Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cornell List

The Big Red officially announced their incoming football class of 2016 late yesterday, which means all the Ivy schools have now made their lists public.

As usual, I like to focus on the two positions toughest to recruit in the Ivy League: running back and defensive tackle. Coincidentally, these are the two biggest areas of need for an otherwise up-and-coming Cornell team.

The best RB seems like it's Luke Hagy from the Pittsburgh area's Mt. Lebanon HS. Columbia has snagged a number of players from that school in the past. The league Mt. Lebanon plays in can be hit or miss in terms of quality depending on the year, so Hagy's super numbers may not be as impressive all things considered. But I'd keep an eye on him.

The only big DT in the class is Brett Jones, but he does come from a great HS program in Naperville North outside of Chicago. Jones may not be ready to play right away, but he has the size to be a potential force down the road. A bigger issue is that Cornell did not successfully recruit even one other big man for the DT position. It leads one to believe that Head Coach Kent Austin's team is getting a reputation as an offensive juggernaut and maybe not the best place for defensive stars to go.

Meanwhile, you have to give kudos to the Cornell website staff for assembling perhaps the best online release about the incoming freshmen of any Ivy school this year. Cornell came last, but it may have been worth the wait. I especially like the touch of the scrolling Twitter comments from the fans at the bottom of the page!

The players on the Big Red list that we know Columbia also recruited were John Ford and Jeff Kruse, both of whom look like great gets for Cornell.

In addition to Ford, Mike Tate is another super LB and seems like one of the best pickups in all of the Ivies this year. Perhaps Coach Austin will successfully fill his defensive holes with a much-improved linebacking crew this year or next.

The stage is really getting set nicely for the historic 100th meeting between Columbia and Cornell at Wien Stadium this November 10th.

Not only will it be the 100th game, but Columbia Head Coach Pete Mangurian will become the first Ivy League head coach to face an Ivy opponent he once led since Bob Blackman led the Big Red against his old Dartmouth program in 1982.

In the 140 or so of Ivy League teams playing football, only THREE men have been head coaches of more than one Ivy team in their careers: Percy Haughton, (Harvard and Columbia), Frank Navarro, (Columbia and Princeton), Blackman (Dartmouth and Cornell), and now Mangurian will make four when he adds Columbia to his list after leading Cornell from 1998-2000.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Best Front Four

Napier looks ready to play

Gross Interview!

Check out this video of Alex Gross '11 talking about his Graz Giants beating the Danube Dragons 61-35. Alex doesn't look a t day older than he did in his final game at Wien Stadium in 2010.

Position by Position: Defensive Linemen

For a team that has suffered tragic problems defending the run in recent years, Columbia's front seven suddenly seems like a team strength. 

Columbia's presumed starting defensive ends, Joshua Martin and Seyi Adebayo, are the whole package: super athletic, senior experience, and they understand the system. 

Martin and Adebayo actually have a great deep bench behind them at the DE position. Nick Melka and Chad Washington are impact players, while Will Patterson has great speed getting to the QB. 

There's not as much proven talent at DT, but the Lions look a lot better than they did at this team last year at that position. 

Shad Sommers and Wells Childress made great strides as the season wore on and Head Coach Pete Mangurian had some very good things to say about Greg Lee's performance in the spring game. The three of them have a nice combo of talent and experience. 

But the depth Columbia enjoy's at defensive end is not something the Lions have at defensive tackle... at least not among the veterans. 

Here are the 5 incoming freshmen at DT and DE:

Toba Okinleye 6-3 207 lbs.

Chris Cicilioni 6-2 235 lbs.

JD Hurt 6-2 260 lbs.

Daren Napier 6-4 261 lbs.

Niko Padilla 6-1 265 lbs.

The depth Columbia needs at DT seems to be coming right in the form of Napier and Padilla. 

Napier rejected offers from Harvard and Yale and it's notable that just a few days after being named head coach, Mangurian hurried off to Texas to be at Napier's letter of intent "signing."

Padilla got major recruiting attention from lots of schools and could be a force to be reckoned with if he's comfortable at the nose tackle position. 

If Napier and Padilla get a little bigger, they'll have a shot to play with the varsity this year. 

Hurt could be a sleeper candidate, but he comes from a football league that is not quite up to the quality of what Napier and Padilla face in Texas. 

Okinleye seems like a good candidate to switch to linebacker, unless he gains about 25-30 pounds pretty soon. He may not want to, as a 6-3 linebacker with his speed could be a huge weapon. 

Cicilioni seems like a great blue collar type player, I expect him to make an impact down the road.

Columbia had just 21 sacks and allowed 165 rushing yards per game. With this group of veteran and newcomer DL's, I can't believe we'll see numbers like that in 2012. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Secondary Firsts

Dartmouth's official list of incoming freshmen is out and there aren't any surprises mostly because Bruce Wood's  Big Green Alert site had all this info out a few weeks ago.

But it's worth mentioning that at least in the size department, Buddy Teevens seems to have done what no other Ivy coach did this year - successfully recruit more than two big defensive tackles. 

