Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mangurian Gives Brief Update

The message below just appeared on Head Coach Pete Mangurian's personal website.  It seems to hint that the spring game may not be a real scrimmage, but it confirms that the event will be at 6pm on April 20th.

Sorry for the lack of information. We are 3 days into being honest about who we are, and deciding wether we are willing to do what is needed to change. We are leading a little more of a “spartan lifestyle” from a football perspective, 20 straight 6:00am mornings. It will get tougher now that pads are on. Character will reveal itself, there will be some surprises, there already have been. Nine more days, we will have a spring “something” depending upon how healthy we are on April 20th at 6:00pm.Right now the tough work to reshape who we are is taking place, it’s not glamorous, it’s a painful process that can’t be avoided. We are on schedule.

Selective City

Mike Devito converts a non-believer

New York Jet star defensive lineman Mike Devito will return to the Columbia campus this coming Tuesday night to talk about his pro career and his Christian faith. Devito made a similar appearance in 2010.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb saying that I'm sure Devito is pretty happy about his new teammate Tim Tebow joining him in Jet Land!

Recruiting Boost

Columbia's admission rates did not break a record low for the incoming freshmen class, but they remain the third lowest in the Ivies according to a new report.

What does this mean for football?

A lot, actually.

We all know the pull of the Harvard name, and the understood impossibility of getting into Harvard is a great draw for recruiting. The best athletes realize they are getting something like a lotto ticket when they get into a school that's getting harder to get into every year.

Columbia's rising prestige needs to be exploited more by all our sports recruiters, especially football.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What a Spring it Was!

Fordham's Odd Schedule

Columbia's week TWO opponent Fordham has released an interesting new schedule for 2012. 

The Rams will play THREE games this season before they take on the Lions at Wien Stadium on Sept. 22, including a road game at Villanova and a home contest against Cornell on Sept 15.

And on Oct. 13th, Fordham goes to Cincinnati to play the FBS Bearcats in what should be an ugly game. 

This will be the first time Columbia will not have the Rams as their scheduled season opening opponent since 1999. (The 2001 season opener against Fordham was postponed to the the end of the season because of the 9/11 attacks).

Rory Wilfork

The Best Spring Ever

Spring football is still a relatively new 'tradition" in Ivy football.

In 1993, the Ivy League began allowing freshman to play varsity football and it instituted its first ever sanctioned spring practices.

Winning the right to hold a spring session and let freshmen play was a big deal back in the early 90's, and it's proof that some of the things sports fans in the Ivies want can actually come true.

For Columbia, the two changes had an immediate positive effect. The mid-90's were the best period for Columbia football in this generation. After an initial stumble in 1993, the Lions came out roaring in 1994, most of 1995, and had their best season in 50 years running in 1996.

But that run all started with what has to go down as the productive spring in Columbia history in early 1994. 

The huge amount of player development and strategy changes that took place that April is really hard to fathom.

1) The decision was made to switch rising junior Marcellus Wiley from RB to DE, (and keep him as an occasional tailback in clutch yardage situations). This would be the greatest move of Head Coach Ray Tellier's career, resulting in not only a dominant Ivy defensive lineman but also helping to create a future NFL All Pro.

2) The decision was made to move rising junior WR/QB Mike Cavanaugh back to QB alone and have him work in a shuttle system with rising senior Jamie Schwalbe. The result was an explosive offense with Cavanaugh playing the role of the running QB and Schwalbe as the primary passer. The Lions offensive output jumped sharply in 1994, scoring 55% more points compared to 1993. 

3) Rising sophomore LB Rory Wilfork was given a chance to shine that spring and he was undoubtedly the best defender on the field day in and day out. He became a three-time 1st Team All Ivy player at linebacker after busting out that spring. 

4) Jim Lill, a rising junior LB was switched to free safety and he immediately became the ferociously hard hitter the secondary needed after some severe graduation losses.

It's extremely rare that you can get as much out of one spring as Columbia did in 1994, and the Lions haven't been as fortunate in the 18 years since. 

