Friday, August 31, 2012

Columbia Football 2012

It's Brackett's last chance to take flight

Overview: It's about the Players

New coach, new system, any questions?

In any other year, the "overview" for a team starting its first season with a groundbreaking new coach like Pete Mangurian would be all about the new coach. Every other story would justifiably be lost in the haze.

Mangurian is legitimately overhauling the entire Columbia football program. No small detail is being overlooked and suddenly the future looks brighter. The Lions were in dire need of a mature, serious leader. They got one in Mangurian. While you can't heap too much praise on him until the team actually WINS, there is no denying Mangurian has already improved the management of the football program. 

More about Coach Mangurian later,  but we shouldn't lose sight of what this season should really be about. 

The players.

And not just any players. 

Columbia football's senior class is filled with young men with extraordinary talent who deserved better than what they got when it comes to a won-lost record. They deserved better than what they got when it comes to overall coaching. And they deserved better than what they got in administrative and fan support. 

One of those very special players is Sean Brackett. Brackett is a once-in-decade quality quarterback, maybe better. He should have more wins under his belt as a starter than just the seven he has going into his senior year. He should have a lot of other things too. 

Looking down the road, I really don't want Brackett to become the latest in an endless line of great Columbia football players who get excluded from special anniversary All-Ivy teams and get forgotten by everyone but hardcore fans.  

Another special senior is Josh Martin. A defensive force for the past two years, Martin has an outside shot at an NFL career. A strong senior year should help make that happen. 

Other super seniors lost in the coaching and losing record shuffles are linebacker Ryan Murphy and defensive end Seyi Adebayo. 

This season should be about them first and foremost. The promising Mangurian should have many years to make his mark, (Norries Wilson got six), and the failing athletics administrators have been in place for a decade now. 

This is the last chance. The last season for Brackett, Martin, Murphy and Adebayo. They deserve to go out strong.

I wish the Columbia athletics department was up to the task, or even doing a halfway decent job, of publicizing the PLAYERS. I suppose they would, but they're too busy covering speeches Athletic Director Dianne Murphy is making to the Podunk Rotary Club or whatever. 

Individual, short, and picture-laden profiles of 10 or so leading Lion returning players should have been posted to the CU website WEEKS ago... but there's still nothing. The result is our hardest working and sacrificing players are still shrouded in relative obscurity. Not acceptable.

Coach Mangurian has already done a nice end run around the traditional communication rules by frequently contributing to his own blog and making regular Tweets and Facebook posts. I expect this will continue through the season and he will start singling out more of the great players when they deserve it. 

So again, let's focus on the PLAYERS. 

That said, Mangurian is also a lead story because of the radically different approach he's bringing to the program. He has done everything from changing the practice time to the crack of dawn, (I wake up at 4:10am every day, so I can relate), to conducting a TRUE national search for a weightlifting and conditioning coach.  

Just this week, we saw the results from the shocking weight loss numbers he demanded from just about every player this off season. Even in the Ivies, we haven't seen starting offensive linemen at the 245-255 pound level in decades. This is indeed real change.

And let's be honest, is there a football program in the world that needed more top-to-bottom change than Columbia? I liked the general improvement in talent the Lions enjoyed under Coach Wilson, but that wasn't enough to make a real difference in the W-L record. 

Mangurian deserves a honeymoon period from criticism for now, but his predecessors' records have unfairly cut that time short. Wilson and Bob Shoop before him were both given way too much leeway. It took a personal conduct breakdown by Shoop to get fired and a total team breakdown for Wilson to finally get the boot. 

But even in this environment where a very starved Columbia fan base deserves wins and wins NOW... Mangurian deserves at least this season as a shakedown cruise. Even Bear Bryant needed one bad year to get the kinks out of Texas A&M after the legendary "Junction Boys" training camp of 1954. 

So that's why I have Lions finishing at 6th this season. Mangurian's needed reforms will take time to turn this program into a winner, and there are too many serious questions about the offensive line, running game, and wide receivers to expect a winning record this fall. 

But getting back to the competitive level this team showed in 2009 and the beginning of 2010 is very possible this season and should be the realistic goal for 2012. 

Josh Martin

Team Strengths


The lead story of the 2012 Lions could be the new coach and the senior players, but it could also end up being about what looks like it could be one of the best defenses in recent Columbia history. 

New defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa could be the steal of the year. Yeah, he's that good. 

But so is most of the personnel, especially in the unusually talented and deep defensive line and linebacking corps. 

That group will be led by Martin, who has been the Lions leading defensive threat since 2010. He moves back to the D-line this season after officially being classified as a linebacker in 2011. But his role has never changed. He gets after opposing QB's and RB's with ferocity and plays what one of his former teammates told me is "Southern smash mouth football."

Martin is joined up front by another senior defensive end with enormous athletic ability and passion in Adebayo. The two of them together could make up the best starting DE tandem in decades for Columbia.

But the list of stellar defensive ends doesn't stop there. Junior Wells Childress, he got his feet wet a bit last year after his transfer from Texas A&M, has slimmed down to about 250 pounds and is focused on speed as opposed to just bulk this season. Coach Mangurian says Childress was one of the most improved players in spring practice.

But wait, there's more! Junior Nick Melka was a flat out performer last season and he looks primed for big things again this year. Sophomore Chad Washington was impressive as a frosh last season, and Will Patterson is a senior with good experience and talent. In the spring, Mangurian had some good words of praise for him especially. 

The defensive tackle position, perhaps the second hardest position to fill properly in the Ivies, (behind running back), is not as deep... at least not if you don't count the freshmen. At this point, I expect Greg Lee to be in the mix. Shad Sommers and Eric Stock also seem like naturals to lead at this position, but Coach Mangurian never mentioned them in his preseason missives. 

That means it's likely that some of the freshmen will make an immediate contribution here, but don't panic. Remember how much Owen Fraser '12 meant to the Lions in 2008 when he was a freshman? 

And the freshmen talent at this position is significant. Niko Padilla and Daren Napier both look like stars. As of this writing, Napier's official weight listing soared from 261 this spirng to 305 lbs. now. Don't be surprised if he plays a significant role as a defensive tackle this season. 

