Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sense of Urgency?

Grant Mullins

Before I write a bit about the football team, I just have to express my appreciation for the effort the basketball team put in to win the CIT championship last night at Levien Gymnasium.

It was a great game and I was especially glad to see who really made the difference in the contest for the Lions. In the end it was Grant Mullins, the senior who missed most of his chances to attain greatness at Columbia because of a severe concussion his sophomore year. Mullins hit some very important three point shots and completed a traditional three-point-play that was positively stunning. It just happened to be that play that put the Lions ahead for good. Now, Mullins is being recruited by the University of Michigan for his final year of NCAA eligibility, (he can't play in the Ivies next year). I hope he finds a good fit with the Wolverines or a similar program.

Of course, the other big hoops news is that Head Coach Kyle Smith is leaving to take over the top job at USF in the Bay Area. Smith did a very good job, but I think there are better coaches out there. And with a committed administration and proven talent remaining among the undergrads, I think Columbia is in a unique position to attract a better coach than they were just a couple of months ago.

Why No D-Line Panic?

The essential gist I'm getting from the Columbia football coaching staff these days is not to sweat the serious graduation losses from the Lion D-line. But it's hard to do that when you lose guys like Chad Washington, Niko Padilla, Toba Akinleye, and Hunter Little all at once.

One guess I'm making about why the coaches aren't really panicking is because the linebacking crew is 100% returning and they may be planning some formations and stunts that accentuate their talents and will help make up for some holes up front. I also have faith in the continuing improvement of juniors Lord Hyeamang and Dominic Perkovic. 

But am I being impudent if I openly wish for a transfer defensive end or two to show up in the stands at the spring game? It was at the spring game last year when transfer QB Skyler Mornhinweg first appeared and truly confirmed the rumors of his arrival were true.

The spring game is just 17 days away, so we shall see.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Biggest Leap

Spring practice is when the coaches and players get to see just how much they need to improve on the field. Sometimes, massive amounts of improvement are possible, other times – not so much.

I’ve been watching Columbia football day by day for 30 years now, and no team improved more over the course of one offseason more than the 1994 Lions.

The ’93 Lions went 2-8, and were a marked disappointment after the 1992 team went 3-7 and won its final two games of the year. The ’93 team was outscored almost 2-1 and lost its games by an average of more than two TD’s per contest.

Just one year later, and Columbia was 5-4-1, scored almost 100 points more than the previous season and allowed one less touchdown per game.

Two players emerging from more minor roles in 1993, made the biggest difference in ’94: QB Mike Cavanaugh and DE Marcellus Wiley.   

Cavanaugh wasn’t actually the main starting QB, Jamie Schwalbe was and he had an excellent season. So did TE Brian Bassett, who remains one of Columbia’s all-time greats. But Cavanaugh and Wiley shook things up by playing the game very differently from everyone else in the league at the time. Cavanaugh was an extremely fast runner who could still hurt you with the pass and opposing defenses didn’t have an answer for them. Wiley dominated the defensive line, but also helped out at the fullback position in goal line situations. In the 22 years since, most of the Ivy schools have had a Cavanaugh clone or two while Wiley remains one of a kind.

But it wasn’t only about the way Cavanaugh and Wiley played, it was also about the new-look package the coaches inserted that offseason that made use of their talents.

Last year's Lions team was definitely a major improvement over the 2014 version of the team. But there's a lot of room for improvement for a squad that could have won 5-6 games, but ending up settling for two wins. 

Head Coach Al Bagnoli and his staff are currently installing a new look offense for 2016 that I predict will start to highlight the skills of some of our previously unsung players. We’ve seen some great evidence of the strength and weightlifting program, but don’t be surprised if another athletic skill makes an even bigger impact this fall. (That’s all I’m going to give say about that). Just how much that will affect the W-L record is obviously a mystery. But it’s a sure bet that one or two players already on the roster will step up in their new roles and that’s what makes watching this process the most fun. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"If it ain't Bendin', You're Just Pretending!"

Hard core weightlifter believe that if the weight bar isn't literally bending at the ends under the pressure of the massive weight you're trying to lift, then it don't mean much.

This video released just a day before spring practice started is filled with a lot of shots of weight bars bending and more. And the extensive length of the video with shot after shot of different players succeeding in the weight room is certainly encouraging for a program that's had at least four coaches in a row publicly decry the general strength level of the team.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bagnoli Video, Annotated Version

Head Coach Al Bagnoli's quick interview assessing the first day of spring practice is certainly worth watching.