But the new coaching staff and all the sheer numbers of returning players this year give us at least the CHANCE that a very transformative spring is possible. There are about 75 veteran players participating in spring practice this season and that's very close to record numbers. It also allows for a lot more options, position changes, and strategy tweaks.

The 1994 Lions had 69 veteran players that spring, and they performed miracles that would ensure their place in Columbia history. 

Let's see what Coach Mangurian and company with this crew. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Calling Robin Harris...

Less than two months after the Ivy League announced a new push to secure a national TV sports deal, News Corp is reportedly about to launch a new national sports network.

This network will probably be called "Fox Sports."

Simple math says this will improve the odds of the Ivies getting the coveted deal, and those of us old enough to remember can recall the days when an upstart TV network named ESPN started to make strides in college football by carrying Ivy games.

The channel is expected to begin broadcasting by the end of this year, which would probably keep football out of the equation in 2012, but basketball certainly could get into the mix.

Another possible opportunity for the Ivies could be soccer.

FOX's global strength in world soccer coverage is expected to be a major cog in the new network and Ivy League soccer could be a product the network covets.

Most people would consider the Ivies one of the top 10 college soccer conferences, so this would hardly be starting at the bottom for what is already an under-covered sport in America.

Spring Updates... Sort of

There's definitely a bit of radio silence in effect as the team begins its fourth day of spring practice.

I can report that the first few days have predictably been spent mostly on conditioning and player evaluations. next week will begin the harder work of learning the new playbook, particularly the proposed H-back-centered offense Head Coach Pete Mangurian wants to install.

But for now, we're not even seeing any tweaks to the player roster.

Remember Me?

On the Other Hand...

Rutgers understands something about publicity.

That school is already out with several reports on its spring practices, including some pieces today about former Columbia Head Coach Norries Wilson working with the Scarlet Knights' talented running backs.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Who Knew?

There are some small things buried in the statistics from the 2011 season that may have escaped your notice.

Not all of them are significant for the Lions in 2012, but some are.

One of them is the number of receptions for rising sophomore Dan Slivka. 

Did you know that Slivka caught three passed last year? Not too shabby for a freshman receiver. And when you consider that Slivka is 6-3 and 205 pounds, you know that this is a player we probably need to watch very closely during the spring game and beyond. (His number is 82 by the way).

Another player I "wouldn't sleep on" is 5-10 rising senior James Burrell. 

James has had his ups and downs with this team, but seems to be sticking it out with the new coaching staff. Burrell background with the great football prep factory Bridgton Academy makes him worth sticking with as long as he gives the effort. He only caught one pass last season but he's quick and has good skills.

Back to Spring

After a very chilly Monday, things are back to more seasonal temperatures at Baker Field today. When the team hit the field, it was about 48 degrees and it got to 50 before practice wrapped up.

But the wind has been a different story. It's always a little windier at Spuyten Duyvil, and the last two days have been windy in Midtown!

It's one thing for these veterans to get a blast of air, they're used to it. But then the freshmen come in during the languid days of August and have no idea what's going to hit them once late September rolls around.

Maybe Coach Mangurian can buy a wind machine or something to get everybody ready!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

They're Starting to Get It

Getting Started

Okay, so spring practice at the crack of dawn doesn't have to look so dreary after all.

The above picture comes courtesy of Columbia football's new Facebook page and it's the first image of the first real on the field practice in the Pete Mangurian era. 

We at least LOOK good right now!

There IS a Difference

I've been watching Ivy sports for 30 years.

And for 30 years, I've heard the same argument: "Every Ivy school has the same rule son athletics and there's no way any school can set policies to get ahead in sports unless someone cheats."

I don't think it's a stretch to say that everyone reading this knows that I think the above line is complete nonsense.

There are too many facts to disprove the statement, but that's not the point of this post.

The point is that recently, more and more people are beginning to realize just how destructive certain administrations have been to their sports teams.

