Monday, March 25, 2013

Step it up Spring: Special Teams

We're just one day away from Head Coach Pete Mangurian's much-awaited spring prospectus and evaluations of the returning Lions for 2013.

Yes I am excited.

While we wait for that, let's look at the key returning special teams players and assess what they need to accomplish this spring:


Rising senior placekicker Luke Eddy has probably the strongest leg I've ever seen on a Columbia kicker. His issue has been consistency, but he stepped it up in 2012 with a big improvement in that area.

Eddy was a perfect 7-7 in FG's between 20-29 yards and an impressive 10-11 in FG's between 20-39 yards. He was 3-8 between 40 and 49 yards, but honestly I can't think of one FG he missed that cost the Lions a game last season. He was a near-perfect 13-14 on PAT's.

If Eddy can get his numbers up to a more respectable 50% level on the longer kicks in 2013, he will go down as one of the best kickers in Columbia history.

On kickoffs, Eddy improved greatly last season. His average kickoff length was greater and he had six more touchbacks than he had in 2011, (albeit with the new kickoff position being the 35 yard line last season).

The other two returning kicking specialists are both primarily punters, with no FG or PAT attempts among them. So this job appears to be Eddy's for now and the spring should belong to him as he tries to show his improvement to the coaching staff.


Rising senior Paul Delaney is one of the toughest players to ever take the punting job at Columbia. And last year, he stepped it up by increasing his punting average by four yards and kicking much more consistently.

But that consistency still needs to improve a bit more and that's where Delaney needs to step it up this spring.

Fellow rising senior Tyler Feely didn't get a chance to kick at all in 2012, after punting eight times in 2011. The spring should give him a chance to prove he deserves another look.


Columbia's primary punt returner, rising junior Alec Fisher, stepped it up in 2012 by more than doubling his punt return average and generally fielding punts more sure-handedly. He still needs to work on that latter aspect of his game this spring. Fisher also was a decent kickoff returner last year.

Rising sophomore Brandon Blackshear also showed some good skills fielding a small number of punts last year but his name is suddenly off he roster.

The primary kickoff returner last season was rising sophomore Trevor Bell, and he was electric at that position. Fellow rising sophomore Travis Reim actually had the longest kick return of the season at 49 yards and he showed some serious skills in this area as well. The spring should see a very good competition among Bell, Reim and even Fisher for the primary kickoff returning slot.

Overall, the Lion special teams seem generally better than they have in about four or five years. And with no real graduation losses in this area, Columbia seems like it's in a position to use its special teams to make a winning difference in games this fall.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Step it Up Spring: The Quarterbacks

Take a good look now, because Brett Nottingham won't be a part of spring practice

Like it or not, quarterback is the most important position in football.

And Columbia faces the challenge of replacing Sean Brackett, one of the most talented and multi-faceted QB's the Lions have had in many years. 

But help is on the way.

The top story this off season was the transfer of Stanford QB Brett Nottingham to Columbia, which became public in late December.

Yet spring practice will not provide Columbia coaches with the opportunity to put Nottingham through his paces, as he will not be an officially enrolled full-time student until the fall.

That hasn't kept Nottingham from working in the weight room and doing everything that's allowed within the rules to prepare for the season.

But that means the two returning QB's on the roster will have the spring sessions to themselves as they try to boost their stock ahead of not only Nottingham's arrival but also the arrival of a very good looking prospect in incoming freshman Kelly Hilinski.

The two returnees are both rising sophomores, Trevor McDonagh and Hank Trumbull.

McDonagh is the only one who got playing time in 2012; with a decent 29 pass attempts for a freshman. I though he looked good at times in the Yale game, and was just one of the many lambs led to slaughter in the Harvard debacle. Generally, he looked like he had decent mechanics and a lot of potential. This spring will provide him all the opportunities he needs to shine. 

A lot of us looked at Trumbull's size and his highlight video last year and predicted he would switch to WR or maybe TE. We were wrong. But Trumbull did not get a chance to play QB at all last season and that means he's yet another of the total mysteries to the fans. 

