Friday, August 29, 2014

Week One Picks

I know we have 22 days until Columbia football finally kicks off, but all three of our out of conference opponents will be starting tomorrow.  So it's time to start my weekly series of predictions.

Last year against the spread I had a better than .600 winning percentage and my straight up picks were better than 80%, so this will be a tough record for me to top this year.

But here goes:

Monmouth -3 vs. Delaware State

Monmouth is one of a handful of NY/NJ-area FCS schools really trying to boost its football program and reap the free publicity for the entire school that comes with that.

The Hawks start this season without some of their offensive stars, but their new expanded stadium and the enthusiasm of a new season should be enough to carry them to a win and to cover this tiny spread.

Take Monmouth and lay the points.

Fordham -18 vs. St. Francis

I think Fordham could beat St. Francis by 28, but if Ram Head Coach Joe Moorhead is smart he'll ease off on the throttle a bit in this game. He needs his team to think about 2014 as a marathon, not a race if he wants to fulfill the lofty goal of winning the FCS championship or at least get into the late rounds of the playoffs.

That said, I still think Fordham wins this game by something like 34-10.

Take the Rams and lay the points.

Holy Cross over Albany (NO LINE)

Don't worry, this doesn't happen too often but there is no betting line that I can find for the Holy Cross at Albany game tomorrow night.

Albany is coming off a tough season, but has a lot of talent and a brand new coach from U. Maryland.

Holy Cross is coming off a couple of rough seasons, but they have an excellent veteran coach in Tom Gilmore.

One thing about Gilmore's teams at Holy Cross: they're always very well prepared for the season compared to their opponents. The advantage flattens out as the season goes on, but week one is almost always a good week for the Crusaders.

I like Holy Cross to win here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Weighty Issues

The CU Roster has now updated the player weights.

I am trying to remain calm.

Let's cut right to the chase and talk about the Offensive Line, a unit that Head Coach Pete Mangurian has consistently insisted on keeping much lighter than our Ivy opponents.

It still is too light.

1) Keith Ramljak, a projected starter at Left Tackle, is DOWN 14 lbs. to 257 from 271 last year. Great.

2) Some of the other key returnees are still too light. Kendall Pace is at 273 lbs, Billy Lawrence is up to just 275, and Marshall Markham is 270.

3) Freshman DL David Donovan has the most dramatic weight change, and it too is down. He's now at 214 lbs. from a reported 240 when he committed.

4) Freshman QB Anders Hill was 210 when he committed, and at 6-4 I was hoping he'd bulk up just a bit. Nope, he's now down 10 pounds to 191.

5) Freshman TE Bailey Popeck is down 11 pounds from 240 to 229.

6) Freshman DB Dylan Weldon is down 12 pounds to 168.

7) Sophomore DL William Carson is down 13 pounds to 270.

8) I guess the news isn't all bad. DT Niko Padilla is up to 288 lbs. from 276. I assure you, that extra weight isn't flab. He should truly be a force.

9) Sophomore Anthony Bonadies is still at 294, making him the heaviest guy on the team.


WR Isaiah Gross, who left the team last season after showing flashes of brilliance in 2012, is back on the official roster.

Gross made some spectacular catches as a frosh in the first two games of the '12 season, before an injury ended his season in week 3 vs. Princeton.

Last season he left training camp.

If Gross is ready to return to form, the Lion receiving corps will be a lot stronger.

In other breaking news, the pictures on the roster have been updated which is VERY good news for fans of OL Keith Ramljak.

Haley's On It

Craig Haley

Craig Haley is out with his well informed predictions for the upcoming Ivy League season.

(There was one mistake in his Columbia profile, when he listed WR Scooter Hollis as no longer with the team. That is not correct)

But otherwise, Haley makes a good case for all his picks.

A little backstory is necessary here:

Two years ago, I openly blasted Haley for picking Princeton to finish in the top half of the league. He turned out to be 100% right. I still take issue with his reasons in 2012 for that pick, (he basically said they'd win simply because it was their "turn"), but I'll never stop apologizing for accusing him of being too worried about what his former close contacts at Princeton would say if he picked on them in his predictions.

This year, Haley actually makes a good case for picking Princeton for first. Columbia is his choice for last, but he did put DT Niko Padilla on his preseason All Ivy team.

Haley makes the same conclusion that I have when it comes to CU's schedule; it's murderous. And he too is hard pressed to find a game the Lions are likely to win.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yale Update

Egu vs. Pace

If there’s been a bigger “Jekyl and Hyde” like team in this league, I’m really not aware of it.

I’ll get deeper into why I think the Elis can be a solid team one weak and a stinker the next when I post my complete preview of the Ivy season in about two weeks.

For now, here’s what you need to know:

The QB Situation is Still Mostly Unsettled

Head Coach Tony Reno says the job right now belongs to Clemson transfer Morgan Roberts. But close on his heels is Logan Scott, yes THAT Logan Scott the guy who committed to Columbia and then changed his commitment to Yale a few weeks later.

Neither one has a lot of experience, but they’re total neophytes either.

My guess is that Roberts will hold the job if he stays healthy.

Yale Looks Stacked at RB

The next big question in New Haven is: “Will Tyler Varga be healthy for the season?”

So far, the answer seems to be “yes,” and that’s great news for the Bulldogs.

But Varga isn’t the only talent they have at tailback.

Columbia fans learned that first-hand last season when BOTH Khalil Keys and Candler Rich, (yes, that’s “Candler” without an “H”), ran for 100+ yards against the Lions at the Yale Bowl.

Keys is probably the better of the two, but it’s an embarrassment of riches at RB for Yale.

The O-line loses some talent, but is still mostly intact with three starters returning.

