Monday, July 24, 2017

TV News



Columbia has just released the remaining info on its 2017 schedule, including the news that four Lions games will be nationally televised on the new Eleven Sports Network. 

As a FIOS customer, I'm happy because I get that network at my home, but I'm a bit bummed that no Columbia games will be on NBC Sports Network this year, (NBCSN). Columbia is actually the ONLY Ivy team not to get a game on NBCSN.

If Eleven Sports does a good job with these games, that's no problem. But as we learned from some of the problems One World Sports had last year, (they lost the feed for the Columbia-Dartmouth game for a long time), new networks covering Ivy games often deal with some bad bugs.

Let's hope it all works out and we get DVR-saved Columbia wins to enjoy during the next long off season.


First Commit


#1 Watson Tansil is out first commit for next year


Our first known commit for the class of 2022 was something we all saw the coaches tweeting about on Friday.

LB Watson Tansil from Franklin Road Academy in Nashville is already being called one of the top returning high school linebackers in the area for this fall. 

While the Lions have been bringing in more players from Tennessee in recent years, Tansil will be the first documented Franklin Road Academy grad to come to Columbia football.

2017 Opponent Preview: Yale


RB Alan Lamar is for real


Overview

Anyone who says they feel confident about their take on how Yale will do this year is probably not being fully truthful. And that’s because this team is a massive walking contradiction.

For most Yalies, the big news is that the Elis finally beat Harvard last year after a nine-year losing streak. By their logic that centers everything around “The Game,” 2016 was a successful year and this year looks bright.

But 2016 was also probably the first year ever that Yale failed to get even one player on the All Ivy 1st Team.

Freshmen stars like RB Alan Lamar and QB Kurt Rawlings have Eli fans excited, but Lamar is really the only one who has truly proven himself as Rawlings was way too inconsistent overall.

The win over Harvard was a combination of solid athleticism and brilliant strategy, but Yale was embarrassed in both those categories in bad losses to Ivy co-champions Princeton and Penn.

Expect more “x factor” players from the incoming freshmen haul to play a role this year, and all the unpredictability that comes with them.

But let’s take a stab at what looks like what we can expect from the Bulldogs this season:

OFFENSE

Lamar is a potential 1,000 yard rusher and seems like a return to Yale’s long tradition of big name tailback-dominated offenses. He’s the bright spot for the entire team.

A slightly less bright spot, but one with the potential to be great, is Rawlings. The rising sophomore can run and pass. But like many QB’s who do both, his completion percentage was weak at just 50% last season.

And the top returning WR is also a rising sophomore in Reid Klubnik, who made some big plays for the Elis last year. Christopher Williams-Lopez looked promising when he was healthy in 2016 and he’s back for his senior year.

The offensive line is a big question. All Ivy Honorable Mention Center Karl Marback returns, as does emergency starter Sterling Strother. But Yale has really four starting OL slots to fill, which is probably the single most important variable for this team overall.


DEFENSE

The Elis gave up a ton of points and yards last year, mostly through the air.

All Ivy Honorable Mention Junior DE Kyle Mullen is the top returnee on the D-line that needs to put more pressure on opposing passers to give the secondary a break. The top LB returning is fellow All Ivy Honorable Mention Matthew Oplinger. But three other Yale All Ivy Honorable Mention players on D have graduated. The top returning DB is senior Foyesade Oluokun, who is trying to get back to the level of play he showed in 2014 when he made 2nd Team All Ivy as a freshman. But fellow senior Jason Alessi could emerge as the true leader of that beleaguered secondary.

Another graduate departure is once great-feared LB Victor Egu, who flipped his commitment to Berkeley to come to Yale four years ago. He was always a good player,but never developed into the force many predicted he’d be.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Alex Galland handled the punting and placekicking duties pretty well in 2016 and he’s back for this fall. Alessi was a sometime explosive punt returner who made the All Ivy 2nd Team as a return specialist.


CONCLUSIONS


The folks writing in Yale as a definite top-four finisher in the Ivies are taking a lot of chances with a team that has a lot of questions left to be answered at virtually every position. And it’s hard to be optimistic about a team that’s doing this much retooling on the offensive line alone. Caveat emptor.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Playoffs? Playoffs? Yes, we had playoffs!



