Thursday, July 28, 2016

Speedy QB Joins the Pride

Josh Bean

Super fast QB Josh Bean from Hinsdale Central HS in Illinois has committed to Columbia's 2017 freshman class.

Bean will be the second Hinsdale grad to come to Columbia. Matt Marsh '05 was the first.

At 6-2 and 200 pounds, Bean strikes me as a player who might switch positions. But I have no information on that.

He is the updated list:

1) Josh Bean QB 6-2 200 lbs. Hinsdale HS Hinsdale, IL

2) Seth DeVary OL 6-4 275 lbs. Larue County HS Hodgenville, KY

3) Josh Kaminsky DL 6-4 280 lbs. Seton Hall Prep West Orange, NJ

4) Jared Noble DB 5-10 185 lbs. St. Francis de Sales HS Columbus, OH

5) Bailey Rotsky DB/WR Mayfield Heights HS Mayfield Heights, OH

6) Drew Schmid P 6-0 205 lbs. La Jolla Country Day La Jolla, CA 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lions Get a Big Foot

Yesterday afternoon I got a tip that Columbia's special teams would be in good hands for years to come. I mistakenly thought the person was talking about a special teams coach.

But it turned out that one of the top high school punters in the country was about to officially commit to the Lions.

The punter is Drew Schmid from La Jolla Country Day School in La Jolla, CA. Drew's brother Zach is a junior punter at Harvard.

You can see more of his highlights here.

The new list looks like this:

1) Seth DeVary OL 6-4 275 lbs. Larue County HS Hodgenville, KY

2) Josh Kaminsky DL 6-4 280 lbs. Seton Hall Prep West Orange, NJ

3) Jared Noble DB 5-10 185 lbs. St. Francis de Sales HS Columbus, OH

4) Bailey Rotsky DB/WR Mayfield Heights HS Mayfield Heights, OH

5) Drew Schmid P 6-0 205 lbs. La Jolla Country Day La Jolla, CA

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Up to Four

Jared Noble

Over the weekend, we learned of a fourth confirmed commit to the 2017 recruiting class.

He is 5-10, 185 pound DB Jared Noble from St. Francis de Sales HS in Columbus, OH. Former Lion Luke Melsop, who left the team, was the only other documented St. Francis grad to come to CU football.

Having four confirmed commits seems like a good time to start the "list":

1) Seth DeVary OL 6-4 275 lbs. Larue County HS Hodgenville, KY

2) Josh Kaminsky DL 6-4 280 lbs. Seton Hall Prep West Orange, NJ

3) Jared Noble DB 5-10 185 lbs. St. Francis de Sales HS Columbus, OH

4) Bailey Rotsky DB/WR Mayfield Heights HS Mayfield Heights, OH

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mystery (Probably) Solved

Twitter tells me that the "Northern New Jersey tough guy" who committed to Columbia last week is 6-4, 280 pound DT Josh Kaminsky from Seton Hall Prep. Kaminsky lives in West Orange, NJ.

Kaminski has been turning some heads in development camps this summer. His size and experience make the reasons obvious.

According to my LionFeeders database, Kaminsky will be the seventh documented Seton Hall Prep grad coming to Columbia. A new freshman coming to CU this summer, TE Rory Schlageter, is a Seton Hall grad.


USA Today was the first to report that the Ivy League will start all kickoffs at the 40 yard line beginning this season. This will probably eliminate most kickoff returns, but only most of them as I think just under half of the kickoffs I've seen for years from the 35 still fall more than five yards short of the end zone. Let's see which Ivy teams employ the proper strategy to take advantage of this change.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Empirical Data! (for real this time)


Already a miracle worker

After Columbia's disastrous 2013 season, (even by the worst Columbia historical standards), fans calling for major changes were told by then-Head Coach Pete Mangurian that "empirical data" proved the program was getting better. 

Of all the insults and delusional statements we had to endure from 2013-14, that was possibly the worst. 

But now that Al Bagnoli and his staff have thankfully taken over, what can we say about the real empirical evidence of improvement from 2015? 

As it turns out, we can say a lot. I admit this post has been a long time coming from me as it probably would have been best to document much earlier the amazing statistical improvements we saw last year compared to 2013 and 2014. Getting two wins in a season after two straight 0-10 records doesn't tell much of the story. The numbers you're about to see do.

Let's start with the real eye-popper. In 2013 Columbia had 519 net rushing yards. In 2014 that number moved slightly higher to 556. In 2015 the Lions rushed for 1,402 net yards, a 170.1% increase from 2013 and 152.1% increase from 2014. Amazing. 