So why fret too much over the QB situation when the Elis have so much rushing talent?

I suppose the fact that the super-talented WR Deon Randall is back is one reason to worry about who will get him the ball. But hey, he can run a lot of reverses like he did last year and still do plenty of damage.

Lord knows Carm Cozza wouldn’t have hesitated a moment to run the ball 40+ times a game with this crew.

But will Reno be smart enough to do the same?

Don’t Be Fooled. Yale’s Defense is Pretty Good

So the Yale defense is very young.

Big deal… it’s also very talented.

The headliner on defense is still DE Victor Egu, who did not disappoint as a freshman last year. Egu was one of the most-hyped incoming recruits in Ivy history after de-committing from CAL, (we could call Yale the “All De-Commit Team” couldn’t we?), and he put in good numbers and impact for a freshman. That included a sack against Columbia. Now he’s a seasoned soph and I think he could have a big season.  

The linebacking crew is very experienced, and that’s a commodity on this team with so many sophomore starters. One of those senior LB’s is Will Vaughan who had a strong game against the Lions last year. He also made All Ivy Honorable Mention.

The secondary is filled with super young talent.

Foyesade Oluokun seems like the real deal at corner. The sophomore was All Ivy 2nd Team last year as a frosh.

The “old man” is junior safety Cole Champion who killed Columbia last year among a few other teams. He’s a rising star too.

It all comes Down to Reno

There’s enough talent and even experience on this Yale team for it do some serious damage this year.

But to do so, Reno needs to make all the right decisions at game time.  He’s proven to be a great recruiter, but not so great at using the talent wisely. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Welcome Fresh... Sports Fan People!

Orientation makes these kids happy!

With new student orientation now officially beginning, it's time to welcome all the new fans who might be reading this blog for the first time.

I'm sorry to say this sad review of what happened last season in the Orientation 2014 edition of the Columbia Spectator is dead-on accurate.

But here's a more complete Columbia Football Orientation for you:

I know probably NONE of the incoming non-athlete freshmen and freshwomen just arriving on campus today came here because of our sports teams, and that’s okay.

But those of you who are sports fans should at least know that Columbia has a football team that is filled with your hard-working fellow students. And the games are exciting and fun to go to.

Here’s my Columbia Football FAQ for incoming frosh, 2014 edition!

Who are You and Why are you such a crazy Columbia fan? 

I’m a Columbia grad from the class of 1992. That makes me an ancient 43-year-old to you. And that’s okay, I’m not looking to be cool, young, or your personal buddy. The idea is to make you aware of football and how much fun it is to watch your classmates play.

I even was the color commentator for Columbia's commercial broadcasts of its football games from 2007-2009. I left the booth because my two daughters wanted to sit with me in the stands at the games and who could refuse that?

Now, let's define "crazy fan." Do I go to just about all the games? Do I get happy and depressed based on the team's performance, and then write about it online?... I answer "yes" to all of the above. Do I wear a rainbow wig, paint my bare chest light blue, and beat up opposing team mascots? No, (well there was that incident with the Dartmouth kid who dresses up like a keg back in '89, but the charges were dropped).

Actually I never really realized it until after the fact, but I was pretty much destined to be a Columbia football fan even before I set foot on campus as a freshman in 1988. My grandfather was a close friend and pinochle buddy of Columbia and Chicago Bears great Sid Luckman. Wien Stadium is named after a distant relative of my grandmother's, Lawrence A. Wien. And I'm pretty sure, my mom, who isn't much a sports fan, was dragged to the Ivy League championship-clinching win over Penn at Baker Field in November, 1961 by her then-boyfriend when she was a first-year at Barnard College.

Haven't You and This Blog Been Beating Up on the Team and the School for the last Year?

Nope. I've have been highly critical of Head Coach Pete Mangurian and the Athletic Director Dianne Murphy, who hired him.  I don't believe either one of them deserves to keep their current jobs.

But that said, no one will be rooting harder for the Lions this season. If the team has a winning season and I am proven COMPLETELY wrong, then I will be HAPPY.

You Columbia fans make me sick. Why do you talk so much even though you haven't won a title in 53 years? You should just be quiet and leave us alone.

Yes, die-hard loyal CU fans tend to dominate Ivy Internet chat boards and the like. But we're usually not boasting; we're just talking about our team and the sport we obviously love. Also, thanks to Logic and Rhetoric classes, (you'll find out about these), we're pretty good at writing. 

Fans of super-successful Ivy football teams like Harvard and Penn just aren't battle-tested enough to take things to obsessive levels. We are. 

I follow just about all the pro sports and "big-time" college football and basketball too, but those sports have lost a lot in my eyes over the years. The average pro team has more turnover than a second-term White House administration, and many of the BCS football teams are filled with young men who work hard, but can't really be called "college students." Every Ivy football player is a true student-athlete. It's damn nice as a father to take my kids to a game where they can see players who have their priorities straight. 

I am sick of sports anchors on ESPN and sports radio getting all high and mighty about college athletes and leagues that are corrupt and then they don't spend even a minute focusing on the players and leagues who do it right. It's hypocritical and cynical and I won't have it. 

Anyone who says that the Ivy League "isn't real college football," should be reminded that BCS college football, for the most part, isn't really college. 

Okay we get it, you love the team. But why spend so much time writing about it on the Internet, and what are trying to accomplish here?

Writing is what I do anyway. It's the way I make my living and I actually enjoy it. The Internet gives you a built-in audience, however small sometimes, so if you don't hate your writing, why wouldn't you post it on the 'net? 

And the point of all this is to create a virtual meeting place for CU fans, players, etc. I wanted to prove that there is a large and vibrant Columbia fan base, it just needed a sounding board. As President Reagan once told his speechwriters in 1981: "The choir needs music."