The latest two example come from Yale, with this article in the Yale Daily News about a very well-received speech by a prominent alum that critiqued the Yale administration's handling of athletics. 

And there was also an opinion piece in The Dartmouth yesterday calling out the administration on sports in Hanover.

The point is, the obvious fact that some schools do more for their sports teams than others... AND for that, those schools are reaping tremendous rewards that go beyond athletics.

I can't think of a better time than spring football practice at Columbia to show how valuable athletics is to the Ivy schools and to the individual students.

Right now, we have about 80 young men waking at the crack of dawn to bust their butts on the field and then rush back to campus to get to class.

Their commitment to the school and each other is far beyond what 99% of their fellow students at Columbia will ever show or even find a chance to show in their four years of college.

To see an administration not willing to put in even a tenth of the effort these young men do is disheartening and demands action. 

Columbia fans have been used to this for years, but now fans and alums at more and more of the other Ivies are waking up to it.

Wyoming Must Hate the Ivies

Four years ago, Columbia's current star DL/LB Josh Martin de-committed from the University of Wyoming and decided to come to Columbia instead.

Martin has made the All Ivy team twice and is one of the best players in the league and a key cog in the the Lions hopes to bounce back in 2012.

Now, Penn recruit Dylan Muscat has taken things a step further.

Muscat originally committed to Penn, switched to Wyoming, and is now back in as a Quaker just before the April admissions go out!

So now those Wyoming Cowboys have yet another reason to dislike city slickers like us.


Monday, March 26, 2012

The Early Bus

Crack of Dawn!

The preliminary work of last week is over and spring practice begins for real this morning.

First bus leaves for Baker Field at 4:45am and this blog is proud to say it's ready a full 29 minutes early as I type right now!

Here are some things to consider on this first day:

Winter's Comeback?

Okay, it's not exactly freezing, but those 60 and 70 degree days of last week are gone. It's 48 degrees right now and this week will be a lot more like late October weather. You know, football weather.

Roster Watching

Will there be the kind of attrition on the squad that Head Coach Pete Mangurian alluded to both privately and publicly since he came to Morningside?

Here's the Columbia roster page, become one with it as I am and we'll see who stays and who goes.

Morning Glory

Getting back to the early bird thing... this is the first time Columbia football has tried the crack of dawn full practice thing.

By the time the guys hit the field at Wien Stadium, the sun will be out... but this is all very new.

I think the team will respond well, but I worry about the shakedown artists, er... the community "leaders" in Inwood who may start complaining about CU buses in the area before 5:30am.

I hope I'm wrong.

Okay, everyone... we're finished well before the first bus leaves!

Who needs sleep?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mighty Jim Yong Kim

President Obama has nominated Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank.

Kim will probably get the job despite some calls for a non-American citizen to lead the bank.

And the Ivy League will be much the poorer for it.

Jim Kim was the first Ivy president of this generation to talk the talk and walk the walk of a real friend to athletics. 

As Columbia fans, it was to really appreciate what a positive Kim was to Dartmouth athletics... after all, this is the guy who whooped it up and ran along the sidelines as the Big Green routed us in Hanover in 2009.

But the contrast was clear. In a world filled with Ivy presidents looking to keep athletics in an ever-shrinking corner, Kim worked hard to publicize every game and enjoy every sports event... and he wasn't faking it even a little bit.

Kim understood that everything that we considered "campus life" 25 years ago is disappearing. The number of things students actually do together out in public is smaller than ever. 

Successful athletics programs can buck that trend by providing a true communal event for students and alumni alike. Kim's peers, who clearly care a lot more about getting their names in the paper and cozying up to politicians, don't get that... or they don't care. 

Dartmouth was once the most dominant athletic program in the Ivies. A new regime in the administration worked hard to destroy that for several years. What followed were a few leaders who were basically indifferent. 

Then Kim came along and proved there was something more college presidents could do to bring athletics back in from the cold.

With Kim gone, the Ivies are sure to be ruled by presidents who are hostile to sports and at best, not so hostile. 