But you know how we fans are; we like to look at the covering video of the team practicing to pick up clues about who's playing and where.

It's not like we get any big revelations, but it's fun to single out some players by name:

-In the first bit of practice video we see rising sophomore QB Ryan Suitt completing a pass to rising junior Parker Thome, who is clearly making that move from kicker to WR. At 6-4, he might be a nice option at that position.

-In the second clip, we see O-linemen Kendall Pace, Tyler Schonewolf, and Bewley Wales doing blocking drills. Schonewolf is a rising sophomore who, based on other sources, seems to be getting a good look at center in the temporary absence of Charlie Flores.

-Next, we see RB Turner DeMuth and an unidentified player now wearing #2 doing a tackling drill.

-After that, we see QB Anders Hill handing off to RB Chris Schroer with defender Connor Heeb and that mystery #2 in view. After that we see Hill on a keeper.

-In the course of the next couple of clips we see a mystery #7.

-The last clip shows a kneeling mystery #18 who I assume is a WR based on the fact he is with a number of the other receivers.

It's not much, but with six months to go until kickoff, we grasp at these straws with regularity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring Fundamentals

We had snow yesterday in the New York area, but it had all melted by mid-afternoon. So spring practice will begin today with very normal temperatures in the high 40’s and we could hit the high 60’s tomorrow.

Weather aside, I know we’ve spent some time discussing spring practice by focusing on the names of the possible players who we hope will step up in the off season.

But maybe this spring shouldn’t be so much about identifying future stars and it should be more about shoring up the fundamentals and techniques team-wide. Some of that argument is a given, especially since I have learned Columbia will be using a difference offense this coming season and the team needs to start getting used to running it. But when you think about how fundamental breakdowns robbed the Lions of wins in their last two games of 2015, you know that Head Coach Al Bagnoli and his staff will be working just as hard on the mental parts of the team’s game as much as the physical improvement and progression.

Getting back to that new offense, there’s a disadvantage to implementing the new package this spring while starting QB Skyler Mornhinweg is injured. But I assume he’ll be in attendance and picking up on as much as he can. This will obviously be a great opportunity for rising junior #2 QB Anders Hill to get more experience.

One last point is that we’re five months away from summer training camp, and five months is like an eternity to college-aged players. We probably attach too much importance to spring practice when you consider the fact that a lot of what happens there will be modified greatly or even trashed by August. But in Columbia’s case, it feels like every chance for the players to interact and learn from Coach Bagnoli is precious. So, let the practices begin! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Using the Bagnoli Brand

Question: How can you best capitalize on having the most successful Ivy football coach in history and maximize your recruiting pull?

Answer: See the listing above. Columbia is hosting all interested high school football coaches to a FREE one-day clinic with Head Coach Al Bagnoli and his staff.

This is a great way to create new relationships that should lead to better recruiting for years to come.

It's impossible to list all the positives Columbia is reaping from hiring this guy last year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Tale of Two Cities?

Reading Craig Haley's review of each Ivy team's prospects going into spring practice, kind of gives me a Rashomon Effect as his assessment of Columbia's current situation seems a lot less positive than Head Coach Al Bagnoli's video preview released last month.

The thing is, neither Bagnoli nor Haley says anything factually incorrect. But you get a much more optimistic view from Bagnoli than you do from Haley. There is no denying that Columbia has a decent offensive line with all but one of the starters returning for this fall. Having more than three returning O-line starters is very rare even in the Ivies. And the linebacking corps is 100% back for 2016, which is rare too... especially for a crew of LB's as talented as Columbia's was in 2015.

Haley also seems to put too much emphasis on the loss of Cameron Molina. Now, I am the first guy to say I really wish he were not graduating. But if you look at the two games the Lions won, Molina wasn't really a huge factor. Now getting our QB's back and all our receivers back and healthy and getting that O-line back and hopefully better with Charlie Flores returning from injury... that's a bigger deal in my book. And that says nothing of what a full year of Bagnoli and his staff can do to improve the program.

Haley has nothing factually wrong in his brief overview of Columbia and the entire league, (especially when he intimates correctly that Penn should be the prohibitive favorite to win the title going into the season).  But he seems to missing something in a "spirit of the law vs. letter of the law" way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cities of Dreams

If the past is any guide for today's very hard-working Columbia recruiting, we might want to ask the following questions:

What states have produced the most All Ivy Columbia football players?

