his 205 pound frame, look out.

Stian Romberg

A 6-5 WR for the Tennesse state champs. All-Stater.

Zach Smerlas

A 6-1, 270 pound DL and the son of NFL great Fred Smerlas.

Zach Sparber

6-3 DL and co-captain of Ivy football factory Bergen Catholic HS in New Jersey.

Princeton’s football class of 2015 is here.

The Tiger site doesn’t include a short bio like the Brown people, but here are a few thoughts:

-Only TWO incoming frosh are from New Jersey. That may be a record low number for Princeton.

-Bob Surace likes Ohio, five incoming players hail from there.

-The Tigers still aren’t able to beef up their QB corps. Only three incoming QB’s in the class of 2015.

Some of the potential stars:

Jack Woodhall

A big OL from St. Xavier HS in Cincinnati. St. X players usually make a nice impact in the Ivies.

Mike Ramos

Another big OL and another product of the St. Ignatius powerhouse.

Quinn Epperly

Strong QB out of Tennessee. Princeton lists him as 6-1, but I believe he is taller.

Jack Verducci

QB of an undefeated Iowa state championship team last fall.

Next week, I’ll take a belated look at Dartmouth’s incoming class.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Alamo Country

Carey Parker, (far left)

Today we learned of San Antonio Central Catholic’s Carey Parker. He’s another big lineman at 6-6 and 290 pounds and he was second team all-state… in Texas!

Parker’s highlight reel is the most impressive video I’ve ever seen from an offensive lineman.

Parker appears to be the first ever San Antonio Central Catholic HS player to come to Columbia football. He may have played against rising junior Ryan Murphy, who played for Alamo Heights in San Antonio.

In all of Columbia history, only one or two football players have come out of San Antonio, but since Coach Greg Sigler took over that area as his recruiting region we’ve had three players out of that football-rich town in Murphy, Chase McCaleb ’10, and now Parker.

Parker and yesterday’s revelation Chris Proctor may ease the blow if reports of Maryland’s Joe Kopp de-committing are true. (I still have no confirmation on that).

I failed to mention that Proctor appears to be just the second Pine Crest School player to come to the Lions. The last, and only other one, was Walter Haynie ’89.

Remember, you can see all the documented high school feeder schools for Lion football over the decades on my LionFeeders Blog. I will add the members of the class of 2015 when they are officially named by the athletic department.

Diamond Country

One player the football team is NOT getting is Denver area football and baseball standout Jordan Serena. Serena told the Denver Post he’s coming to Columbia to play baseball only.

Perhaps that’s a good move, he’s currently batting .539.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

New Name

Chris Proctor

Thanks to a loyal and alert reader, we’ve learned of another incoming frosh, OL Chris Proctor from the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale.

You can see Proctor’s highlight reel here.

Proctor is a big reason why Pinecrest’s Traveon Henry is one of the best running backs in the state of Florida.

At 6”6 and 258 pounds, Proctor has done his best work as a Left Tackle, a position that has to concern Lion fans in the near future with 2-time 1st Team All Ivy LT Jeff Adams entering his senior season this fall.

NFF Honors

Eight graduation football seniors, Dan Cohen, Alex Gross, Nico Gutierrez, Marc Holloway, Nathan Lenz, Adam Mehrer, Matt Stotler and Augie Williams, have all been named to the National Football Foundation's 2011 Hampshire Honor Society.

As we always say when we acknowledge our outstanding graduates: "they really deserved better" when it comes to wins on the field.

But they will find that their time at Columbia will earn them a lot of meaningful wins down the road... big time.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Rounding Out Our List

Connor Nelligan

It’s May 3rd, which means we should get the official list of our incoming football freshmen in no more than another few weeks.

That’s good because Roar Lions Roar has only been able to identify 25 likely commits and I believe we will have 30-32 members of the class of 2015.

