Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 Opponent Preview: Georgetown UPDATED

Tim Barnes wears the unusual number 35 for a QB

In retrospect, last year’s 17-14 loss to Georgetown in Washington, D.C. really was the low point for the Columbia Football program under Al Bagnoli.

The stat sheet, other than the final score, looks like a complete Lion rout with Columbia winning the 1st downs battle, 20-8, outrushing the Hoyas 172-71, and beating them in total yards by 314 to 195.

As much as Columbia beat themselves in the 2015 loss at home to Georgetown, in 2016 they took self-destruction to a new level against GU.

Just to illustrate that point, it should be noted that Georgetown never won another game in 2016 after that Columbia game, dropping all remaining eight games by an average of 15 points per game.

But here’s a look at what we might expect from the Hoyas when they come to Kraft Field in week 2 this fall:


It’s possible a big part of the Georgetown collapse last season was the result of QB Tim Barnes going down to injury after the Lions game. Barnes was far from stellar against the Lions, but decent. He was a bit better overall in his other two full games against Davidson and Marist. In short, the Hoyas weren’t such a great team with Barnes but they were positively terrible without him. And Barnes will be back this season under center.

The running game also gets its 2016 leader back for 2017 in Alex Valles, but “leader” is a relative term when Valles didn’t even average 10 carries per game.

GU’s top 2016 receiver Justin Hill has graduated, but their #2 WR Justin Harrell is back and so is senior Michael Dereus who caught that shocking early 44-yard TD pass in the game against Columbia last year. Still, this part of the Hoya team seems really thin.

In an eerie coincidence with week one opponent Wagner, Georgetown is also returning its entire starting offensive line from last season. That O-line wasn’t so great in their run blocking duties, but it did a bit better on pass protection in general and did not allow a sack in the game against the Lions last year.


The best news for the Hoyas is that half of their strong starting linebacking unit from 2016 returns for 2017. That includes leading Hoya tackle J’V'on Butler and the solid Matt Apuzzi. The bad news is that one of the graduates is 2016 leading sacker Phil Novacki.

The entire starting secondary is back for this season, but that’s a mixed bag as the GU DB’s allowed seven yards per pass last season. However, CB Jelani Williamson is a rising star and is considered one of the best players in the entire Patriot League. Williamson had three tackles and no INT's or pass break ups vs. Columbia last year. But in 2015, he broke up three passes in the Hoyas 24-16 win. 

2/3 of Georgetown’s starting D-line from last year is back for this season, but the one guy they lost was their best D-lineman in Hunter Kiselick.


Georgetown’s excellent placekicker Henry Darmstadter, who nailed a 47-yard FG against the Lions last year, has graduated. Their excellent punter Harry McCollum is also gone. But decent kickoff returner Isaac Ellsworth is coming back after averaging 23.2 yards per return.

Overall, it’s hard to not see this game as a must win for the Lions to have a truly successful season. Unless some great new stars suddenly appear on the Hoya roster, it’s likely getting a win in this contest will be more about Columbia keeping it together than anything else.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wither Wagner?

Alex Thomson

With 80 days to go until the season begins, let's start assessing what we know and don't know about Columbia's opponents.

Columbia opens its 2017 season at home against Wagner, a team the Lions have defeated two years running.

Wagner is a very hard football program to really figure out these days, and they didn't make it easier in 2016 with another season where it was difficult to know which Seahawk team was going to show up on any given Saturday.

And making it even harder to gauge this team is the fact that it played three games last season that skewed the statistics in every way. It started the year with two games against tiny schools Concordia and Saint Anselm that were little more than scrimmages, and later played a game where the Seahawks played the role of patsy against Boston College.

But this post isn't just going to be a series of complaints and excuses. Because it's time to give a general overview of what we might expect from our opening opponent.


Wagner returns a pretty decent QB in Alex Thomson, who has good size and arm strength. But last year against the Lions, he simply had a bad game. Thomson completed fewer than 50% of his passes and showed little mobility in taking some very crucial sacks. Maybe it was the rain, but Thomson's performance against Columbia was probably his worst of 2016 and it may not be the best way to judge his abilities for 2017.

The running back situation looks misleading for other reasons. Wagner's top returning RB is Denzel Knight, who only had 5 carries against the Lions last year and saw his overall season stats greatly inflated in those St. Anslem and Concordia games. It should be noted that Wagner couldn't run the ball at all well against Columbia last year, and before you blame the rain remember that CU's Alan Watson ran for 107 yards in one of his best games of the season.

The receiving situation is also a potential problem for the Seahawks. The team's longtime top aerial target, Andrew Yevchinecz, has finally retired. Senior John Williams is coming back, and at 6-6, he creates serious match up problems. He even had back-to-back 100-yard games to end the season. But he doesn't seem to have much help in what looks like a thin overall receiving corps.

The offensive line returns all five of its starters from most of 2016. That's extremely unusual and is clearly a big positive for Wagner. Of course, the Seahawk O-line was also not especially good last year. So the question is how much this very veteran squad can improve.


