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.


LionAlum76 said...

Just some notes-
Blackshear is not returning for another season. Dansby the most likely to step in at TE. Kaplan also looking to take on bigger role at WR.

Anonymous said...

I like how the program is coming together. While I have every reason to remain optimistic, I do have some concerns about the offense. The high point is the OL but I'm not really seeing star power at RB or WR or even QB. I am not sold on Mornhinweg just yet. At times last season he executed flawlessly and other times he looked indecisive and made questionable decisions. It's a tough role but we need a top QB to avoid stalled drives and I saw too much of that last year.

I am very impressed and encouraged with how quickly the defense has lost its swiss cheese flavor. Still, we need more from the O to have a chance at a winning record.

oldlion said...

Jake, there is an intriguing item on Twitter about a consultant who is working with us on updating what appears to be our playbook. Has anybody else seen this item, or know what it is about?

ungvar said...

Jake, I'm not seeing Charlie Flores on the updated roster. Heard anything more about his potential return?

Jake said...

Hey '76: Thanks for the update on Blackshear.

Old Lion: I saw that Tweet and the outfit is called "Just Play Solutions." I'm not sure what they are doing with us specifically.

Al: I don't think Mornhinweg is the problem, but the lack of a steady passing target for him and the hole to fill at RB are. We do have a few chances to fix all that.

oldlion said...

Mornhinweg is a very good player. He needs a good TE and a WR who gets separation.

Jake said...

Ungvar: I'm pretty sure Flores is coming back, but he may miss spring practice. We'll see.

LionAlum76 said...

Flores is back with the team and practicing after recovering from his injury last semester. Should be on the updated roster whenever that comes out.

alawicius said...

Thanks, LionAlum76. Good to have someone "in-the-know" (along with Jake, of course). Keep us posted!