Thursday, July 23, 2015

Where We're Stacked

Niko shouldn't have to pray for support this fall

One thing about Columbia football is that fans have often been surprised about the specific areas of weakness and strength on the team. There are many years where we’re convinced the offense is better than the defense or vice versa only to find out that the opposite was true once the season actually started.

So with the humility that needs to come with these kinds of analyses, I still want to focus on one area of this Lions team that looks like it’s completely stacked with talent and depth: the defensive line.

Head Coach Al Bagnoli immediately singled out the D-line as the strength of the team in his introductory news conference back in February. Since then, the situation seems to have only improved.

The two established stars in the unit are DT Niko Padilla and DE Toba Akinleye. Both are seniors and have the potential for 1st Team All Ivy years.

But I’m excited by at least five other players on the defensive line, some of whom Columbia fans may not have noticed or forgotten.

The first is returning senior Chad Washington. Chad was not in school last year as he had to deal with a number of off the field issues, but he is still an explosive player who has potential for a breakout season before he leaves college football.

Next is sophomore Lord Hyeamang. It was a terrible season last year, but Hyeamang did great things for a freshman lineman. He looked good in the spring and he’s another one of those players in the Ivies who came late to football in high school and that’s why he wasn’t snatched up by a bigger program. I have a feeling this will be the season where a lot of Columbia fans start saying “praise the Lord!”

Another impressive sophomore is Dominic Perkovic. The 6-6 Perkovic also got a lot of good playing time as a frosh and looked good in the spring.

Junior Justin Aimonetti is making the transition from the OL to the DL and had a strong spring. Those of you who read his column in the Columbia Spectator can probably guess that Aimonetti is trying to be a leader on this team and I expect him to do something to back that up on the field this year.

I'm also optimistic about returning junior Charles Melka, who is back on the team after being out of school last fall. Most of us remember how good a player his older brother Nick was for the Lions and I think Charles has the same potential. It’s very good news that he’s back.

And then there’s one more player who totally escaped my radar and probably a few others. Incoming freshman Mike Hinton was actually offered a preferred walk-on slot at Wake Forest and could make an early impact.

Returning veteran senior JD Hurt might have to fight hard to keep his playing time as high as it was last year, but that’s a good problem for the team to have.

And I really liked sophomore Alexander Holme last year at LB, and perhaps he can make a bigger impact as he has now been moved onto the line.

I can’t wait until they post the starting lineups and we see who beat out the tough competition to get the top spots.

Is this the best D-line in the Ivies? That doesn’t really matter because D-lines don’t play against each other. The important question is whether this D-line can beat the O-lines it will face for 10 straight weeks this fall. I think it has a chance to beat them all and dominate against some others. And maybe more importantly, this D-line is Columbia’s best chance to shed the losing image and get some nastiness going on the field. 


Anonymous said...

I have high hopes the defense will turn things around. It has been so dismal the last few seasons it has deflated everything to do with the program. Now good coaching is able to work with good personnel. There's a good recruiting pipeline, confidence in the locker room spills over onto the field. Can't wait for the season to start to see what this group can do.

DOC said...

Our defense was exhausted by the second half of most contests
because they were back on the field after innumerable "three and outs"
by our offense (someone ran over 100 plays against us at least once last year). They also frequently faced poor field position which effectively opens the opposition playbook. Our D-line CAN be great,
but only if we improve ball control on O.....