Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wagner Game Notes Released

Week four opponent Wagner has released its game notes and two deeps for its season opener tomorrow night against Division II St. Anselm College.

QB Alex Thomson, who had a trial by fire as a freshman starter for the Seahawks last season, is back as the starter as sophomore this season.

But the big surprise is that junior Denzel Knight is getting the start at RB over senior Matt McKinnon. who had 99 carries and 449 yards rushing in 2015. Knight, by contrast, only carried the ball five times all year. I don't know whether this decision is based on saving McKinnon for a more difficult opponent, due to injury, or because of Knight just wowing the coaches in practice.

One WR starting slot is also a bit curiously going to senior Keith Foster, who caught only four balls in 2015.

On defense, Wagner is starting a 330 pound sophomore transfer at nose tackle named Charble Dabire. He may be something of a ringer for the Seahawks this year. Another interesting note is that freshman Myron Morris is getting the start at one of the corner positions.

Finally, former Columbia Linebackers Coach Tony Brinson is still with Wagner, but now he's been promoted to defensive coordinator.

Poor D-II St. Anselm is basically a sacrificial lamb in this game. And nowhere is that more evident than the fact that the Hawks are starting a 251-pound Left Tackle who's backed up by a 242-pounder. This could get ugly.

Kickoff is set for 6pm on Staten Island.

We Have a Nickname!

Our leader

I've decided that Columbia's formidable-looking offensive line this season needs its own nickname like "The Hogs" or "The No Name Defense."

So after careful consultation with some experts I've come up with something that references the O-line and OL coach Jon McLaughlin.

From now on, please refer to the 2016 CU Lions offensive line as:

Mac's Mammoths!

That is all...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Building Blocks

I've been taught since I was 13 years old that you build a football team first by putting together a good offensive line. And the 30+ years I've been watching Columbia football have done nothing to contradict that teaching.

When I think of the best Lion teams of the last 30 years, I know it's no coincidence that they all enjoyed having the best offensive lines Columbia could put together in that era. The 1994 and 1996 teams were led by great front fives that included all-time great Lions like Craig Valentine and Randy Murff. The '96 line was so good that Columbia's mediocre offense was able to hide its weaknesses long enough to put up an 8-2 final record. The '94 line was big and strong enough to support a slower, power fullback-centered running game and a great speedy running QB at the same time. The 2009 Lions did not have a winning record in the end, but the offensive line was the best of the last 15 years at least as it was led by future NFL'er Jeff Adams.  

We'll have to wait a while before we know just how good this current Columbia offensive line is. But we already know it has more experience and possibly talent than any line since at least 2009. And with any luck, this could be a line that rivals those all-time great front fives like we saw in '94 and '96.

It all starts with the "old man" of the O-line, senior LT Kendall Pace. I joke with that "old man" line because while he is a four-year starter, he's still only 19 years old. Pace has grown into the kind of blindside linemen the NFL scouts are looking for, and he was one reason why scouts from the Denver Broncos visited Lions camp last week. Pace now goes at 6-5 and 305 lbs.

Next comes three-year starter junior Bewley Wales. Wales filled in as the emergency center when Charlie Flores was lost for the entire season to injury last year. It would be an understatement to say he played well last season. He's now at 295 pounds, and will probably play another position up front this year.

Third is senior Nathan Gibbs, often overlooked but still an important starter who developed nicely last season.

Fourth we have the returning sophomore Flores, who now goes at 300 lbs. and was honored by Head Coach Al Bagnoli when he called him Columbia's "best" offensive lineman during the preseason Ivy coaches teleconference.  Flores started some games as a freshman in 2014 and he is the brother of recent Dartmouth grad Jacob Flores, who attended an NFL training camp this summer.

But wait, there's more! Junior Markham Paukune has extensive playing experience along with fellow junior and biggest man on the team William McGrath who goes at 315 pounds. 6-8 junior Benjamin Robbins is coming on nicely in camp and is likely to contribute. And sophomore Tyler Schoenwolf, one of the first two players the late-hired Bagnoli staff brought to the team last year, could easily get into the starting lineup based on his improving abilities.

Finally, freshman Joseph Scowden, a 300-pound state high school champion player from Tennessee, could jump the cue and crack the two deep this year. That's how good he is.

Is this the best offensive line in the Ivies? I'll answer that simply be saying it could be one of the best for sure. And it's just plain unfamiliar territory to see a Lion O-line like this going into a season. I mean, I can remember a few times over the last 20 years when Columbia would be returning no more than one offensive lineman who had any game experience for an entire season! And it's almost as exciting to know that only two of these key linemen will be lost to graduation next year. Bagnoli and offensive line coach Jon McLaughlin always seemed to have great or at least good offensive lines when they were at Penn. It certainly seems like they've put together something special now too right here in NYC.

Weighed In

Kendall Pace is now a 300+-pounder

The official football roster has updated the player weights.

One of the things that really strikes me is the fact that there were very few major moves up or down the scale, which I take as a sign the program has now been well managed for more than a year and not many radical body changes are needed.

On a roster with 116 listed players, only 39 had weight moves of ten or more pounds. Only seven had weight moves of 20 or more pounds. And only two players had moves of 30 or more pounds.

The biggest mover was OL Brock Anglin with a gain of 50 pounds to 290 lbs.