Here’s our probable incoming class based on what I’ve reported so far, position-by-position:

Defensive Backs (5*, one a DB/RB)

Tyler Hamblin CB 6-0 190 lbs. Cretin-Durham Hall Eden Prairie, MN

Alec Fisher DB/RB 5-11 185 lbs. Bishop’s HS La Jolla, CA

Malcolm Thaxton CB 6-0 190 lbs. Fuquay-Varina HS Fuquay-Varina, NC

Colton Bishop DB 5-10 180 lbs. Chaparral HS Scottsdale, AZ

Mike Skalitzky DB 6-1 180 lbs. Marist High School Chicago, IL

Defensive Linemen (5*, one a DL/TE)

Wells Childress* DE 6-4 263 lbs. Kinkaid HS Houston, TX

Hunter Little DL 6-4 225 lbs. The Webb School Knoxville, TN

Ijeoma Odigwe DL 6-2 220 lbs. Chandler HS Chandler, AZ

Roy Schwartz DL 6-2 240 lbs. Westlake HS Austin, TX

Chad Washington DL/TE 6-2 220 lbs. Bishop O'Dowd Oakland, CA

Linebackers (4)

John Brady LB 6-2 220 lbs. Lakota East HS Liberty Township, OH

Sean Coffinger LB 6-4 215 lbs. Desert Vista HS Phoenix, AZ

Ray Pesanello LB 6-2 215 lbs. Mahwah HS, Mahwah, NJ

Vinny Pugliese LB 6-1 210 lbs. Walsh Jesuit HS Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Offensive Linemen (4)

Tom Callahan OT 6-6 280 lbs. Lyons Township HS LaGrange Park, IL

Josh Keiles OL 6-3 295 lbs. Lakewood HS Lakewood, CA

Joe Kopp OL 6-4 260 lbs. Arundel HS Gambrills, MD

Ryan Thomas OL 6-4 275 lbs. Buchholz HS Gainesville, FL

Quarterbacks (2)

Percee Goings QB 6-1 180 lbs. Friendship Collegiate HS Washington, DC

Kal Prince QB 6-4 198 lbs. Owensboro HS Owensboro, KY

Running Backs (2*, one a RB/DB)

Alec Fisher DB/RB 5-11 185 lbs. Bishop’s HS La Jolla, CA

Steve Silvio FB 5-11 235 lbs. Spain Park HS Hoover, AL

Tight Ends (1* one a tight end/DL)

Chad Washington DL/TE 6-2 220 lbs. Bishop O'Dowd Oakland, CA

Wide Receivers (4)

Ryan Flannery WR 6-3 185 lbs. North Attleborough HS North Attleborough, MA

John Keefe WR 6-1 185 lbs. Choctawhatchee HS Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Connor Nelligan WR 6-2 190 lbs. Benet Academy Lisle, IL

Dan Slivka WR 6-3 196 lbs. North Allegheny HS Wexford, PA

The six or seven as-yet unpublicized recruits are likely to include another couple of running backs, a tight end, and probably another QB and an offensive lineman. We’ll see.

One More Note on Red Zone Offense…

Penn’s red zone offense scored TD’s 70.7% of the time. Clearly the best in the Ivies and a big reason for the Quakers’ 7-0 league record and second straight championship.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Red Zone Red Alert

Good football teams typically need to get their red zone touchdown rate up above the 60% level.

The Lions got close to that with a 57% red zone TD rate in 2009, but slid back to just 54% last season.

One game where this problem reared its ugly head was the loss at Penn, where Columbia’s crucial first drive to answer Penn’s opening TD faltered in the red zone and the Lions had to settle for a field goal.

Some say this is the result of Columbia’s lack of a set of big fullbacks and other running backs who can get you those three yards and a cloud of dust no matter what.

Others say the teams failures inside the 20 are mostly mental. The offense visibly tenses up, as if fear of failure becomes more prominent than the desire for glory.

To be fair, there has been general improvement in this area.

In 2006, a very good year overall for Columbia, the TD rate in the red zone was just 32%. In 2007, it was still an anemic 48%.

But the issues Columbia is having in the shadows of the goal line make achieving this 60% or better goal really imperative for 2011… almost as much as the “Stop the Run,” and “Let Brackett be Brackett” mantras.