Monday, November 28, 2016

What Remains

A full report card on the 2016 Columbia Football season is coming soon, but the inevitable looking ahead to 2017 has already begun for many of us. And before we do that, we have to consider a few news items I'm hearing from sources:

1) The Athletic Department gets VERY touchy about reporting who is coming back for a 5th year until the news is completely official. But I can report that at least two players, one a very key starter and the other an emerging important contributor on the team, are both in the process of applying for 5th year status.

2) A player who left the program this year and could truly help the team this coming year is slated to return.

3) And of course, a large chunk of the incoming freshman class is yet to be unveiled.

But here are the top three issues to ponder during the 41 remaining weeks of the football offseason:

1) Can QB Anders Hill play like he did against Cornell and Brown for an entire season, or at least most of one?

Hill was not perfect in the last two games of the season, but he was much improved. And it's better that he wasn't perfect, because expecting him to maintain a 300+-yard/no INT type level would not be realistic in any case. But the QB who got into good sync with rising sophomore WR's Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith, and still ran effectively was the kind of guy who could indeed lead the Lions to a 6-4 or 7-3 season in 2017. If Hill can be that guy and hone that experience during the offseason, then Columbia has probably it's biggest question answered in a good way for next year.

2) Are the backup linebackers ready to step up?

The biggest question last year, or so we thought, was whether the Lions could recover from the loss of all the graduated talent on the defensive line. For the most part, Columbia did fine in that area. Now with the graduation losses of Gianmarco Rea, Keith Brady, and Christian Conway, the linebacker corps seems like it will suffer some real growing pains next year. But there's still a lot of optimism that rising sophomores Jalen Williams, Michael Murphy, Matt Tofano, and Levi McQuinn, (who plays a sort of hybrid safety/LB position), and don't forget rising junior Cal Falkenhayn, could be even better given some time to improve. This is a talented crew and Head Coach Al Bagnoli has a long history of coaching up linebackers to an elite level in the Ivies. But this unit is definitely under scrutiny now.

3) Will the Offense keep up the momentum?

Much of this third question is basically an addendum to question #1, but the improvement in the Columbia offense starting with the second half of the Yale game was obvious. It appears the coaching staff adjusted to working with Hill's strengths, which is throwing a deeper ball and using the middle of the field. The running attack also got a lot better. The punchless Lion offense of weeks one through six, was replaced by a higher scoring machine from that point on. With that offense, Columbia probably would have won their first two games against St. Francis and Georgetown at least. This is the kind of offense the Lions need to have ready for next season.


Chen1982 said...

If the offensive line can maintain or improve upon the level of play from the last 4 games, I feel pretty good about winning games....because we seem to have the running backs and receivers to do damage. Agree that if we have a TE threat (remember Kennedy?)

I worry less about reloading our defense as Bagnoli and staff have alot of young and game tested talent to draw from and look what they have done for two seasons already

alawicius said...

As Jake says, linebacking definitely biggest challenge for next year. Incoming all-state Michigan Luke Adams should help, but right now he is the only LB recruit we know about. Same with interior DL as we only know about Josh Kaminski so far. Wondering if we have a super-fast marquee running back lined up...Jake?


oldlion said...

It is disappointing that Rea, the best defender in the IL this year, is not one of the finalists for the defensive Bushnell. He clearly had a better year than the Dartmouth LB.

florida lion said...

As we get into the recruiting season for 2017, I'm wondering how many of the early commitments actually show up. I know it's not an exact science, but is it 80%, 90%?

Chen1982 said...

I have a question for Jake and the gallery........if you could make one or two transfers from FBS school, what would you try to solve for this off season vs normal recruiting?

LionAlum76 said...

We haven't heard nearly as much from this recruiting class as the last one. They will need to be at least as good as the 2016 class in order to compete for a title in 2-3 years. We are going to be hurt by the lost recruiting class of 2015 significantly.

PKNIGHT said...

I love Coach Bags and have endured the we are ready for some winning seasons! Can't wait for 2017!..Ferraro will have the D shine!