But I want to focus on the changes I think are the most significant and why:

-Columbia's offensive line is now talented, experienced, and big. The four returning starters, Kendall Pace, Bewley Wales, Charlie Flores, and Nathan Gibbs average 299 lbs. One leading contender for another starting spot or at least a key role is 325-pound junior Michael McGrath. Sophomore Tyler Schonewolf gained 15 pounds to get to 275, and he looks to be the lightest contender for heavy O-line playing time. And don't sleep on 300-pound freshman, yes freshman, Joseph Scowden.

-The graduation of Columbia's potent DE's from last year has produced some players who have clearly answered the call to get bigger and stronger. Sophomore Mike Hinton added 21 pounds to get to the 245-pound area the coaches clearly seem to think is the zone needed to play DE for the Lions. Junior Connor Heeb is a larger DE at 260. LB Ian Tyler has been moved to DE too, which explains the 19-pound gain to 250 lbs. And LB Cal Falkenhayn's 17-pound gain to 240 seems suspect, so I suspect he is also being moved to DE too and will try to contribute despite not quite being big enough yet. You don't see too many 240-pound LB's in the Ivies.

-The DT's, led by returning juniors Dominic Perkovic and Lord Hyeamang are now at 270 lbs. and 280 lbs., respectively. Hyeamang is intriguing because he's in the kind of physical shape to be a fast 280-pounder, and that would be a unique weapon in the Ivies. Perkovic is already a fast and strong pass rusher, but we'll see if his added 11 pounds makes any positive changes. Sophomore Cole McDonough lost 22 pounds to get to 285 lbs. and that could signal he's primed to contribute a key role for the DT rotation.

-TE Adam Armesto's 22-pound gain to put him at 245 lbs. for his 6-6 frame perhaps gives him a chance to get some playing time in the coming years. A 6-6 TE would be a great weapon in this league if he can take hits, catch balls, and do some blocking.

Monday, August 29, 2016

It's Game Week! For the other guys...

It gets started at Wagner College Stadium in just three days

For each of Columbia's out of conference opponents, this is the start of game week preps for their respective season openers.

Week one opponent St. Francis kicks off their season at FCS power University of Montana on Saturday night.

Week two opponent Georgetown hosts Davidson on Saturday afternoon.

And week four opponent Wagner has its own version of a cupcake game by hosting Saint Anselm College on Thursday night.

None of the teams have released two deeps for these openers yet, but we'll post them here as soon as they're available.

The only potential news worth mentioning is that just five days before their season begins, the Hoyas are just now announcing the hires of two assistant coaches. I suppose it's possible these hires were made weeks or even months ago, but the wording of the release really makes it sound like these hires just happened. If so, that's a heck of an adjustment for those players to make so close to the start of the season.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Peter Wise Commits

Peter Wise

6-5, 290 pound OL Peter Wise, an All  State player from the Brunswick School in Connecticut, has committed to Columbia.

He had offers from Brown, UNH and several other schools.

Here's his highlight reel:  

Wise will be the fourth documented Brunswick School grad to come to Columbia football, and the first since the lightly used Vaughn Hodges '10.

Our current list of unofficial commits now stands at 10

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) Cameron Lipton-Martinez TE/DE 6-5 225 lbs. Montclair HS Montclair, NJ

5) Jake McCurry WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH

6) Carson Powell DB 6-0 190 lbs. Cardinal Newman HS Palm Beach, FL

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

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

9) Hank White OL 6-6 250 lbs. Buford HS Buford, GA

10) Ashton Cooper Wilson DE/LB 6-3 230 lbs. Merritt Island HS Merritt Island, FL
11) Peter Wise OL 6-5 290 lbs. Brunswick School Greenwich, CT

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Down on the Farm

A brief look at how some of Columbia's 2017 commits fared in their high school contests

-With QB Josh Bean acting as the sole starter for the first time, Hinsdale HS (Illinois), destroyed visiting American Fork HS from Utah, 42-12. 

-WR Jake McCurry had three receptions for 81 yards including a 39-yard TD in Solon High School's 36-6 win over Aurora. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Make this Go Viral!

If you haven't seen this William Tell act by Columbia sophomore long snapper Patrick Eby yet, prepare to be very amazed!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Golden Upgrade

Swann, Lambert, Stallworth, and Webster: the Steeler draft class of 1974

In the NFL, the gold standard for best draft classes was set by the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite making the playoffs in ’72 and ’73 and picking way down the list, they still drafted four future NFL Hall of Famers. Or for immediate impact, you can point to the 1975 Dallas Cowboys, who ended up with 12 rookies on their roster – the “Dirty Dozen” – and rode their talent all the way to the Super Bowl that very season.

If you’re an Ivy football fan looking for a standard to measure successful recruiting, you don’t have to look 40 years to the past. That’s because the Dartmouth class of 2016, who came into Hanover in 2012, are arguably the best single recruiting class in the modern era of Ivy football.

A stunning six members of that single class made 1st Team All Ivy their senior season. Four others were 2nd Team, and one more was Honorable Mention All Ivy. That’s 11 All Ivy players coming out of a single recruiting class of about 30. (Five other Dartmouth players made All Ivy in 2015, but they were either 5th year seniors or underclassmen). But, most importantly, that senior class brought Dartmouth its first Ivy title in 19 years.