For years, hardcore Ivy football fans have been clamoring for football playoffs.

But did you know we've had them before.

Well, it wasn't a playoff system like most of us envision. But in 1931, Ivy teams participated in a special postseason tournament to benefit Depression era charities.

And what was Columbia's record in those playoffs?

A perfect 1-0.

Here's how it worked. Four Ivy teams were invited during the first week of December 1931 to participate in the Quadrangle Football Tournament at Yankee Stadium. Princeton, Cornell, and Penn were the other invitees. It was a one day tournament with three games, with the winners of the first two games taking each other on in the final championship. Each "game" was two 12 minute periods, and in the event of a tie judges would determine the winner.

I found all of this out by digging deep into the Sports Illustrated archives.  Definitely read the story and be amazed.

But, spoiler alert, the Lions won their "playoff" game against Princeton 13-0.


Monday, July 17, 2017

2017 Opponent Preview: Dartmouth



Hunter Hagdorn snares a pass

Okay, so Dartmouth went from 6-1 and being a co-champion in the Ivies in 2015 to 1-6 and last place in 2016. 

But they also had some high points last year, including finally beating in-state rival UNH in week one. 

Be careful with underestimating these guys for this fall. 

OFFENSE

The first post-Dalyn Williams year for Dartmouth football did not end up being a disaster at the QB position, far from it. Jack Heneghan emerged as a very talented player and is poised for a great senior year. But if he stumbles or is injured, the Big Green may have an ace in the hole with Illinois transfer QB Jimmy Fitzgerald now on the team.

It'll  help whoever takes the QB reins that Dartmouth has a super-talented receiving corps to work with that is also returning for 2017. Leading that crew is rising sophomore Hunter Hagdorn who won the Ivy Rookie of the Year award. Hagdorn had one of this best days in the Big Green’s loss to the Lions, so Columbia fans should remember him. They should also know that Drew Hunnicutt and Emory Thompson, Dartmouth’s #2 and #3 receivers by total receptions and yards, are also back. Starting TE Stephen Johnston is also coming back for his senior season.

The offensive line is more of a concern. 1st Team All Ivy honoree Dave Morrison and two other regular starters are gone to graduation. But Matt Kaskey is coming back after getting an All Ivy Honorable Mention nod last year as is fellow starter John Kilcommons and Phil Berton, who started much of the second half of the season.

Dartmouth didn’t run the ball very well for most of last year, but rising junior Miles Smith had back-to-back 100+ yard performances against Cornell and Brown at the end of the year.  I thought Ryder Stone, who is back this year too, would have a big junior year in 2016, but he only saw limited duty. #2 RB Rashaad Cooper is back. There’s room for improvement in the running game, but what else is new in a league where almost no team has a really potent traditional running attack? The Big Green will do as well in this area as the offensive line takes them.

DEFENSE

The knee jerk reaction many people have about the Big Green is that with the loss of super LB Folarin Orimolade, the defense will be really hurting this season.

Now losing a player who was your top tackler, sacker, fumble creator, and heart of the team is nothing to sneeze at. But look closer, and you’ll see that Dartmouth has a lot to be optimistic about on defense.

Three of the starters on what was a very good secondary last year are coming back for 2017, including Jarius Brown who broke up eight passes in 2016. The other two starting linebackers who played alongside Orimolade, Jake Moen and Eric Meile, are also back.

Arguably the best D-lineman from last year, Nick Tomkins, is still in Hanover too.And Jackson Perry, the 3-star recruit who switched his commitment from Vanderbilt to Dartmouth in 2015, made an impact his freshman year, but went down to injury in week one last year, is back too.  

I still expect the Dartmouth defense to be less effective than it was last year, at least during the first half of the season. But that does not mean it’s going to be poor or even below average.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker David Smith was an accurate placekicker last year, he just didn’t do so well for distance. He’s back this season, but punter Ben Kepley is gone to graduation. Hagdorn handled most of the kickoffs in 2016 and was unspectacular in that role. I can’t imagine the risk of continuing to use him in that position is worth it, so expect some new faces there.

Overall, I think Dartmouth will continue to be a work in progress in 2017 with some occasional greatness.