Monday, February 29, 2016

Offers, Offers Everywhere!

February has been a furiously busy month for Columbia’s coaching staff as they have been handing out offers to class of 2017 high school players.

Here are some of the more interesting offers, based on my opinions alone, (and I'll profile more in the coming weeks):

Bailey is a up-and-coming big offensive tackle, and when O-linemen get early offers like this you know they're going to be highly sought-after for the better part of a year. Indiana is also becoming a magnet for Columbia offers lately. (Also see Ben Stewart and Sam Helm). The state is recruited by O-line coach Jon McLaughlin.

You often hear defensive backs described as "ball hawks," but this guy really takes the cake. If you throw a pass in vicinity of Mr. Harris, maybe you ought to think again.

Caine is a hard hitting and fast DB who makes a big point of saying the first school to offer him a slot will get an "immediate sense of loyalty" from him. And Columbia gave him his first offer. Another find for Coach McLaughlin.

You have to mention a 1st team all state DB from one of the greatest high school football programs of all time. 

I have soft spot in my heart for Mt. Lebanon HS, a school that's sent us some of our hardest working athletes over the years. It's also the school where an admired fraternity brother of mine attended and he's probably a few years away from becoming the CEO of the largest pharma company in the world. And the first news anchor I ever worked with and truly admired in the process was also a "Mt. Lebo" grad. Getting back to Young, he's also received early offers from Dartmouth and Cornell, so there's something to this kid.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Certain Formula

Marcellus Wiley, Josh Martin,
and several other standout Ivy football players who eventually made it into the NFL share a similar M.O.

They got into the sport of football or found their true role relatively late in the game.

Wiley actually played football from a young age, but he didn't really grow into his body until college and then he finally found his best role as a defensive end.

Martin didn't play organized football until high school, which is late in the Pop Warner-dominated world for college-bound players.

Current rising CU star Lord Hyeamang is another late-arriver to football and I expect him to show major strides in his final two years at Baker Field. 

 These are the kinds of NFL-caliber players who fly under the major FBS recruiting radar and often become stars in the Ivy League. 

Based on this article , incoming Columbia freshman Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal might be another player who fits this description. Nwal is a native of Cameroon who came to the US when he was in 5th grade and probably knew nothing of American football before that. He's already put on 30 pounds in preparation to play on the offensive line exclusively.

The article also mentions Nwal's high school teammate, RB Alex Gibson, who is also coming to Columbia and spurned offers from Princeton and Dartmouth. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Expectations Risen

(I apologize for the lack of posting lately, as I was traveling abroad. But I have returned to New York!)

Today's Columbia Spectator is the latest publication to note the high ratings for the football team's incoming recruiting class.

Besides the obvious fact that such talk truly raises expectations for the team, I thought there were two points in the piece worth of special note:

1) Head Coach Al Bagnoli's comment that the coaching staff is making a big splash on social media. This isn't just the #1 way news and info is getting out there for young people, it has now become the #1 way news and info is getting out there for everyone on Earth.

2) Greg Abbruzzese '91, was right to point out how even after more than a year at the helm no one is complaining publicly or privately about Bagnoli. There has never been so much "buy-in" from the Columbia world on probably anything.

Trinh Bolts

Based on the across-the-board offers he received, you could argue that LB Anthony Trinh was the #1 incoming freshman football player in the Ivies.

But now Trinh has decided to nix his verbal commitment to Princeton in favor of a preferred walk-on offer from Stanford.  "Preferred walk-on" status usually means the player taking that offer will have a good chance of getting a scholarship slot in a year or two.

While I have argued many times that it's the smartest move to take the Ivy offer over a slot at just about any other program, it's hard to make that same argument about schools like Stanford, Cal, Michigan, and Northwestern, etc. And the Trinh story shows just how easy it is for those schools to disrupt our recruiting process.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Staten Island Signee

It's always special when Columbia football brings in a player from New York City.

And that's what we got this month when Zach O'Neill from Staten Island's Monsignor Farrell committed to the program. 

Staten Island remains a pretty football rich region by NYC high school football standards, so hopefully Zach will be the first of more from the borough of Richmond to come our way.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Taylor's Dream

A nice short article and video about incoming DE Taylor Weldon includes the sad fact that his father passed away last year.

