Monday, July 21, 2014

Nowhere to Run

Not only does Columbia’s disastrously bad offensive line make it impossible for the Lions to win games, it makes it nearly impossible to truly assess our talent at running back.

A year ago at this time, hopes were high on the RB front as Marcorus Garrett was returning for his senior season after a stellar junior campaign.

But injuries, personal issues, and poor blocking in front of him destroyed what could have been a great season. Garrett finished his CU career with a shrouded whimper.

And as weak as Garrett’s abbreviated 2013 season was, he still scored the only four Columbia rushing touchdowns all year long.

Yes, we only had FOUR. 

That tells you how non-existent the rest of the CU rushing attack was. Current sophomore Alan Watson had 172 yards on 42 carries in 2013 to grab the #2 rushing spot on the stats page while current junior Cameron Molina was #3 with 120 yards on 37 carries.

The truth is Columbia basically abandoned the run altogether after Garrett stopped playing in the first half of the Dartmouth game in week six. The Lions only rushed the ball a paltry 235 times all season long, and the entire team netter just 516 yards and those measly four TD’s.

In the four full games where Garrett did not play at all, Columbia rushed the ball at TOTAL of 83 times for a TOTAL of 171 yards. 

So how good are Watson and Molina? Are either of them the kind of player who can have even an occasional 100-yard game? I think any speculation about them based on the very little we’ve seen of them at the college level is really impossible.

The same is even more true for the rest of the CU RB’s on the roster. There is some noise being made about incoming freshman Chris Schroer out of Cincinnati. He does come from a decent high school program, but that’s really all anyone can say for sure.

One thing is for sure, CU needs to run the ball a lot more if QB Brett Nottingham is going to survive with his life this season. The best way to cut down on sacks is never give the defense the chance to sack your QB in the first place, and gain yards on the ground with another ball carrier.  The Lions just can’t afford to put a Canadian Football-like product on the field and try to pass 80% of the time.

With 61 days to go until the season starts, Columbia’s depth chart at RB is an extremely closely guarded secret… in the same way that a high school kid hides a failing test paper from his parents. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Capital Changes

Say Goodbye to Bob Ford and that hat

Now back to previewing our 2014 opponents. My look at Fordham from back in May is here.   

Sorry, I wasn’t able to do a week-by-week update as I promised but now I have better information to work with anyway.

Albany is the week two opponent for the Lions and the 2 hour 45 minute journey from campus will be the longest road trip of the year. This is the return engagement for Columbia after Albany came to CU in 2011 an won by a score of 44-21.

Albany has a new stadium with 8,500 seats and is named after their legendary coach Bob Ford.

But the Great Danes are a much different team than they were in 2011 when they beat the Lions at Baker Field. Despite losing a number of close games against good teams, there’s no getting around the fact that Albany was a putrid 1-11 last season.

The great Bob Ford has retired, succeeded in December by Greg Gattuso. Gattuso seems like a good choice for Albany, but the transition from Ford who was the only coach ever in Albany football history, will not be easy.

The Great Danes appear to be much stronger on offense than they are on defense. That’s thanks to a stellar RB, Omar Osbourne, who ran for 1,206 yards last season and has been named to the CFPA running back award list.

Joining him on the award watch list for tight ends is another red shirt senior, Brian Parker. Parker is a good combination blocker and receiver who pounds defenders with his 260-pound frame.

And Albany has a great QB, and yet another red shirt senior, in Will Fiacchi who passed for 2,300+ yards last season.

Expect a big boost from Maryland transfer Mike Madaras, an excellent offensive lineman who was originally recruited by the Terps by coach Gattuso. Another potential quality transfer is 6-4 QB Dan Harding, but I’m not sure if he is eligible to play this season. If so, he could push Fiacchi or just use this year to gear up for 2015.  

Albany’s best defensive player is senior safety Olatunji Idowu, who is also a top student academically. But watch out for Michael Smith, who is officially listed as a DT but is really a LB and was the Great Danes leading sacker last season.

For all intents and purposes, this seems like one of the more winnable games for the Lions.  But that’s only a relative observation. Just about everyone else on CU’s schedule is tougher. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Obviously, we’re stuck with the failure Head Coach Pete Mangurian for another season at least. So our only hope for a win in 2014 is if he learns the following three lessons:

Keep Dumping  the Ideology on the Offensive Line

Mangurian came to Columbia with the same insane “go real light” agenda that earned him the hatred of players like All Pro Jumbo Elliot and almost got him into fistfights with his fellow coaches when he was with the NY Giants. This sad ideology was in place well before he even evaluated the CU player personnel and it just doesn’t work at any level. Mangurian will never admit this, but our complaining about the lightweight O-line was a big reason why he’s now changing his policy about it and allowing some more weight gain. Had we not complained or highlighted the issue here, he would have skated by and blamed the team’s total lack of success on something else.

But this is not the time to stop. Mangurian needs to continue getting deprogrammed out of the Jenny Craig School of Coaching before somebody, like our potentially great QB Brett Nottingham, gets killed.

A general lesson Mangurian needs to learn is to look at what works in this league and copy and improve on that. Harvard and Penn routinely have the best O-line in the league, so copy what they’re doing from recruiting to conditioning on down the line. Find out what you need to do to beat them in the recruiting competition for those guys and do that. It’s fine and recommended to sometimes look for the players and methods no one else is going for and using, but Mangurian is doing that way too much,  

Stop with the Pocket Passing Only Offense

Let the damn QB’s run, even just a little. Teach them to scramble while you’re at it too. We know that Sean Brackett was severely punished back in 2012 for leaving the pocket, thus neutralizing one of Columbia’s best offensive weapons. In addition to not scoring as much, Brackett got the snot knocked out of him half the time.  