With a bevvy of talent at wide receiver, and a top-flight RB, Columbia can really upgrade its 2013 fortunes if Nottingham is as good as many scouts believe he is. But if he can't meet expectations, the Lions can't afford to deal with an ineffective QB. 

In other words, a lot is at stake and in this case spring practice will not provide much in the way of answers to Columbia's most important questions.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Step it Up Spring: The Running Backs

Marcorus Garrett

We're just one week away from Head Coach Pete Mangurian's Spring Prospectus with his comments on the returning players. 

Kudos to the athletic department and Mangurian for doing this!

Obviously his evaluations will be more accurate, if more guarded, than what I'm writing about the players these last couple of weeks... that's because he's the coach. And the added information provided, (I believe this is the first ever "prospectus" ever provided before spring practice in CU history), is really appreciated.

But again, it's also important to be cautious. These messages from the coaches and the athletic department are still essentially monologues and they may or may not address the real issues facing the team in 2013.

I'm probably crazy to hope for this, but I would really like a detailed explanation for Mangurian's lighter lineup philosophy. I can tell you that EVERY OTHER COACH IN THE IVIES is just as curious. I've actually had a number of Ivy assistants ask ME about it, as if I could explain it to them. They think the strategy is crazy, for what that's worth.

Let me be clear one more time: I am a fan of counter-intuitive thinking, so I am REALLY hoping this less fat/more muscle plan works. I'm NOT pretending to understand it. What I do know is that the undersized offensive line was pushed around last year and our opponents saw it as a weakness before, during and after each game. 

And I continue to be concerned that perhaps our coaches, and other coaches in the Ivies, partly come to our conference in order to avoid even the slightest probing or challenging questions, (or any questions at all), from the outside news media. It's okay to EXPECT less media scrutiny here, but to demand it is another thing. And I fear that this insulation from regular outside questions left our last three head coaches badly unprepared for the rare times when they were challenged in any way. And I don't want to see any more erratic behavior at postgame press conferences, 

It's certainly okay to be unhappy after a loss, and an angry response to an inappropriate question is also okay within reason. But attacking an innocent questioner like Norries Wilson did to a Spectator reporter in 2006, or acting like you're from Mars, like Mangurian did after the Dartmouth game last year, is not acceptable. 

And as for shouting at fans outside the locker room, please. We're all adults... Hell, we're all Columbia HOMERS! If you can't take the questions we're asking about Lions football, I'm not sure diving on the West Side Highway is for you either. It's time for everyone to grow up, stop being so defensive, and act like a Mensch.

Okay, that's done. Now let's talk about the running backs.

Of course, the headliner in this group and for the entire team is rising senior Marcorus Garrett. Garrett put in the third best single season rushing totals in Columbia history with 957 yards. He also had a strong 4.6 yards per carry average. Does he need to step it up even more this spring? In reality, he probably doesn't and I wouldn't be surprised if the coaches look to protect him from injury by limiting his full contact practice time. But there are indeed some fundamental things Garrett needs to do better, including being more consistent with his backfield pass blocking, (although he is sometimes spectacular at that).

How important is Garrett to the Lions in 2013? Consider that all the other running backs and full backs COMBINED carried the ball a total of just 21 times in 2012. So he needs to stay healthy and strong at all costs.

But the cupboard is not completely bare after Garrett. I was impressed by rising sophomore Cameron Molina in limited duty and I think if he steps it up just a bit he'll have an inside track for the top backup position.

Rising senior Griffin Lowry remains a very tough player and rising junior Alec Fisher rising sophomore Trevor Bell can be a good options in a pinch even if they are primarily a special teams players.

At fullback, Columbia only has two returning players on the roster in rising junior Steven Silvio and rising sophomore Mark Cieslak. Silvio did well enough last year as a classic blocking back, but he'll need to step it up ahead of a crop of 2-3 decent potential FB's coming in with the freshmen class this summer. Cieslak is a mystery right now. 

All in all, it still just feels like Garrett and Molina are the two ball carriers to watch this spring. The #1 goal for Garrett will be to avoid injury, and the #1 goal for Molina will be to boost his stock a bit and be ready to be an even more effective backup for Garrett. 