The result will be the same:

Weaker sports teams.

Smaller crowds at games.

A reduced campus life experience for all of our undergrads.

A presence sorely missed.

Mangurian's Latest

Head Coach Pete Mangurian's latest blog post shows his softer side in a good way.

He's taking an active role in getting the football alumni more involved with the program and reminding them of how appreciated they already are.

The next step is to build a winning team so ALL the alumni want to get involved.

One thing at a time...

Friday, March 23, 2012

QB's of the Future

Filling Sean's Shoes is a major challenge

With a senior QB as the starter, a major subplot of the 2012 season will be the race to find a new starting QB to replace Sean Brackett in 2013.

At this moment, I'd say Andrew Weiss is the next best QB on the roster. But Weiss is also a senior and that precludes him from staying here past next year.

Rising sophomore Kal Prince got the lion's share of the playing time with the JV and he has a lot of raw talent as a pure passer. Whether the Mangurian regime will see him with the same eyes as Norries Wilson's staff is yet to be seen.

Fellow rising sophomore Percee Goings is a super all-around athlete who could still break onto the field at another position. 

Even with the loss of Logan Scott, the incoming freshmen class is unusually packed with talented QB's.

Tops among them is Trevor McDonagh, a highly sought after recruit from St. Louis who has good size for a freshman. 

The other two incoming freshmen QB's seem like they may end up excelling at other positions. 

The 6-4 Hank Trumbull seems like a solid WR candidate if he can make the transition. And the 6-1 175 pound Scooter Hollis is a speedy runner who should at least get some consideration as a running back.

It's an embarrassment of rare riches at the QB position for Columbia this year and also a challenge for the coaching staff to make sure all the moving pieces end up in the right place.

Neuberger Rejoins Marino

Last year's Lion tight ends coach Michael Neuberger is joining his old direct boss Vinny Marino and will coach the TE's at Georgetown this fall.

The Hoya press release notes that Neuberger helped develop Columbia's sensational TE Hamilton Garner. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Silver Lining?

Logan Scott goes down

Scott's Slot

The rumors continue to fly now that QB Logan Scott's defection to Yale is publicly known.

Whether new Yale Head Coach Tony Reno has crossed some kind of recruiting line is up for discussion, but it seems like Scott and his family felt he would have a better chance to compete for a starting slot in New Haven.

There could also be a silver lining here for Columbia as there is a new open slot for an incoming recruited freshman or even a transfer.

Two Things

I know we're all a little sick of all things Yale right now, but Yale Daily News sports columnist Chelsea Janes has another excellent piece today where she explains what needs to be done to improve Eli sports.

What she writes is not only something that applies 100% to Columbia as well, but it should really be a league-wide manifesto.

Let me pick out some of the key points:

"the university must remove the extra, Yale-specific recruiting restrictions that are both demolishing Yale teams' numbers and hindering coaches' abilities to recruit the best of the best." 

Janes is talking specifically about the added burdens Yale is placing on their own recruiters, but the point for every Ivy school is that the Academic Index should be abolished.

The Ivy schools already have strict rules about not allowing failing students to play varsity athletics.  So, if a player is not academically deserving then he or she won't play anyway. 

The A.I. is a debilitating and demeaning tool that makes Ivy recruiting much too hard considering what we pay our assistant coaches.  I suppose I'd be willing to compromise and take a major reduction in A.I. levels, but the best choice is to get rid of it altogether. 

The fact that some schools have thrived under the A.I. while others haven't isn't a fair argument. One reason is because schools with lower A.I.'s like Penn have succeeded more. Another reason is that Harvard succeeds despite its high A.I. because of the recruiting power of the Harvard name PLUS some more creative "tricks" they play with the Index up in Cambridge.

Let's face it, if Ivy schools really worried so much about accepting students with GPA's or SAT's that were too low they would publicly post their SAT and GPA requirements and publicly state that there are "NO EXCEPTIONS!"

But since we all know there are a lot of exceptions for several reasons, I don't see why the athletes are the ONLY Ivy students and applicants who have to comply with an admission standard that truly affords no exceptions. 

"The administration isn't fooling anyone in showing up to a few athletic events a year and singing the school song with the Yale Precision Marching Band in some semblance of empathetic appreciation for what the players on the field or ice do to be there."

99.9% of the faculty and Columbia administration not only doesn't care about sports, but is highly hostile to athletes in general. It speaks volumes that the only Columbia professor you regularly see at Lions football games is William Theodore De Barry, a man who is pushing 90 years old, (but we do really LOVE Prof. De Barry and just wish there were more like him).

I don't know how to fix this faculty problem other than to eliminate tenure, which I admit is a big pipe dream but very necessary for many reasons beyond athletics.

Tenure leads to "group think" and cronyism because it's the already tenured professors who choose which candidates get tenure. That's why there is so little intellectual diversity on Ivy campuses and why none of the worst problems at Columbia ever get fixed. 

Eliminating tenure and putting our faculty on renewable contracts would keep our scholarship more current, control the true source of our ballooning costs, and give us a chance to make athletics-bashing and indifference a thing of the past.

The chances of getting rid of the A.I. and tenure in the Ivies is really nil, unless major donors get together and start demanding it... and I plan to do that right after I make my first $50 billion. 

For now, I'll be satisfied if we can just make the demand for these eliminations a clear message regularly delivered to the Ivy presidents as much as possible. One of the tools the administrations use against us is the argument that not all Ivy fans want the same thing.

That argument has already been proved wrong in regards to allowing the Ivy champs to play in the FCS playoffs. More than 95% of Ivy football fans not only want this, but they have publicly stated that desire on numerous occasions.  

If we want Columbia to start winning, really winning, in the sports that matter we need to get rid of the A.I. and faculty tenure. It's a simple message that I plan to repeat as much as possible until it at least won't be ignored anymore.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

BREAKING: Scott Bolts for Yale


It turns out the committed-to-Columbia QB Yale was after wasn't Hank Trumbull as I surmised last month but it was Logan Scott.

And the Elis have "unhooked" him.

This is a tough one because Scott sure seemed like a great all-around athlete who could have helped Columbia at QB or WR.

Teams lose commits all the time in the Ivies, but it can get nasty when you lose one to ANOTHER Ivy. This one may engender some bad blood for a few years... as if the Columbia-Yale atmosphere wasn't nasty enough.

Mangurian the Nice

For privacy reasons, I am not going to name names right now, but I have learned that one or two Lions who have chronic injuries will now be contributing to the team on the sidelines as effective assistant coaches. These young men asked for the chance to remain a part of the team and Coach Pete Mangurian was more than willing to reward their enthusiasm.

I know Mangurian has been getting the "hard ass" image down pat, but these moves by the coach really show his human side and will do a lot to build team morale.

Kicker Crop

One thing to consider during spring practice is the unusually high number of kicker/punters on the Lion roster. Right now, we have no less than five of them! I can't remember ever having such a deep kicking corps.

Not only will competition be fierce among them, but the coaches will have to work hard to make sure everyone gets a decent look. Kicking and all the other special teams plays are usually very difficult to fit into restricted Ivy League practice schedules.

For my money, I thought Paul Delaney was the most solid punter Columbia used last year. Luke Eddy is still a very talented place kicker and Greg Guttas and Tyler Feely could start on a lot of other Ivy teams. Dean Perfetti is a solid backup.

In other words, I don't envy Mangurian and co. as they will be forced to sort all of this out in the coming weeks.

Goings the Distance

You Can't Win if You Don't Play. 

Rising sophomore Percee Goings is featured in an excellent article on ESPN's Grantland website about Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, DC.

Friendship is a charter school that doesn't have a conference or even what I would call adequate athletic funding. And yet, it's offering a great high school experience and fielding strong football teams. Goings is a 2011 graduate of Friendship and considered to be one of its greatest success stories. 