Jacob Flores, Frank Fullerton, and Jonathan Zuttah already look ready to play DT and we should expect at least one of them to get on the field with the varsity this season.

One position that Teevens hasn't been shy about filling with freshmen in the starting spot is QB, and two of the three incoming Green QB's seem promising. 

First is 6-4 Thomas Miltello from St. Louis Country Day. The other top QB coming out of St. Louis this year is Trevor McDonagh from rival St. Louis University High School. McDonagh is coming to Columbia setting up a potential continuation of their rivalry.

The sheer athleticism of Dartmouth's other QB, Earnest Evans, is also impressive.

So don't be surprised if you see one of them on the field relatively soon.

Position by Position: DB's

Getting back to our position by position look at where the incoming freshmen may fit in, let's look at the defensive backs.

Columbia's secondary has been particularly gutted by graduation and that would seemingly give the incoming freshmen some real openings. 

But with 12 returning veterans, the six new frosh may find things a bit crowded.

Here are the newcomers:

Brandon Blackshear 6-0 185 lbs.

Matt Cahal 6-1 190 lbs.

Joshua Foster 5-11 165 lbs.

Kevin McCarthy 6-0 200 lbs.

Darin Patmon 6-0 175 lbs.

Travis Reim 6-0 175 lbs.

Of course, the most important newcomer in the secondary is defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa who is also going to coach the defensive backs. I've written a few times before that Lempa is a fantastic pickup for the Lions and I expect the defense to develop faster and better than the offense this year. Luckily, the veteran defensive backs had been coached the last two seasons by the superb John Gutekunst, so there may not be a need to brush these guys up on the fundamentals as much as the rest of the team.

But the stats don't lie, and Columbia was one of the worst pass defenses last year in the key category of passes completed. Opponents completed a whopping 68% of their passes against the Lions last season. Columbia also allowed 250 yards through the air per game. Welcome to crisis central.

Among the freshmen, McCarthy has the size and skill to make a difference early on at safety. Another promising frosh is CB Cahal from Brophy Prep, senior Seyi Adebayo's Alma Mater. Cahal chose Columbia over Brown. As terrifying as the term, "freshman corner," sounds, remember that both Calvin Otis and Kalasi Huggins both excelled at corner in their freshmen years recently at CU.

I really like the looks of Patmon and Foster as well, but to be honest the position is so crowded it's anyone's guess what that two-deep will look like when it's released the week of Sept, 15. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who's Ready?

Austin Stock

Let's take the now officially-announced football class of 2016 position by position.

Today, I'll start with OL and WR, the two areas where Head Coach Pete Mangurian has said the incoming freshmen are likely to make the most impact.


On April 24th Mangurian wrote: "Our incoming freshman, (offensive lineman), will create competition at this position, that is exactly what we need."

Here's the list of our incoming freshmen OL's, you tell me which ones look like they're ready to compete:

Eric Kuklinski 6-7 265 lbs.

Billy Lawrence 6-8 250 lbs.

Marshall Markham 6-4 265 lbs.

Keith Ramljak 6-4 265 lbs.

Austin Stock 6-3 270 lbs.

Each one of these guys has something obvious to offer. Stock may be the best overall recruit in the class, and since he plays center he probably needs to gain the least weight of any of the incoming frosh O-lineman. But before you pencil him in onto the 2-deep or even the starting lineup, remember the nice praise Mangurian had for sophomore Ryan Thomas, who also comes from a super high school program and was one of the top recruits in HIS class.

Speaking of great his school programs, Markham comes from the already proven commodity of Kinkaid HS in Houston. But at 265, he needs to gain about 20 pounds to really get into the game.

Lawrence is a force at 6-8, but he's maybe 50 POUNDS underweight on that frame. I think this young man is a project for Mangurian and OL coach Ed Argast, and there's a tremendous upside here. But, I'll be shocked if we see him with the varsity this fall.

Kuklinski and Ramljak look like good bets in a year or so, but they'd still be surprises to crack the lineup where even the lightest returning veteran is 13 pounds heavier than they are. 

Coach Mangurian is nothing if not a man of his word. But when he said these incoming frosh would provide "competition," I think he meant that in the literal sense. This guys will "compete," but probably not "overtake" any starting slots this year.

Also on April 24th, Mangurian said: "the wide receiver position will be the most effected by this incoming class."

Here is that incoming class:

Trevor Bell 5-9 170 lbs.

Chris Connors 6-1 205 lbs. 

Andrew Dobitsch 5-10 170 lbs. 

Isaiah Gross 6-3 180 lbs.

Scooter Hollis 6-1 165 lbs.

(transfer Jake Wanamaker will have to sit out the 2012 season)

Gross, who committed to CU switched to Yale and then came back to us seems like the pick of this WR crop. He's a speedster and has great stature at 6-3. 

On the other side of the height spectrum is Bell, who at 5-9 may be the "Wes Welker type" player Mangurian has been looking for, 

Hollis is extremely fast and it's a good sign that he's already made the switch from QB to WR before he even arrives at training camp. 