There's another embarrassment of riches at linebacker for Columbia. The starters should beZach Olinger, Mike Waller and Murphy. Junior Brian East is a very strong backup and Coach Mangurian likes senior Devan Luster. Juniors Ray Pesanello and Vinny Puglieseshould not be ignored. 

And really don't sleep on freshman Alec Davison. He's not only the best incoming linebacker in the Ivies, he may be the best freshman overall. 


The fourth-year starting QB would rank higher than the front seven as a team strength, but his injury troubles the last two seasons give a little pause here. By all reports, Sean is fully recovered and he will benefit from better coaching than his previous three years. OC Jaime Elizondo is also working as the QB coach and this will be an upgrade. 

Everyone's been enamored of Brackett's running speed since his debut against Yale in 2009. But his arm is underrated and dangerous, as is his knack, (when healthy), to avoid the INT. That's what Mangurian wants him to stay put in the pocket more this season... and he won't leave him hanging. The coaches have drawn up an H-back/receivers out of the backfield scheme that should give Brackett a lot more safe options when the pass protection collapses around him. 

Brackett's best quality is not completely tangible. He has the soul and the guts of a winner. That was really on display in the win over Brown last season and the win over Cornell in 2010. He's willing to sacrifice, lead, and perform when it counts. 


Another strength is TE Hamilton Garner. He's tall, has great hands and developed an excellent chemistry with Brackett last year. He made 2nd Team All Ivy, but he's being treated like an unknown in most of the other preseason previews. Garner is going to get a lot of catches this year and he's a key to the season. 


He has zero wins as a Columbia coach right now, but Mangurian is already a strength because he brings the maturity and discipline this program has needed for years. Getting rid of some of the negative influences at Columbia has already resulted in addition by subtraction. 

Lack of preparation really hurt this team, especially the last two years. And while the Lions may have new issues this season, I don't expect preparedness to be one of them. 

We'll miss you, Jeff!



Jeff Adams '12 is gone. Bob Hauschildt '12 is gone. Coach Mangurian has not given All-Ivy returning senior Scott Ward much of a vote of confidence. 

And it's on this unit where Mangurian is focusing his grand plan of using lighter players who hopefully stay stronger throughout a full game. 

If you're looking for some of the reasoning behind why Columbia is deliberately slimming down it's O-line to an average weight of 262 pounds, read these thoughts from the pretty successful O-line coach for Florida International, Alex Mirabal:

"In the first quarter you might be going up against a kid that is 325 pounds, but is that kid going to be in great shape in the fourth quarter and be playing at 325 pounds? Or is he going to be tired and rising up out of his stance? Now he is no longer a 325-pound kid and that to me is the importance. It’s not how much you weigh. It’s can you sustain that weight through four quarters? If you can sustain that weight through four quarters then be 380 pounds, but it doesn’t happen. So our mentality is a wearing down process. We do it by making them run when they don’t want to run. If we’re pass protecting and the ball is thrown I don’t want my guys standing there. I want them to go and try to discourage the guy. Go and give them that shove, go run them down the field. Make that defensive guy wear down throughout the process. Make that big joker have to try and get back up because it zaps their energy. It’s a mentality and a process that we practice."

I think the philosophy will make sense for Columbia in a number of games down the road, but it's going to be hard to take hold right away. A lot of these players will be getting on to the field at their new weights for the first time and that's a tough adjustment. 

Considering how crucial the offensive line for the success of any team, this unit has become the make-or-break ground zero for the 2012 Lions. If the front five play just well enough to avoid offensive chaos, Columbia has a shot at a 3-4 win season. If it surprises by playing extremely well, the sky's the limit.   


Columbia's search to find a real durable impact RB has been about as successful as most of the other teams in the Ivies over the past 10 years. 

Which is to say it has been entirely unsuccessful. 

There's nothing more rare these days than a 1,000 yarder rusher in the Ivy League. And that list just got smaller with the loss of 2011 1,000-yarder Chuck Dibillio at Princeton and the graduation of Nick Schwieger at Dartmouth. 

The Lions come into this season with serious questions at this position. Junior Marcorus Garrett has tremendous talent and could have a breakout season if he is fully recovered from ankle problems that plagued him last year. Senior Nick Gerst is also finally recovered from injury, but he's missed a lot of training camp and is catching up right now. Griffin Lowry was solid in emergency duty last season but never really had a breakout game. The lone fullback on the roster is sophomore Steven Silvio, who is another unproven entity. 

The most promising freshman is Cameron Molina, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the mix this season. Nick's younger brother Mike Gerst might factor as well. 

I'm as optimistic as anyone about the talent Garrett, Gerst, and the rest bring to the table. But this is a serious question mark that becomes even more troublesome when you add in all the issues with the offensive line. 


Whatever issues the Lions have at wide receiver, it's not about numbers. 16 wide receivers are on the Columbia roster right now and I can't remember a time when the Lions had more than 12. Impressive sophomore Connor Nelligan, sophomore transfer Jake Wanamaker, and experienced junior Louis DiNovo seem to have an inside track to start this fall. But none of them have the established chemistry with Brackett that Garner has at tight end or the now-graduated Mike Stephens and Kurt Williams enjoyed at times last year. 

Mangurian said in the spring that he expected the freshmen to make a real contribution here, and I have to think that Isaiah Gross was atop his mind when he said that. The San Diego speedster is also the tallest of the incoming frosh WR's at 6-2. 

I'm a little more optimistic about this group than the running backs right now, but again that comes heavy on hope and light on solid data to back it up. 


The secondary has plenty of personnel, but little of the proven talent evident in the front seven. 

Throw in an injury to senior safety Steven Grassa, and there are some concerns here.

Junior Marquel Carter may be the most talented veteran, but he needs to be more consistent and overcome what I'll call erratic behavior concerning his weight and health. 

The hardest worker is probably senior Brian DeVeau who seems to have the inside track at one starting corner position. Don't be surprised to see him fill in at wide receiver a bit too. 

But Coach Mangurian is very high on his incoming freshmen DB's, and he should be when it comes to players like Kevin McCarthy and Brandon Blackshear

There's no denying the secondary is a concern, but Coach Lempa is giving it his special attention and there is certainly no lack of sheer bodies to get the job done here. 

And with the strong front seven to lead the way, a weaker pass defense may not get exposed all that much in the end. 

Contrast that with the running backs and the wide receivers who DON'T have a proven O-line to lead the way and you can see why I've put this secondary last on the list of weaknesses to worry about this season.

Coach Mangurian needs at least a year to turn it all around

Game by Game

The last factor to consider is the actual 2012 schedule, and it's really unbalanced.

The first three games are at home and they are among the most winnable games of the season. Marist, Fordham, and Princeton all look weak compared to the rest of Columbia's opponents. 

The week four and five games at Lehigh and Penn are going to be very rough, but don't forget that Columbia has played better against the Quakers recently even at Franklin Field. 

Homecoming in week six against Dartmouth is winnable, but still tougher than the week seven challenge against Yale which is also at home. 

Then it gets really tough. 

The Lions close out the year with a road game at Ivy power Harvard, a home game against scoring powerhouse Cornell, and a road game against Brown. 

I see Columbia going 3-7 this season with their most likely wins over Marist, Princeton, and either Fordham, Yale or Dartmouth. A realistic best case scenario is the Lions win all five games against the aforementioned teams and go 5-5. 

As usual, I hope I'm wrong and Columbia puts together a winning season. I'm certainly not conceding any game, not even the Lehigh contest. But Mangurian is just beginning a process here and this was a 1-9 team last season after all. 

Patience is the hardest thing to sell for those of us who are already waiting 16 years for another winning season. But I expect this season to provide a lot of positive excitement whatever the won-lost record and that's something to look forward to.

It's On!

Cheating at Harvard

A massive cheating scandal is unfolding at Harvard that may ensnare some members of the football team.

So far, no one has been identified publicly, but we'll keep a close eye on this one.

Fordham Trashes High School... I mean D-II Lock Haven

As expected, Fordham trashed D-II "opponent" Lock Haven in the Rams season opener last night.

The score was 55-0. We didn't learn much about how competitive Fordham will be against real competition, but we did probably learn that QB's Ryan Higgins and Michael Nebrich will split time at the position for now.

We'll learn some more valuable things tomorrow after Marist and Lehigh play their opening games against teams that actually provide some level of challenge.

15 Days to Go!

My season tickets arrived yesterday, and I'm a little bummed that they don't feature pictures of CU players past or present.

Oh well, I guess they had to save money someplace.

CU Preview Today

My annual preseason analysis of Columbia football will be released later today for your Labor Day Weekend reading pleasure.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quick Updates

Thanks to Twitter, we can now confirm that there will be no preseason scrimmage against another team this preseason. Coach Mangurian says, "We will work against ourselves. We have plenty to work on."


Fordham Info

Correction: Fordham's game notes  game notes for tomorrow night's season opener against the Lock Haven whatevers have been up since Wednesday, they were just hard to find. 

For now, Ryan Higgins gets the start at QB, backed up by VERY recent UConn transfer Michael Nebrich. 2011 Part-time starter Peter Maetzold has already been cast aside, and I expect Higgins will go the same way after this tune up. The Lions will be seeing Nebrich as the starter when the Rams come into Wien Stadium on Sept. 22nd. Bet on it.

Bailey Out Again

Well, so much for that super-improved Penn wide receiving corps and passing game. Would-be junior WR Aaron Bailey, who was spectacular as a freshman in 2010, is out again this season for academic reasons. He missed 2011 for the same reason. And better passing QB Ryan Becker, who sometimes spells Billy Ragone in long yardage situations, is also out for the year with a bad knee.

So even though the Quakers still have decent WR's in Ryan Mitchell, the returning, (from injury) Conner Scott, and the freshman sensation Cameron Countryman, there still is the small matter of Ragone being a sub-par medium to long-range passer. 

Two-time 2011 starting DB Anthony Marino has left the team for good. No reason given. 

It's just the latest data that makes me confident about my prediction that Penn does not finish second this year. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The Columbia football roster has been updated with the new weights for the players.

And the differences are DRAMATIC.

Below I have listed the new weights and changes for the players listed by position.

You'll seem the most eye-popping changes for yourself, but here's what got my attention the most:

Freshman Daren Napier gained 44 POUNDS to 305 lbs?!?!?  If so, he would make a great DT, but is that right?

Wells Childress down 26 pounds to 249, (but I reported that before).

Nick Melka down 29 POUNDS to 216.

Shad Sommers down 33 pounds to 250.

Eric Stock down 43 POUNDS to 227!

Now for the shocking losses along the O-line:

Tom Callahan down 37 pounds to 258.

Dylan Leonard down 46 pounds to 245

Jimmy Yukevich down 44 pounds to 253.

Freshman Marshall Markham was up 30 pounds to 295.

I'm not sure how many of these veteran offensive linemen can continue to go at the Ivy level at just 250 or 245 pounds. But I know cutting weight was a major goal for Head Coach Peter Mangurian, and he's getting it.

Here are the full team changes:

Blackshear -2 to 183

Bocci -20 to 170

Braddock -5 to 200

Cahal -8 to 182

Carter -21 to 194

Cummins -2 to 198

Deveau -13 to 187

DiTomasso -11 to 184

Foster no change

Grassa no change (injured)

McCarthy -10 to 190

Mingo no change

Patmon +9 to 184

Reim +14 to 189

Skalitzky +1 to 176

Thaxton -2 to 188

Thomas no change

Adebayo -13 to 242

Akinleye +3 to 210

Childress -26 to 249

Cicilioni -15 to 220

Coleman no change

Hurt +2 to 262

Lee -17 to 238

Little +3 to 225

Martin +3 to 245

Melka -29 to 216

Napier +44 to 305 (I don’t think so???)