Checking the progression of the class, the 2012 freshmen helped Dartmouth improve to 6-4 from 5-5 in 2011. After another 6-4 year in 2013, the Big Green started to make that big leap in 2014 with an 8-2 record and a 6-1 mark in the Ivies. And then came last year’s 9-1 record and 6-1 conference mark to tie for the title.

Of course there were other players who contributed and laid the foundation, but 2012 freshmen like QB Dalyn Williams and LB Will McNamara were once-in-a-generation like players who had plenty of support from those nine other classmates on that team. Ivy League football just doesn’t really offer its players enough years of playing time to make a true Hall of Fame designation. But if it did, Williams and McNamara would make it.

Why am I talking about this? Because after just a few days of Columbia football training camp it’s becoming apparent this 2016 freshmen class is different from what we’ve been used to here. I’m NOT saying many of them will become immediate starters or impact players. But from the fitness tests to the initial team sessions, we’re seeing a big difference.

When those stories came out earlier this year rating our recruiting class the #3 incoming group in all of the FCS, I have to admit I chortled a bit. Sure, this group looked good on paper and it was wonderful to have 40 or so incoming players recruited by the new Al Bagnoli staff. But how could anyone get so excited, let alone rank a recruiting class at that point?

It’s STILL too early to get excited, though I know that’s what fans do. But the point of this entire post is to say that this class has basically no ceiling on its potential based on what we’ve finally seen on the practice field so far. That’s a far cry from seeing what it will do in real games and over the long haul. And God knows there are a lot of people who need to have their expectations tempered every year when it comes to Columbia football.

But the second phase of the massive upgrade this football program began when President Lee Bollinger greenlighted Athletic Director Peter Pilling’s hiring of Al Bagnoli has clearly begun.   

Say Cheese!

Christian Everett: Freshman

The new pictures for the 2016 Columbia Football team are now up, so we can get an idea about what all the new freshmen look like.

Weights for the all the players have not yet been updated.

Of course,  the official athletics website and the team's Twitter feed have been full of lots of good videos and quickie interviews from the coaches and players all week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Defensive Argument

Mike Hinton

During a conversation with a fan yesterday about our defensive line, that fan suddenly came up with a simple idea to deal with any questions about Columbia's front four: make it a front three!

Perhaps if Columbia leaned on its experienced and talented linebackers a little more in a 3-4 defense, the fact that the Lions are less experienced and proven at the defensive end position wouldn't matter as much. It's an intriguing thought.

I'm a lot more bullish on the returning interior linemen led by junior Dominic Perkovic, junior Lord Hyeamang, and junior Connor Heeb shouldering the load inside while we find another linebacker to join our three returning starters Keith Brady, Gianmarco Rea, and Christian Conway and button up the ends that way.

Before we take that step, there are good potential options at the traditional DE slots. I heard very good things about sophomore Mike Hinton coming out of high school, and now he's added enough good weight to possibly make a serious impact. Towering junior Alexander Holme looks like Jack Lambert to me and could be a nice presence at DE. If they can break through in training camp, then the 4-3 will probably still make more sense.

But if one of last year's good backup linebackers steps up his game, perhaps it's just easier math to deal with filling one hole as opposed to two.

Grinded Out

Andrew Grinde

One of the most heralded, nay touted, incoming freshmen in the entire Ivy League is heading home.

RB Andrew Grinde has left Yale just a few days into training camp. He does say he hopes to return next year, but there is no other significant information about his departure.

This comes less than a month after this glowing article was published featuring numerous quotes from Yale's Running Backs Coach Derrick Lett. Because Grinde actually came to Yale early and had been taking classes, he was supposedly making the Montana-to-New Haven transition quite well.

I don't think I have to use this story to remind everyone how dicey the recruiting process can be in college football. And in the Ivies, it's even dicier because of the academics and the culture involved. It should be noted that Columbia offered him a slot too.

But some Ivy recruiters, especially the Columbia coaches, have started to put more emphasis on finding players who show more signs of being able to handle the whole package of what it means to play varsity sports in this league. A lot of savvy recruiters have started to notice that the best Ivy players are mostly the guys who ended up having the best head on their shoulders as opposed to pure athletic ability.

In the existing freshmen class at Columbia right now, I know of two players who were extremely high on our recruiters' lists because they showed the greatest signs of that kind of "heart" to go along with athletic prowess. I won't name them now, but I can say that so far they've actually exceeded those expectations in just two days of training camp.

I wish young Mr. Grinde the best despite the fact that he's still technically a Yale commit. Perhaps we will see him again soon.

Hank's On Board

6-6 250-pound OL Hank White has committed to the Lions for 2017.

White will come to Columbia from Buford High School in Buford, Georgia, making him the first Buford grad to join the Lions.

Hank had offers from Army, Air Force, Cornell, Lafayette and others.

Here's our updated unofficial commit list for 2017:

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) Cameron Lipton-Martinez TE/DE 6-5 225 lbs. Montclair HS Montclair, NJ

5) Jake McCurry WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH

6) Carson Powell DB 6-0 190 lbs. Cardinal Newman HS Palm Beach, FL

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

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

9) Hank White OL 6-6 250 lbs. Buford HS Buford, GA

10) Ashton Cooper Wilson DE/LB 6-3 230 lbs. Merritt Island HS Merritt Island, FL

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Union Homecoming

Frank Bailey Field

25 years is a long time.