I'd say those three players have the best shot to crack the two-deep with Gross the leading candidate right now. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

List Released

The athletic department released the official list of our incoming football class of 2016 late yesterday:

1. Oluwatoba "Toba" Akinleye DL 6-1, 207 lbs. Fort Hamilton HS Brooklyn. NY
2. Jacob Ardron LB 6-1 230 lbs. Diamond Ranch HS, Pomona, CA
3. Trevor Bell WR 5-9 170 lbs. Hamshire-Fannett HS Beaumont, TX
4. Brandon Blackshear DB 6-0 185 lbs. Sherwood HS Sherwood, OR
5. Matt Cahal DB 6-1, 190 lbs. Brophy College Prep Paradise Valley, AZ
6. Chris Cicilioni DE 6-2 235 lbs. Valley View HS Jessup, PA
7. Mark Cieslak LB 5-11 235 lbs. St. Joseph's HS Montvale, NJ
8. Chris Connors WR 6-1 205 lbs. St. Edward HS North Olmstead, OH
9.  Alec Davison LB 6-1 243 lbs. Clement HS Sugarland, TX
10. Andrew Dobitsch WR 5-10 170 lbs. Northern Valley HS Tappan, NJ
11. Nick Durham TE 6-3 215 lbs. Bishop Fenwick HS Franklin, Ohio
12. Josh Foster DB 5-11 165 lbs. Delran HS Delran, NJ
13. Michael Gerst RB 5-11 195 lbs. Bergen Catholic Bergen County, NJ
14. Isaiah Gross WR 6-3 180 lbs. Poway HS San Diego, CA
15. Scooter Hollis QB 6-1 165 lbs. Bowling Green HS Bowling Green, KY
16. J.D. Hurt DL 6-2 260 lbs. St. Anthony's HS Glen Cove, NY
17. Max Keefe LB 6-2 196 lbs. Choctawatchee HS Fort Walton, FL
18. Erik Kuklinski OL 6-7 265 lbs. Arlington HS LaGrangeville, NY
19. Bill Lawrence OL 6-8 250 lbs. St. Ignatius HS Chicago, IL
20. Marshall Markham OL 6-4 265 lbs. Kinkaid School Houston, TX
21. Kevin McCarthy, DB 6-0 200 lbs. Hingham, HS Hingham. MA
22. Trevor McDonagh, QB 6-2 185 lbs. St. Louis University HS St. Louis, MO
23. Cameron Molina, RB/LB 5-10, 185 lbs. Tuscarora HS Leesburg, VA
24. Daren Napier DL 6-4 261 lbs. St. John's HS Houston, TX
25. Niko Padilla, DL 6-1, 265 lbs. Parish Episcopal School Dallas, TX
26. Darin Patmon DB 6-0 175 lbs. Land O'Lakes HS Land O'Lakes, FL
27. Keith Ramljak OL 6-4 265 lbs. Westlake HS Westlake Village, CA

28. Travis Reim DB 6-0 175 lbs. Cedar Park HS Cedar Park, TX
29. Austin Stock OL 6-3 270 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH
30. Hank Trumbull QB 6-4 200 lbs. Chadwick School Palos Verdes, CA
*31. Jake Wanamaker WR 6-1 205 UT San Antonio
32. Mike Zunica, RB 6-0 205 lbs. St. Rita HS Chicago, IL

The official list is more identical to my unofficially reported roster than ever before, but there were some differences.

Missing are OL Brett Leatherwood and DB Julian Vigil. So far I haven't seen any reports of them committing to another school, but I'll keep my eyes open.

The rest of the notable changes, some quite minor, were these:

-Trevor Bell is 5-9, not 5-7

-Brandon Blackshear is coming in solely as a DB and is taller and bigger than previously reported

-Alec Davison is 225 lbs, not 243.

-Nick Durham is 6-3, 215 lbs. and coming in solely as a TE

-Max Keefe is coming is as a LB, not a safety


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brown List

Will Seth Rosenbauer be the latest in the line of great Brown QB's?

Brown is the latest Ivy school to officially release the names of its football class of 2016.

The premium players in this group appear to be:

-Chad Berry is very big, two-time all state linebacker from Connecticut. He should get a chance to play right away.

-Andrew Coke is about as good a RB prospect as we see nowadays in the Ivy League. 

-John Heile is an all state OL that Columbia also recruited very heavily. 

-John Howell is a 6-3 WR who should fit right in to Head Coach Phil Estes pass-happy offense. 

-Ludovic RIcharson is a big strong DT plugs holes on defense.

-Seth Rosenbauer is a 6-5 QB that Columbia came after too. He had an injury late in his HS career, which is why a 6-5 QB with a good arm was still available to Ivy recruiters.

-Michael Villapiano is a decent QB who I have to mention because he is the son of Oakland Raiders great Phil Villapiano. Tom is a very familiar face to even younger fans because he seems to make an appearance in just about every NFL Films piece about the 1970s.

Summer Camps

The new Mangurian regime is continuing a very important innovation started by Norries Wilson: summer recruiting camps.

Columbia will host four one-day camps at the end of June.

This is where the recruiters really get a chance to evaluate potential players and vice versa.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recruiting Manifesto

Head Coach Pete Mangurian's latest blog post is all about his approach to recruiting, and it's filled with some unique insights.