Padilla no change

Patterson -10 to 220

Schwartz -6 to 224

Sommers -33 to 250

Eric Stock -43 to 227

Washington -6 to 234

Silvio -24 to 206

Delaney -23 to 192

Eddy -12 to 203

Feely +5 to 165

Guttas -22 to 186

Perfetti +7 to 185

Ardron -3 to 227

Brady -6 to 214

Cieslak +5 to 225

Davison -17 to 208

East -8 to 204

Max Keefe  +8 to 204

Luster -13 to 212

Murphy unchanged

Olinger -5 to 215

Pesanello -6 to 225

Pugliese +15 to 220

Waller -14 to 208

Callahan -37 to 258

Ghergurovich -24 to 260

Kosminskas -14 to 275

Kuklinski no change

Lawrence -8 to 242

Leonard -46 to 245

Markham +30 to 295

Parker -28 to 260

Ramljak +5 to 270

Stock -10 to 260

Ryan Thomas -29 to 246

Ward no change

Yukevich -44 to 253

Brackett -15 to 190

Heinrich no change

McDonagh +17 to 202

Trumbull -4 to 196

Weiss -4 to 180

Fisher -5 to 190

Garrett -5 to 195

Mike Gerst -10 to 185

Nick Gerst no change

Lowry -17 to 198

Molina +10 to 195

Walker no change

Zunica +7 to 212

DeMuth -28 to 222

Durham -5 to 210

Garner +2 to 234

McKown -9 to 215

Andrada no change

Bell no change, (but down 1 inch to 5-8)

Connors -10 to 195

DiNovo -10 to 185

Dobitsch no change

Flannery no change

Grant +10 to 190

Gross -5 to 175

Hollis -10 to 155

John Keefe no change

Nelligan +5 to 198

Prince -5 to 200

Ross -13 to 173

Sigmon no change

Slivka -5 to 200

Wanamaker -14 to 191

More Yale Scandal

Chris Smith

The drama in the ethics-tainted Yale football program has another headline:

Top Eli wide receiver Chris Smith is out for the season with "personal issues."

Speculate if you will, but whatever the full reason, this latest development justifies everything I wrote about Yale earlier this week when I picked the Bulldogs to finish 7th.

Meanwhile, the same article about Smith indicates that the QB race at Yale is still wide open. One candidate is former Columbia recruit Logan Scott, the player Coach Tony Reno's staff poached from the Lions early this year.

I wonder what it would be like to get to rush Scott for an entire game at Wien Stadium this October 20th.

Game Notes?

The Fordham Rams kick off their season TOMORROW night against D-II Lock Haven, but there are still no game notes published.

I think that tells you have seriously even their sports department is taking this game. It's pretty obvious it's just a glorified preseason scrimmage.

That's not to say the Ram info people have been lazy. Check out all the excellent previews available about every main unit on the team. It should make Columbia fans jealous to see a department that actually wants to inform its fans about what the team is going to look like.

The only out of conference Columbia opponent to post game notes so far is Lehigh. You can read them here.

The Mountain Hawks are going for their third straight Patriot League title and are heavily favored to grab it. Check out the Lehigh two-deep to see an impressive, if not impossible to defeat opponent and its starters.

I still think the Lions road game at Lehigh on October 6th will be the toughest game for Columbia to win this season.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes on Notes

Waiting on game notes

Any day now, (or any moment), we should get the opening week game notes for all of Columbia's out of conference opponents.

Fordham's should come first as the Rams open their season just two days from now against D-II Lock Haven in the Bronx. Marist and Lehigh kickoff 2012 on Saturday.

The two biggest questions will be who will be Fordham's starting QB and who will be the signal caller for the Red Foxes at Marist.

That brings me to a little pet peeve I have about game notes and two-deeps. That is, the wide practice of not actually naming the starting QB in those notes and going with the "Player X OR Player Y" cop out.

If you're a head coach and you sincerely can't decide who your starting QB is about two days before kickoff, then you're just not decisive enough for this line or work. Try selling shoes instead.

If you're a head coach who likes to play head games with the players or the fans, just stop. They don't work outside of practice in any kind of positive way. Show your players you have the confidence in them by announcing them publicly as starters.

If announcing the two-deep is just something that annoys you, then don't. Don't pretend you're all for informing and pumping up the fan base and then pull the rug out from everyone 72 or 48 hours before the game.

Tickets Coming

If you ordered season tickets for Columbia football,. you should be getting them in the mail this week. Let us know here when they arrive and which players have been honored with their images on the tickets for the six home games.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Adams Still In

I have learned that Jeff Adams '12, survived the latest cut in Dallas Cowboys camp.

Jeff is still alive!

Ivy League Football 2012

It really looks like Harvard's Year


One of the great things about taking this blog to the private subscription model is I get a lot more freedom to tell it like it is.

The following Ivy season preview contains some blunt observations about the league and the individuals involved with it.

Just a little warning.

Okay, let's go!

Theme for 2012

Last year, just about every Ivy pundit was convinced that 2011 would be the "year of the quarterback." The logic was that since every Ivy team had a veteran starter returning, the QB's would dominate the outcome of the season.

But in the end, only one QB really did. almost all the other veterans disappointed in one way or another.

That one QB, of course, was Cornell's Jeff Mathews who shattered a bushell of Ivy passing records en route to a Bushnell Cup and a surprising late season surge for the Big Red. And he's still only a junior. (Can you say: "NFL-bound?").

My take last year was that it would, yet again, be the "year of the coach." Hey, in the Ivy League it's ALWAYS the year of the coach. And so the superior coaching and recruiting abilities of Harvard's Tim Murphy really shined through as the Crimson tore through the schedule to the championship. Similarly, Brown's Phil Estes guided his team to another strong season and Al Bagnoli managed to hide a major decline in defensive quality just enough to get his Penn Quakers into that logjam tie for second place.

On the other side of the coin, inferior coaching doomed Yale, Princeton, and of course Columbia to disappointing seasons. We all know what happened to Yale's Tom Williams and Columbia's Norries Wilson. I'll have more on the fate of Princeton's Bob Surace a little later.

 Of course, the coaches will again be the #1 factor in success or failure again this season. But THIS will be much more of a "year of the quarterback" than last year for a number of reasons:

1) All eyes will be on Mathews as even the non-Ivy news media is aware of him and will be following his progress closely.