Wagner's returning defensive stars are many. That's even though their most-hyped defensive player from last year, Najee Harris, has graduated.

Linebacker Santoni Graham, who was the team's top tackler last year, is back along with fellow top linebacker Quintin Hampton who had three sacks against the Lions in their game last year. A third linebacker starter, D.J. Paul, is back for a graduate year. Wagner's best DB, Jesse Flaherty is also back for this season.

The defensive line has key returnees as well. In fact, all three DL starters from last season are back. One is Jordan Baskerville at DE after he led the team in sacks in 2016. Big DL Christian Gore is back for a graduate year, and so is another graduate player Kiser Terry.

For all intents and purposes, it looks like Wagner should be a tougher opponent for Columbia than the Seahawks were in 2016 and definitely 2015. We'll know a lot more about them than they'll know about us since Wagner has two games to play before they come to Wien Stadium on 9/16. One of those games is against St, Anselm, but the other is at St. Francis, which will be more telling.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Realistic Crib Notes (UPDATED)

For everyone who wants a quick executive summary of the Columbia Football outlook for 2017, here's what I would consider a brief and just as realistic an assessment:


Offensive Line

The Lions lost an All Ivy starter in Kendall Pace, but this returning group has more talent and experience than I can ever remember for a Columbia team coming into a new season. Four returning starters and a couple of other players with significant playing time is not the usual state of things for any Ivy offensive line these days. Plus, there are some good prospects coming up as sophomores now who might be ready to contribute.

Wide Receiver

The combination of sophomores Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith is one of the most exciting receiving tandems in the Ivies. Fellow sophomore Christian Everett was also a factor last year and has great potential as a third option.


Oren Milstein had one of the best kicking seasons in Columbia history as a freshman last season. He's back and he's healthy.


Defensive Line

Two top quality veterans return in seniors Lord Hyeamang and Dominic Perkovic. And exciting rising sophomores Daniel DeLorenzi and Arman Samouk join them. But more talent needs to emerge this year to consider the D-line as much of a strength as it turned out to be in 2015.


Anders Hill elevated his game impressively at the end of 2016, but needs to prove he can keep it going. And after Hill, there's simply no evidence of a strong backup at QB for the Lions.


I almost put this in the "strengths" column, but let's just be cautious for now. Cameron Roane and Landon Baty are both very talented playmakers at corner and safety, respectively. And pending approval for 5th year status, Denzel Hill was a revelation at CB at the end of last season. Some of the incoming freshmen could make a good impact too.



I think the linebacker unit will be good, even with loss of all three starters from last season. The rising sophomore group of Jalen Williams, Michael Murphy, and Matt Tofano all looked very good to me last year in limited action and practice. There's also some potential freshman talent to consider. But it's still an assumption and you have to put down this unit as a question mark until we can see it on the field this season.

Tight End

I'm high on sophomore Kyle Baskin, coming back from an injury last season where he was hurt in week one. But this position is really a mystery at best for Columbia.

Running Back

Columbia put a lot of stock in rising sophomore Tanner Thomas when the Lions recruited him, and we have two exciting incoming freshmen in Broderick Taylor and Marquavious Moore. There's also the very fundamentally talented senior Chris Schroer, who could be the man Columbia's opponents will come to regret forgetting if he has the kind of breakout senior seasons his predecessors Alan Watson and Cameron Molina had in 2016 and 2015, respectively. All of which is to say, we really can't bank on this being a strength until something big changes. That said, any significant positive contribution at RB this season would really make Columbia a potential contender.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lionfeeders Updated!

My Lionfeeders data base, with the names of all known Columbia football players and the high schools they came to us from, is now updated to completely include this incoming class.

The Class of 2021 (part 7)

The final three alphabetic members of the incoming freshmen class also just happen to all be contenders for the role of best incoming freshman.

Peter Wise was a highly sought-after OL from a decent football program in Connecticut. Wise seems to be cut from an older school cloth of top Ivy recruits who used to also get offers from Boston College and Rutgers. Looks and sounds like a leader.

Blake Wooden is the second of two Plantation HS grads with NFL veteran dads to come to the Lions this fall. And like that other Plantation grad, Will Allen, Wooden is also a DB. It seems like it's destined for the two of them to both be starting for the Lion secondary sooner rather than later.

Justin Woodley was a major get at LB amid a flurry of real Ivy offers and serious interest from biggest programs. At 6-2 and fast, he has a chance to stand out in Ivy play against the run and pass. The young talent level at the linebacker position for Columbia is unusually high by any standard right now, but don't be shocked if Woodley gets on the field for more than just special teams work this season.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Class of 2021 (part 7)

Drew Schmid is just what the doctor ordered with the graduations of excellent traditional punter Cameron Nizialek and excellent rugby-style punter Matthew Panton. Schmid is quite simply one of the most well-regarded punters coming out of high school this year. 

