Reno, Palin Discuss 2013 Plan
New Haven, CT - With winter workouts coming to a close, the Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Yale Football, Tony Reno, and captain Beau Palin sat down with the media this week for a hot stove gridiron luncheon at Mory's to talk about the offseason, recruiting and more.
Competition has been the motivational force the last two months. The Bulldogs, split into teams in a draft led by workout team captains, competed in what coach Reno described as "everything from community service to academic and athletic performance. Guys are given points each day for how well they perform, and they can lose points each day by failures to perform."
When it comes to points, there are numerous ways to win, and numerous ways to lose.
"We have an 'every day every play' thing where guys are asked to perform at 100 percent of their ability every day. We do all kind of competitive races where the first three guys get points and the guy who finishes last loses points for his team. The most important thing is that we want guys to compete in everything they're doing all year."
For Palin, besides actively competing as the head of the squad he drafted, his role in these workouts is simple.
"Making sure that the team takes ownership. Pushing ourselves, pushing each other so that every day we get in the weight room we're better than the day before. We do that by competing in everything, being evaluated in everything." said the Wisconsin native and defensive end.
In terms of improvement, the elected leader sings nothing but praise for the competition-heavy program.
"This has probably been the best offseason I've been part of in seeing improvements across the board, from guys that haven't played to guys that have played, to a man, in every position and every individual, I've seen an improvement. And that's what we're looking for."
Reno saw many positive signs last fall, but there were also some surprises. He entered the season with one quarterback with limited varsity experience and finished the year with four. That was not the plan.
"I didn't think we'd lose all three quarterbacks, I didn't think I was ever going to start a tailback (Tyler Varga at Columbia) as a quarterback," said Reno. "But we have the next man in mentality. That mentality means that the first and the last guys are just as important as each other on the depth chart, there's no hierarchy. There's one football team and this offseason program has really helped us develop everybody, and everyone, I think to a man, every guy is really working hard and really trying to improve in everything they're doing."
The "next man in" was a staple of the young head coach's first season, but Palin, who switched from tight end to defensive end last spring, also preaches another mentality.
"We have guys this offseason who are changing positions, and that happens as you have to fill holes and take care of the needs of the team. And that's what this team's about. Playing football is playing football, offense, defense, you just want to get out on the field and compete and help the team, and so that's what we're about, the one team mentality."
This concept of team over individual success stresses that opportunities must be earned, and Reno stresses it's no different at quarterback.
"Every year there's a new competition. You're as good as your last play, that's how we run the program. That means you have to continue to earn your opportunities. I'm really excited, because I think we have a good group of guys. We have guys who are going to compete with a common goal. That's part of the foundation of our program, you check your ego at the door. The Giants' Coach, [Tom] Coughlin, has a box by the door, and when things aren't going well, he puts it there and puts 'ego' on it. When you walk in -- when you walk out, you can grab it if you want -- but you have to check it when you walk in. And that's how we are, we're one football team and quarterback is the same way."
The Blue could have additional offensive help from some players who sat out 2012.
"Chris [Smith] and Deon [Randall] could be back in the fall... both have made a lot of plays against the competition in our league. And the other guy you can't leave out is Keith Coty. You know Keith was the starting tight end for us, and his loss was just as big as anybody else we had last year, so we're excited about getting him back as well."
The coaches recently finished up the lengthy recruiting process for what they believe will be a highly talented class of 2017.
"It's one of the most, if it's not the most important thing you do in football. You recruit great players and you develop them. If you can do both well, then you can win, but you have to do both, you can't do one or the other. So you got to balance both ends of it while you're in the recruiting cycle, and I think our staff did a real good job of that and we're excited about the kids coming in," said Reno.
On the road for weeks on end, the coaches still found time to bring their energy in the weight room.
"Our coaches are in the weight room, if they are not on the road recruiting, we're in every single lift and run, the whole staff is in there. I think that's important too, that we're as much a part of the strength and conditioning program. It's not a, we'll see the guys in spring, thing. We're in there every day and that's very important, it's a year around thing. We're asking the guys to be year around athletes, and we want to be with them, training them."
The hands-on approach ensures a healthy competition in the weight room. In addition to pride and bragging rights, Reno says the winning team will get another perk fitting for a group of college football players.
"We're going to have a steak and beans dinner, where the winning team gets a big steak and the losing teams get the dogs and beans."
This fall, the Elis have one of the toughest non-league slates among the Ivies, including their first trip to San Luis Obispo, Calif., to take on the Cal Poly Mustangs.
"They're a top five team in the country. It's a trip we're excited about. It's going to be great for our players and alumni. And it's going to be great competition for us before we really hit the iron of the league play. We're going to leave here on Thursday and head out there and play them on Saturday afternoon," said Reno. "It's one of those games where we've started looking at a little bit of their stuff, because they are a bit unique offensively. But I think that the most important thing is that it's going to be great for our players to get exposed to a different school and for our alumni on the West Coast. It's good for recruiting too, guys from Mississippi-West, we rarely get to play out there, so it's good for everybody."
When the plates were cleared and the questions answered in the historic library at Mory's, what remained was a sense of tradition and optimism toward the future of Yale football under Tony Reno.
Filed by Wes Moyer '12, Yale Sports Publicity Intern
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