The first was that Mangurian says that his coaches spend more time evaluating prospects than actually "recruiting," or making a sales pitch to potential players. But that doesn't mean the coaches don't work very hard at getting a sense of what's in each recruit's head and heart.

Then Mangurian brings up a very interesting factor that we rarely, if ever, talk about here: the fact that in the Ivies there are clearly some players and parents who are gaming the football recruiting system just to get into an Ivy... not so much to play football.

Columbia has had its share of "players" likes this; guys who quit the team in the first few days of training camp, etc.  It doesn't happen too often, but every time it does it's a tough pill to swallow.

Some former players I've spoken too believe Mangurian's approach is good, but we may need to take a more "Moneyball" approach to recruiting to beat the Harvards and Penns of this world who have a great deal of advantages. In fact, I think that's what Brown has been doing very successfully since the mid-1990's.

But I think Mangurian may already be doing that. But saying that he's looking for "our guys," there's a hint that maybe Columbia is seeking players that wouldn't fit in as well at any other Ivy... especially a Harvard or Penn.

Finally I'm glad that Mangurian continues to insist that Columbia has several recruiting ADVANTAGES, which it does. And how refreshing is it to hear a Lion coach NOT complain about systemic issues from the get-go?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quaker Class

Cameron Countryman

Penn has added the names of its incoming freshmen to its roster page. Here they are:

 Miles BartholomewOL6-4270Fr.Fredonia, N.Y. (Saint Francis)
  Nolan BiegelLB6-2225Fr.Huntington Beach, Calif. (Huntington Beach)
  Dan ConnaughtonDL6-3270Fr.Lincoln, Mass. (Buckingham Browne and Nichols)
  Cameron CountrymanWR6-0180Fr.Santa Clara, Calif. (Beverly Hills)
  Trent DenningtonDB6-0200Fr.Colleyville, Texas (Colleyville Heritage)
  Ian DobbinsDB5-11185Fr.Belle Vernon, Pa. (Belle Vernon Area)
  Tyler DrakeDE6-2215Fr.Plantation, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
  Michael ElespuruRB6-0195Fr.San Clemente, Calif. (San Clemente)
  Jimmy GammillK/P6-1180Fr.New Albany, Ohio (New Albany)
  Ryan KellyTE6-4215Fr.Villanova, Pa. (Harriton)
  Max KurucarDB6-0175Fr.Oak Lawn, Ill. (St. Rita)
  Luke LeshinskyOL6-4265Fr.Livingston, N.J. (Livingston)
  Andrew LisaQB6-2200Fr.Moorestown, N.J. (Moorestown)
  Daniil LysenkoOL6-3290Fr.Arlington, Texas (Arlington)
  Jack MaddenWR6-1220Fr.Boulder, Colo. (Fairview)
  Alex MatthewsQB6-3205Fr.Lake Oswego, Ore. (Lake Oswego)
  Dylan MuscatDB6-0185Fr.Santa Monica, Calif. (Santa Monica)
  Lukas NossemDE6-3225Fr.Munster, Ind. (Munster)
  Tyler RothLB6-1210Fr.Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (Lahser)
  Cassius SimpsonWR6-2185Fr.Denver, Colo. (Lakewood)
  Christian StapletonWR6-2190Fr.Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J. (Saint Joseph Regional)
  Jack StibichLB6-1215Fr.Western Springs, Ill. (Fenwick)
  Austin TapsDL6-3245Fr.Mahopac, N.Y. (Archbishop Stepinac)
  Tanner ThextonDL6-5240Fr.Somerville, N.J. (Somerville)
  Kenny ThomasWR6-1180Fr.Laurel, Md. (Atholton)

Jack YorkOL6-2260Fr.Paradise Valley, Ariz. (Notre Dame Prep)

Here are a couple of facts that jump out at me: 

-Only ONE RB in the class! For a team that has avoided the problems of injuries and depth by recruiting as many tailbacks as possible in recents years, it's a real surprise to see just one RB in the class of 2016. Am I crazy to think a transfer is in the works at this position?

-DT Dan Connaughton from Buckingham, Browne and Nichols seems to be the prize of this Quaker class. He's a big, mean looking kid at a position that continues to frazzle Ivy League recruiters. 

-A lot of the pundits are very high on WR Cameron Countryman from Beverly Hills HS. And rightfully so. He's super fast and was offered scholarships at Colorado, Arizona State, and others. He could have an impact right away, except there's one problem: Penn QB Billy Ragone is just not a big time passer. Countryman may have to wait a year or two, (Ragone can go for a 5th year if he chooses), before he really gets the numbers he deserves. 

-The Penn commits I know Columbia went after were Thexton and Muscat, but I'm sure there were many more. 

Penn doesn't usually rely on freshmen to make even small contributions to the varsity, and there's little about this recruiting class that leads me to believe they'll be an exception. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Waiting for a Surprise

It could be up to another 10 days before the athletic department releases the official list of our incoming freshman football players, (and a transfer), for this coming fall.

Of course, based on my own reports we're probably only waiting confirmation of the 34 newcomers I've already listed on this blog:

1. Oluwatoba "Toba" Akinleye DE 6-1, 215 lbs. Fort Hamilton HS Brooklyn. NY
2. Jacob Ardron LB 6-1 230 lbs. Diamond Ranch HS, Pomona, CA
3. Trevor Bell WR/KR 5-7 190 lbs. Hamshire-Fannett HS Hamshire, TX
4. Brandon Blackshear CB/WR/KR 5-10 170 lbs. Sherwood HS Sherwood, OR
5. Matt Cahal DB 6-0, 190 lbs. Brophy College Prep Phoenix, AZ
6.Chris Cicilioni G/DE 6-2 225 lbs. Valley View HS Scranton, PA
7. Mark Cieslak LB 5-11 235 lbs. St. Joseph's HS Montvale, NJ
8. Chris Connors WR 6-1 205 lbs. St. Edward HS Lakewood, OH
9. Alec Davison LB 6-1 243 lbs. Clement HS Sugarland, TX
10. Andrew Dobitsch WR 5-11 180 lbs. Northern Valley HS Tappan, NJ
11. Nick Durham DE/TE 6-4 228 lbs. Bishop Fenwick HS Franklin, Ohio
12. Josh Foster DB 5-11 170 lbs. Delran HS Delran, NJ
13. Michael Gerst RB 5-10 190 lbs. Bergen Catholic Bergen County, NJ
14. Isaiah Gross WR 6-3 170 lbs. Poway HS Poway, CA
15. Scooter Hollis QB 6-1 175 lbs. Bowling Green HS Bowling Green, KY
16. J.D. Hurt DE 6-2 270 lbs. St. Anthony's HS Melville, NY
17. Max Keefe S 6-2 200 lbs. Choctawatchee HS Fort Walton, FL
18. Erik Kuklinski OL 6-7 270 lbs. Arlington HS LaGrangeville, NY
19. Bill Lawrence OL 6-9 250 lbs. St. Ignatius HS Chicago, IL
20. Brett Leatherwood OL 6-0 220 lbs. Anderson HS Austin, TX
21. Marshall Markham OL 6-5 285 lbs. Kinkaid School Houston, TX
22. Kevin McCarthy, S 6-1 200 lbs. Hingham, HS Hingham. MA
23. Trevor McDonagh, QB 6-3 200 lbs. St. Louis University HS St. Louis, MO
24. Cameron Molina, RB/LB 5-10, 185 lbs. Tuscarora HS Leesburg, VA
25. Daren Napier DT 6-4 275 lbs. St. John's HS Houston, TX
26. Niko Padilla, DT 6-2, 280 lbs. Parish Episcopal School Dallas, TX
27. Darin Patmon S 6-1 180 lbs. Land O'Lakes HS Land O'Lakes, FL
28. Keith Ramljak OL 6-4 275 lbs. Westlake HS Westlake Village, CA

29. Travis Reim DB 6-1 185 lbs. Cedar Park HS Cedar Park, TX
30. Austin Stock, C 6-3 270 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH
31. Hank Trumbull QB 6-4 210 lbs. Chadwick School Palos Verdes, CA
32. Julian Vigil DB 5-10 170 lbs. Mullen HS Denver, CO
*33. Jake Wanamaker WR 6-0 190 lbs. Central Catholic HS Houston, TX
34. Mike Zunica, FB 6-1 215 lbs. St. Rita HS Chicago, IL

*=transfer from UT San Antonio, will have to sit out 2012 season

Still, there's a strong chance 2-3 new names or changes to the above list will be evident when that officials release finally comes.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Linebacker Lineup

Alec Davison will fight to make an impact right away

Congratulations to baseball's Dario Pizzano for winning the Ivy League Player of the Year award.

Baseball remains a competitive team year after year, which stands as strong proof that the distance of the Baker Athletic Complex from campus does not mean the teams that play there can't succeed.

Best Backers

I want to revisit the quick but encouraging assessment of the linebacker corps that Head Coach Pete Mangurian gave in his review of the Spring Game defense.

Based on what he wrote, it appears the starters in the 4-3 defense will be junior Zach Olinger and seniors Ryan Murphy and Mike Waller.

When Olinger brole out midway through his freshman season in 2010, and he did improve from 16 tackles in his first year to 51 in his sophomore campaign.

But injuries held him out of three games in 2011. One can only imagine what this juggernaut from Alabama will be able to achieve if he stays healthy this fall.

Murphy is one of the fastest and determined pass rushers in the Ivy league. He had 10 tackles for a loss, including five sacks last season to stand out in what was otherwise a very down year for the team. Murphy can be a great weapon against the run too, but he'll have to step up that part of his game to make the jump to the All-Ivy level.

Waller was a surprise newcomer to the starting lineup last season, and he made the most if it.  He had nine tackles for a loss and showed a good ability to cover the pass too.

As for the backups, I have been impressed with junior Brian East since day one, and I also liked the way Ray Pesanello and Vinny Pugliese looked as freshman last year.