Broderick Taylor is an exciting RB recruit who even some hardened Columbia fans are excited about. His highlight tape really stands out as he just seems to keep plugging and he has great speed. Definitely a player a lot of people will be watching in camp to see how close he is to being able to make an immediate impact.

Hank White has a chance to join a decent line of Georgia natives who have become stalwarts on the CU offensive line. His list of other offers bodes well for his potential. 

Ashton Wilson is another 230-pound DE who seems to be fitting a mold the coaches were looking for at that position. Don't be surprised if some of them become linebackers, but has a great shot at getting on the field early on special teams.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Class of 2021 (part 6)

Ogonna Oraedu was a late addition to the class and another DE who could make a big impact when he gets a little bigger. His background identifies him as a good bet to succeed on campus, and that always helps. Apparently switched his commitment from Yale to come to CU.

Carson Powell may be the top linebacker in this class. If he's a legit 6-feet, then he truly has the right frame to fill the slot left by Christian Conway who was something of a hybrid LB/DB for the Lions the last two years. But based on what we saw from the coaches last year, even the best linebacking prospects take more baking time before getting major playing time in this system.

Bailey Rotsky is another 6-foot DB, and we've established that our coaches like 6-foot DB's. He's the son of a successful HS football head coach, and coaches' kids can be interesting prospects. And I like him because I used to live in his home neighborhood of Mayfield Heights, OH.

Jon Rowe is a good bet at OL coming from a linemen factory in Charlotte. If he were an inch or two taller, Columbia and the other Ivies probably wouldn't have had a shot at him. Coaches must love his ability to play guard or tackle.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Class of 2021 (part 5)

Casey Mariucci is a 6-4, 210-pound TE who sounds a lot more like an H-back to me. He gets open a lot, even if he's not slotted to be a WR in college. At any rate, he's one of a bunch of La Jolla/San Diego area players starting to populate this Columbia program. It will be exciting to see if this is the beginning of a significant talent pipeline.

Ben Mathiasmeier is another one of the incoming DB's the staff is excited about. At 5-10, he doesn't have that super size, but otherwise he seems to be very much in the mold of now-graduated DB Brock Kenyon. The transition to NYC and a very different kind of football than he's used to in Texas will probably be his biggest hurdle.

Marquavious Moore is one of the most exciting-looking RB's to come to the Columbia program in a while. He looks like he has all the tools to stand out depending on how long it takes him to make the transition to the program. Possesses better speed than most.

Andrew Nichols is a big get from the Phoenix area and definitely the top D-linemen in this incoming class. He could even be the top 2017 recruit overall. Another 15 pounds or so on his frame and he could be a true force at DE. Could be a game changer.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Max Carey 1947-2017

Max Carey

What's truly amazing about the Columbia Football program is just how many of the players go on to become some of the university's most successful and interesting alumni. In Columbia's case, you can make a very good argument that without the football program we'd be without the best and most generous alums, period.

Add William "Max" Carey to that list. Carey was a standout player at Columbia where he became one of the nation's most exciting kick returners and was a standout defensive back.

But it was after he finished at Columbia that Carey really made his mark. He joined the Navy as an aviator and flew over 100 missions over North Vietnam. He even became one of the rare pilots to earn Top Gun certification.

After the Navy he excelled in business, but was also human enough to point out that no one can really be a superman all the time. He explained all that in his book "The Superman Complex."  

Columbia football fans who are too young to remember Carey's playing days are more likely to remember him in the stands and especially his legendary tailgate events at Columbia-Princeton games. When his nephew Chris Carey was excelling at CU and eventually rising to team captain, Max was his biggest supporter.

Max Carey died earlier this month after fighting leukemia for 15 months. Even though it's not uncommon to hear about great Columbia football players who went on to become great Americans, Max Carey stood out among that group of standouts.

He will be sorely missed by all of us.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Class of 2021 (part 4)

I'll have my preseason predictions for the 2017 season in August, but just as a preamble I have to say that any publication or website that doesn't pick Princeton to win the title again has a tough argument to make. So if you see on that picks the Tigers third, you have to be really suspect.

Now to continue with an overview of the individual players on the incoming freshmen roster:

Tyson Hugee is another DB who's size, (6-ft.), seems to be a big part of his appeal. He also seems like a very good all-around athlete. It's really hard to gauge the quality of the high school football league where Hugee comes from, but otherwise he looks like he could be a good find.

Emerson Kabus is another one of those sub-six foot wide receivers that can do a lot of damage in the Ivy League. But he's looking to break in to a very deep and talented WR corps right now.

Josh Kaminski is an OL cut from the mold of the kind of O-linemen Head Coach Al Bagnoli often recruited at Penn. He's from one of the better New Jersey Catholic school programs and seems like a great fit for everyone involved.

Cameron Lipton-Martinez already has good size for a freshman TE at 6-5 and 240 pounds. This will be a big step up in the quality of competition, but he's starting from a good place and certainly won't have trouble adjusting to the New York area coming from the Manhattan suburb of Montclair.