Okay, so what do I get to see here?

On this blog you will get a definitely pro-Columbia slant. We are fans after all.

But this IS a FAN BLOG, not a BOOSTER blog. If all you want is cheerleading, this is not your place.
There will be fair criticism here. Coaches and the administration will be scrutinized at times and praised at others.

You'll get weekly predictions, (not including Columbia's games), including the betting lines. 

You'll get in-depth pre and postgame analyses.

When do you sleep?

I'm a dad of two young girls, so I still don't exactly bank on eight hours of sleep each night. But since I don't kill myself with as much meticulous editing as I should for this site, it doesn't take me too long to get these posts online. Seriously don't worry about me, this is not as time-intensive as it looks.

How will the Lions do this season?

I'll have my complete predictions for the Lions and the rest of the Ivies on this blog in about two weeks.

But here's a short preview:

Columbia has some very interesting individual players, especially former Stanford QB Brett Nottingham, who will try again this season after getting injured for the rest of 2013 before the end of the FIRST game. 

The best defensive player is a defensive tackle named Niko Padillla, who could get to the NFL. 

But CU is very questionable overall on the defensive and offensive lines. And that's where football games are won and lost. Our chances this season to win a game or more than one game seem slim, at least for now. 

All my orientation leaders and upperclassmen make snide comments about athletics. What's with that?

If I learned one thing after spending four years with a bunch of kids at Columbia who were obviously smarter and more motivated than I, it was humility. I put on my cap and gown STILL not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, and that made me feel pretty pathetic next to my friends who did know and were also ready to work very hard for it. 

I don't idolize athletes, even the student-athletes at Columbia who work much harder than the guys at big football factories.

But I do really admire the fact that a lot of these guys on the football team represent TRUE diversity and the ability to overcome adversity. They are kids coming from parts of the country where most people don't even know about Columbia. Many of them even have... GASP!!!... a different point of view about politics, religion and life in general than most Ivy students, (I kinda thought diversity was supposed to be about more than race, but that fact is lost on a lot of people, and Presidents of the United States). 

Okay, I know I'm ranting, but this is just one token shot against against the avalanche of anti-athletics sentiment you're likely to hear from your peers in the coming days. Do me a favor and find out for yourself.

Okay, but it's not like any of these guys are going to the NFL or anything. 

Wrong. Every Ivy team typically has at least one player in the NFL. Right now Josh Martin '13 is starting his second season on the KC Chiefs roster. He is a rising star.

Former All-Pro, Marcellus Wiley '97, is now doing NFL coverage on ESPN. Do you think he gets that job without an Ivy degree?  

What about the fact that the stadium is so far from campus? I heard about the free shuttle bus, but I might have to take the subway... 

Let me give you a little glimpse of your future. Within a year or two of graduation, you're either going to be working at a job that'll keep you cooped up inside for 10-12 hours or day, going to a job that requires you to sit in traffic for two hours each way, or both. So think a bit before you whine about a 15-minute subway ride or a 25-minute free bus trip. When I was an undergrad, I wanted to join the crew team but I balked because of those 6AM practices. Then I graduated and ended up working a graveyard shift in TV that required me to come into work at 2AM every day for seven years. What a dope I was in college!

But I'm here to help. Stay tuned for my guide to Wien Stadium coming up later this month.

For now, just remember that tickets for students are FREE! And for you adult students over the age of 21... there is FREE BEER for God sakes! Get up there!

I'm too busy texting my friends to go to football games.

Stop texting and start living.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Adebayo Officially on BC Roster/Marsh Back at Penn

Seyi is now #95

It really hurts not to have Seyi Adebayo with the Columbia football program this year, but I do wish him good luck with Boston College this fall.

He's now on the Eagles roster at 6-3 and 245 lbs. How amazing would it be to see him be a significant contributor to an FBS team? BC's first game is a week from today at Gillette Stadium against UMass. Two weeks later, the USC Trojans come into Chestnut Hill for a nationally televised game. We'll be watching.

Marsh Returns

The very talented rusher/backfield receiver Lyle Marsh has reappeared on Penn's roster. His absence last year was sorely felt by the Quaker offense and especially QB Billy Ragone, who had a special on-the-field partnership with Marsh. It was that Ragone-Marsh combo that was the key to Penn's comeback win over Columbia in 2012.

Now, Marsh could be a big help to a program breaking in a new QB in Alek Torgerson.

The one big question is health, which Marsh has never been able to maintain for very long at Penn.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Under the Radar on D

Vinny Pugliese

Yesterday, I focused on two players who are already admirable “comeback” kids and tapped two others who need to really come back stronger in 2014.

But they were all offensive players.

When I think of the current group of Lion defensive players, a few names of players who aren’t talked about much come to mind.

I hesitate to call anyone who plays for an 0-10 team an “unsung hero,” or “underrated,” but these are some CU defenders fans should keep an eye out for this fall.

Of course, the real star of the defense is junior Niko Padilla, but he is the one defensive player lots of people DO talk about. So again, here are three players you might not have heard about:

Vinny Pugliese

Pugliese was a tackling machine last year and should be poised for a great senior season. He is the undisputed leader of the linebacker corps, with guys like Zach Olinger and Brian East gone to graduation. I like Vinny’s pedigree especially; a good Ohio Catholic school kid from a good Catholic school football league. He may not have been one of Head Coach Pete Mangurian’s recruits, but he’s earned his respect.

Travis Reim

Reim is making the move from corner to safety, where I think he will be even more effective. Reim has had a good first two years at CU under tough conditions. He’s a pass disrupter and a good tackler. And I think by moving away from corner, his relative weakness for one-on-one coverage along the sideline will be less of a problem. Reim could have a very, very good year at safety. And don’t forget that he was very good as a punt and kickoff returner last season too. Given a chance to play even on a remotely competitive team this year, Reim should shine.