If anyone still thinks that athletics doesn't help you learn the measure of a young man or woman, I urge you to read the article in Grantland. 

And from a fan's point of view, the article certainly upgrades what I thought was the athletic quality of the Friendship football team. Goings is certainly a strong athlete and I am more eager than ever to see what he can do on the field for the varsity.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Perfect Weather

Spring Camp or is this Paradise?

So much for a  "Junction Boys"-like atmosphere atmosphere as Columbia begins spring practice this week.

The weather is more than gorgeous here in New York City with temps in the 60's predicted for this entire week. No one is going to drop off the roster because of the elements, that's for sure.

But there will be roster changes in the coming days and not ALL the deletions from the roster will be the result of players quitting. I am getting reports of some serious injuries that took longer to diagnose, and that will be the cause of attrition for 2-3 names of some promising non-starters from last year.

QB Crop

Bruce Wood's Big Green Alert Blog makes the point that Columbia's Sean Brackett is the most experienced QB returning for the 2012 season. Of course, since Sean began starting for the Lions in week 7 of his freshman year and he's now a senior, he'd probably be the most experienced QB coming back in any year. 

It's quite a contrast from the 2011 season when all eight Ivy teams had at least one experienced starter returning. But injuries and other circumstances got in the way and there was plenty of upheaval at that crucial position as the season wore on.

And remember that even though his injuries only sidelined him for one game, Brackett was never really 100% all season. Any scrutiny of his diminished numbers for 2011 need to be considered in that light. 

But getting back to 2012, this fall promises to be exciting as several Ivy schools work to get their signal-caller situations worked out. A lot of the planning and practicing for that will take place this week during spring practices... and then have to be totally changed six months from now when the realities of the actual games kick in. 

Invisible Men?

An editorial in Monday's Columbia Spectator urges students to do more community service. It briefly mentions "outreach" to the football team, but seems entirely ignorant of the fact that the football players already do a significant amount of community service, mostly under the guidance of Father Valenti

It's yet another example of how our athletes remain invisible men on campus, and the connotations are troubling for a lot more than just attendance at the games.

The more our non-athlete students remain ignorant of their athlete peers, the more Ivy athletics and the entire undergraduate experience are diminished. 

I know I've written about this before, but the communal aspect of going to college is disappearing on campuses across the country. Going to sporting events to support the team in unison is one of the few things most college students still do together in large numbers. But at Ivy schools, that's not the case.

Creating winning programs is the best way to improve visibility for our teams. Beyond that, I think just about everything has at least been tried. 

It may be time to try harder. 

Adams on the Clock

I took this picture early Monday morning outside the temporary NFL store across from Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. This is the countdown clock to the beginning of the NFL draft. 

Columbia's Jeff Adams is fighting for a chance to get drafted and right now, he's rated in that limbo area of either a last round choice or a priority free agent.

But Columbia's PR efforts would really get a boost if Adams can squeeze his way into the draft somehow. 

And with the NFL draft becoming a New York City "event," getting an actual New York City college football player drafted would be doubly noteworthy. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Dream Season

Ivy League sports fans, and Columbia sports fans in particular, are a realistic lot.

Sure, we Lion supporters get overly optimistic sometimes in the preseason. We even have fantasies of winning league championships from time to time.

But we don't have dreams of winning BCS titles or getting to the Final Four.

That said, there is one near-Ivy school that has had the kind of dream academic calendar year that SHOULD be in the reach of all the Ivy schools IF they really committed to doing things right.

That school is Lehigh, a Patriot League school that really leaves nothing to be desired academically.

And yet, despite an endowment that is dwarfed by all the Ivy schools, the Mountain Hawks achieved a conference football championship, (and first round win in the FCS playoffs), and a stunning run in the NCAA basketball tournament over Duke.

Yes, Lehigh fell last night to Xavier and 2010 Ivy champ Cornell got to the Sweet 16. But it was the combination of football and basketball success that was even sweeter in Bethlehem this year.