Columbia scored just 73 points in 2013 and 103 points in 2014. The 143 points the Lions scored in 2015 are a 95.8% increase over 2013 and a 38.8% increase from 2014. 

Columbia averaged 24 minutes and 44 seconds per game in time of possession in 2013, and 28:40 in 2014. In 2015, the Lions held the ball for an average of 33:31 per game. That was a 35.5% improvement from 2013 and a 16.9% improvement over 2014. 

In 2013 Columbia converted just 17% of its 3rd downs, and just 28% in 2014. In 2015, that number jumped to a respectable 36%.

There was one offensive stat that fell compared to 2014, but not compared to 2013. In 2013, the Lions passed for 1,524 yards. In 2014, that number jumped to 2,185 yards, but fell to 1,565 yards last year. Of course, Columbia's strong turnaround in rushing the ball was the biggest factor in that but improving those passing numbers will still be a priority in 2016. 

Now to defense. And on that front, all the categories showed serious improvement. 

In 2013 Columbia allowed 5,141 total yards. In 2014 the Lions gave up 4,945. In 2015 that number plummeted to 2,901, which was 43.5% down from 2013 and 41.3% down from 2014. 

In 2013 Columbia allowed 2,429 rushing yards and an even worse 2,534 yards in 2014. In 2015 the Lions allowed just 1,032 rushing yards, down 55.9% from 2013 and 59.2% from 2014. 

In 2013 Columbia allowed 2,712 passing yards and 2,411 in 2014. That was down to 1,869 yards in 2015, a reduction of 31% from 2013 and 22.4% in 2014.

Columbia allowed 402 points in 2013 and 389 points in 2014. That fell to 198 points in 2015, a 50.7% decrease from 2013 and a 49.1% drop from 2014.

In 2013 Columbia allowed opponents to convert on 3rd down 43% of the time. That got worse in 2014 as opponents had a 47% 3rd down conversion rate. In 2015, that dropped to just 27%.

Finally, Columbia's turnover ratio has been improving too. In 2013 it was minus-15. In 2014 it was minus-14. In 2015 it was minus-10.

Just take a second and consider these numbers. They are stunning by any objective measure. I know we all wanted more wins last season, but these statistical improvements are beyond anything anyone could have hoped for. To make a similar set of statistical improvements on a percentage basis, Columbia would basically have to lead the league in every major offensive and defensive category.

So congratulations to Coach Bagnoli, his staff, and the players he so clearly inspired to transcend all reasonable expectations for improvement. Not many people outside of Columbia recognize what you have already done, but maybe now they will. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

New Cleveland Commit

Bailey Rotsky

Not all the news coming out of the Cleveland area is about the Republican convention. 

Mayfield Heights HS DB/WR Bailey Rotsky has announced his commitment to Columbia. 

Rotsky comes from a football family as his father is the head coach of the nearby Euclid HS football team.

Rotsky joins OL Seth DeVary as our two confirmed commits for 2017.

2017 Opponent Preview: Wagner

Najee Harris 

What was so unusual about Columbia's 26-3 win over Wagner last year wasn't just that it ended the Lions second-longest losing streak in program history. What was so unusual was how easy the win was for Columbia. The game was never close and the Seahawks never even threatened to make it close at any time.

In short, Wagner was a very weak team last year, as its 1-11 record and seven losses by 21 points or more would indicate. The stats were pretty ugly too. QB Alex Thomson, who returns this season, was a decent runner but his 51% completion rate was rough and he only averaged 98 yards passing per game.

There's better news for Wagner at the other skill positions. The team's dangerous WR Alex Yevchinecz is coming back as is RB Matt McKinnon, who looked good against the Lions last year.

Up front, OL Matt Diaz comes back as a member of the All NEC preseason team. He was injured when Columbia vied with Wagner last season and will have to be accounted for this time. The rest of the O-line looks pretty raw.

The most excitement swirling around the Seahawks offense is the result of 6-8, 250-pound Greg Senat, who starred for the Wagner basketball team, deciding to join the football team for his senior year. He will play at TE and will be a serious handful if he is actually able to make the adjustment at the collegiate level. Senat will split time with returning team captain TE Ryan Owens, who is a very solid player.

The defense may be in more. The best returning defender is LB Najee Harris. But a lot of the rest of Wagner's top tacklers are gone to graduation including 2015's top sacker Mike Mentor and top pickoff artist DeAngelo James.

One word of caution: Wagner is one of those teams that is scheduling way up, including a contest against Boston College two weeks before the Columbia game. Programs like this rarely just stand by and let themselves be completely pummeled without a few tricks up their sleeve. I'd be surprised if Wagner doesn't feature some higher quality freshmen and transfers this fall.