But it’s hard to believe that 25 years is long enough for the folks at Union College to forget what Al Bagnoli did to turn around their Division III football program in such short order.

When Bagnoli took over at Union in 1982, the Dutchmen hadn’t enjoyed a winning season in a dozen years. The team immediately went 8-1 his first year and never had a losing record in his ten seasons at the helm. He left Union in 1991 to begin his legendary run at Penn and installed then-assistant John Audino as his replacement, who posted only four losing seasons in 24 years as head coach.

Now, Audino is Bagnoli’s assistant once again and they will return to the Union campus with the Lions in 11 days for a preseason scrimmage with Cornell.

They both deserve a hero’s welcome when they get to Frank Bailey Field in Schenectady.

I hope they get it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Back on the Field

As the Columbia football team hits the field for the first time this training camp, you can make the case that this really is the most exciting time of the year.

It's really unfair to the hard working returning veterans, but it's mostly exciting because this is when the coaches, and eventually the fans, find out for sure which freshmen players are potential game changers this year or sometime soon down the road.

We love to see the shiny and new and sometimes neglect the tried and true when we do it. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, but I suspect this trend will diminish itself in Columbia land as the present begins to look just as good as the elusive future has for decades.

But the question I get asked the most, (and I assume the coaches hear this way too often too), is: "which freshmen do you think have the best chance to start/get heavy playing time this year."

I'm going to try to answer that question not by listing a bunch of new names, but by pinpointing the positions most likely to be impacted by a freshman or a player who was under the radar until now.

Wide Receiver

You have to be an extreme pessimist to think that Columbia's passing game won't get better this season. The combination of injuries and new QB's really took the air out of this aspect of the Lion offense in 2015. Of course, the massive improvement in the CU running game didn't "help" the passing stats either.

With that in mind, one of the five new freshman WR's getting on the two-deep or even breaking through as a starter seems likely by the end of the season.

Running Back

No sooner did Cameron Molina emerge as a legitimate 1st Team All Ivy star did he have to leave for graduation. But the race to replace Columbia's #1 back isn't exactly a free for all. Senior Alan Watson's stock has been rising since the beginning of spring practice, and the very gutty junior Chris Schroer is the backup right now. But running back is one of those positions where talent becomes evident early in life and that means a good freshman has a great chance to see real playing time. The Lions have four new RB's in camp right now, and their proving season starts now.

Defensive End

The well-documented loss of so many starters on Columbia's great 2015 defensive line means there's a hint of a chance for some freshmen to break onto the field at a position that traditionally is very hard for freshmen to see any daylight. The starting DT positions seem securely held by upperclassmen, but one of the four freshmen DE's could have a shot to play. I do have to say that I think this is more likely to be the year for sophomore DE Mike Hinton, who's added the bulk he needed to make a move here.

Defensive Back

One of the safety positions is open going into camp, and Head Coach Al Bagnoli seems to have a real knack for finding very talented young DB's. This is another position where a big number, (5), of freshmen are coming in, including one or two of our more highly rated freshmen. Remember that it was Bagnoli's staff that brought in the three freshmen DB's who played stellar football for Penn last year, so no one should be surprised if this first crop at Columbia produces early.

Kick/Punt Returner

It seems like every Ivy team tries out someone new at the returning position. It's going to be dicey to figure out this year, because the Ivy League is moving kickoffs to the 40-yard line to cut down on injuries. Based on my belief that most new rules result in unintended consequences that often are worse than the problem they were meant to solve, we could see some real creativity from the coaches on kick off return teams.

Columbia is ripe for a youth infusion here. Last season, Bagnoli played it extremely safe and just used then-freshman Jake Young to call for fair catches on every punt. It's very likely we'll see a major change in that area this year and possibly with some new personnel.

Getting back to kickoffs, I expect there to be a lot more touchbacks in the Ivies this year of course. But a lot of Ivy kickers have a tough time consistently kicking the ball off for more than a 60-yard average anyway. So we could see a lot of returners stuck in that no-man's land at the two or three yard line, and unable to just take a knee into the end zone. Don't be surprised if that scenario results in more injuries, not less.


Friday, August 19, 2016

2016 Opponent Previews: Harvard

Justice Shelton-Mosley schools half of the Yale defense 

Writing the season preview for Harvard always seems like a bit of a waste of time. The Crimson have been the most consistently dominant team in the Ivies for 20 years now, and it’s probably just safer and easier to assume Harvard will go 10-0 or 9-1 and just call it a day. That’s true despite the unusually large number of All Ivy players from last season who have graduated.

But for the sake of fan education, I will simply lay out the most crucial things to know about the Crimson in bullet point form:

-Sophomore WR Justice Shelton is probably the best talented player the Ivies have seen in a long while. I have no doubt he is NFL-bound. He was so dominant at his position as a freshmen last year, I even think he might become the first Ivy player to come out early and make himself eligible for the NFL draft. He’s that good. Watch him.

-The starting QB will be Joe Viviano, unless his incredible bad luck regarding injuries continues. Head Coach Tim Murphy says the job is up for grabs, but Viviano is a super talent who’s more than earned his shot.

-Once again, Harvard has one of the easier schedules in the Ivies, the one exception being having to travel to Penn to play their toughest opponent of 2016. The Crimson couldn’t close the deal at home against Penn last year and that cost them an undefeated season. It won’t be easier at Franklin Field. Traveling to Princeton and Dartmouth may be slightly daunting considering how surprising those two teams are this year.