What cities have produced the most All Ivy Columbia football players?

Considering how quiet Columbia seemingly has been in recruiting the general New York area, you might be surprised that New York state remains the top source of Lion All Ivy players by far with 28.

California is a distant second at 14.

Ohio comes in third with 13, followed by New Jersey 12, and Massachusetts with 11.

In all, Columbia's All Ivy players have come from 28 states and two foreign countries.

But football powerhouse states like Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania are only moderately represented with eight, five, and, six Columbia All Ivy players from each of those states, respectively.

The complete list of each state is below.

As far as individual cities go, New York City has been a leading source of All Ivy talents and it recently got another member with the graduating Toba Akinelye from Brooklyn who made the team this past season. The Bronx section of the city is still the #1 All Ivy feeder on the Five Boroughs.

Some surprises like Springfield, MA and Indianapolis, IN weigh in with multiple contributions to our All Ivy list.

New York-28



New Jersey-12















New Hampshire-2



New Mexico-1


Rhode Island-1




Ontario, Canada-1

Helsinki, Finland-1

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Good as Gold

John Audino

At last night's annual Gold Dinner honoring our graduating senior players, Head Coach Al Bagnoli officially announced the arrival of new QB's coach Ricky Santos. 

But there's also news that former Union Head Coach John Audino is finally coming back to Columbia as tight ends coach. Audino took over at Union after Bagnoli left that D-III school and compiled an impressive won-loss record there over 20+ years.

Audino comes full circle after coaching under Bill Campbell and Bob Naso at Columbia in the early 1970s and 80s.

Before that, Audino was a running back at Notre Dame playing for the legendary Ara Parseghian.

Bagnoli wanted Audino to join the staff last season, but he decided to stay at Union for another year... a decision I wonder if Audino now regrets.

But don't let his final year fool you, Audino is a wise coach that Columbia is lucky to have on board. His hiring kind of reminds me of how lucky Columbia was to grab veteran coach John Gutekunst as an assistant back in 2010. Gutekunst had been the head coach at Minnesota during the 1980s.

Mornhinweg on the Mend

Rising senior QB Skyler Mornhinweg is still recovering from a broken foot and will miss spring practice. But I am told he will be ready in time for summer camp. That should mean the spring will be a key time for rising junior QB Anders Hill to step things up and should be a chance for the other QB's on the roster, rising sophomores Ryan Suitt, Kyle Castner, and Danny Hong to show what they can do.

Bubble Team

And one more thing... the long-hoped-for inflatable bubble over Kraft Field is going to become a reality in time for next winter.

BREAKING: Ivies to finally hold postseason tournament next year

The Ivy League has just announced that men's and women's basketball will hold conference tournaments beginning next year. 

The Ivies are finally joining the 20th century, albeit 16 years into the 21st century.

Could a change in the rule barring postseason football be far behind?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

High School Confidential

Cavalier Stadium

As I continue to follow the furious pace of offers our coaching staff is currently making to Class of 2017 high school juniors, I'm trying to keep track of the several high schools where we're finding, (and hopefully eventually netting), talent.

Here are the facts about just some of the more recent Columbia offerees from schools where the Lions have found at lease some players before:

-Lake Travis HS is where Columbia found current starters DB Brock Kenyon and LB Hagen Patterson. Now we have an offer out to All State DB Austin Hiller. 

-Cardinal Newman HS in West Palm Beach, FL has long been a font of football talent. But only one documented Cardinal Newman grad has been successfully recruited to Columbia, Matt Swyers '93, who did not have much of a football career in college. The coaches are trying to change things up with a recent offer to DB Carson Powell.

-Even casual high school football fans have heard about Mater Dei HS in Southern California. Calling that school a "power" is an understatement. Columbia has offers out to at least three Mater Dei juniors, DB Jalen Cole, DB Roman Kafentzis, and now DB Kyle Moses. So far, only one Mater Dei grad has come to Columbia football: Robbie Gibson '04, also not someone who had a memorable college football career.

-Saint Francis HS in the shadow of Google HQ in Mountain View, CA is becoming a new focus-point for Columbia recruiting lately. Current players Justin Aimonetti and Landon Baty hail from that school along with new offeree DB Cyrus Habibi-Likio. Aimonetti and Baty are currently the only St. Francis players the Lions have netted.

-Xaverian HS in Brooklyn, NY is mostly known for basketball, (Chris Mullin starred there), but it has football too. Despite its proximity to Columbia, only one documented Xaverian grad has played for the Lions, Bob McDonald '76. We currently have an offer out to All State DL Mike Marinelli.

-The University Liggett School outside of Detroit has been a strong source of football talent, but Columbia has only one football alum from there, Kevin Espy '02. Now we have an offer out to DB Charles Caine.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Further and Further

One of the joys I get from reviewing my database of Columbia football feeder schools is looking at how the recruiting map has truly become larger and larger over the decades.

In the early days of recruiting Ivy athletes, the Northeast was truly and understandably over-represented in recruiting.

Don't believe me, check out some of these figures:

-The recruiting class of 1970, (players who came to Columbia in the fall of 1966), consisted of 56 young men hailing from just 11 states. 47 of them were from the Northeast, including 46, (82%), from just five states: NY, NJ, PA, CT, and MA.

-The recruiting class of 1980, (players who came to Columbia in the fall of 1976), during the hey day of then-Head Coach Bill Campbell, hailed from just 10 states and 77% of the class came from those same five states of NY, NJ, PA, CT, and MA.

-The recruiting class of 1990, (players who came to Columbia in the fall of 1986), saw the number of states drawn from increase to 18, with just 38% of the players coming from the five states of NY, NJ, PA, CT, and MA.

-The recruiting class of 2000, (players who came to Columbia in the fall of 1996), culled its crop from 18 states and only 25% came from the five states of NY, NJ, PA, CT, and MA.

-The recruiting class of 2010, (players who came to Columbia in the fall of 2006), was a bit of an outlier. That class of 30 players came from just 15 states, and 40% of them came from the five states of NY, NJ, PA, CT, and MA.

-But this recruiting class of 2020 of 40 so-far-known incoming players comes from 20 states. Only 20% coming from the five states of NY, NJ, PA, CT, and MA.

The upshot of this all is the fact that today's recruiters at Columbia really have to cover a lot more territory than just a few years ago. The "offer offensive" many of you have noticed via Twitter helps achieve that goal as one shared Tweet about Columbia football can instantly cross the nation in a moment.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Honoring an Ivy Legend

Leo Reherman was a great offensive lineman at Cornell in the 1980s, where he sometimes lined up against Columbia great Matt Sodl '88. 

A few years later, Sodl and Reherman became great friends at UCLA Business School. 

Before going into business as expected, Reherman became famous on American Gladiators. 

Reherman suddenly passed away last week and the news has hit Matt hard. But he is determined to honor his friend and Matt has sent the following info to all the readers here:

It is with a very heavy heart I wanted to announce that Leo Reherman (UCLA Anderson Class of 1993) passed away last Tuesday.  We will be having a memorial service to celebrate his life on the beach in Manhattan Beach this Saturday (March 5th) at 10 am.  All who knew him are welcome and encouraged to share in this celebration of this life.  The details of the service are below:


10:00 AM
(Follow Manhattan Beach Boulevard to the Beach)

**Please bring flowers to add to the circle of flowers that we will all plant in the sand!**

**Attire will be strictly enforced in keeping with 'Hawk Style'! No suits or dark clothes allowed! You must wear outdoor beach clothing. Cargo or board shorts, bikinis, jeans, t-shirts, jerseys and anything that you would wear to party with Lee at the Beach!**

**Immediately following the ceremony, we will all walk 2 minutes up the street to Shellback Tavern (116 Manhattan Beach Blvd.), one of Lee's neighborhood haunts to LAUGH, cry, LAUGH some more and share our favorite stories about the man we all love so much!

Scheduling Thoughts

Working in bullet point form for a Friday:

-St. Francis is indeed no pushover cupcake. They went 7-4 last season and their head coach, Chris Villarrial, was named Coach of the Year. Rising junior RB Marcus Bagley looks dangerous and this is simply a program on the rise.

-I love the idea of going to DC to see a Columbia game. The September 24th game at Georgetown, despite Georgetown's very small stadium, should be fun.

-Look for a big push to make the 10/1 home game against Princeton a mini-Homecoming of sorts. A win in that game would be a big splash for the program.

-Playing Wagner on the road is actually an important move for the program, which has long avoided playing in smaller venues in the NYC area. I think this will help recruiting, and Wagner is certainly beatable.