And Coach Mangurian surprised me with his high praise for Devan Luster, a linebacker who seemed very much under the radar under the Norries Wilson regime. It would be great if he can have a breakout season as a senior.

The top incoming freshmen linebacker is worth getting excited about. Alec Davison is a load at 6-1 and 243 pounds, and he may even be the top incoming freshmen in the whole class of 2016.

In a league where top-notch defensive linemen are at such a premium, linebacker player often makes the difference for a defense. It's encouraging that the brutally honest Mangurian is optimistic about this squad.

Friday, May 18, 2012

3 Month Warning

The Proving Grounds

Just three months from today, Columbia's football training camp will begin at the Baker Athletic Complex.

It's a significant date, because the incoming 34 new players appear to have the best chance of becoming starters compared to any other incoming new group in a long time.

The positions that seem most up for grabs are OL, RB, WR, and DB. I think it's almost guaranteed that one or two freshmen will crack the two-deep at just about every one of those slots.

But one position where there seems to be no chance of freshman involvement is kicker/punter.

Unless there's a kicker in the 2-3 incoming freshmen we still haven't heard about, there is no such player in the class of 2016.

That would usually be an issue of concern, but the Lions have a whopping 5 K/P's on the roster, (and QB Andrew Weiss can punt in a pinch too).

Paul Delaney seems to have the punting job all sewn up, while I still think Luke Eddy has the best leg as a placekicker Columbia has had in a long time.

But I expect to see some fierce competition for the kicking job this summer, and hopefully that will bring out the best in this very deep unit.

Special teams generally hurt the Lions the last few seasons, and that needs to change. Improving an offense and a defense is a lot harder than fixing special teams... generally. It's a quick way to give Columbia a new edge.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yale's List

Tyler Varga

Yale has announced its incoming football class of 2016, and there are a lot of names on the list that Columbia had been going after.

Of course we all know about QB Logan Scott, who originally committed to the Lions and switched to Yale.

But Columbia also heavily recruited Archuleta, Killion, Longinotti, and Meador.

The surprise addition is RB Tyler Varga, a transfer from the University of Western Ontario. At 5-11 and 220 pounds, he could make an impact in this league.

But all the recruiting overlap is sure to make this rivalry even sharper going forward.

Columbia hasn't defeated Yale since 2001, and there have been a lot of bitter and close losses since then.

Due to a quirk in the schedule, the Bulldogs come to Wien Stadium for the second year in a row this October. And the game is likely to again be televised on the YES Network.

Get ready...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Names to Honor

Yesterday we officially said goodbye to all the class of 2012 seniors at the university-wide graduation ceremonies during a rainy Tuesday here in New York.

All the seniors were really great young men, but I want to make special mention of the three 5th year seniors who truly sacrificed the most to stay with the team as long as possible.

Paul Havas, Mike Murphy and Mike Stephens were all very talented players who will be sorely missed.

They and all the seniors deserved better on the field, but they will certainly see greater successes in the years to come.

Merber Record

Another senior worth recognizing now is track star Kyle Merber who broke the American collegiate record with a blazing time in the 1,500 meters Monday evening.

Columbia's team sports have been in a dry spell, but the individual accomplishments of some of our athletes in track, tennis and golf have been impressive.

Adams Tops the List

It's fun to log on to the Dallas Cowboys roster and see Jeff Adams right there at the top of the alphabetical list!

Let's all hope Jeff manages to stay there for some time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Crimson List

Harvard's official list of incoming freshmen is out.

In a league where recruiting top-level running backs and defensive tackles has become the toughest job, the Crimson appear to have snagged at least one excellent running back.

That would be RB Dominick DeLucia, a two-time all state player from Rochester, NY.

I also think Doug Webb could become a star at DT.

Those of us waiting for Columbia's official list should not that it was not published last year until June 1st.

More from Mangurian

A lot of coaches are smooth talkers, but what Head Coach Pete Mangurian has been giving us in his blog posts has been a truly meaningful and insightful brand of football education that has been more than just refreshing.

Will this translate to wins on the field? There's no way to know that right now. But it's hard not to be encouraged after continually sampling this guy's wisdom.

His latest post points out some of the truths I and many other fans of this program have tried to get across for years:

-Columbia has HUGE advantages when it comes to recruiting. There's no good reason we can't attract great players.

-There's no acceptable excuse for losing, especially not the ones that have to do with institutional problems on Morningside Heights. A good football organization can erase those problems quickly.

-Our opponents know that with the right coaching we can win right away.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Super Test

Pete Mangurian coaching the offensive line at Tampa Bay

To be clear, the five players who have left the team are QB Percee Goings, WR James Burrell, DL Anthony Villamagna, OL Xander Frantz and LB Mark McClain.

McClain is remaining with the team as a student volunteer, he has been forced off the field by injury. 

Losing Burrell is not the biggest surprise, as he has had personal issues almost from day one. But I still consider him a loss because he had the physical tools to play a big role in this new offensive scheme. 

Goings will be missed too, as he had a lot of personality and overall physical ability. But I think Head Coach Pete Mangurian is leaning toward a more pass-centered QB system and that makes a running QB like Goings less of a commodity.