TOMORROW: The Quarterbacks

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Step it Up Spring: The Tight Ends

Andrew Kennedy's shadow still looms large over the CU program

One of the more difficult shocks to the Columbia football program in the last few years was the graduation of TE Andrew Kennedy '11.

Kennedy was just that good. He was a team leader, a great receiver, and speedy for a tight end. Sean Brackett's game seemed to suffer without him as did the entire Lion offense.

Then-sophomore Hamilton Garner did come along in that 2011 and at least became a favorite end zone target for Brackett, but so far Columbia's dire need for a real threat at TE is still unfilled.

Garner, one of CU's 218 co-captains for 2013, is a classic "step it up" candidate who could easily get back into All Ivy territory, (he was an All Ivy Honorable Mention in 2011), in his senior year. 

The only other returning player who got any real playing time at TE last season was rising sophomore Nick Durham. I got a chance to meet Durham last summer and he impressed me greatly. I wasn't the least surprised to see him on the field early in the season. He's not a speedster or tall enough to be a classic tight end, but he's a great H-back type and if he steps it up this spring his chances of getting even more playing time look good. 

The other three tight ends on the roster, rising senior Zack McKown, and rising juniors Garrett DeMuth and Roy Schwartz, seem like they're going to need to make a major impression this spring to break into the mix this fall. McKown will always have a special place in my heart for his great TD reception in the snow during the 2011 game vs. Yale, but otherwise he, DeMuth and Schwartz haven't made a big impact so far. 

 With two very good tight end prospects coming in, and Head Coach Pete Mangurian openly writing last year about how he wanted more out of this position, I expect Garner and Durham to be working extra hard this spring in hopes of not leaving anything to chance. 

TOMORROW: The Running Backs

Comments Re-Opened

Because of a massive wave of commercial spammers infesting our comments section, I am experimenting with new ways to keep the unwanted ads out of the blog. It's still a work in progress, but for now all comments should post immediately and I will try to delete any spam as soon as I can.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Step it Up Spring: The Wide Receivers

Connor Nelligan is the consummate possession receiver

You'd have to excuse Columbia fans if they come into this spring believing they have an embarrassment of riches at the wide receiver position.

Three breakout stars emerged last season and they're all back for 2013.

The first is rising junior Connor Nelligan, when led the team in receptions and overall gutty play week in and week out. Nelligan is not afraid to lay out for a catch, go into the middle of a defense, and try to run over any defenders after a reception. 

Second is rising sophomore Chris Connors, who also showed a healthy reckless abandon and seemed to get better and better as the season wore on. 

Third is fellow rising sophomore Isaiah Gross, the human embodiment of "what might have been" for the 2012 season. Head Coach Pete Mangurian raved about Gross in the preseason, and the freshman lived up to the hype with some stunning play in the first two games of the season. 

Then, Gross got injured in the early going of the Princeton game in week 3 and he never saw the field again all season. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think Mangurian shut Gross down for the season to prevent him from appearing in four games and thus keeping him eligible for a 5th year medical red shirt. Yep, Gross could be that good and that worth keeping around for as long as possible. 

The Ivy League is known for having a dearth of top flight RB's and defensive tackles. I would say that legitimate deep threat WR's are also in relative shorter supply lately and that's what makes Gross a super commodity. Connors also established himself as a deep corner and sideline threat which helped raise his stock. 

But wait... there's more! Transfer WR Jake Wanamaker, who is a rising junior, was also injured for a good part of the season but was impressive when he did get on the field for parts of seven games. 

Each one of the above-mentioned WR's needs to step up their games, (or at least proves their 100% back from injury), this spring, but they are all squarely "on the radar" so to speak and won't need to do anything crazy to get noticed.

The other returning WR's are all "on the bubble" to borrow a NCAA tournament term, and they could be under big pressure to step things up this strong before the very large number of freshmen WR's join the fray in August. 

Rising senior Louis DiNovo seems to be one of those players. He played in all 10 games last season and had a spectacular run-after-the-catch TD versus Fordham. But he needs to regain the coaches' confidence again.

Rising junior Ryan Flannery seemed to see his stock rise as the year went on, getting more looks and designed plays going his way. But it's not clear if that momentum will carry over to this season.

