Friday, June 8, 2018

Losing one of our own

One good thing that you get from having a football program that's struggled for so many years is dedicated fans.

The recent upswing in Columbia Football notwithstanding, to be a Columbia fan is to be a devoted and true fan.

One of the most devoted was Beverly Rosenstein, who died on May 26th at the age of 96. 

Her son Frederick passed this on about her passion for the Lions:

".. she loved Columbia football. I mean LOVED COLUMBIA FOOTBALL. She started going to the games in the 1940s. She saw Bill Swiacki make "the catch" against Army, once left Baker Field having a brief conversation with Eisenhower in the 1950s, rooted for Archie Roberts in the 1960s, survived the Cardiac Columbia Kids of 1971, sat through the losing streak of the 1980s, and you get the picture. And yes, she was at the last game in the wooden stadium. I kinda knew something was up when she needed a little more help than usual this past season getting to her seat, and on a return ride home after a game this past fall, she remarked that she wasn't sure she would be able to make next season's games. FYI, my mom also served as a lieutenant in the Woman's Army Corp during World War II."

I'm very happy she at least got to see our amazing 2017 season and her experiences with the program ended on such a high note. 

May her family and friends enjoy and honor her memory for years to come. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

"O" or "D?"

This is going to mostly be a post about statistics, but there is some news to hit first.

On Friday, we learned that former U. Florida QB Jake Allen had decided to transfer to Dartmouth.

I can now report that Allen had also strongly considered Columbia, but it looks like new Dartmouth assistant coach David Shula helped bring him to Hanover based on his name and the fact that Allen and Shula both attended St. Thomas Aquinas HS in South Florida.

Allen looks like a great passer and his taller stature will make him stand out in the Ivies. His mobility is in question, however, and it appears his reluctance to play in a mobile QB system pushed him out the door in Gainesville.

This is still a nice coup for Dartmouth, who lacked a proven passing QB in its arsenal.

Meanwhile, Columbia's coaches do seem more optimistic about the QB position for the Lions after both Josh Bean and Dillon Davis performed well in spring practice.

Who Improved More?

Most Columbia fans know a key factor in the Lions title run last season was the big improvement in QB play by now-graduated Anders Hill and the superstar status CU receivers Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith earned with big play after big play.

But was it the offense that really improved more overall than the defense in 2017?

Let's look at the numbers:

Compared to 2016, the offense scored 29.1% more points, gained 10% more total yards, 19.5% more passing yards, 26.3% more yards per pass, but also declined by 5.2% in total rushing yards and actually dropped to 2.9 yards per rush compared to 3.2 in 2016.

On the other hand, the defense improved in every category. It allowed 29.1% percent fewer points, (yes the exact same percentage change as the offense enjoyed... weird), gave up 8.3% fewer total yards, 18.5% fewer rushing yards, and a small 0.5% decrease in passing yards.

Stats aside, it's really hard to think of any game where the defense had a poor performance. The two losses against Yale and Harvard which much more a result of offensive failures and the CU defense put in stellar performances against Princeton, Dartmouth, Penn, Cornell, and Brown.

No one is taking anything away from the offense, but the CU defense was underrated last season.

Only three key defensive players have graduated. CB Cameron Roane will be the hardest to replace, DL's Lord Hyeamang and Connor Heeb were good but still part of a very deep rotation on that D-line.

Meanwhile, the entire deep linebacking corps returns, almost all the secondary is back, including three of the four starters, and the D-Line is still stacked.

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro has been in this role since Head Coach Al Bagnoli brought him here when he first arrived in 2015. That's good stability that shows.

So, while the focus during this summer will be on who will be Columbia's new QB, don't forget the defense is looking about as good as it has in decades at Wien Stadium.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Standing Out

With a couple more days to ponder the now-official list of incoming football freshmen, here are some key points of note:

1) After a long period of seeing fewer and fewer Engineering students on the football team, we have a real bumper crop of SEAS enrollees in this freshmen class. Six of them are enrolled in Columbia Engineering when the entire remainder of the team has only three SEAS students. But among those three are superstar WR Ronald Smith, and two very promising sophomores in QB Dillon Davis and DL Ogonna Oraedu. Get the picture?

When Norries Wilson was the head coach, he talked about how scheduling conflicts made it very hard for Engineering students to make it on the team. I assume Head Coach Al Bagnoli has helped to resolve these issues, thus helping to broaden Columbia's recruiting horizons. Being able to recruit and admit students with talents and transcripts more geared, (no pun intended), to Engineering is a big deal.

2) On the coaching side, I've been lax in reporting that Joe D'Orazio is back on the staff. He had been coaching tight ends in 2015, but is now overseeing the running backs. Joe is very dedicated to Coach Bagnoli and the idea of college coaching above all. The fact that he kept contributing in any way he could to Columbia Football during his two years gone from the program tell you all you need to know.

3) More and more, I hear players and parents telling me how relieved they are that QB coach Ricky Santos stuck with Columbia over some strong offers from Brown and his Alma Mater New Hampshire. The crucial work needed to prepare a new Lions starter at QB will be a lot easier with Santos and his talents and continuity on board.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The 2018 Freshmen

Columbia has unveiled the names of the 39 incoming freshmen football players for this coming fall.

The list is 39 players long, includes two names we didn't know about previously, and only has one name missing from the final unofficial list I compiled on signing day back in February.

First, let's get to the two new names.

Conner Collins

6-5, 270-pound OL Conner Collins from Myers Park HS in Charlotte, North Carolina was a Harvard commit as recently as National Signing Day in February. Collins will be the first Myers HS grad to come to Columbia Football.

5-11, 180-pound WR Ernest Robinson was a four year starter at Riverdale Country Day School and two-time MVP of his high school league. Robinson will be the seventh Riverdale grad to come to Columbia Football and the first since Evan Alvarez '11.

The one player we had on our unofficial lists who did not show up on this final list was Long Snapper Keaton Prevette, but let's see if he still shows up on the roster in the fall as a possible walk-on.

In the coming days, my LionFeeders database of all the documented players to come to Columbia Football listed by their high schools will be officially updated.

Based on the highlight videos, I pinpoint 11 incoming players who really stand out as of now. This is just my opinion, of course. My list is below with a very brief comment for each name:

1. Jordan Colbert CB (fast, good cover guy serious offers)

2. Connor Collins OL (experienced OL)

3. Cam Dillion LB (hitter, serious offers)

4. John Foreback QB (good size, big upside)

5. Jackson Heath TE (serious offers from other schools, looks tough)

6. Marquis Hubbard LB (hitter)

7. Derric Lee CB (lots of key offers, another Harvard decommit)

8. Dante Miller RB (JMU decommit, speed demon)

9. Mozes Mooney WR (all the tools, massive number of quality offers)

10. Mitchell Shinskie DL (quick DL, good offers)

11. Joshua Smythe-Macaulay LB (hitter, good offers)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Al's Pitch

We all know the best pitch for Columbia Football when it comes to recruiting.

But rarely have I heard it as well articulated as Head Coach Al Bagnoli made it on a Florida sports radio show last night, (click here for the show, Bagnoli's segment begins about 34 minutes into the tape).

As we await the official release of our 2018 freshmen class, hold off on any doubts you may have until you hear Coach Bagnoli on this program. And remember, these are also words spoken by a guy with nine Ivy League titles and has already turned around a 24-game losing streak team into an 8-2 championship contender in such a short amount of time.