Nevertheless, this game is probably a must win for Columbia if the Lions want to make strides this season.

Monday, July 18, 2016

2017 Opponent Preview: Princeton

First some housekeeping: I too have seen the Tweets from the Columbia coaches celebrating the commitment from a player from Northern New Jersey for the recruiting class of 2017. But so far, I have been unsuccessful in identifying that player. I will keep trying. 

Chad Kanoff

Forget about trying to define the 2016 Princeton Tigers, I'm still trying to figure out the 2015 Princeton Tigers!

For much of the 2015 season, Princeton was a Jekyll and Hyde-like team and you never really knew which one was going to show up. And like any truly two-faced team, they finished 5-5. But they did sorely test co-champions Penn and Dartmouth on the road... even though they were drubbed by Harvard, also on the road. But they lost at home and gave up 35 points to Yale, not long after the Elis struggled to score 10 points against Columbia at the Yale Bowl. They gave up 38 points in a loss at Brown, and barely escaped with a win in that rain-soaked 10-5 victory over Columbia at home.

Princeton in 2016 is hoping a more favorable schedule, (they get Penn, Harvard, and Dartmouth all at home), and one of the best returning QB's in the Ivies will perpetuate a turnaround.

That QB is Chad Kanoff, who passed for more than 2,200 yards last year, completed 57% of his passes, but only had eight TD passes. The Tigers are losing their best WR from last year in Seth DeValve, but DeValve was injured for about half the season and that should cushion the blow at least relatively. WR Isaiah Barnes, who caught the same amount of passes DeValve did last year with 33, is back for his senior year.

At RB, Princeton's oft-injured but dynamic DiAndre Atwater has graduated, leaving the rushing duties to senior Joe Rhattigan. Rhattigan had a great season in 2015, although also in somewhat limited duty at 122 total carries for the season. Rhattigan needs to stay healthy for Princeton's offense to achieve what it wants to do this fall. That's doubly true since the Tigers have also lost RB/KR Dre Nelson to graduation, an absolute powder keg who the rest of the league should be grateful didn't burn them a lot more over the previous four years.

Princeton's Offensive Line looks spotty. The Tigers get back All Ivy Honorable Mention Mitchell Sweigart, but lose their best OL from last year, Brit Colcolough, to graduation.

Princeton's top tackler last year, DB Dorian Williams, is back for his senior year. That's the good news. The bad news is that Princeton's leading tackler last year was a DB... which is not usually a great sign. The Tigers gave up a lot of yards last year and had a couple of games where the points allowed totals were eye-popping too. But Williams may have also had a lot more tackling chances because opposing teams tried to avoid his secondary teammate Anthony Gaffney.

On special teams, in addition to the loss of super kick returners Dre Nelson and Gaffney, super kicker Nolan Bieck has graduated. I'd say all of that is a big net negative.

On paper, Princeton can't be considered a contender this year and it should also struggle to even match last year's 5-5 record. BUT Princeton has always been a funny kind of program. Every few years, it pumps out a surprisingly competitive team. The last time that happened was 2012 when the Tigers made a strong run for the title in surprising fashion. In 2013, they actually did win a share of the title. Since then, they've disappointed and Princeton rarely disappoints three years in a row. But none of that speculation about Princeton's "inevitable" rebound year ahead is based on any real data or even science. I suspect people who have correctly pointed out Princeton's surprise years in the past had a little insider knowledge the rest of us aren't privy too. That aside, I just don't see why the Tigers can't be one of Columbia's most-beatable opponents of 2016 when they come to Wien Stadium in week three.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Prediction Market

So what do I think about the Football Gameplan prediction that the Lions will come in 7th in the Ivies?

The only thing to say about these predictions is: “what else is new?”

As I’ve written many times over the years, Columbia will not get favorable preseason predictions until it starts winning a significant number of games in the actual season. This is a point that escapes many, especially in the heady and optimistic days leading up to the start of a new season.

But, below in bullet point form, are the key factors anyone looking to accurately predict Columbia’s 2016 season:

-Columbia was worse than just 0-10 in both 2013 and 2014. Even by Columbia’s generally terrible standards, those two seasons were more terrible. Almost none of those 20 games was competitive and by 2014, most teams were pulling their starters early against the Lions. The fact that Columbia went 2-8 last year was not the big story. The big story was that the Lions were competitive in nine of the ten games, representing a massive improvement that only people who can fathom the depths of 2013 and 2014 can understand.