2) Ivy powers Harvard and Brown will both be starting new QB's this season, and their success rides heavily on how well they perform.

3) New QB starters will also be unveiled at Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale. A tremendous amount will be riding on each of them.

4) The other two QB's, Columbia's Sean Brackett and Penn's Billy Ragone must improve on somewhat disappointing 2011 seasons for their teams to have a successful 2012.

So let's label 2012 "The Year of the QB... and We Really Mean it this Time!"

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Harvard
2. Cornell
3. Penn
4. Brown
5. Dartmouth
6. Columbia
7. Yale
8. Princeton

Okay, he's not a QB. But H-Back Kyle Juszczyk makes their QB look great!


I have to begin the discussion of the Crimson's chances with a slight change to the previous statement about how Harvard is starting a "new" QB this season. Yes, Colton Chapple did not start the 2011 season, but he did start a few games in place of now-graduated Collier Winters. The result was a 12 TD/2 INT split with an even more remarkable 8.7 yards per passing attempt. Things will be a little tougher on Chapple this year now that opposing teams will be able to prepare better for him, but I would be surprised if he doesn't have a stellar season overall.

Otherwise, Harvard is absolutely stacked. Two great RB's in Trevor Scales and Zach Boden. A solid, if not the best, O-line, and NFL prospect at H-Back, and the best secondary in the league.

There are some questions about the WR corps, but at Harvard you always have to assume the unknown talent only sat on the bench last year because there was too much talent to give everyone significant varsity playing time.

What gives me more pause is the fact that Harvard has to play both Brown and Penn on the road this year. And the Crimson have had trouble winning those games on the road in recent years. But Brown just doesn't look that strong this season and Penn has a lot of improving to do over last year.

If you're looking for reasons Harvard may stumble, go back seven years. In 2005, the Crimson were in this same position; predicted to easily win the championship with a player in RB Clifton Dawson who was a heavy favorite for Player of the Year.

It didn't happen. Harvard faltered down the stretch, lost to Princeton, and Brown won the title.

The annual Harvard-Brown match up will tell us a lot this year once again. It's in week two. It ended up being the most important Ivy game of the season last year, and it could be again this time.

This really looks like Harvard's year... again.

Jeff Mathews is a god walking among us


If it weren't for a couple of laggards at the bottom of the standings, you could really just predict that 2012 will be Harvard, and everyone else sort of tied for second.

But Cornell's Mathews, who combines great talent with leadership, sets the Big Red apart. Yes, there are major questions about the defense and the running game, but Cornell won some key games with those weaknesses last year and Head Coach Kent Austin means business.

Mathews reminds me a lot of Columbia's great QB John Witkowski '84. Just like Witkowski, Mathews is making his entire corps of wide receivers into record-breakers too. Shane Savage, Kurt Ondash, Luke Tasker, and Grant Gellatly are all lethal when they combine with Mathews week in and week out.

The offensive line is much improved and I'm not as concerned about the state of a weak running game when Mathews can use short passes to grind up yardage the same way. I also think the secondary will get a lot better led by up and coming sophomore Andrew Nelson, who I think is poised for a breakout year.

Everyone else is more down on the Big Red, picking them no higher than 3rd. But when Ivy schools have legit NFL star talent at key positions, (and is there any position MORE key than QB), lots of other weaknesses tend to melt away. We saw this up close in 1996 when future NFL All-Pro Marcellus Wiley propelled a so-so Columbia team to an 8-2 season.

If this were the NFL, I'd make more of an issue about the defense and the running game. But it's almost unseemly to watch all the other pundits try to throw some kind of cold water on this team with a dynamite QB who has the great chance of raising awareness and positive press for our league.

Cornell's major test comes relatively early this year; a week four tilt at Harvard Stadium. Some teams might falter after a letdown loss like the one that seems likely to face the Big Red in that game. But Mathews' desire will keep the Cornell going for the rest of the season if they fall to the Crimson.

Billy Ragone's winning moment against Columbia last year


The Quakers darn near lost to the Lions, Big Green, and could do little to stop the offensive power of Harvard and Cornell in the final two weeks of the season.

Penn shockingly wasn't able to just reload on defense last year, something they have done year after year... until now. The defense should be better in 2012, but it's still in question. As some of us expected, Penn hasn't been able to bounce back easily every since long-time great linebackers coach Cliff Schwenke retired after the 2009 season. Penn's championships in 2010 and 2011 masked the fact that the depth was eroding in the linebacking crew that has long sustained the program.

Another concern in QB Billy Ragone. He can run extremely well and his passing is... okay. The Quakers are clucking about their restored strength at WR thanks to the return of Conner Scott who was injured last year, and the addition of stunning speedster freshmen Cameron Countryman who should get a chance to play early.

But how strong can the receivers be with a QB who is only an average passer like Ragone? If the Quakers are going to be successful on offense this year, it will again be because Bagnoli is able to use his several talented running backs by committee. Brandon Colavita is the best of that committee, even though Lyle Marsh is coming back this season. I think Marsh had a chance to be a 1,000-yard rusher, but he has been too injury prone and I don't think he's going to be 100% this year either. Jeff Jack is probably going to be getting more carries than Marsh by the time the season ends.

Penn has a favorable schedule, (they get Harvard and Brown at home this year), and I'm certainly not predicting a collapse. But Harvard's strength has to be making even the cockiest Quaker doubtful about the chances of returning to the championship circle in 2012. And that doubt should take a toll well before the week nine showdown with the Crimson.

I had to go all the way back to his Exeter days to find a good shot of Patrick Donnelly


The Bears were doing such a fine job of shaking off the week two loss to Harvard last year, winning week after week. But then they inexplicably lost to both Dartmouth and Columbia the last two weeks of the season and finished a respectable if somewhat disappointing 7-3.

How well the Bears do this season depends on how much faith you have in Coach Estes' ability to reload with another top-flight QB. Logic dictates that you can't just assume anyone can just do this, but Estes just keeps doing this time after time. With so many other teams relying on fresh newcomers at QB, you have to think Estes has an edge when it comes to dealing with a new signal caller.

