Just when a faint breeze of optimism wafted through all things Columbia football, the tide turns just as suddenly. Right on cue, the incoming freshmen class was announced and then the roster was updated to reflect some notable upperclassmen omissions. Attrition is expected in any football program but the leakage here could be catastrophic. It’s not that a lot of players won’t be returning for the 2014 season, it is the value of those players that stings.
Here are the notable omissions:
DL Chad Washington
QB Kelly Hillinski
DL Charles Melka
LB Mark Cieslak
WR Jake Wanamaker
TE Connor Spears
LB Parker Tobia
Hillinski I can understand. As a freshman he was forced into action much too soon. It is too easy to ruin a prospect by throwing him to the wolves. The problem of course was the offensive line providing inadequate protection, getting starter Brett Nottingham injured in just the first game of the 2013 season. The rest of the season gave QB backups Hillinski and Trevor McDonagh alternating shots to make lemonade out of sieving lemons. As we know, 2013 didn’t work out well at all for the Columbia offense. Whatever the reasons why he is not coming back, Kelly Hillinski is hopefully off to greener pastures to realize his immense potential as a collegiate QB. He deserves better coaching than what he received at Columbia.
Jake Wanamaker was on the roster last season but I don’t think he played. His loss has been felt already. There are so few talented receivers on the roster as it is, losing Wanamaker definitely hurts. I don’t know why he is gone but if it was a matter of the coaching staff turning him away as Columbia football supporters have been led to believe then that is inexcusable. Same for the departure of 6’6″ rangy TE Connor Spears. Why turn away productive talent? The coaching staff has to be held accountable for these failures.
In fact, we are seeing a disturbing trend of talented players either leaving the program or not being invited back. This is not the first season this trend has been in play. This year the numbers are increased!
I don’t know the reasons for their departure but losing such promising defensive talent as Charles Melka, Mark Cieslak and Parker Tobia puts the defense in the hole. In fact, to add to the grim outlook, their best pass rusher, Chad Washington, has also been dropped.
Chad has made his share of off the field mistakes for sure but why he is not playing for what would be his senior season is ridiculous.
Apparently, a small rules infraction at the University led to Chad’s dismissal. Yea, rules are rules, just like if you are .01 cents over your credit limit the system flags your account and your credit rating drops a few points. Isn’t life exciting when you are a victim of rules that are pathetically stupid?
Let’s be clear, Columbia needs Chad Washington very badly. Players like Chad are rare. You need strong and effective defensive ends to pressure the QB and shut down the edge. Where Columbia will be able to backfill Chad’s talent is unknown. Unless a bunch of key freshmen step up, there are holes all over a defense that was already in need of repair.
Whatever the reasons for players making decisions to leave or have had those decisions made for them, what we are seeing is a disintegration of a football program rather than a steady improvement. The drumbeats to purge head coach Pete Mangurian and his staff have slowed this offseason because there is no chance the powers that be will make such a move just yet. This is shaping up to be a lame duck coaching season that could very well end up a second straight 0-10 campaign.
More must be done to revitalize this program. New leadership is needed and a competent search committee with wisdom. A new head coach must have the latitude to recruit a quality staff. The only way to bring a winning program together is if the process is simplified and policies improved to bring in the right people to get things to work as they need to be. The money is there. Now is the time to finally get it right. Come November when Pete Mangurian and staff are reeling from defeat, the Columbia athletic administration needs to have a plan in place to recruit the right people to fix this problem once and for all. They have already run out of second, third and fourth chances.