-Dartmouth has definitely turned the corner as a program, but the first year post Dalyn Williams may be the best chance to beat the Big Green. So perhaps 2016 will finally be the end of the Homecoming losing streak that's been active since 2001. What was the last team Columbia beat at Homecoming? You guessed it, it was Dartmouth in 2000.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

BREAKING: Schedule Released

We now have the official release of the 2016 schedule:
2016 Football Schedule Released; Season Tickets On Sale Now!

As reported here, St. Francis will replace Fordham as our opening day opponent. 

Homecoming is October 22 versus Dartmouth. 

Bagnoli Weighs in on Tackling

Head Coach Al Bagnoli is strongly endorsing the Ivy League's new policy against tackling in football practice.

On WCBS radio in NYC, he made several statements explaining the policy and calling on high school football programs to do the same.

This is a good policy, especially since everyone is on board. In other words, if there was some kind of advantage to tackling in practice no team will be able to grab that now at the expense of its opponents.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Breaking: Coaching Staff Changes

Rick Santos

Offensive Coordinator Mike Faragalli is returning to the University of Virginia  going to Norfolk State and sources tell me Associate Head Coach Mark Fabish will assume his duties.

Sources also tell me legendary New Hampshire QB Rick Santos is joining the Columbia staff as quarterbacks coach. Santos spent some years in the NFL and the CFL after college, but has been on the UNH coaching staff for the last three years coaching the wide receivers. Santos was possibly the best FCS QB of the last 20 years.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Spring is Springing

Spring football begins just three weeks from today.

The official CU website published the schedule for spring practices yesterday, including the date of the annual spring game which is April 16th at 4:30 pm.

It's also overdue for me to link to Head Coach Al Bagnoli's short video previewing the 2016 season. Bagnoli made a point of how many of the key units on the team are untouched by graduation, including the entire starting linebacker corps and most of the offense. And he also makes the fundraising pitch for the all-important inflatable bubble Columbia hopes to soon have in place over Wien Stadium for the colder months.

This is a good time to remind everyone that while we're all excited about many of the incoming freshmen and even interested in some of the class of 2017 players we're recruiting, the big focus should be on the veteran players Columbia needs to step up starting with this spring practice session.

One of the rising RB's needs to step up to help replace Cameron Molina. 2-3 players need to step up to replace the many graduation losses on the defensive line. And the returning wide receivers need to step up too.

Here are some names I'll be watching a little more closely than the others:


Alan Watson, Leander Cutler, and Chris Schroer

Watson is the heir apparent to Molina as the starting RB, but Schroer should get a good look too. Cutler is a FB, but he might get some carries here and there as he tries to come back from an ACL tear.


Cameron Dunn and Scooter Hollis had their moments in 2015, but this is a unit that really, really, really needs to get better and find a go-to guy as soon as possible. Both of them will be back in 2016 and that helps a lot. But a new step up guy could be Marcus Briscoe, a rising junior who missed 2015 due to injury. Rising soph Brandon Krcilek got a lot of playing time as a frosh in 2015 and let's see if he can step it up as well.


With both Nick Durham and Hank Trumbull gone to graduation, which one of the remaining TE's will step up? Rising senior John Hunton is probably the odds-on choice. But if 6-6 rising sophomore Adam Armesto has what it takes, this spring would be a good time to start showing it.


With only one real graduation loss on this unit, things are looking up for this once disaster area group. But the return of the injured Charlie Flores has me intrigued and I hope he is cleared to practice this spring.


I'm not the only one who thinks rising junior Lord Hyeamang is destined to be a star. This is the time to make a big step toward achieving that goal. Fellow rising junior Dominic Perkovic also could make a big move after some great flashes last season.


Some of the coaches believe Columbia's great D-line stats and reputation in 2015 was largely made possible by the linebacking unit. That's good news because not only are all the LB starters back, but so are some the players who missed a good deal of the year with injuries. Key among them is rising junior Hagen Patterson, who got the nod as a starter before hurting himself in the opener against Fordham and limping through much of the rest of the season. If Patterson shows himself to be at 100% this spring, Columbia can make a case for having the best linebacking talent in the Ivies.


Most of this unit comes back too, but replacing Travis Reim is a priority. I believe Brandon Blackshear is coming back for another season, and I will be watching to see if he competes for the open starting slot.


All the specialists are back, so I don't expect to see any new names emerge from this group in the spring. The big push comes in the summer, when incoming frosh placekicker Oren Milstein might shakes things up quite a bit.