-Because of all the stars who graduated, Harvard will probably flood the news with lots of “breakout” players who dominate the Ivy stat boards. The Crimson’s Harvard-name-powered recruiting advantage is just that good. Don’t underestimate it.

What a Comeback

And speaking of Harvard, a former Harvard football player who had to leave the team to fight cancer, is coming back to college football at age 24 for one more year… to play for Michigan! That’s the incredible story ofMichael Hirsch, told today on the Harvard website. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2016 Opponent Preview: Yale

Copache Tyler

One of the biggest mysteries to me about the Ivies over the last 10 years has been the consistent inconsistency of the Yale football program. 2015 was no exception, in fact it was an extreme example. The Elis rolled up big points in road wins over Colgate, Lehigh, and Princeton. But then they looked listless in losses to Dartmouth, Penn, Harvard, and at home against Columbia.

Yale had some injury problems last year, and that explains some of this issue. But it’s been going on so long and under more than just the current head coach to blame it solely on injuries.

So what can we expect from the Bulldogs this season when they come into Wien Stadium for the October 28th Friday night lights game on NBCSN?

We can start by addressing the major issue for Yale at QB. It looks like junior Rafe Chapple will get the job, but he’s not what anyone would call “highly touted.” This is the 5th year of the Tony Reno regime in New Haven and how he could find himself without a better situation at QB at this stage is beyond me. Perhaps Chapple or someone else like sophomore Tre Moore will turn out to surprise us.

The offensive line lost 1st Team All Ivy center Luke Longinotti, but returns two starters and about three others who had a decent amount of playing time last year. 

Yale looks good at RB and WR with senior Candler Rich coming back from injury and junior Deshawn Salter looking to continue his excellent work as an injury replacement lead back last year.

The wide receiving corps gets NC State transfer Bo Hines back after he missed six games to injury last season and Yale’s leading statistical receiver from 2015, Christopher Lopez-Williams, is also back. So is Robert Clemons, who had four TD catches last year. This is an extremely deep and talented group of receivers who will definitely help Chapple or Moore settle in at QB, but there’s only so much they can do.

Both of Yale’s 2015 1st Team All Ivy defenders are returning in DT Copache Tyler and DB Spencer Rymiszewski. So are All Ivy Honorable Mention players DE Marty Moesta and LB Matthew Oplinger. Top 2015 tackler, DB Hayden Carlson is back as is Victor Egu, the LB the Elis unhooked from a Cal commitment three years ago. Egu has been an impact player, but this will be his last chance to reach the 1st Team All Ivy status so many people thought he would easily attain.  DB Cole Champion, who was a multi-year star, is gone to graduation. The only other really significant graduation loss on defense is LB Andrew Larkin, who led the team last year in tackles for a loss.

On special teams, Coach Reno seems to have good confidence in returning kicker Bryan Holmes, but Lion fans may remember he missed a crucial FG against the Lions in the 17-7 Columbia win last fall. Holmes was still named 2nd Team All Ivy. None of the returners are especially Earth shattering.

There are a lot of reasons to like Yale this season, but the QB problem is really too hard to ignore. I don’t see how anyone can be comfortable choosing the Elis to finish in the top three. At best, I’d expect another inconsistent year at the Bowl. 

Taking One off the List

I'm going to take Jared Noble off the list of our unofficial commitments because his Twitter account now lists him as being a part of the Penn class. I'll keep you updated if anything changes.

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) Cameron Lipton-Martinez TE/DE 6-5 225 lbs. Montclair HS Montclair, NJ

5) Jake McCurry WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH

6) Carson Powell DB 6-0 190 lbs. Cardinal Newman HS Palm Beach, FL

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

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

9) Ashton Cooper Wilson DE/LB 6-3 230 lbs. Merritt Island HS Merritt Island, FL

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Renewing Our Vows

As we approach Head Coach Al Bagnoli’s second season, there are some things worth noting about year two:

-So much for all the conventional wisdom about how Columbia fans are supposed to be quick to anger and despair. Most fans I know are still generally euphoric about Bagnoli being here along with 2nd year A.D. Peter Pilling.  I think the very obvious statistical improvement last season played a big part of it, along with the fact that the Lions were competitive in all but one game in 2015. But the real reason is everyone is still extremely grateful for the bold move that brought Bagnoli here and the boost in commitment from President Lee Bollinger. I don’t know about the actual fundraising figures, but I would guess they’re greatly improved over the 2014 figures.

-Year two can be a tough time for a new coaching regime. Columbia’s previous three head coaches, Bob Shoop, Norries Wilson, and Pete Mangurian, all suffered significant setbacks in their second years on the job. Shoop fell from 4-6 in 2003 to 1-9 in 2004 and never recovered. Wilson went from 5-5 in 2006 to 1-9 in 2007, and while he did recover as far as recruiting great talent, he never did better than 4-6 the rest of his Columbia career. Mangurian went from 3-7 in 2012 to losing his last 21 games in a row as the Lion head coach. In retrospect, it’s easy to see what went wrong in each of their personal scenarios. But every new coaching regime seems to face some tough realities in year two as the initial enthusiasm about the new blood at the top starts to fade.
That’s probably the good news for us this time, because I really don’t see the enthusiasm and “pinch ourselves” euphoria about Bagnoli being here wearing off yet. Maybe it’s because Bagnoli came in so relatively late last year, or because so many changes have been made and are still being made to the program. The very tangible evidence continues to multiply, led by the construction of the bubble to ensure an all-weather practice field by next year. These developments are important and are still in need of some positive reinforcement. If you haven’t shown your appreciation/relief by making or upping your donations to football or athletics, now would be the time.