-Head Coach Al Bagnoli has a more time to implement his system at Columbia and that’s bound to pay dividends most “experts” won’t be able to predict as far as wins and losses goes. In 2015, the “Bagnoli effect” manifested itself in restoring competitiveness. In 2016, there’s a much better chance it will result in more than just two wins.

-The 2016 schedule has its advantages. Playing Cornell at home, (a team the Lions would have beaten last year had the game not been on the road), is the biggest plus. But so is the fact that the Lions get to play some a relatively weaker slate of Ivy opponents at home. Columbia gets Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale and Cornell at home. In each of those games, the home field advantage could make the difference between winning and losing. But against Harvard, Penn, and Brown I don’t see home field advantage as being as much of a factor… well, at least against Harvard and Penn.

-Columbia’s offensive line improved markedly last year and that improvement was gradual as the season wore on. Just about the entire O-line comes back for 2016, including a top player in Charlie Flores who was out all of 2015. This doesn’t guarantee great things for 2016, but this is the best O-line Columbia’s had going into a season since at least 2009, but possible since 1996. Most years, Columbia has been forced to start 3-4 new guys on the front five. And Tight End starter John Hunton is an underrated returning player.

-QB’s Skyler Mornhinweg and Anders Hill should both be better with another year of experience and working with that improved offensive line. But Mornhinweg missed spring practice with an injury. The Lions desperately need to improve at Wide Receiver, but at least do have 5th year senior Scooter Hollis coming back.

-The loss of several talented players on the defensive line is definitely a concern, but it appears the coaches the believe the strong linebacking crew will be up to the challenge of neutralizing opposing running games. But one of those returning linebackers, Hagen Patterson, is now NOT returning due to injuries. Their bigger worry appears to be whether the secondary can stay healthy, deep, and strong. Columbia has two very good starting corners, but their backups could be an issue.

-Special teams were generally a problem for Columbia last year and really should be better. But there’s no way to factor that in right now.

-Don’t get too hyped about that that “3rd ranked” recruiting class. I like this freshmen haul A LOT. But I don’t expect an immediate impact from more than 3-4 of them right now. No one should when it comes to Ivy League freshmen.

-The rest of the league, with one exception, is dealing with a lot of hard questions. Penn seems very poised to continue last year’s strong turnaround. Harvard will of course be strong and the Crimson will be motivated to avenge last year’s surprising loss to the Quakers. Dartmouth is losing way too many players to feel confident of winning another title, or even achieving a winning season. Princeton could surge, as the Tigers seem to awake from two-year slumbers with good season every third try or so…  but that’s hardly anything to bank on. Yale has a lot of promising young players, but a huge question mark at QB. Brown will be better, but they were awful at times last season. Cornell lost their best player to graduation and doesn’t seem loaded with fresh talent. In other words, every slot in this league from 3rd to last place seems pretty much up for grabs.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Some Predictions and Some News

Football Gameplan has released a 45-minute 2016 Ivy League Football preview video.

For the record, they pick Columbia to finish 7th this fall and one Lion, DB Jared Katz, made their preseason All Ivy team.

But perhaps the most valuable part of the video was the brief phone interview with Head Coach Al Bagnoli where he singled out just one player by name. That would be WR-turned-DB Landon Baty, who made that position change before the spring to Safety and Bagnoli said he's given the coaches renewed confidence in the whole secondary.

Bagnoli also said the offense will probably run the ball by committee as opposed to using one player to replace graduated All Ivy RB Cameron Molina. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Time Out for Hoops

With 74 days still left until the start of the Columbia football season, news will be sparse for at least six more weeks or so.

Good thing we have some big basketball recruiting news. New Head Coach Jim Engles has scored his first big recruiting coup by getting an early commitment for 2017 from 6-10 power forward Jaron Faulds from Michigan. 

Of course, basketball news is not entirely divorced from football news. Recruiting has a lot to do with appealing to the overall athletes in particular areas. And now with social media, you don't even have to live near a newsworthy committed player to hear about his or her choice. So, it can very much help football recruiting when basketball gets a top-rated recruit and vice versa.

Grid Offers

Not to leave football entirely, let's look at some of the football players who have recently been offered by Columbia coaches as they travel the country.

QB Seth Washington from Episcopal HS in Dallas, Texas. That's where sophomore OL Brock Anglin came to Columbia from.

Punter/Kicker Drew Schmid from La Jolla Country Day School in California. His brother Zach is a kicker at Harvard.

QB Cole Northrup from St. Augustine HS in St. Augustine, FL.

WR/DB Bailey Rotsky from Mayfield HS in Mayfield, OH.