Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome to 2012... Let's Catch Up!

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There have been two major stories since I last posted: 1) The firing of Tom Williams at Yale, and 2) Pete Mangurian's Staff Hirings staff hirings.

Let's start with our specifically Columbia business...

                                                             Kevin Lempa

The Coordinators

The choices for offensive and defensive coordinator are a stark contrast in age and experience.

And they tell you all you need to know about who's going to be running what on this team in 2012.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa has eons of experience in the NFL and in D-I college programs. His particular expertise is pass defense, but this is really a dynamite pick up for Columbia. I really can't remember any coordinator in the last 30 years who comes in with as much experience as Lempa.

                                                     Ben McDaniels

Offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels is extremely fresh despite a year of NFL coaching experience and the fact that he has lived football all his life as a member of the football coaching McDaniels family.

However, I expect Mangurian to run this offense... period. McDaniel will probably be the point man working with the quarterbacks and I expect great things from him as a recruiter.

But did I mention I expect Pete Mangurian to run this offense... period?

Yeah, I did.

And what do we know about a Mangurian-style offense?

During his years at Cornell, the Big Red went from a run-oriented offense to more of a pass-heavy attack.

A big beneficiary of that philosophy at Cornell was QB Rick Rahne, who boosted the total passing numbers dramatically in the Mangurian years compared to what the Big Red did under predecessor Jim Hofher.

Hofher had his passing stars and pass-oriented offenses too... QB Bill Lazor came under his tenure... but generally Hofher liked big backs like Scott Oliaro and Chad Levitt.

Whatever Mangurian brought to the table in the interview process at Columbia, QB Sean Brackett was impressed. For someone like Brackett who was banged up badly a lot this past season, I would think the chance to pass more and stay out of danger a little more would be very attractive to our #10.

A drawback could be the maintaining of the spread offense, a favorite of the previous coaching regime. I joined a lot of other critics who thought we stayed in the spread too often and made things harder for ourselves, especially in short yardage situations.

I don't know if Mangurian favored the spread in his days at Cornell, (doubtful, since hardly anyone was using it regularly in 1998-2000), if he liked it in his NFL tenure, and I certainly don't know if he'll go with it a lot here a Columbia.

But I do know a lot of fans would like to see what the Lions offense would look like if it worked out of a classic T or I formation more often or primarily.

On defense, Mangurian's teams at Cornell were not dominant... and thus it speaks volumes that he's going with an experienced guy like Lempa to take charge in an area where the head coach recognizes he may have a weakness.

The Other Coaches

Mangurian's decisions to retain offensive line coach Ed Argast and WR coach Aaron Smith were also excellent choices in many ways. They both did especially great work in 2010 and 2011 under some tough conditions and keeping them around shows the returning players that their concerns will be heard by the new regime. I say that because almost every player went out of his way to tell me how much they liked and respected coaches Argast and Smith.

Two new coaches who will immediately be under the gun are running backs coach Chad Nice and D-line coach Alvin Smith.

Both men are very young and will oversee the two positions that Ivy teams struggle the most with. Because of that youth and the degree of difficulty involved, I expect Mangurian and Lempa to be the prime movers in these jobs as well. 

Tight ends coach Gordie Sammis is also relatively new to coaching and I expect Argast to take a hands on role with this job as well.

The big hole left now is special teams, which have needed a lot of fine tuning for many years at Columbia.

The good news is that there is good experience and talent in the special teams, the bad news is that technique and good preparation have been lacking for a long while. If there's still some of the bank left to break to bring in a top notch special teams coach, that would be advisable.

                                          Tom Williams

The Yale Coaching Search

The Rhodes Scholar application falsehood accusations against Coach Tom Williams surfaced in mid-November, but he did not step down until late December.

Something's not right with that.

My take is that Williams just got sick of being in limbo and pulled the plug himself.

I think that put Yale well behind the 8-ball in the search for a successor.