So why aren't I picking the Bears to finish higher? Mostly because there are serious questions about the wide receivers and running backs too. When push comes to shove, I don't think Brown can overcome all these obstacles enough to get a top three finish.

The man in the spotlight is QB Patrick Donnelly. He's not entirely fresh, with 81 varsity passing attempts in total and he's had success with Brown's stellar JV team. I'm not ready to call him an All Ivy QB, but I'm also not keen on ignoring him either.

The defense is underrated as usual, but there's no excuse for overlooking how much better the Bears have done in recent years. The defensive line looks strong and AJ Cruz is the best DB in the league right now.

But with nothing to really make my eyes pop at RB, (Estes is going to try again with the oft-injured and not spectacular tandem of Mark Kachmer and Spiro Theodosi), it's hard to think Brown will be able to beat Harvard in week two let alone put together another 7-3 campaign.

A lot rides on Alex Park in Hanover this year


The Big Green have what Brown doesn't have, a deep and promising slate of RB's. But they don't have a program that can be relied on to produce a dangerous new starting QB.

Advantage: Brown.

But not a super big advantage. Because while Connor Kempe never had what it took to make Dartmouth a real contender in the Ivies, his futility gave some replacements a chance to play a bit last year. Alex Park looked good in the spring and has a good crop of talented WR's in Michael Reilly and Kirby Schoenthaier. I know Park is a transfer from the super University of New Hampshire, but it bothers me that he didn't play more last year when Head Coach Buddy Teevens was so dissatisfied with Kempe.

But the real deal in Hanover are the two RB's stepping in to replace the graduated Nick Schwieger. Are Dominic Pierre and Greg Patton as good as the record-breaking and Bushnell Cup-winning Schwieger? No. But COMBINED they may prove more valuable as they grind out yards and the clock against opponents week after week.

The defense has Bronson Green at LB, a legit Bushnell Cup contender, and Chase Womack coming back from injury in the secondary. I'm not wild about Dartmouth's defensive front, but it'll be good enough to keep the Green close in games against teams not named Harvard.

The key game for Dartmouth will again be the Yale contest. The Big Green routinely play their worst game every year against the Elis. Who knows why? But if they can make the week four contest at the Yale Bowl a positive, then maybe they flip with Brown for a spot in the top half of the Ivies.


My prediction for Columbia this season is for 6th place. A full write-up on the Lions will appear next weekend.

This is Yale's most experienced QB... I don't recognize him either


Yale has a new untested coach, a new untested QB, and may lose it's top defensive player.

Naturally, everyone thinks they'll come in fourth.


To be fair, Tony Reno will probably be an improvement over Tom Williams who never really grasped what it means to be an Ivy coach and he paid for it time after time. And whomever replaces the erratic, cocky, and possibly felonious Patrick Witt at QB will probably be a better team leader. But a winner? I don't think so... not yet at least.

And why Reno? He was a good young assistant for Yale a few years ago, but not a top assistant, and he was not loved in New Haven after he bolted to rival Cambridge for the last few seasons.

For a team that should have looked for someone to clean up the ugly image around the program left by Williams and Witt, I don't get why they went with another person who has a shady reputation.

On the field, Yale's best weapons are on the ground. RB Mordecai Cargill is a load and Khalil Keys looks good coming back from injury. So does Canadian transfer Tyler Varga.

If the Elis had a great OL to bolster that running game, I'd pick them higher. But they don't. And a new O-line plus a new QB spells s-c-a-r-y.

On defense, former captain Will McHale is the top guy at LB. Only trouble is, he punched out a fellow Yale student in a bar and I think more punishment is coming his way. Watch for an actual game suspension or two. If not, chalk that up as the latest reason to look askance at this program. You can also ask: "what are they thinking?"

The other big star on defense is DB Nick Okano. He's the real deal.

But the defensive line seems thin, that's not good.

And once again, you have to emphasize that Yale must start a completely green new QB this season. And this is not Brown. You can't bet on the starter being a real asset right now.

Yale starts the season at Georgetown, at Cornell, and at Colgate. There's a good chance they lose all of those games before they host Dartmouth. And Dartmouth wants that game in the worst way.

This is not the Bulldogs year.

Does THIS look like a starting college QB to YOU?


Let's see. Princeton has no QB, no RB, and probably the most in-over-his-head coach in the Ivies.

Any questions?

Everyone but Craig Haley has picked the Tigers for dead last, and that was BEFORE 2011 Ivy Rookie of the Year Chuck Dibillio was officially scratched for this season. (I really need to get what Haley's drinking).

The good news is that Princeton's defense should get a full season of super DT Caraun Reid and DE Mike Catapano after Reid had an early injury last year and basically lost the season.

Leading QB candidate Quinn Epperly is not a great passer. Some tout his running skills, but that's by default. Expect someone else to get a lot of time under center, but no one spectacular.

I do think RB Brian Mills has a shot to have a good season, if not as good as Dibillio who was that rarest of gems: a 1,000 yard rusher in the Ivy League. The wide receiver corps is solid if not super.

Oh, and the Tigers also lose to graduation their outstanding kicker of the last four years in Patrick Jacob.

This team is looking at a possible 0-10 season. Really.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Haley Does it Again

What's he Smoking?

Every year, former (?) Princeton employee Craig Haley comes out with his preseason predictions. For the last several years he has been nominally in the employ of TSN, the Sports Network.

He almost always goes with the conventional wisdom with the exception of his predictions for one team. You guessed it, Princeton.

This year's magnum opus follows the same pattern. He picks Harvard first, Penn second, Cornell third, blah blah blah. But he picks Princeton 6th, finishing ahead of Dartmouth and Columbia.

Haley is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. He finishes his piece on PU with the incredible line:  " It seems time for the Tigers program to win more often. At least that's what everybody thinks." 

Actually, NO ONE thinks that. Princeton is picked last in every other poll. Craig really needs to cut the umbilical cord with Princeton if he ever wants to be taken seriously.

The Pause that Refreshes

The athletic department posted a few more pictures of yesterday's two-a-day practice.