Villamagna was always kind of a project, coming from a high school in Texas that had just started playing football during his time there. But after three years of not getting any real playing time with the varsity, I don't think it was going to happen.

The real head scratcher is Frantz. His departure now leaves the Lions with just NINE returning offensive linemen for the fall. 

In other words, that means at least one freshman is guaranteed to make the two-deep on the offensive line right off the bat in week one against Marist! 

Now I know Coach Mangurian coached offensive line in the pros, and I do feell confident he will get the most out of who's left. 

But again, there's just NINE veteran OL's coming back! And only Scott Ward is a proven All-Ivy caliber player right now. 

This looks like a tailor made opportunity for one of Columbia's top-rated incoming freshmen, Austin Stock. Stock was cited very early on in the recruiting process as a real gem for the Lions. The problem is, Stock primarily plays center and the idea of a freshmen playing that position is very dicey. But I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a big splash in training camp.

Keith Ramljak from California may also be pressed into service early as well as Marshall Markman from the talent-rich Kinkaid School in Houston, (where Wells Childress went to high school). 

And there's always a chance one of the 2-3 incoming recruits we don't yet know about will be a top-notch OL ready to play right away.

Does Columbia's lack of depth and experience on the O-line spell certain disaster for the Lions? It's certainly a cause for serious concern. I'm not doubting Mangurian's abilities as a miracle worker, but there are miracles and there are MIRACLES.

The template for succeeding in the Ivies without a great or experience O-line was created in 2006 by the Princeton Tigers. That year, the Tigers basically started five brand new offensive linemen every week. And all they did was end up winning the Ivy championship! 

But a big asterisk has to go up on that title, because Princeton's QB that season was a perfect fit for a sketchy offensive line. Jeff Terrell was a master of the quick release that helped cut down considerably on the amount of protection time he needed in the pocket. 

Sean Brackett's talents are many, and Lion fans are very eager to see what he'll be able to do this fall after last year's injury-riddled season. But quick release is not something he's shown much of over the past three years. He is a great scrambler and runner and that's an obvious asset, but I think it's clear Mangurian wants him to stay in the pocket more this year. 

Mangurian has no shortage of challenges ahead of him, but patching together an effective offensive line for this coming season will be the toughest. But if he succeeds there, there's no telling how much more this team will be able to do in 2012 and beyond. 

Lost Lions

The Columbia roster has been updated and it's 5 names lighter than last week.

Two surprise losses were OL Xander Frantz and QB Percee Goings.

Frantz got a very large chunk of playing time last season, so this was not expected.

Goings looked like he had a future, even if it turned out to be at a position other than QB.

It's important to not, however, that these player losses may not be the result of guys getting cut or even quitting the team. I know of at least one player now off the roster because of a serious injury who is staying with the program as a coaching aide.

More on this later, but we can't forget that Head Coach Pete Mangurian did say he wanted to pare the roster by anywhere from 10 to 15 additional players. It is possible this is the beginning of that process.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Roar Lions Roar Hits the Road!

I'm traveling up and down the Mid-Atlantic region this weekend, chasing down a few stories and maybe spotting a few fans along the way.

Posts will be sporadic until Monday, BUT you can always check for updates on my Twitter feed @jakejakeny.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Game Changer?

Cameron Molina

One of the incoming Columbia players I'm most interested to see is RB Cameron Molina from Tuscarora HS in Northern Virginia.

Everything about Molina is a bit different, especially the fact that he played for a HS that only opened its doors in 2010.

That late entry into the sport often spells great things for Ivy football players. In other words, when we're lucky enough to grab them early in their development in football we end up grabbing someone who otherwise would have landed at a BCS or close to it.

DL Josh Martin fits a similar bill; he only started playing football in his sophomore year of high school and now he is one of the best defensive players in the Ivies.

Columbia really needs a go-to running back like yesterday. It would be great if Molina could at least make a run for the job this summer.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Make Your Picks

The official athletic department obituary for Rich Ruzika contains some added information about his life and a great vintage picture of him from his playing days. Please check it out.

TV Choices

Now that the new TV deal with NBC Sports has been signed, let's assume only the minimum six Ivy football games are televised this fall.

If you were the programming director, which ones would you choose?

If my only goal was the best ratings and getting the most exciting games, I would try to hold out until during the season to make those choices.

But NBC will probably have to decide much sooner than that.

So if I were the program director, here are the games I'd choose if I had to choose now:

1) Harvard-Yale

Actually, I have no choice there. That is the one game NBC is already committed to broadcast. But let's face it, it will get the top ratings anyway/.

2) Harvard-Brown

This week 2 game is at Brown this year and it has become one of the most important and exciting games almost every year for the past decade.

3) Harvard-Penn

Most years, this game seals the Ivy title for the winner.

4) Brown-Penn

Penn seemed like it was on the decline last season, but I'd take a chance on this being another important and fun game again this season.

5) Cornell-Brown

This could be a real offensive fireworks show. And it's week 6 so it could really mean something.

6) Cornell-Harvard

I know, it's a lot of Harvard. But this game this year is in Ithaca and it should be a great test of how good 2011 offensive MVP Jeff Mathews really is.