Another dark horse for more touches is rising sophomore Scooter Hollis, who emerged as a possible scatback weapon last season and his speed would seem to demand giving him another good shot to prove himself this spring. 

Two rising seniors, Joey Andrada and Bruce Grant, just haven't made an impact yet and it's not clear that they will in 2013. But we certainly don't know enough to count them out. 

Younger players like rising sophomore, Andrew Dobitsch, and rising juniors Kal Prince, John Keefe, and Dan Slivka,  all have a tough road to make the top spots on the depth chart. 

With 13 returning veteran WR's and at maybe five more incoming freshmen at the position, no Lion receiver can afford to be complacent.

TOMORROW: The Tight Ends

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Step it Up Spring: The O-Line

Do these guys have any college eligibility left?

Most of what I had to say about the offensive line I said already in this post on February 26th.

To summarize, anyone and everyone who played on the OL for Columbia last season needs to step it up, period.

The big loss due to graduation this year would be Scott Ward, but in what remains the biggest mystery of Pete Mangurian regime, ward was marginalized last season and was not designated as a leader up front.

 Another huge factor for 2013 will be the continuing development of Coach Mangurian's "Grand Experiment," (my term), of pursuing very lean linemen as opposed to much heavier guys like the rest of organized football.

As I have said many times, Mangurian's project deserves a lot more time to show results on the field. But let's be honest, it did not really work last year. Hopefully, the turnaround will be quick.

The key returnees are rising sophomores Keith Ramljak, Billy Lawrence and Eric Kuklinski, rising juniors Eric Stock, Ryan Thomas, and rising senior Jimmy Yukevich. 

The average weight for the above mentioned six gentlemen is just 250 pounds. 

But they are not the only players who could improve Columbia's fortunes if they step it up this spring and fall.

I'm curious about players who had some playing time in 2011, like rising senior Joe Ghergurovich and rising junior Carey Parker, who could conceivably get back into the mix this year.

And while Mangurian had no qualms about playing a number of freshmen last season, rising sophomores JD Hurt and Marshall Markham didn't participate as much as Ramljak, Lawrence and Kuklinski. If they step it up, they could suddenly bring some serious depth. 

That leaves rising senior Dylan Leonard as something of a mystery man, but I'll try not to take my eye off him as he gets one last chance to seriously contribute.

Like the defensive line, this unit will get absolutely no respect from the preseason pundits this summer. But lowered external expectations aren't going to help Columbia win.

MONDAY: The Wide Receivers

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nice Honor for Early

Incoming freshman DB Colinn Early from New Orleans is being honored by the National Football Foundation at the Superdome next week.

From the press release:

Colinn Early (Edna Karr H.S.)
Academic Achievements: Four-year honor roll selection, maintained a 4.0 for three quarters, Student of the Month numerous times.Athletic Achievements: A four-year letterman and team captain, Iron Man Award, Academic Award four years straight, all-district, 2012 state champion, Most Improved Award. Extracurricular Activities: Church and West Bank community volunteer. Future Plans:To play football at Columbia University.

Congratulations to Colinn!!!

Step it up Spring: The Defensive Line

Hard to believe this pic was taken 4 years ago!

Next to Columbia's obvious challenges on the offensive line, the biggest test in 2013 may be finding a way to continue the positive momentum on the defensive line without the graduating Josh Martin.

Martin isn't the only graduation loss, pass rushing specialist Will Patterson and "big uglies" Shad Sommers and Greg Lee are also finishing their studies. 

But the Lions do have one senior who could be a true ace in the hole. Seyi Adebayo is coming back for a 5th year after missing most of 2012 with an injury. All reports say Seyi is looking great and could even be an NFL prospect at this time next year. Adebayo's healthy return eases the loss of Martin in a big way, but he'll have to step it up this spring and fall to send Columbia to the next level.

The other two seniors are in classic "step it up" territory. Wells Childress indeed did step things up in 2012, but he has to get his game just a bit better, (I'd say into All Ivy Honorable Mention territory), to really make the kind of impact Columbia needs this year. Fellow senior Nick Melka was a breakout "step it up" guy in 2011, but he was lost for almost all of 2013. If he can return to his 2011 levels that would be pretty good, but if he can improve from that base point, that would be a big bonus.