Pictures like this one, where you can make out a few of the players here and there.

The practices wrapped up yesterday with a full scrimmage with officials, etc. Today the players have a day off.

While we still have 20 days to go before the season opens, this is now official game week for all of Columbia's out of conference opponents. So they'll be a little more focus on news from Marist, Fordham, and Lehigh in the next few days. But my full preview of the 2012 Ivy football season will still be released tomorrow.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Measuring Up

New weights and accurate height stats should appear on the official athletics website by the end of the week.

I do have some advance notice about one or two players that will be eye-opening, especially the case of Wells Childress who has slimmed down to about 250 pounds. That was on coaches' orders. Apparently, they want Childress to be more of a DE than a tackle.

We will see...

Twice is Nice

Today marks the first two-a-day practice of camp and once again, the training Lions are lucking out when it comes to the weather. It's a cool 72 degrees right now with just enough cloud cover to keep the sun from burning down too hard on those pads and helmets. It's not expected to get hotter than 81 today.

As Coach Mangurian wrote yesterday, tomorrow is the first day off for the team during camp.

But things are really about to change because new student orientation begins Monday and that always throws a bit of a wrench into the freshmen schedules.

Actually, orientation really begins tomorrow, when the new students start moving in, and the athletes' exclusive hold on campus ends. But it isn't until Monday afternoon's Convocation that the freshmen players will have to join the rest of the first years.

This used to result in some missed practices, but I think the new schedule instituted by the Mangurian team may avoid that... or at least keep it to a minimum.

Opponent Updates

Fordham has just done something Columbia has not done yet, name team captains for the season.

I still don't know when or even if the Lions will have team captains this season, but I am betting they will and soon.

Fordham actually starts its season this Thursday night against Lock Haven, a division II school. Okay, this will really be more like a clinic for the Rams who should probably destroy Lock Haven without much effort. But a game's a game and the stats will count.

Marist and Lehigh begin their seasons a week from today on Sept. 1st. Marist will travel to Bryant and Lehigh hosts Monmouth earlier that same day.

The Mountain Hawks also made news earlier this week when Head Coach Andy Coen named senior Mike Colvin as his starting QB.

Colvin has a tough job, replacing the graduated Chris Lum who shattered record after record in his time at Goodman Stadium.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

BREAKING: Going Old School!

Coach Mangurian has just published the following statement on his Facebook page:

“Starting to fine tune the team. 5 or 6 unselfish guys will work going both ways. Best players will play. "The more you can do".

In a word… WHOA!

Whether he means those 5-6 players will be starters or not we don’t know, but this is a big deal.

We also don’t know WHO the 5-6 players are right now, but allow me to speculate just a bit.

One good possibility is Brian DeVeau at DB and WR. He’s had plenty of time playing both positions in his Columbia career… and with the varsity no less.

But I think this development is much more about the linemen, especially since the Lions are in real need of help on the O-line.

So let me throw out some other possibles:

Eric Stock: he was a strong DL prospect last year and is a sophomore now. He played both OL and DL at the Pingry School in New Jersey and was a standout. At only 6-1, he would be at a disadvantage height-wise along the OL, but he is a strong player.

Daren Napier is one of our highest-regarded freshmen. At 6-4 and around 270 pounds, (at his high weight), he could make a good offensive lineman if he gets heavier.

Shad Sommers: I didn’t think the coaches were that high on this senior DL from Milton Academy, but it’s possible that his 6-2 283-pound frame works on the O-line as well.

Billy Lawrence: at 6-8 and 250 pounds, this freshmen OL stands out for a lot of reasons. Perhaps he’s switching to tight end? I’m not sure where he could work on defense, but who knows?

I’m going to stop guessing here because I am really stumped about the specific personnel Mangurian is talking about. HOWEVER, remember that the coaches have been most concerned about the O-line, tight end, running back and secondary positions. (And I would throw in the need for a real H-back candidate). So whoever is tagged for two-way play, I expect them to fill in at one of those positions. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First Foes

New Fordham Head Coach Joe Moorhead

Big Preview Post on the Way

My official annual preseason predictions and Ivy League Football Preview will be published this coming Monday. 

In the meantime, here are some updates on our first two opponents:

Fordham QB Situation

The final training camp scrimmage  for week 2 opponent Fordham featured some nifty passing and running from fresh UConn transfer QB Michael Nebrich. He did throw two INT's, but I would be really surprised if Nebrich isn't the starter when the Lions face the Rams at Wien Stadium on September 22nd. 

That's because Nebrich gives Fordham a serious upgrade. He's a speedy runner with a good arm and great rapport with Head Coach Joe Moorhead. Moorhead is in his first season at Rose Hill, so it's not like he's any closer with any other players on the squad. 

Fordham is desperately trying to be relevant in the NYC sports scene, but the last two years since its decision to go with athletic scholarships have produced two bad seasons. Something has to change NOW, and like all college teams where something has to change NOW, a transfer is being called in to help.

If Nebrich keeps developing over the next few weeks, the week two game against the Rams becomes a much tougher contest for Columbia than it was just a few days ago. 

Musing on Marist

Speaking of challenges, the job of measuring how tough the week one game against Marist doesn't get any easier. 

You could point to the Red Foxes win over Sacred Heart last season as a reason to be afraid, (Sacred Heart went on to beat Columbia a month later), but that game was a year ago and it appears to have been an anomaly for both teams. 

Looking at Marist on paper, you see they have a great Tight End in Anthony Calcagni and 2-3 great defensive players. But they don't have any known quantities at QB and RB or DT and those are the positions that really set teams apart at this level. 

Offense does not seem like their forte; they only scored 17.5 points per game last season. And since Columbia's defense definitely looks stronger than the Lion offense right now, I think we can expect a low-scoring affair on 9/15.

More on the OL

A number of you have made some great comments about the Lion O-line and some of the young players who look like they'll be playing a key role in the unit this season.

But in my discussion of how important the development of the front five is for the fall, I may not have emphasize enough just how much Head Coach Pete Mangurian is committed to getting the team to buy into his system.

In other words, no matter how porous the offensive line is this season, Mangurian wants QB Sean Brackett to stay in the pocket more and use the short pass as his safety play much more often than the scramble for yardage in the open field. 

I'm not saying Mangurian is going to put Brackett in a dangerous situation, in fact the point here is to keep Sean healthier this season. But Mangurian wants a different kind of offense this year and in the years going forward. One that will rely much more on a static pocket. And that's a big change for a Columbia offense that has relied on a mobile QB ever since that rainy night against Dartmouth in 2008 when M.A. Olawale took over the starting job on this team. 

I think Brackett is totally sold on this new system, at least in his conscious mind. But one can't help but wonder if something in his instincts will kick in during crucial games and he'll just take off running no matter what. Remember that Brackett's two greatest victories as a collegiate starter, against Brown in 2009 and again versus the Bears in 2011, came in games where he let his feet make outstanding play after outstanding play. 

Now the coaches need their starting QB to unlearn all that and commit to this new system body and soul. It's not easy, but it will certainly be a lot easier if the offensive line plays above all expectations.

So, we're not really asking that much... are we?

Searching the Evidence

Back on the field!

The athletic department tweeted some pictures of practice yesterday at Wien Stadium.

Do we get any hints about the starting offensive players in this picture? I feel like the teacher at the end of Romper Room when I say that I see Ghergurovich, Ryan Thomas, and Tom Callahan on the O-line. At wide receiver, I see Nelligan, Slivka, and Prince getting into the action.

In this shot, we can see Deveau, Bocci, Foster, Thaxton, and Cahal working together in one DB group.

Finally, here I see the freshmen defenders Akinleye, Hurt, Brady, Blackshear, Cahal again, along with sophomore Hunter Little and junior Nick Melka.

I really don't think we can make any guesses about lineup status based on these shots alone, but it sure feels good to see football being played on Kraft Field again... doesn't it? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

All about the OL?

25 Days Until the Season Opener

O-line Coach Ed Argast has the toughest job right now

It's no secret Head Coach Pete Mangurian was not happy with the offensive line veterans as a whole heading into camp. And he's made no secret that the competition for starting spots will be heated. Not even 2011 All Ivy Honorable Mention Scott Ward is safe.

It's hard to believe that there's anything more important this training camp than Columbia putting together something resembling a coherent and effective line.

And yet, the only coach from the Norries Wilson regime that Mangurian retained was offensive line coach Ed Argast. Obviously, Mangurian has great confidence in Argast's ability to teach the players his new schemes.

The Lions have a total of 14 offensive linemen on the roster. Three are seniors, three are juniors, three sophomores, and five are freshmen. I think we can expect two of those freshmen to be starting by midseason.

If I had to guess, I'd say Austin Stock and Keith Ramljak will be those two freshmen. But that is only a guess.

How well the offensive line performs this season will probably determine just how far Columbia will go this year. And the really hard work for the eventual front five is going on now on 218th Street.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Quick Hits

Roster watching is a vital activity for Lions fans for the next two weeks as we await news on any further changes to the lineup and the updates on player weights.

In a tweet made on Saturday, Head Coach Pete Mangurian remarked on how the team looked leaner and how he was pleased about that.

Yesterday's first day on the field at camp was marked by absolutely gorgeous weather. Those conditions will continue in NYC today before getting a bit hotter the rest of the week. Rain is not expected anytime in the near future.

 Week two opponent Fordham is more than a week into its preseason camp and it already looks like last-minute transfer QB Michael Nebrich will indeed be the starter for the Rams. Nebrich worked under new Fordham Head Coach Joe Moorhead at UConn last year, and they obviously have a good connection.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back from the Road!

I returned to New York just about the same time as the players reported to training camp yesterday.

Real practice begins today in a crucial evaluation period for the team. This is where we'll separate the pretenders from the contenders.

Full updates will resume here tomorrow, but here are some quick news alerts:

-The CU roster is updated as far as personnel is concerned, (weights won't be updated until a few more days from now). THREE more players are gone: DB Chris Alston, LB Eddie Hitchcock, and FB Andrew McHugh.

-As I have reported, the freshman offensive linemen are VERY likely to get some action this season. One or two may even become starters before mid-season. With that in mind, this article about freshman Keith Ramljak is very encouraging.

-Former Columbia QB M.A. Olawale's brother is making a splash with the Dallas Cowboys in preseason. Jamize Olawale scored a TD in last night's exhibition game against the Chargers. Jeff Adams '12, got into the game as well, but was not as impressive.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Good Choices

I'm still on the road this week, but there are two key updates to mention today.

DiBillio Out for 2012

I am happy to report that Princeton rising sophomore Chuck DiBillio will not be playing this fall.

You'll remember that DiBillio had an outstanding freshman campaign, rushing for 1,000+ yards and winning Ivy Rookie of the Year honors.

But soon after the season, he suffered a stroke and doctors still don't know what caused it.

The fact that DiBillio, his coaches, and his family were even considering having him return to the field before that cause was found was... well, outrageous.

I shudder to think of the huge tragedy it would be if we had a death on the field at an Ivy game or practice. In fact, that wouldn't be just a tragedy in a preventable case. It would be a crime.

For the record, I think Columbia would have defeated Princeton either way. But DiBillio's life is a lot more important than any game results.

I am glad sanity has won out in the end.

Mangurian's Latest

Now that we're closer to training camp, the latest blog post from Head Coach Pete Mangurian plays things a little closer to the vest. But it's still very good to hear from the coach as we get so close to the actual season opener.

Once again, it's important to note that Mangurian is clearly pushing his strategy to go with a leaner and meaner team. I would not be surprised if the CU roster is closer to 75 players than 100 by the time we reach the end of this season.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Two Updates!

Two quick pieces of breaking news:

1) UConn QB Michael Nebrich has transferred to QB-poor and week two opponent Fordham. He can play for the Rams right away. Will he get the starting job in time for the game at Wien Stadium on Sept. 22nd?

2) Columbia has already "signed up" it's first new recruit for the freshman class of 2013. He is Kendall Pace, a 6-5 265-pound OL from Bishop McNamara HS in Maryland.

Comment away!