Lehigh is a great school, but its academic strengths do not outshine any Ivy, and it shouldn't be too hard for any of the Ancient Eight to match and grab the same quality of players.

Does anybody think Lehigh's standing as an academic institution is suffering because of this amazing run of athletic success?

It's one think when schools like Duke and Stanford beat the pants of us athletically. But when a Patriot League school grabs so much deserved attention, and the Ivies still don't even allow our football champ to play in the FCS playoffs it's maddening.

I realize the academic requirements for Lehigh's athletes are lower than the Ivies, but not really by much. And it's high time the Ivy presidents give more credit to high school students who still achieve strong grades despite grueling practice schedules, etc.

In short, the fabulous success Lehigh is enjoying this year could be ours.

It SHOULD be ours.

One day...

Spring Begins

But for now, the hard work begins. 

Spring practice starts now and so begins Head Coach Pete Mangurian's promised process of finding the players he wants to lead this team.

The others may be discarded.

Watch your rosters gentlemen.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Great Minds Think Alike?

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I swear on a stack of Bibles that this is what I wrote way back on Thursday in order post today:

“Columbia's veteran football players have about three days more of freedom before spring practice and the serious tests begin.

Up to now, I've been focusing on individual players and overall units in my analyses of who needs to show improvement this spring.

But let's cut to the chase now and look  at the three things that really tripped the Lions up last season, (and in the Norries Wilson era overall).

1. Stopping the Big Play

It all started in week one when Sean Brackett's pass to the corner of the Fordham endzone was intercepted and returned for a 100-plus yard pick six. In just about every Columbia game that followed, some kind of mental error like that struck a huge blow against the team. Sometimes it was a mental error. Other times, it was a physical shortcoming like a missed tackle. Either way, Head Coach Pete Mangurian needs to not only fix this problem, but do so in a way that does not humliate the offenders and demoralize everyone else.

2. Sweat the Fundamentals

Blocking, tackling, running out routes... all those things just didn't happen enough on the field last season.

The missed tackles in the secondary especially were killers, but so were a few dropped passes and muffed fair catches.

Whatever it takes to work out those bugs. Mangurian needs to do.

3. Preparing the Team

It was painfully obvious that the Lions were just not properly prepared to play week after week in 2011. Wilson and Vinnie Marino's teams never used a basic playbook and with the time these kids have and don't have to put into mentally preparing what to do, that wasn't wise.

I hope Mangurian and Co. have already settled on the core of the playbook so they can start familiarizing the team with it right now.

Could any of us stand it to see another scenario like the one that ensued inside the 10 yard late in the fourth quarter against Penn last year?  Everyone on the team and the staff just looked completely like deer in the headlights at that moment. That just can't happen ever again.”

But just today I read the latest blog post from Coach Mangurian and it very closely mirrored my focus on preparation and fundamentals.

Here are some key paragraphs that I that had the same basic message as my post:

“ We will not run a lot of plays in each practice, we have to get it right the first time, we will see if we can.”

“But it’s not just about running plays, it’s about execution, fundamentals and technique. Creating habits takes time and tough work, because there is no short cut, it’s about repetition.”

“How we teach our most fundamental skills – blocking, tackling, carrying the ball, catching at its highest point, carrying it in the proper hand, stripping the ball, recovering a fumble, covering a punt – it all has to be taught exactly how we want it done.” 

“Our goal is to identify the right players, learn how to practice and sustain concentration for 120 minutes.”

Again, I am generally grateful for this new Mangurian blog because – to be honest – I could use the material!

But we’ve gone from the way-too-reticent and nonchalant Norries Wilson to a suddenly very verbose and intense Pete Mangurian. It’s kind of jarring for fans like us, but imagine how shocking it must be for the players!

If Mangurian can keep up this prolific pace with his writing, that would be something.  We’ve certainly moved on from the days when all we heard from the coach were a few words at a weekly breakfast event in the Lion’s Den during the season only.