Brock Kenyon

Another safety who could be a very big deal for CU this year and in years to come is Brock Kenyon. He played pretty well for a freshman last year and he comes from a super-competitive football conference in Texas. And the fact that he’s being paired with Reim at safety should make things even better for him, or at least provide him with more chances to prove what he can do.

Are there more of these “unsung” players on the roster? Of course, but these are three names that jumped out at me after a disaster season that understandably clouded over any good personal development on the team.

Jim Gossett

Gossett’s Milestone

Speaking of “unsung,” today is Jim Gossett’s 35th anniversary as a Columbia employee. He’s been the Head Athletic Trainer for 30 of those years.

Gossett is so valued in his job that he’s survived through umpteen head coaches and three athletic directors.

Congratulations Jim!  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

BREAKING: Ivy TV Deal Close

WKCR Sports is reporting that the Ivy League is close to finalizing a new TV deal that will focus mostly on football.

We can expect a formal announcement in one or two weeks.

All of this comes from WKCR's interview with Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris, and you can hear that complete interview here.

Comeback Kids

This was about all we saw of Brett Nottingham last season

It would be an understatement to say that Columbia needs several of its players to bounce back for a better 2014 season.

And I’m already impressed by some of the players who have decided to stick with the program and are showing a solid commitment to the Lions.

Two of them impress me the most.

First off is QB Brett Nottingham. He could have ditched the team very easily after he injured his wrist in the opener at Fordham and then saw the disastrous 2013 season unfold before him.

He could have just focused on his studies and his future career prospects, or even transferred to yet another school.  

But he’s stayed in Morningside Heights, and for that you have to color me impressed.

I was the leader of the “pinching ourselves crew” last year when we first learned that the highly-regarded Stanford QB was coming to CU. Perhaps seeing him knocked out of the season in week one was the price we had to pay for that good fortune.

So now we get a “do over” and Nottingham has even changed his number from 12 to 3 perhaps to remind us of the renewed hopes for a new year.

Nottingham may or may not put up big numbers this year. I’m just not convinced Columbia has the O-line or the running game to keep him free of enough pressure to excel. But it sure looks like he has the heart to make things happen if he can get the minimum amount of help he needs.

Speaking of that help, the CU coaching staff owes Nottingham a much better game plan and protection policy for this season and for the opener against Fordham in particular. The Rams put a bounty on Nottingham’s head last year and they collected it. Simply put, the Fordham game is just not important enough to endure the undue risk of losing Nottingham again. I’m sure Brett is a fierce competitor and will want to throw the ball and face the rush in every single game, but we don’t have to let him commit suicide.

Connor Nelligan in 2012

The next “comeback kid” for 2014 is WR Connor Nelligan.

Injuries drastically shortened his junior year in 2013 but now he’s back in hopes of leading the receiving corps this fall. His challenges are more physical than anything else; he has the support of this coaching staff despite the fact that they did not recruit him.

So his fight to get back to the top of the WR depth chart, (as far as we know), is impressive and highly appreciated. He could finish his career with a bang-up season.

But there’s a good chance neither Nottingham nor Nelligan will be able to really enjoy this season unless at least one of two of their teammates has a solid comeback year.

Kendall Pace, 76, was a spectator to scenes like this all too often last year

Those players are Left Tackles Keith Ramljak and Kendall Pace.

Ramljak was pressed into service in the crucial “blind spot” position as a freshman in 2012. He wasn’t stellar, but he showed some potential and grit. Then he was injured for just about all of last season and everything went on hold.

I’m holding out hope that Ramljak will be effective this year. Based on his picture here, let’s hope he’s spending more time in the weight room than he is with his personal stylist.

Mangurian is still very high on Pace and continues to go out of his way to say he’s a potential star. But frankly he looked just awful last year as he was clearly not ready to play the position. It just wasn’t fair to him and all the CU QB’s to put him out there and he was the prime example of why it’s a big mistake for Columbia not to have a JV program like every other Ivy team.

Okay, it’s a new year and there’s hope that Pace will be much improved this time around. Or if he needs another year to prepare for effective varsity play, so be it. We just can’t have a repeat of his performance from last season.

Football is a team sport that relies on team  coordination more than any other. Thus, the efforts and talents of Nottingham and Nelligan could really go for naught if the offensive line doesn’t show major improvement.

Let’s hope the commitment Nottingham and Nelligan have shown will serve as an effective inspiration. 

Looking at the Big Green

Dalyn Williams is as good as it gets... and he stays healthy!  

My quicke-version, week-by-week look at Columbia’s 2014 opponents continues today with Dartmouth. I’ll be ramping up these quick previews in the coming weeks before I publish my complete predictions and outlook for Ivy Football two weeks before the beginning of the season.  

Dartmouth was one of my 2013 picks that I got exactly right. I expected the Green to make a move into the upper echelon with Dalyn Williams at QB, Dominic Pierre at RB, and a defense that was passable enough to protect the leads in most games.

As I expected, Dartmouth came in third and proved to be competitive against the co-league champions by surprising Princeton with a win in Hanover and only losing to Harvard in Cambridge by a field goal.

I believe Williams is the best overall QB weapon in the Ivies. What’s been most impressive to me is the fact that he’s stayed healthy for his first two seasons. Dual threat QB's usually don't last too long in this league. Now I think he’ll be even better this season.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing in Hanover about RB Kyle Bramble and whether he’s recovered well enough from injury to be a decent replacement for the graduated Pierre. But I don’t join in that worry, simply because Williams’ abilities are good enough to make almost any running back better as it is. Williams is the key to everything. 