Take a look at the successful teams in this league. With the exception of Brown, they have all used very mobile QB’s. That’s because the realities of the league require it. Mangurian’s steep learning curve about this remains as he didn’t bring any running QB’s at all in this class.

The results will be predictable. Columbia’s offense will be predictable. Lion QB’s will predictably be badly beaten up.

The only hope is that Mangurian wakes up to this reality at some point. Perhaps he will allow junior WR Scooter Hollis to take some snaps at QB just to mix things up as he was a stellar running QB in high school. That’s just one thought, but something has to change here.

Hire Better Coordinators

Mangurian’s predecessor Norries Wilson's promising potential was destroyed at Columbia by his bad hires at the coordinator slots. OC Vinny Marino was a disaster and after DC Lou Ferrari left early in Wilson’s tenure, the defense was never quite good enough either.

Mangurian knows how to do this right, but he seems to have forgotten. He got it right when he hired the stellar Kevin Lempa to be his DC for his first season at CU in 2012.

But when Lempa left the following spring, (and we’ll never know if the “going home to Boston College” excuse was the real deal), Mangurian went considerably down market with current DC Chris Rippon.

Mangurian has never shown an ability to get the OC job right as he continues to stand behind Jaime Elizondo.  If Elizondo was worth a darn, he would never have stood for the insane lighter O-line strategy or the “keep the QB in the pocket” rule. Neither have worked.

It’s particularly egregious that not only wasn’t Mangurian fired, but he wasn’t even forced to dump his coordinators in a ceremonial, “make some changes” edict from A.D. Dianne Murphy. You would think after the Marino debacle killed Wilson’s tenure at CU, someone would have demanded this. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

If You Can't Make it There...

If there’s one thing that makes me and most Lions fans angry, it’s seeing local top football recruits go to other Ivy League schools.

This year’s poster boy for that issue is Joe Percival, an incoming linebacker for Princeton who excelled in many ways for St. Anthony’s on Long Island.

Rubbing salt in that wound is the fact that NOT ONE of Columbia’s incoming freshmen is from the greater NYC area, (we do have two players coming in from the South Jersey Shore area, but that’s much closer to Philadelphia and not even in the NYC media market).

Of course, none of us will really care about geographic origination if the players turn out to be great. But we keep seeing top players who have actually proven their worth as winners come out of the NYC area and excel for other teams.

And this happens over and over again.

The best example lately is Caraun Reid, also from Princeton, who was picked in the NFL draft earlier this year. Reid was a monster defensive lineman from the Bronx -- literally 10 minutes from Baker Field – and we lost him.

Here’s a breakdown of how many NYC area players are in each Ivy team’s class of 2018:

Princeton: 7

Penn: 5

Dartmouth: 2

Yale: 2  

Brown: 1

Harvard: 1

Columbia: 0

Cornell: 0

I guess we can understand schools like Princeton and Penn doing well with NYC-area recruits since they’re very close to New York City. But CU was also beaten out this year by Dartmouth, Brown, and Harvard.

That’s an embarrassment any way you cut it.

And notice that the only other team with no NYC-area freshmen is Cornell, our usual friend at the bottom of the Ivy standings. 

Meanwhile, our successful baseball coaching staff doesn’t have this problem. Two of our 9 incoming players are from the NYC area, or more than 1/5 of this year’s haul. And looking at the overall roster including these new freshmen, you see our baseball team has a total of eight NYC-players including Ivy Rookie of Year Will Savage and team power hitting leader Rob Paller.

Failure to recruit good players, or any players at all, from the NYC area is a big red flag for Columbia sports teams. And that’s especially true for football, which has the luxury of bringing in 30+ players per year.

And for those of you who are still wondering when I’ll stop piling on this failed football coaching regime at Columbia, the answer is simple: I’ll ease up once they stop failing. 

The Brawl

HOWEVER, I will reserve one word of praise for Head Coach Pete Mangurian as a part of another general critique of the program below.

Many of you have heard of a bar brawl late in the spring semester that led to the suspension of a number of Columbia players from the University and their removal from the team. 

Because this is such a personal matter, I will comment only generally about this incident based on the reports I've seen and heard about it.

First, it doesn't not look like more than one CU player was really an aggressor in this fight but sadly more than that one player has been punished. 

Second, the fight mostly took place outside the bar in question. But underage players were inside the bar before that. 

Third, this incident is just another example of how the "Pete Mangurian may not be winning, but he's a tough disciplinarian" myth is just that, a myth. This team is unprepared on the field and not so in control off of it either, and it's clear the players aren't buying into Mangurian or acting loyally to him. 

Now, here's the good part: to his credit, Mangurian DID fight like Hell for the players who were punished by the University. He did get some good results for some of them and I do expect some of them back on the team in 2015. At least Mangurian's very public desire to reduce the roster did not translate into him abandoning his players in this instance.

Of course, this is the same guy who trashed the upperclassmen coming into last season. This is the same guy who didn't allow all the players to dress for home games either until we made a stink about it. 

So when it comes to showing his players the proper loyalty, Mangurian's accounts are still in the red.

And I think that's why we still have players committing more and more stupid acts like cheating, brawling, and vulgar Tweeting than ever before. They don't believe in this guy or the program.

And neither do the fans when this kind of failure is allowed to remain in place. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Let's Hear It

Okay everyone, let's get your actual thoughts on the record.

1) We keep hearing how great this coaching staff is despite overseeing the worst season in Ivy football history last year. So, how many games will Columbia football win this fall?

2) If you expect us to go 1-9 or better, which games will we win?

3) We keep hearing how this was a great recruiting class. Name at least five players in this class that you think have the best potential to be All Ivy honorees at any time over the next four years.