But it's also full of his future hopes and dreams.

Hopefully his goal to become a doctor to honor his dad will be realized along with a lot of wins on the football field too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dinner Notes

A number of the people who attended the 2015 Football Awards Banquet have sent me some of their thoughts about the evening.

Before I get to that, I do want to make what I hope will be the last repetition of the usual comment about our graduating football seniors: In short, they all deserved better.

The good news is that they do seem to be leaving the program in much better hands. There's no denying that while the Lions only won two games last fall, the team could have easily won nine games and was blown out just once. This was a quantum leap improvement with essentially the same personnel.

The big award winners were pretty much no-brainers.

Cameron Molina was absolutely the team MVP and I can't remember a graduating senior closing out his career with two of his best games before Molina did it against Cornell and Brown last season.

I was also glad to see the recognition for LB Chris Conway, who exceeded lots of expectations after transferring from Duke and seems poised for greater things in 2016.

And I was especially glad to see rising senior DB Jared Katz recognized as most improved player. In the course of just a few weeks, the coaching staff turned his entire career around by challenging him to get tough. Katz's story is essential because we have to believe this coaching staff can make better players out of the men already on the roster. It's not just about better recruiting.

The full list of the award winners is here.

During the evening, we heard official confirmation that WR Scooter Hollis is coming back for this season, which is a big positive.

And a few of the attendees pointed out that Head Coach Al Bagnoli made a big point of mentioning the individual stats of many of the players, breaking from recent tradition and something everyone in the audience appreciated.

After the very difficult losses that ended the 2015 campaign, it's been often a little hard to really focus on the good things about the season. But I think we can close the book on the first year of the Bagnoli era with more than just a little hope for the future.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

War is Coming... and We Should Win

One of the reasons why Princeton doesn't win in football more consistently is its 25-year-old ban on transfers.

The above sentence is one I believe strongly, but is still the topic of great debate among Ivy fans.

Princeton is about to end the argument by reversing that ban. 

The rest of the Ivies need to prepare. I suspect the result will be a much more serious and involved 8-school transfer war.

That's a war that a school perched in NYC has a great chance to win with the access to the jobs upperclassmen transfers are much more concerned about getting. By that I mean, most athletes who transfer to Ivies come from bigger athletic programs where academics and future non-sports careers take a back seat. When you switch to an Ivy, it's most likely because you've started to realize the next 40 years of your life are a lot more important than the next four.

Columbia can and should win the transfer wars about to erupt in the Ancient Eight.

Man your battle stations.

More Signing Day Pics

Hunter Petlansky

Michael Geraghty

Alex Gibson, far left and Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal, second from left

Christian Everett, second from right

Danny De Lorenzi, back row third from left

John Fischer

Tyler Houston, second from right

Hunter Lunsford, third from right

Oren Milstein

Michael Murphy strikes a pose

Kaleb Pitts

Alex Robin

Drew Schoeberl

Joe Scowden

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's Signing Day

The Ivy League does not make its incoming athletes sign letters of intent. But many high schools like to take advantage of National Signing Day to get positive publicity for their outstanding athletes and students and the schools themselves.

So there will be a number of stories and pictures out today of incoming Columbia football commits "signing" things.

Parker Coogan

Van Neils (right) from Mankato West HS in Minnesota "signs"

Max Mulaney "Signs" 

Ben Hill

Ian Vandenberg

Matt Dame 

Interesting quote from Dame on local ESPN radio today: "Football ends at some point and I wanted to get a degree."

Ben McKeighan (front left)

Josh Wainwright

Also, I couldn't help but notice that a lot of the commits have a big picture of Head Coach Al Bagnoli decked out like a rapper with the caption: "In Swagnoli We Trust."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bagnoli's Reach

Tight Ends Coach Joe D'Orazio is leaving Columbia for a new job with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he will be the assistant wide receivers coach. He'll be missed, but as a Philly native we can't expect Joe not to take this opportunity. 

But there are some positives for Columbia coming from this development, as the Bagnoli staff connection to the NFL grows and recruits see that this program has a nice reach beyond just Ivy League football. 

Good luck Joe!