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.   

1 comment:

barrie said...

Thanks from a '60 D-grad. As i have watched BT & staff evolve, I saw a process in motion. Can they repeat? Once, Twice. I think so. But AB has the same power. It will just take time.