The WR corps is also strong. Stars like Ryan McManus and Bo Patterson return, so does up-and-coming player Victor Williams.

Almost the entire Big Green O-line is returning for 2014, and that includes 1st Team All Ivy Scotty Whitmore and Honorable Mention Sean Ronan.

In short,  I’m convinced this will be a very potent offense this fall.

Maybe the defense is the more questionable unit, but it’s not a problem child by any stretch. Dartmouth got a big boost from a pair of younger D-linemen last season in Cody Fulleton and Even Chrustic. They both made 2nd Team All Ivy and are back for 2014.

The linebacking crew has some work to do to replace Michael Runger and Bronson Green, who both graduated. Runger was 1st Team All Ivy and Green was Honrable Mention. But the staff is high on senior Eric Wickham, and juniors Zach Slafsky and Will McNamara.

The secondary also seems very solid. Stephen Dazzo and Vernon Harris both made 2nd Team All Ivy and they come back. Garrott Wagoner is the big loss here, a 1st Team All Ivy player who has graduated.

All of this makes Columbia’s Homecoming game prospects against Dartmouth looking pretty thin at press time. 

Recruiting Tool

I’m always on the lookout for some new recruiting advantages for Columbia football, and I think we have a good one in today’s news.

It turns out that JP Morgan and Bank of America are boosting salaries for their junior banker employees by as much as 20%.  Other firms are expected to follow suit. That means first-year analysts can now expect to make about $85,000 per year BEFORE bonuses.

Columbia doesn’t have the corner on putting its athletics grads into the banking sector on Wall Street, but it is still a dominant career choice and opportunity for young Lions. And our location in NYC makes it a lot easier to interview and intern at these firms. This is good news for our players and our recruiters should be armed with this knowledge when they make their pitches about Columbia football. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

High School Feeder List Updated!

Two incoming frosh this year come from All Saints in Texas

One of the things I've enjoyed most about following Columbia football over these decades is documenting the names of every high school that has ever sent a player to the CU program.

Of course the list will probably always be incomplete, but I welcome any new info whenever I can get it and I've just updated the special website where I document all the schools and the players who came from them.

Doing this just now has given me a chance to take a fresh look at our incoming freshmen class, and I have to say I feel a little better about it than I did just a few months ago.

I like the fact that many of the players are coming from high schools where we have found a few established star players over the years. I'm still wary of my old elementary school, Norfolk Academy, sending us two players in this class when no Ivy football star at any school has ever come out of N.A., but I'll just have to live with that.

All Saints Episcopal School in Fort Worth, TX is also sending us two players in this year's class. It will be interesting to see if the smaller Texas schools have at lease some degree of the football talent the bigger schools enjoy.

I hope the high school feeder school blog serves as some kind of a recruiting tool for our coaches.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


If you've ever wondered just how expensive, difficult, and tiring it is to recruit football players for an Ivy League school, check out this study from Mode Blog.

It looks at the college football teams with the most geographically diverse rosters. It should come as no surprise that five of the top 10 most diverse teams are Ivies. Columbia comes in at #9 overall.

High school players who have the academic credentials and athletic potential to play football in the Ivies are literally few and far between, emphasis on the "far."

But is it possible that we've taken the search a little too far? Several former coaches and players have privately told me over the years that they believe Columbia has spread its feelers too thin and should get back to focusing on the New England preps for 2-3 more recruits per year.

All of this has to be balanced just right. Columbia had its only success in recent memory in the 1990's when then-Head Coach Ray Tellier really put an emphasis on recruiting California. For whatever reason, the other Ivies had started to ignore the state and the Lions swooped in. By 1996, the last time CU had a winning record, MOST of the roster was from California.

But thet other Ivies soon swooped in and that advantage was lost by 1999 or so. Time ran out and Columbia did not adjust.

Meanwhile, Princeton has the #1 most diverse roster in the country and that renewed effort to spread out the recruiting feelers surely has paid dividends for a team that's basically gone from worst to first in three years.

The moral of the story is that recruiting for the Ivies is so tough that you might get better results from travelling more miles, or you might not. You might get a good bang for your travel buck, or you might not. It all depends.

However, I would say that if you're not winning it's time to try something else. So if Columbia remains a team with a very diverse roster and a very empty win column, we might want to try staying with one region more than another next time around.


Training Day

Today is the day the Columbia football team reports to training camp for the 2014 season.

This is the official beginning of the season for the players, though most of them have been working out and practicing for months.

Getting any kind of real information out of training camp is really not something we should demand or expect. It just doesn’t happen.

But we do learn a little something from the folks who update the roster. Usually, a week or two into camp is when we see the new weights posted for the players. And given how much Columbia has suffered the last two seasons because of a too-light offensive line, you know I’ll be looking at those new numbers very closely.

Also, you usually see one or two freshmen drop off the roster after the first week or so. It happens to just about every Ivy team every year. This is generally unavoidable in a league where quitting the team has no effect on your admission to the school.

What are Columbia’s top priorities for this training camp?


When you go 0-10 the previous season and aren’t really competitive in even one game, you do have to work on everything.

But I know even Head Coach Pete Mangurian agrees with me when I say the offensive line needs the most work. If QB Brett Nottingham isn’t protected and decent running lanes aren’t opened in 2014, another 0-10 season is more than a little likely.

I wish there were more time to prepare for the season, but that “training camp” title for what begins today is kind of a misnomer.

Sure, there are some intense stretches of workouts and practices. But this is still the Ivy League, and prep and practice time is still heavily regulated. Throw in the lost time the freshmen endure because of mandatory orientation events, and prep time crunch is even tighter.

The extra lost time for the freshmen is the biggest problem, since training camp is really their first best chance to shine. It’s amazing that any freshman gets on the field at all when you realize how they fall further behind in “exposure time” until the regular season begins.

I still hold out hope for some answers in the coming two weeks. One big question I have is will the running back position really be filled by junior Cameron Molina, or will a freshman end up getting the job? Of course, every starting slot with a few exceptions is still a question mark, but that’s my biggest curiousity so far.

And there’s always the hope that there won’t be any significant injuries in camp that make things even harder for a team with a lot of hills to climb.

Welcome back gentlemen, we have a lot of work to do.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Full of Fordham

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Columbia opponent this year that is getting more hype than week one foe Fordham.

From my vantage point I’d say the hype is generally deserved, but some of this is getting a little out of hand.

The Patriot League Network is rolling out some preview videos today to spark subscriber interest, (will the Ivy League Digital Network do the same? And if so, what the Hell kind of highlights will they find for Columbia from last year?), and the Rams are getting a lot of love.

Here’s the next video, featuring the Fordham offense 

Here’s the video featuring QB Michael Nebrich 

And here’s the video featuring the Fordham defense

I know the Patriot League Network has a lot of videos rolling out for the other teams in the league, but the boosting for the Rams is the strongest as the PL clearly hopes Fordham will raise the league's overall stature the most by going deep into the FCS playoffs. 

The last PL team to do that was Colgate, when the Raiders made it all the way to the FCS title game in 2003. 

It’s almost to the point where I can say that a Columbia win over the Rams would be sweeter than even beating Penn at Franklin Field in week 5.

Okay, it wouldn’t be THAT great. But this is starting to look like such a David vs. Goliath matchup that some of the Fordham coaches better start imposing a media blackout in the Ram locker room to make sure they don’t get too overconfident.

Get Ready for Picks

Speaking of that, I will continue last year’s new policy of starting my weekly picks and picks vs. the spread posts when Columbia’s non-league opponents begin to play.

All three of those opponents will be playing on the 30th, so look for the first picks post on or about Thursday August 28th.

Last season I went 52-17 straight up and 41-26-1 against the spread in all my picks, (one game never had a posted spread, thus the disparity in the two overall numbers).  The .611 winning percentage against the spread was one of my better years ever, but I have always done at least better than .500 against the lines.

Martin Rises

Josh Martin ‘13 had two tackles in the K.C. Chiefs 28-16 preseason loss to Carolina last night.  

And here’s a great piece about  Tamba Hali and Martin working out together just before training camp. The article surely makes it sound like Martin is about to get a big boost in playing time this season. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Seyi Sighted: Confirmed

Seyi looks ready to play

Although his name does not appear on the Boston College football roster, I'm hearing reports that Seyi Adebayo '14 is using his final year of college football eligibility to walk on with the Eagles.

UPDATE: Boston College now confirms that Adebayo is a member of the 2014 Eagles. 

We certainly wish Seyi the best of luck there after injuries shortened a promising career at Columbia. I suspect Adebayo's respect for former Columbia Defensive Coordinator Kevin Lempa, who is now at BC, may have played a role in this story.

I do not blame Head Coach Pete Mangurian and his regime for Adebayo's injury in the first game last year, as it appears he was just not fully recovered from his ACL tear in 2012. But that 2012 injury was gut-wrenching as Adebayo was being used on special teams at the time of his injury and he was not taken out of the game when he took a bad hit moments before he was slammed again.

Yet what what does it say about the CU program right now that Adebayo is indeed using that final year of eligibility to try to break onto an FBS team when he could have stayed at Columbia and potentially dominated at his DE position? With the loss of Chad Washington due to his leaving school, the CU defensive line looks painfully thin right now. Adebayo could have made a huge difference.

It's possible Adebayo is getting a waiver to play for BC that the Ivy League would not have granted him to keep playing for the Lions. But with Brett Nottingham getting the Ivy League's okay to proceed as if last year never happened, it seems plausible that Adebayo would also get a waiver after going down with less than one game played in 2013. 

Somehow, it just seems like Adebayo's story is just another major missed opportunity for Columbia football. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fordham Believes the Hype

QB Michael Nebrich

The Fordham Rams are now in the habit of telling everyone who will listen that they think they have a shot to win the FCS title.

The big focus in training camp right now is improving the rush defense, which allowed 202 yards per game.

Seeing that in print just reminds me of one of the biggest mistakes Columbia made last year in that fateful season opener against the Rams.

Despite some very good runs by RB Marcorus Garrett, the Lions passed the ball more than they ran it in the 1st half at a monster 2-1 ratio. Remember, the halftime score was just 10-0 and so Columbia was not passing twice as much out of desperation. This was the scripted gameplan against a team with a monster pass rush. And even after QB Brett Nottingham was sacked three times and harassed on about six or seven other plays, the pass plays just kept coming in from the sidelines.

And in that brief period in the 3rd quarter when the game was not yet decided, the coaches still sent in more passes than runs. Eventually, Nottingham was creamed, injured, and lost for the year.

Let's hope we learn our lesson for this year's game. Protecting Nottingham is more important than just about anything else in the early stages of this season.

Great Dane Update

Omar Osbourne

One of the biggest reasons that week two opponent Albany had such a rough 2013 season was because the Great Danes joined the tough CAA conference for the first time.

The consensus now is that Albany will be much better this season and new Head Coach Greg Gattuso is sounding mighty confident about things in this article in the Troy Record.

Other than just the talk, Great Dane RB Omar Osbourne remains the biggest challenge for the Lions and everyone else on the Albany schedule.

Albany kicks off its season in just 17 days at home against Holy Cross.

Comments Erased

Sorry folks, but Blogger has accidentally erased the last 100 comments on this blog.