The key rising junior and one of the keys to the entire defensive line is Chad Washington. Last year, he went from encouraging freshman to impact sophomore. Now he needs to be top starter. He has the talent and the ability to do it and as a co-captain it's clear his teammates see that potential as well. It's hard to put too much emphasis on how much Washington's improvement means to the Lions in 2013. 

The only other rising junior is Hunter Little, who remains mostly under the radar despite playing in five varsity games last year and even getting a tackle for a loss. If he steps his game up to the level of key backup or better, that's would also be a nice net positive.

The rising sophomores look extremely good. Niko Padilla had a breakout freshman year and if he can make the kind of improvements top players make between their first and second years, look out. Padilla has all the makings of an All Ivy player. Toba Akinleye is a personal favorite player of mine being that he comes straight out of Brooklyn and got better and better as the year went on last season. Coming out of the NYC PSAL football league, it's safe to say Akinleye is still learning the game, which is exciting because he has the athletic ability to be a BCS player. I think if he had played HS ball in New Jersey or Texas, he'd be at UCLA or Stanford right now. 

But all the potential and talent on the D-line is still not enough to answer all the questions. Can the Lions get the same kind of push without the double-teams Martin drew play after play? Will all the players with Al Ivy athletic ability show up ready to get it done? Is there enough depth in case one or two players get badly banged up?

One thing I do know is that what's left of the media covering Ivy football will totally disrespect this unit in the preseason write-ups. The same people who almost never mentioned Martin last season will now portray his graduation as something as disastrous as Hurricane Sandy. If the Lion D-line needs any more motivation to step it up, perhaps that will be it.

TOMORROW: The Offensive Line

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Step it up Spring: Linebackers

Zach Olinger (55) is Columbia's elite LB

When it comes to stepping it up this spring, Columbia needs a leap up from its linebackers.

That's because two top-notch players are graduating in Mike Waller and Ryan Murphy.

Waller is the prototype of what I mean by a "Step it Up" player. He stepped up his game considerably between sophomore and junior year to become a key starter in 2011. Then he stepped it up even more the following season to become a serious team MVP candidate in 2012. Replacing him will be difficult,

Ryan Murphy is one of Columbia's great all time pass rushing linebackers. And his knack for kicking it up a notch in big moments of big games, (the Brown game in 2011 and the Cornell game in 2012 especially), will be sorely missed.

The only other graduating senior is Devan Luster, who stepped it up last spring and got into the mix last season.

The good news is that the one of Columbia's overall linebackers in many years, Zach Olinger, is back after leading the team in total tackles and INT's (tied with Waller), last season. Olinger stepped it up last year after suffering through injuries that abbreviated his sophomore season in 2011. He'll have to step it up even further in his senior season to makeup for the losses of Waller and Murphy.

Fellow senior Brian East stepped it up last year, played in all 10 games and recorded 25 total tackles and had two fumble recoveries. East came from a top notch high school football program in Indiana and I think he has the potential to step it up and become an important starting player. 

Rising juniors Ray Pesanello and Vinny Pugliesi have always seemed to be on the same track since they arrived on campus. They both made a decent impact last season in supporting roles and have a chance this spring to prove they deserve a chance to start. 

Fellow rising junior John Brady and rising sophomore Max Keefe both saw playing time last season, and they're not out of the mix. 

Of all the returning LB's other than Olinger, East may have the most pressure on him this spring to show an improved game. But with only four known LB's coming into the mix this summer, (including Brady's younger brother Keith Brady), the pressure is on every player and coach to get this unit up to snuff in time for the fall. 

TOMORROW: the Defensive Line

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Step it Up Spring

Marquel Carter is now the "old man" of the CU secondary

As Spring Practice nears, it'stime to take a look at the players who need to step up their play in order tohelp the team as the Lions face a murderous 2013 schedule.

Let's start today with the Secondary.

The defensive backfield arguably is the one unit that will belosing the least due to graduation. Brian DeVeau is the onlycurrent senior who was a significant contributor to the secondary last year,although fellow senior 
Steven Grassa wasinjured in 2012 and it would have been nice to have him return for a 5th year,(he's not).