The Elis could well pull out a big name new coach and shock everyone, but with a hostile president's office in New Haven I think it's more likely another mostly unknown person like Tom Williams will be the replacement.

Columbia fans who strongly supported Tom Gilmore for the Lions top job last month are worried that he'll end up getting the Yale position and make almost everyone at CU look bad.

But I'm betting against that scenario. 20 or 30 years ago, Yale could have had almost anyone it wanted to fill this job.

But as long as Richard Levin is the president, coaching candidates in the know will stay very reluctant to enter the Bowl.

Either way, Yale isn't likely to have a new coach in place before mid January which is a huge disadvantage for a program that was likely to take a step back in 2012 because of graduation losses anyway.

                                                    Austin Stock

Incoming Frosh List

That upheaval may have been the final factor that helped bring Mike Gerst back from almost deciding to go to Yale and committing to Columbia last month.

Because of our own upheaval in the coaching category, we're a bit behind on knowing exactly who our already committed incoming freshman are right now.

But it is time to start our "list" even though it stands at just four names so far:

Expected Incoming Football Class of 2016

1. Andrew Dobitsch, WR 5-11 180 Northern Valley, NJ
2. Michael Gerst, RB 5-10 190 Bergen Catholic, NJ
3. Logan Scott QB 6-2 180 Chaminade West Hills, CA

4. Austin Stock, C 6-3 270 Solon, OH

Dobitsch made a few waves with some published comments just after he committed to the Lions. Questions of his speed aside, it's clear Mangurian's decision to keep coach Aaron Smith on the staff helped keep this youngster on board.

Gerst and his brother Nick Gerst '13 have been the biggest lightning rods for debate in the history of this blog and perhaps the modern history of Columbia football. I'm not a scout, but I do like what I saw of the younger Gerst on TV in the fall.

'nuff said.

The real gem of this as yet small crop could be Austin Stock, who played for a very good high school located in the very Cleveland-area neighborhood where I lived in 1995 and 1996.

At 6"3 and 270 pounds, he's already a pretty good size for a center. Published reports in Cleveland say Mangurian's tenure as an O-line coach in the NFL sealed the deal for Stock who was sought after by a lot of schools.

A late add to the list is QB Logan Scott. He's still listed as 6-2 and 180 lbs, but I think that may be older information.

                                                   Alex Gross in 2010

Anyone know German?

Here's a look at Alex Gross' bio for his new team in Austria!

We really wish Alex the best as he was just about the best example of a scholar-athlete that Columbia can produce.

                                                         Ron McCrone

Cornell Vacancy

It hasn't been widely reported, but my sources tell me that Cornell has a vacancy at defensive coordinator. Ron McCrone has either stepped down or been ousted.

Either way, it sure seems like Head Coach Kent Austin is quickly addressing his team's worst problems as soon as possible. It was painfully obvious that the Big Red defense lagged the offense all season.

Imagine if Columbia's outgoing coaching regime had taken the steps to oust our offensive coordinator after year two, (that would have been 2007 in our case), just as Austin is making a key change after his second season in Ithaca.

That would have been something.

Joe Restic (1926-2011)

Longtime Harvard Head Coach Joe Restic died in early December.

He was 85.

I have often written about how Restic's once sterling legacy has lost more and more of its shine as his succesor Tim Murphy's legend grows in Cambridge.

But I only mean that in terms of wins and losses.

Restic's character and decency as a very good and genial man has never been in question.

Everyone who knew him really liked him.

With his passing, the unique group of Ivy head coaches who were in place during a truly golden era of the late 1960's-early 1970's has dwindled to just two: Yale's Carm Cozza and Columbia-Princeton's Frank Navarro.

The legendary coaches in place during some or all of that special time besides Restic and Cozza were Dartmouth's Bob Blackman, (died 2000),  Princeton's Dick Colman, (died 1982), and Cornell Jack Musick, (died 1977).

Navarro will turn 81 this coming February, and sadly for Lions fans, he never approached the success enjoyed by any of the other coaches mentioned above.

Cozza will be 82 this coming June.

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