If NBC goes for a few more games, I'd throw in the Columbia-Cornell game in week nine as it is the 100th meeting... BUT that's the same week as Harvard-Penn. I would also consider Brown-Yale, but I am pretty sure the YES Network will have that game. YES will probably also broadcast Yale at Columbia in week 7.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breaking: Ruzika Passes Away

Ruzika, left, with Bill Campbell and Rory Wilfork (CREDIT: Columbia College Today) 

I have very sad news for Columbia football fans right now, Richard Ruzika '81, who towered over opponents as a 6-6 defensive lineman and part-time TE, has died at the age of 53.

Ruzika had such a strong senior year in 1980, that the NY Jets signed him and tried to make him into a full-time tight end. But Ruzika's path lay elsewhere.

He left Jet camp and signed on with Goldman Sachs, where he became a legend during a 30 year career as a commodities trader.

During that time he became a major financial contributor to Columbia athletics and the school in general.

He even won a Columbia alumnus' highest honor, the John Jay Award, in 2006.

Ruzika's death is a shock, as he surprisingly suffered a stroke during routine knee surgery. This kind of thing is not supposed to happen.

I know for a fact Ruzika read the original Roar Lions Roar blog daily and I was honored to have him follow the team through it.

Our condolences go out to all of his family and friends.

On the Air

After all the lobbying and selling, (who knows how much there was actually, but let's pretend we shopped ourselves around), the Ivy League has made a deal with the NBC Sports Network, (formerly Versus), to continue televising football games on that channel for another two years.

There is going to be some expanded coverage, maybe. NBC has agreed to POSSIBLY cover up to 10 football games this coming fall which is up a bit from previous seasons. There will also be some men's basketball and lacrosse games broadcast in early 2013.

Because of the high amount of Olympic content that will be shown on this same network this summer, the channel will have a bit of a higher profile than it has had in the past by the time the fall rolls around. And right now, a lot of us are watching the NHL playoffs on the network.

But I'm not sure how many markets that don't currently have NBC Sports will get it in time for September.

Princeton's Class

Princeton is usually the first school to formerly introduce its incoming football freshmen, and this year is no exception.

Here is the Tiger class of 2016, courtesy of  "Tiger Blog":

NamePositionHometownHigh School
Matt ArendsWR/SPrior Lake, MNPrior Lake High School
DiAndre AtwaterRBDuluth, GAPeachtree Ridge High School
Isaiah BarnesQB/WRFreeport, NYFreeport High School
Nolan BieckKFort Lauderdale, FLSaint Thomas Aquinas School
Kedric Bostic, IIIQBJupiter, FLJupiter Christian High School
Britt ColcoloughOLMemphis, TNMemphis University School
Alex DixonOLAlpharetta, GAMount Pisgah Christian School
Dan DreherDTWestlake, OHHoly Name High School
Andrew EhertsOLBAllentown, PASalisbury Senior High School
Nick FekulaDBMonongahela, PAElizabeth Forward High School
Grayson FisherDEUpper Arlington, OHUpper Arlington High School
Andrew FrisbyCBTucson, AZSabino High School
Anthony GaffneyWR/CBColumbus, NJTaft School
Joe GraenCPittsford, NYPittsford Sutherland High School
John HillRB/CBWarren, MIDetroit Country Day School
Baxter IngramILBLebanon, TNWilson Central High School
Evan KappatosFBSyosset, NYSyosset High School
Max LescanoOLBFort Lauderdale, FLSaint Thomas Aquinas School
Ian McGearyNNorth Brunswick, NJNorth Brunswick High School
Travis McHughATHWoodside, CABellarmine College Prep
Wes MoonSSuperior, COMonarch High School
Dre' NelsonRBStone Mountain, GAGreater Atlanta Christian School
Taylor PettyWRNewport Beach, CASage Hill High School
Brian ShengDTJericho, NYSyosset High School
Matthew SkowronDECary, NCCardinal Gibbons High School
Caleb SlateOLMiddleburg, FLClay High School
Joe SmithOLBWest Seneca, NYSaint Francis High School
Chris SmithRB/SPittsburgh, KSSaint Mary's-Colgan High School
Zach SmithRB/SPittsburgh, KSSaint Mary's-Colgan High School
Marcus StroudDEProsper , TXProsper High School
Alex WalterTEHaddonfield, NJHaddonfield Memorial High School
Dylan WhiteTEPittsburgh, PAMount Lebanon High School

First, I'm happy to say that none of the recruits I had reported as committing to Columbia are on the Princeton list, (that happens sometimes).

Just a shocking FIVE players come from the New York City-New Jersey area in this group. Usually, New Jersey is much better represented for Princeton. And two of the New York area freshmen come from Syosset HS on Long Island which is FAR from a football powerhouse, (but that school IS famous for having a current 18-year-old senior running for the school board.).

Tiger Head Coach Bob Surace could very well be fired this year if Princeton doesn't at least go 3-7, (I think he needs to go at least 4-6 to keep the job). I'm not sure how much this class will help him do that.