-The other side of the year two challenge is that your opponents are at least a little more prepared for what you’re throwing at them. This is specifically an issue in the Ivy League where at least 70% of your opponents remain the same from year to year. In Columbia’s case this fall, the Lions will be playing nine of the ten opponents they faced in 2015.

-Just about every team in the Ivies will be better this year. I think only Dartmouth and Cornell will be worse, and Dartmouth could still easily be a good team. It’s not that the league was so bad last year, but there was a marked degree of inconsistency all the way up and down the league. Penn started very slowly and then really surged down the stretch. Dartmouth started strong and then slowed down at the end and started to squeak by in every game. Harvard was its usual efficient self until it remarkably couldn’t play very well at home in a game for all the marbles against Penn. I’ll have my full preview and predictions for the 2016 season in a week or so, but I think Columbia will be facing much tougher challenges than they did against a few teams last year. That’s especially true in the cases of Princeton and Brown.

-Recruiting will be a key testing ground and I think we’ll see some benefits this fall from Bagnoli’s first recruiting class. I’d be surprised if at least one freshman doesn’t make an impact as a starter this season and next year could really be a major year for a number of the members of this freshmen class. Recruiting for 2017 is very hard to judge at this point because at this stage, so many, (not all), of the most sought-after recruits are still a few months from making their decisions.  Anyone judging the overall quality of our commits for next year at this point is really jumping the gun.

I still think Bagnoli and company will overcome most, if not all, the year two curses the last three CU head coaches faced. But it’s important to know that a considerable amount of work will have to go into avoiding them. When Columbia shows continued improvement as the year progresses, even if it’s just a bit of progress, it will really mean something considering the year two challenge. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

An even 10, Media Day, Schedule, and Training Camp Looms

Carson Powell

This will be a longer post to cover a number of developments that occurred during my short vacation:

While away on a short vacation, 6-0 190-pound DB Carson Powell committed to Columbia. Coach Justin Stovall identified him as a linebacker in one of his tweets, but I think based on his size he's going to be a safety.

Powell would be the second documented Cardinal Newman grad to come to Columbia, the first being Matt Swyers '93. 

Here's our updated list of 10 commits for the incoming 2017 freshmen class:

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) Cameron Lipton-Martinez TE/DE 6-5 225 lbs. Montclair HS Montclair, NJ

5) Jake McCurry WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH

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

7) Carson Powell DB 6-0 190 lbs. Cardinal Newman HS Palm Beach, FL

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

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

10) Ashton Cooper Wilson DE/LB 6-3 230 lbs. Merritt Island HS Merritt Island, FL


It seems like the fans got no warning this year at all about the Ivy League Football media teleconference that took place last Tuesday. Not that it provides a massive amount of new info, but it's always been a welcome event in the midst of the information desert Ivy fans are stuck in for most of the 300+ day off season. 

Let's start with the headlines from Head Coach Al Bagnoli's comments and then go into some of the other real news from the other programs:

-Skyler Mornhinweg is healthy and is still the #1 QB, (not much "news" there, but important)

-Bagnoli called returning OL Charlie Flores the "best" offensive lineman. His general optimism about the offensive line makes sense as this is easily the best and most experienced O-line Columbia has fielded in maybe 20 years. Bagnoli talked about how the strength and weight program should also produce some better results up front. 

-Bagnoli was also extremely complimentary about starting corners Jared Katz and Cameron Roane. The only question is whether they can both stay healthy because there has to be some question about depth in the secondary overall. 

That was really about it from a "news' standpoint. Of course, Bagnoli correctly mentioned that the program is still trying to build itself up. And frankly, it still just feels great to hear Bagnoli's voice and know he's at the helm of this program. 

Now on to the news from the other teams:


Head Coach Phil Estes discussed some of the hard luck scenarios that hit the Bears last season. He also talked about how he's excited to have QB Kyle Moreno back. The big challenge is going to be at running back. Otherwise, there's a lot of talent in every part of the team especially at wide receiver. 


Head Coach David Archer emphasized how many more seniors and juniors are on his roster. But I consider that to be a red flag generally when you talk about overall team experience without naming enough individual star players. And considering that Archer named sophomore Dalton Banks over senior Robert Somborn as the presumptive starting QB, I think that point is justified. Of course, the loss of RB Luke Hagy is the biggest problem for the Big Red, and Archer didn't really name any one player who's emerged as a go-to ball carrier.  


Coming off its shared Ivy title season, Head Coach Buddy Teevens kept using the word "solid" to describe just about every player returning. As expected, he mentioned sophomore Bruce Dixon's name first when he talked about who will be the starting QB, but he made no official announcement. 

Head Coach Tim Murphy really emphasized all the losses to graduation more than usual this year. The long rumored to be great QB Joe Viviano is back for one last try to remain injury free and get the starting nod, but Murphy seems to really believe he's locked in a real competition for the job with sophomore Tom Stewart. 


Head Coach Ray Priore made an interesting statement about how the tweaked Penn coaching staff took some time to get used to their new jobs last year. That seemed to be an explanation for Penn's slow start last year and extremely impressive finish. 

Priore singled out RB Tre Solomon, who I get the feeling might end up being featured a bit more as opposed to being just part of a running attack by committee like he was last year. 

Finally, Priore mentioned all the freshmen who contributed to the defense last season and how they're likely to be more experienced starters this year.


Head Coach Bob Surace talked about first about the returning experience and talent on his D-line and in the linebackers corps. Then he singled out junior QB John Lovett, who had a huge year in 2015 before missing the final month of the season with an injury. Surace also talked about sophomore RB Charles Volker, who sounds like he could be the fastest back in the league. DB Dorian Williams was another player Surace really singled out. 


Head Coach Tony Reno seemed to be playing it unusually close to the vest, especially regarding the big mystery at QB. He did mention junior Rafe Chapple's name first, but it didn't seem like he was doing that to indicate that Chapple has the inside track. But Reno did remind everyone that he has great returning talent in WR Bo Hines and RB Candler Rich. Other than that, Reno didn't sound much like a coach who has to be on the hot seat this season as Yale continues to be unable to beat Harvard.   

Bottom line, Columbia fans need to realize that the Ivy League as a whole will be much improved this season. I think every team is likely to be better than it was, with the possible exceptions of Dartmouth and Cornell. Dartmouth will still be a potentially good team, however. The Lions, even an improved Lion team, will almost surely be facing better opposition than they did in 2015 when they play Brown, Princeton, Yale, and probably even Penn. 


The athletic department has now released the official game times and TV coverage information for the 2016 schedule. 

Of course, the highlights are the two nationally-broadcast games. Both will be at home, the first being the Ivy opener against Princeton at noon on October 1st on Fox College Sports. The second will be a Friday night game on NBC Sports Network against Yale at 7pm. 

Homecoming against Dartmouth on October 22nd is a 1:30 kickoff time, as opposed to the slightly later start times Columbia has had for a number of Homecoming games in recent years. 
One other new game time to note is the Penn game which will be at 3pm at Franklin Field on October 15th. 

And don't forget the preseason scrimmage at Coach Bagnoli's old stomping grounds at Union College against Cornell on September 3rd. It's good to see a preseason scrimmage against an Ivy team once again. I have always seen the avoidance of such Ivy scrimmages to be a sign the program is serious trouble. 


Columbia's players will be reporting to campus this coming Saturday and they'll get on the field for the first practices of summer training camp a couple days later. A number of player currently on the roster won't be joining them as probably somewhere about 10-12 players will be cut not only to adhere to the Ivy League's 110 player rule for training camp, but also to improve overall team quality. 

In other words, this is it. The season, for the players at least, is really starting now. And that includes the players on the most positively reviewed incoming freshmen recruiting class in many years for Columbia's program. I expect at least one of those freshmen to grab a significant starting spot, especially at wide receiver. 

So stay tuned.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

BREAKING: Harvard Picked to Win Title

The Ivy League football coaches preseason teleconference is just about over. But the preseason media poll is already out and it's rendering a bit of a split decision.

As you can see, while Harvard received the most total votes by just a hair, Penn received the most first place votes. Meanwhile, Dartmouth, Yale, and Princeton at 3rd-5th are separated by just four total votes.

Columbia was picked 7th, but the Lions received more than double the total votes than Cornell in 8th.


Speedy DE Commits

Ashton Wilson

6-3 230-pound DE/LB Ashton Cooper Wilson has committed to Columbia. The CU coaches have had their eyes on Wilson for some time now. He also had offers from Lafayette and Kent State. 

Wilson is especially fast, and that leads me and a few other observers I know to believe he will play the linebacker position at Columbia, but that's just a guess.

Wilson will be the first Merritt Island HS graduate to come to Columbia football. 

Our updated, but still unofficial list of 2017 commits is below:

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) Cameron Lipton-Martinez TE/DE 6-5 225 lbs. Montclair HS Montclair, NJ

5) Jake McCurry WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH

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

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

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

9) Ashton Cooper Wilson DE/LB 6-3 230 lbs. Merritt Island HS Merritt Island, FL

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sweet Vindication

On the field and off, Columbia football wants to be stronger than ever


This article, and what it says about the weight program at Columbia, mean more to me than any other kind of vindication I could get. When I saw that the previous coach was dangerously malnourishing our players, I was the first, (and for two years, the only one), to publicly protest. To have the greatest FCS coach of our generation replace that coach and justify my concerns, feels good. I'm sure it feels even better for our players.

To people who haven't followed Columbia very closely, the losses the Lions were suffering on the field were nothing new. But those of us closer to it saw that in addition to losing by greater amounts than usual, our players were now in serious danger of greater injury because they were so undersized. 

Al Bagnoli is the most successful coach in FCS history. His take on player fitness is unimpeachable. And he is now publicly saying, albeit without the dramatic terms that are thankfully no longer needed, that our players were suffering from physical malpractice. 

I don't know how many wins Bagnoli will rack up whenever his tenure at Columbia comes to a close. But he's already a major success in my book by simply putting an end to a dangerous physical and psychological situation ushered in by the previous coach and previous athletic director. The fact that they are both now gone and replaced by more than just competent and ethical management makes all the brickbats I endured for so many years more than worth it. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Montclair Commit

Cameron Lipton-Martinez

6-5, 225-pound TE/DE Cameron Lipton-Martinez committed to Columbia today.