(Another tough loss is MikeDiTomasso, who was officially listed as a DB, but really played as a OLBmost of the time. DiTomasso was just a junior, so I'm trying to get some infoon why he is not currently on the roster. DiTomasso had a good 2012 season,finishing as the team's 7th leading tackler). 

The "old man" of the returning DB corps is safety Marquel Carter, who had a "step it up" 2012.  He could get himself into All Ivy contention with even a small improvement this year. Carter is widely seen as an athlete with enormous potential and as a senior this coming season he has one last chance to prove it. Again, he was good in 2012, can he be great in 2013?

The only other returning rising senior DB is Jeremy Mingo, who got good playing time last year but didn't make a huge impact. He'll probably need to make a strong impression this spring to stay on top of the coaches' minds.

The leading rising junior is Augie Braddock, who had a good 2012 for a sophomore, but needs to do more to make a strong case for himself in the fall. He'll be in focus this spring.

The two other juniors are speedster Malcom Thaxton and Mike Skalitzky. Thaxton has intriguing potential and he did start four games in 2012, but he still seems to be a bit "on the bubble." Skalitzsky appears to be a special teams specialist. 

The rising sophomores are led by 2012 Columbia Rookie of the Year Travis Reim, who ended up starting six games last year. He played very well overall, but the lack of respect Brown showed for him in the finale, (and the success the Bears had throwing against him along the sidelines), is a good reason why Reim still needs to step it up to hold on to his job this fall. Reim also looked good as a kickoff returner and I see no reason to yank him from that duty this year. 

Matt Cahal and Darin Patmon looked pretty solid in their freshman seasons last year and they should get a chance to prove themselves this spring. But I'm still expecting big things from fellow sophomore Kevin McCarthy in the coming months, 

That leaves Josh Foster, who didn't get the game experience his classmates did but I would not count him out.

In short, every player in the secondary needs to step it up this spring to advance their own personal cases and the team's fortunes in 2013. It feels like Carter and Reim are the only ones who can realistically expect to be starters again, and they both have significant improvements they need to make as well. 

The rest of the pack needs to do what they can to advance their cases before the freshmen DB's break into the mix this August. 

Tomorrow: the Linebackers

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Artistic License

Do people really want my views on the architectural merits of the Campbell Center?

I didn't think so.

I will say, as I have many times, that the structure would be even better if the head-in-the-sand "leaders" in Inwood would relax the many zoning rules against commercial development in the area. Kudos for the NY Times for kind of saying the same thing in its article on the building earlier this week.

But honestly, the building's look matters little to me in the grand scheme of things. The football and other Baker Complex-centered sports teams needed the space and the facillity upgrade and thank goodness it's open for business.

Athletes and Non-Athletes

The tried and true discussion of what it's like to be an athlete in the Columbia community is presented in the latest edition of the Columbia Spectator Magazine.

I've made a million comments about this issue over the years, and I won't change any of my positions now. But I will boil it down to this: respect on the field and the classroom won't come until the sports teams start to win. That's the bottom line.

Kudos to the Captains

Tuesday night, the team announced the names of the captains by class:


Hamilton Garner
Marcorus Garrett
Zach Olinger


Augie Braddock 
Connor Nelligan
Chad Washington


Kevin McCarthy
Trevor McDonagh
Niko Padilla
Travis Reim

Some of the names jumped out at me. First off, Hamilton Garner. I thought the enormously talented Tight End, who earned All Ivy honors as a sophomore, had somehow fallen out of favor with the new coaching regime. His receptions TD receptions plummeted last season. But now I am hearing reports that Garner did battle with some injuries and his choice as a co-captain seems like good proof that he's still got a great chance to match his 2011 numbers this fall.

Second, I liked seeing Trevor McDonagh's name too. McDonagh was the heir apparent starting QB before the Brett Nottingham news broke. I hope McDonagh is not too discouraged by this new challenge and is ready to lead his fellow sophs. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Arms Race

Long time fans of Columbia football will all admit that the program has improved greatly since the bad old days of the late 70's and early 80's.

But the problem is that the other seven Ivy teams aren't standing still. So the Lions haven't been able to move up in a relative way. The result is just two winning seasons in the last 40 years.

What's going on at Yale is a good example of what I'm talking about.

Humiliated by a long-running losing streak to Harvard and a shorter run of losing seasons, the Yale program is now pulling out all the stops to get back closer to the top of the Ivies.

Barely two weeks after the news broke that Stanford QB Brett Nottingham was transferring to Columbia, we learned that Clemson red shirt QB Morgan Roberts was heading up to New Haven.

And yesterday we found out that the most highly-touted incoming freshman in the Ivies, Victor Egu, will ditch plans to do a PG year and suit up for the Elis this season.

Obviously, I don't have access to Egu's academic transcript. But I feel confident in saying that he did something to improve his A.I. He could have re-taken his SAT's, or perhaps someone in the Yale admissions office took a closer look at his application and found something that made his previous decision to go to prep school for a year unnecessary.

Either way, Yale's big ticket incoming class of freshmen and transfers looks like the real deal. These kinds of results don't happen without lots of ACTIVE alumni support. No team with a great recruiting or transfer advantage, keeps it for long. It's eventually matched by one or many Ivy competitors.

And so, as with all things in sports, the only place where you can win and that win lasts forever is on the field.   All this one-upmanship in recruiting and training facilities, etc. is great for our players who deserve the best.

But wouldn't a really good game-planning strategy be a lot more valuable in the long run?

How many times have we seen Columbia football teams get on the field without the play calling and strategic smarts in the booth to beat a better or even equally matched opponent?

The Lions were certainly not strategically prepared to play Princeton and Harvard last season, just to name two.

I don't care how good Penn, Harvard or any of the teams in the Ivies seems to be in any given year, there are certain weaknesses that are present in every Ivy team every year, every week. Those weaknesses are usually all about speed, which is the one commodity where the Ivies most noticeably lack relative to FBS teams. Size, especially for skill players on offense, is another problem that plagues the entire Ancient Eight.

It's time to start creating a team that can win in the Ivies, not just based on our team strengths, but on the weaknesses in team speed and size that everyone suffers from.

It's just something to think about...

FOX Sports Network

FOX has just announced that it's launching it's new national sports network this August. It will be available in 90 million U.S. homes.

While I generally like the deal Ivy football and basketball have with the NBC Sports Network, now's the time for Robin Harris and company at the League offices to start earning their pay. Getting more football and basketball games on the air should be a lot easier with another player in the mix.

Just 28 Days to Go!

Just four weeks from today is the promised deadline for the official announcement of the names in our incoming football freshmen class.

Columbia is on track to be the first school to publish an official list, but as I discussed above, don't be surprised if someone comes up to match or beat us this year.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mangurian's Words

Jerry Recco must have used this face to get Coach Mangurian to really spill the beans

If any of you missed Head Coach Pete Mangurian's brief interview with Jerry Recco during halftime of last night's Men's Basketball win over Yale, here are the highlights:

1) Major praise for strength coach Ryan Cidzik

Mangurian said what a lot of us had suspected about Columbia's weight lifting program in the past: it was "way behind."

Under Cidzik, Mangurian says there's been an upgrade and that's great news.

2) Nottingham and Hilinski "named" and touted

I say "named" in quotation marks because Mangurian did not, and could not, mention Brett Nottingham and Kelly Hilinski by name but he did say he was excited about the transfer QB and the new QB "we signed."

I bring this point up for selfish reasons, I admit. But when my butt was hanging out on the line for about a week after I broke the Nottingham story, it was no fun. LOTS of people told me publicly and privately that I was a liar, crazy or both. So every time the story is confirmed I feel a little better.

Of course, I'll feel better than that when Nottingham starts winning us some games.

3) More Time was Spent on Recruiting this Year

Remember that last year, Mangurian and the new staff had to spend more time just getting to know the veteran players. This year, the coach says he went to each of the incoming freshmen's homes and really got to know them.

Hopefully, that will result in fewer dropouts. It still stings that three of our highest-rated freshmen last year, Austin Stock, Darin Napier, and Alec Davison, are no longer with the team.