It happens, and we'll survive.

For those of you who are conspiracy theorists, I would note that just about all those comments agreed with the content here.

Hopefully, it won't happen again.

Watch Your Wallets!

Next time, fly coach

The Wall Street Journal has just published this interesting story about Arts and Sciences professors at Columbia complaining about a lack of adequate funding for their research and sabbaticals.

Missing from the story is the fact that most tenured faculty teach almost no classes and give nothing back to Columbia unless you count their books about arcane subjects that only 20-30 people on Earth will care about, let alone read.

The fact that these haughty academics don't even mention improving the undergraduate student experience is no accident. They don't give a damn about them and the fact that they're the ones paying the bills with the ever-exploding tuition money is even more of an inconvenient fact for these pseudo socialist phonies.

But this story worries me in light of the fact that athletics generates big donor money and I am convinced that not all of it goes where it's intended to go. This is not a wild conspiracy theory, because the same issue plagues Columbia College. The previous two CC deans basically bolted over disputes about how much of the College-generated money, (via tuition and alumni donations), somehow finds its way over to the Arts and Sciences treasury.

Athletics outperforms just about every other division of Columbia when it comes to fundraising. If you remember the results of the last two online "Giving Days" you'll know what I mean.

Whatever I think or you think about the Athletic Department's performance, it deserves our support to keep the money and donations it generates in house.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fordham Fans Offended

It turns out that the post I wrote on July 23rd about Fordham looking stronger than ever set off a firestorm on the Fordham fan forum.

The fans there took issue with some of the comments calling for CU to drop the Rams from our schedule.

You can read all about it in the link provided above, but I was surprised at how extensive the debate was.

Penn Update

Say goodbye

Columbia's traditional week 5 opponent will again be the University of Pennsylvania. This time the game is at Franklin Field.

Obviously, the big story at Penn is the fact that this is Head Coach Al Bagnoli’s final year on the job.

But if it weren’t for that, the big story would be the Quakers’ weak 2013 campaign that saw them go 4-6 overall and 3-4 Ivy with a four-game losing streak to close out the year.

Without the tough QB Billy Ragone to lead the team, Penn couldn’t find a way to win the key tight ball games like it did in 2012. And the once-mighty Penn defense was porous in game after game.

It was Penn’s defensive performance that surprised me the most. I was one of the many pundits who predicted the Quakers would have trouble in 2013 if Ragone got hurt. But almost no one expected the Quakers to give up an average of more than 28 points in their seven Ivy League contests.

Pass defense was the culprit, with Penn allowing an average of 240 yards in the air and more than seven yards per attempt last season. But the rush defense was also weak by Quaker standards with more than 150 yards per game allowed.

Penn does have a lot of returning players on defense, led by linebacker Daniel Davis who could be a league MVP. Head Coach-elect Ray Priore has his usual corps of talented linebackers with Fereez Yacoobi joining Davis, but the rest of the defense just looks a lot weaker than what we’ve become used to seeing in the Bagnoli-Priore era.

Evan Jackson, a 2nd Team All-Ivy DB last year, will be back and is probably the best non-linebacker on the defense.

I like the offense a lot more this year, even though new QB Alek Torgerson is a big question mark. Torgerson is just a sophomore with a grand total of one start and 10 passing attempts under his belt. But his talent is unquestioned and he has a very experienced receiving corps to work with. WR Connor Scott is back for a 5th year, as is Chuck Fiore. Ty Taylor, in my opinion, was robbed of All Ivy recognition last year and Ryan O’Malley is just the kind of huge TE a young QB needs as a security blanket.  Don’t forget about junior Cameron Countryman who was the consensus top recruit in the Ivies in 2012. His speed is lethal.

Neither Kyle Wilcox and Spencer Kulcsar  can win games on their own, but the combined package they present at RB is powerful.

Even the weaker Bagnoli teams of the past have never been weak on the O-line… never. I can’t imagine this will be a serious problem this fall, but I’m not ready to call it a strength either. 1st Team All Ivy OL Christopher Bush has graduated,  but there’s a decent number of guys returning from a squad that allowed fewer than two sacks a game.

As far as the recruiting game goes, it looks like this was kind of an under the radar year for the Quakers. It’s possible the haul wasn’t as great for the program last year with Bagnoli on the way out, but I’m not ready to render that verdict right now. It’s just something to consider a year or two down the road.


Last year, I wrote that a win on Homecoming against Penn would have made Columbia’s entire 2013 season. It turned out that CU played more competitively in that game than just about any contest last year, but the Lions still fell in a 21-7 loss. 

This year, the Penn game seems like a similar major prize. In his 22 years as Quaker head coach, Bagnoli has a 20-2 record against Columbia. Imagine the shock and pain the Lions could impose on him and the Penn faithful if they could beat the Quakers at Franklin Field in Bagnoli’s farewell season!

Well, we can dream. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hello Hoyas

Josh Martin ‘13 had two solo tackles in KC’s 41-39 win over the Bengals last night at Arrowhead Stadium. Martin is on much more solid ground to make the roster this season, but the big question is whether he’ll get more significant playing time other than special teams action.

Bruce Wood’s Big Green Alert blog notes that Dartmouth will start wrapping up its season against Brown and not Princeton starting in 2018.

Of course, that means Columbia will have to find someone other than Brown to wrap up the season. My sources tell me that Cornell will be that team, making the “Empire State Bowl” the season finale.

Another highlight in the future schedules for Columbia is the establishment of a regular series with Georgetown beginning next year. This is great news for Hoya fans as it seems like Patriot League teams start getting better when they start playing Columbia and vice versa.

But that will be a stretch for GU, since they remain the only Patriot League football team not using athletic scholarships.  In all fairness, I don’t think the Lions could have beaten Georgetown last year, but next year is probably a different story. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Look at the Monmouth Hawks

K.B. Assante

Week 4 opponent Monmouth whipped the Lions last season at Wien Stadium, 37-14 and now it’s time for the return engagement in South Jersey.

The Hawks finished 2013 a respectable 6-6 with notable wins over the Lions, Cornell, and Holy Cross.

The double-headed monster running attack of Julian Hayes and KB Assante is cut down by half as Hayes has graduated. But West Virginia transfer Assante was still a 1,000+ yard rusher last season and he actually scored more TD’s than Hayes with eight.  It was also Assante who torched the Lions for 132 yards on just 15 carries last year including a TD.

Also back is star QB Brandon Hill, who had 2,356 yards passing and 19 TD passes last season.

The top receivers are also back. 5th year seniors Neal Sterling and Lamar Davenport were key parts of the Hawk offense, but star TE Mike McLafferty has graduated.

The offensive line was stellar in the run blocking department last year, with two 1,000+ yard rushers to prove it. 5th year senior Reece Johnston will be back at RG. Also back is senior starter Peter Ireland but the rest of last year’s starters are gone, so this could be a concern this season.

Defense is also a concern, as all four of Monmouth’s top four tacklers have graduated. But star defensive end Darnell Leslie, who had 7.5 sacks as a red shirt freshman last year is back. Also back is 5th year lineman Pat O’Hara who had three forced fumbles against the Lions last season.

The secondary was not a strong suit last season and it lost its most solid player to graduation in Tevrin Brandon.

Kicking could also be an issue as the excellent Eric Spillane has graduated too.

The big news is that Monmouth is now a member of the Big South Conference along with Coastal Carolina, Liberty, Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, and Presbyterian. Monmouth was just picked to come in 5th out of 6 in the conference. They open their season in just 23 days at Delaware State.

Is this a winnable game? It seems more winnable than most on the Lions schedule this fall, but this will be Homecoming for the Hawks and they do have a formidable offense and Assante was just getting warmed up last year. Obviously we’ll know more after Monmouth plays a few games. 

Mobile Site Remodeled

If you have the Columbia Lions Athletics ap, go check it out today as it has been updated to feature videos and audio content.

Ivy Bound?

Brenan Nosovitch

When a top BCS college football team from a respected athletic and academic Catholic HS program says he's transferring, one has to wonder if he's heading to the Ivies.

That's what happened today when South Carolina red shirt sophomore Brendan Nosovitch announced he's leaving Steve Spurrier's team.

Nosovitch was a star at Central Catholic HS in Lehigh Valley. I can see Penn salivating over him already with the Quakers' QB spot far from a demonstrated strength right now.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

JMart Gets Some Props

Josh Martin fights off a block

The one bright note for CU fans last year was Josh Martin '13 and his successful long-shot bid to make the KC Chiefs and even play in their playoff game vs. the Colts. 

Now he's trying to get a more solid footing on the team and this great article shows how he's won the admiration of teammate Tamba Hali.

I sure hope we see Martin on the field a lot more in 2014.  

Non-Conference News

Fordham opened its summer training camp summer training camp Monday and the team is very focused on making it to the FCS Championship game.

Perhaps that will work in Columbia's favor if the Rams are somehow looking ahead to bigger things and take the Lions totally for granted on 9/20.

But Fordham would have to be truly asleep at the wheel to fall to Columbia. Late last month, the Rams were picked to come in 1st in the Patriot League. They also swept the top two preseason player awards with QB Michael Nebrich getting named preseason offensive player of the year and LB Stephen Hodge winning preseason defensive player of the year.

Week 2 opponent Albany also opened camp on Monday, and this link to the story includes some video of new Head Coach Greg Gattuso addressing his troops.

Week 4 opponent Monmouth opened camp yesterday. The Hawks got some other good news at the same time, as senior defensive end Pat O'Hara was added to the CFPA watch list.

Full Mangurian Comments Now Available

You can hear all of Head Coach Pete Mangurian's comments on the team from yesterday's Ivy League Football media conference call by clicking here.

I think a major theme for him was the talk about "tearing the program down to build it back up from scratch."

As far as personnel news, I thought the fact that Tom Callahan has switched from OL to DL was interesting. At 6-5 and 260 lbs. at last check, he could be a great addition to the defense.

Kal Prince moving over to linebacker was also notable, but considering how weak that position looks overall it may have been a desperate move.

Mangurian gave the nod to Cameron Molina as the starting RB. It seemed like he had some good talent in 2012 in that one short appearance he made against Penn. But last season he didn't stand out.

Mangurian said Garrett DeMuth is the #1 TE for now, but it was hard not to be more excited by what he said about incoming 6-5 freshman Zach Dansby, who is being identified as a serious downfield receiving threat.

Sophomore Cameron Nizialek is the starting kicker and punter as of now.

The apparent leaders on the crucial O-line for now seem to be Ryan Thomas, Marshall Markham, and Keith Ramljak. Mangurian mentioned some other names, but they all had significant question marks. At one point he talked about "Billy Williams," but I think he meant Billy Lawrence.

Brett Nottingham is of course still the #1 QB.

Mangurian was optimistic about the WR corps in general. Much of that was because Connor Nelligan is back from his concussion injury last year.

Did Mangurian get the most time of any coach on the call yesterday? It seemed like it. It's nice that he was allowed to go on and on.

Frankly, the whole call was more depressing than ever. All the gushing over retiring Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli from every other coach got to be a little much. One of the other listeners on the call Tweeted that he expects Bagnoli to get some kind of special farewell at every road game this year. If true, I'm glad we're playing them in Philly.