Lipon-Martinez is from nearby Montclair, New Jersey and Montclair HS. 

He will be actually be the first Montclair HS grad to come to Columbia football. 

He also had offers from Cornell and Navy. 

Here is our list of reported commits so far:

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) Cameron Lipton-Martinez TE/DE 6-5 225 lbs. Montclair HS Montclair, NJ

5) Jake McCurry WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH

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

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

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

2016 Opponent Preview: Dartmouth

Flo Orimolade

Your opinion about whether the Dartmouth will be a contending team this year all comes down to what you think is more important overall, individual proven player talent or overall program excellence.

If you’re the kind of person who believes experienced and proven players are the only way to win, then you’re going to be bearish on the 2016 Big Green because so many of the most talented players Dartmouth’s had in many years graduated this spring. Chief among them is QB Dalyn Williams, a once in a generation talent who was the missing ingredient Head Coach Buddy Teevens had been looking for since returning to Hanover in 2005. It’s no coincidence that it was Williams’ senior year that produced the first Ivy title for Dartmouth since 1996.

Williams is not the only rare talent who’s boarded the graduation train for the Big Green. LB Will McNamara was pretty close to a once in a generation talent  and he’s gone too. Perhaps not quite as good as Williams and McNamara, but not by much are the following long list of departed Big Green super performers: DT A.J. Zuttah, DB Vernon Harris, OL Jacob Flores, (and brother of Columbia OL Charlie Flores), WR Ryan McManus, WR Victor Williams, DE Cody Fulleton, DB David Caldwell, OL Niko Mamula, LB Zach Slafsky, DB Troy Donahue, DE Sawyer Whalen, LB Eric Wickham, and DB Chai Reece. Phew! Clearly, this is going to be a rebuilding year for Dartmouth… right?

But what if you’re the kind of person who thinks overall program strength and smarts is more important. After all, the program that could recruit stars like the 15 guys named above all in the span of the same year, (or in the case of the 5th year seniors), or two years has to be pretty darn good. And ever since consultant Rick Taylor, (who famously brought his act to Columbia in 2014), was brought in to make key suggestions after Dartmouth’s 0-10 2008 season, the Big Green program has seemed to be on a generally constant upward path. So even if you don’t think Dartmouth is as good as it was in its shared Ivy title season last year, you might feel confident the team will be just fine in 2016.

I’m going to have to be a tad annoying and say that a mixture of the two arguments above is the truth. I know that’s the safe way to go, but it’s also based on a few things I know about the few returning established stars and a couple of up-and-comers on the team.

The first key thing to focus on is a unit on the team, and not an individual player. That would be the offensive line, which is returning a lot of experienced guys and it seems like the coaching staff is taking it for granted that the pass protection at least will actually be better this season that it was in 2015. Any team, especially in the Ivies, that comes into a season confident that it has a strong O-line has a great shot to win. Other than Harvard, no program in the Ivies has a steady pipeline of good linemen so when you get an improving front five after a championship season and your name isn’t “Harvard,” that’s a big deal.

Second, one of Dartmouth’s few returning stars is DL Flo Orimolade, a 1st Team All Ivy pass rusher who’s best days may be ahead of him.

Third, I’m pretty much sold on the fact that QB Bruce Dixon is going to be a great one. I don’t think he’s another Dalyn Williams, but he’s got All Ivy potential especially since I think he’ll be the every game starter this fall even as a sophomore.

Fourth, RB Ryder Stone is back and I was impressed with him last year. With a better offensive line he could be a strong leader of what looks like a running game by committee in Hanover that could easily work. I also think Stone has something important to prove this season after his fumble late in the crucial Harvard game last year basically cost the Big Green the un-shared Ivy title.

Finally, we still haven't seen what transfer WR Emmanuel Soto can do. He came to Dartmouth from the Air Force Academy and was considered dangerous. He seems like a decent bet to make an impact at least. 

The special teams should be good. Senior Kicker Alek Gakenheimer had an off year last year and seems like a good bet to get back on track this fall or simply get replaced by a better option. Senior Punter Ben Kepley is one of the better punters in the Ivies. Senior Danny McManus, (I think he is the last of the endless line of McManus brothers at Dartmouth), is a good return man.  

But The defense overall concerns me more as I’m just not sold on the returning linebackers and secondary as much as I am on the offensive line. Not by a long shot.

And then there’s the schedule. Good for Dartmouth for putting local power New Hampshire back on the slate this year and taking them on at home to start the season. But winning that game seems to be nearly impossible, and the rest of the first half of the schedule isn’t that much easier. After UNH, the Big Green take on the rising Holy Cross team on the road. Then they have to face Ivy favorite Penn at home in week three. Week four opponent Yale at the Yale Bowl follows, and then an extremely tall order at home versus a Towson team that might be significantly better than UNH.

By the time Dartmouth comes into Wien Stadium for Columbia’s Homecoming on October 22nd, we’ll very likely be looking at a very good 1-4 team that just had the bad luck of playing a bunch of super teams early on or a 3-2 /4-1 team that beat everyone’s expectations by a mile. I think the former scenario is much more likely and the Big Green will probably be looking at 5-5 being their most realistic scenario by the end of the year.