Friday, May 29, 2015

Making a Bet

This picture gives you a good idea about Castner's unusual motion

Columbia football has often recruited players that most people would consider "projects." That is, players who had senior year injuries or have some kind of quirk in their resume that shooed away the big programs who had been interested or kept them away from the start.

RB Lucas Faria is one of those players, as a hamstring injury senior year dropped his recruiting stock. But based on how he played in the New Jersey state championships, I think taking a bet on Faria is a very solid choice.

Another bet for Columbia is QB Kyle Castner. In this fascinating article in USA Today, the author makes an impassioned case for Castner despite his unusual passing motion. I've looked at tapes of Castner play, and he indeed has a strange motion where he holds the football out high above his head and seems to hold it there for a split second before flinging it downfield. No one disputes that this is an odd piece of mechanics, and you can see how holding the football out there overexposed like that could make a coach very nervous.

But Castner's stats and winning record are eye-opening too. And for me, the tie-breaker is his speed. He can really run and it looks like he's not afraid to take a hit to get the crucial yards. He reminds me of Sean Brackett '13 in that way.

So again, I think this was a good bet for Columbia to take. And I also trust this new coaching staff to develop these project-like players a lot better than any staff we've had before. And as an incoming freshman, Castner has the luxury of waiting for the Lion offensive line to improve and protect that overexposed football that comes with his throwing motion.

But one word of caution: Dartmouth was very gaga over getting a QB named Cole Marcoux a few years ago when he was a high school All American. Then in training camp it was noted that he had a funky throwing motion too. He never played in more than one game as a varsity QB for the Green, but he did contribute as a TE his senior year. Of course Marcoux was coming out of Riverdale Country Day School in the Bronx, where he played against a much lower level of competition than Castner did at the highest level of Indiana HS football.

Harvard Swipe? 

Incoming Kicker Chris Alleyne may have had an earlier offer to him rescinded by Harvard, or perhaps he changed his mind and switched to Columbia.

This article from last year identifies Alleyne as a Harvard commit.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Documented Hope

Incoming DB, (but WAIT, he might be a WR), John Riley McLaughlin is featured in his hometown paper along with the great pic below.

Like I wrote in a comment yesterday, we will hear about more position changes for the incoming freshmen in the coming weeks.

Lucas Faria

Another great article about an incoming Lion is this one about Lucas Faria, who could really be a game-changing RB for the Lions.

Faria is now starring for his HS lacrosse team, but he also spent much of his senior year coaching his 7th grader brother's basketball team.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The New Lions

Columbia Football has officially released the names of the 25 freshmen and transfers who will join the team for 2015.

There are a couple of new names on the list that we did not 100% know about, but no one I named on my last unofficial update on March 31 dropped off.

I'll have a light more to say about all these newcomers over the long summer, but there are a couple of incoming players who stand out, based on where the Ivy League is right now.

A big QB who can throw, run, and break tackles is a gem in any conference, but after what we saw from Bill Ragone at Penn for so many years, we know that kind of QB in the Ivies can win championships, (and Ragone really wasn't a very consistent passer). Florida transfer Skyler Mornhinweg has the tools to be that kind of a QB, but he's going to have to show he has the heart and desire to really lead this team. He also presents tremendous upside, because if he plays well the news media will definitely give Columbia some great positive recruiting attention because of his family football dad.

Another QB who we know can run is Ryan Suitt, who the previous coaching staff was excited about when he committed. Kyle Castner is the pure passing specialist who could thrive over time if Columbia improves its offensive line. Danny Hong from powerhouse HS Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas also seems very motivated to play.

There are seven QB's on the roster right now, but remember that Head Coach Al Bagnoli almost always used a second QB in every game during his time at Penn. My guess is he and Offensive Coordinator Mike Faragalli will be looking for two QB's with different weapons to confuse opposing defenses and keep things fresh.

RB Lucas Faria from nearby Sparta, NJ High School is a pretty good quality RB for any Ivy team to grab during this RB drought in the league. He may not become All Ivy, but he looks promising in body and spirit. Every team desperately needs running help, especially Columbia.

The other rarity in this league are big defensive tackles who can dominate the line. At 6-3 and 290 pounds, Cole McDonough could be one of those guys.

WR Brandon Krcilek comes from a part of Arizona that's become fertile recruiting ground for Ivy teams. He has a chance to make an immediate impact.

A very promising LB is Jason Vravrick from Lincolnshire, Illinois. If his height and weight stats are legit, he'll be a noticeable difference on the field. The other LB to watch is also from Illinois. Cal Falkenhayn comes from Loyola High School in Wilmette, which has consistently sent Columbia outstanding players from Des Werthman '93 to Paul Delaney '14. 

The other two transfers, Jackson Conway and Christian Conway from Bronxville via Duke, grew up just a short trip from Wien Stadium and they may have something to prove after Yale rescinded their offers when Tony Reno took over the staff. Jackson is the RB in this tandem, so keep a special eye on him.

Again, this is just the first quick look at the incoming class. More analysis and a complete updating of my LionFeeders high school recruiting database will be rolling in over the coming days.

UPDATE: The LionFeeders database is now updated to include these 25 newcomers and their high schools.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Compelling Pitch

Mark Fabish

The new Columbia coaching staff has just completed its first national recruiting tour. I feel confident in saying that the high school coaches and parents are seeing something very different than what Columbia’s recruiters have offered before: skin in the game.

By that I mean we have assistant coaches who truly know the Ivy League better than the Columbia recruiters of the past. Some know the league as former Ivy players, others know the league as accomplished assistant coaches, and some know it as both former Ivy players and long-time assistant coaches. I also mean they have a compelling case to make for Columbia on a very personal level.

For example, Associate Head Coach/Wide Receivers Coach Mark Fabish can tell prospective recruits, their parents and their coaches that he believes in Columbia and Head Coach Al Bagnoli so much that he left his job with his alma mater Penn to be a part of this program. Secondary Coach Jon Poppe can say he left the Ivy League’s most dominant program at Harvard to be a part of the Lions because he believes in this quest. Tight Ends Coach Joe D’Orazio can say he left a good young career in the NFL for a chance to work with Bagnoli and his abilities to change things at Columbia.

There are more names and scenarios to add to the above list, but these guys are impressive because they aren’t asking prospective players to make a bigger commitment than these recruiters already have.

I believe the Lions will be better this fall  regardless, but the real test of the Bagnoli era is what he and his staff are able to bring in for the 2016 and 2017 freshmen classes. And the hard work to pass that test is really underway. There’s no nice way to say the team needs a lot more talent, but there it is. And it’s also true that Columbia has endured many losing seasons even with a good deal of talent on the field, (think 2009 for example). But there’s no more important factor in winning than talent on the field. And as well as Bagnoli has managed things on game days and as many wins and championships he’s squeezed out of the not-most-talented teams, the  recruiting battles are really the key to winning no matter what college football team you’re talking about.

And so it’s time to be confident about the future because not only does Columbia now have recruiters with a great track record, but they should come off even more effectively than they did in the past now that they have that compelling personal “buy-in” story to tell about this program. When I buy a car from a salesman, I want to know that he owns the same car too. In essence, these recruiters don’t just have one “Columbia car,” they have two. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

BREAKING: Roster Updated

The football roster, with a significant number of players who were not on the team last year, has now been updated.

We knew about just about all the returning players, but the confirmation of promising guys like Brandon Blackshear coming back is encouraging.

The position changes are also illuminating.

Spend the long weekend pondering if you will.

Now I expect the official list of incoming freshmen and transfers to be ready very soon.