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.

No comments: