March 27, 2008
The Yale football team, coming off of a 9-1 season and a second-place finish in the Ivy League, has something to prove. The Elis, co-Ivy champions in 2006, are 17-3 over the last two campaigns but are still looking for an outright Ancient Eight title. Preparation for that quest begins Friday with the first day of spring practice at 4 p.m. on Clint Frank Field.
The Bulldogs return 42 letterwinners, 16 starters and six players who have earned All-Ivy status at some point in their careers. Seven starters return from the league's top rushing attack, including All-America TB Mike McLeod and four members of the offensive line. The largest hole to fill on offense is at QB where two-year starter Matt Polhemus has graduated. The 2007 Football Championship Subdivision's top scoring defense (13.70) returns seven starters led by All-America LB and team captain Bobby Abare, but three pillars in the trenches have graduated.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2008 Bulldogs.
Running Back (1 starter returning, 1 starter lost)
Senior All-America TB Mike McLeod, who ran for 1,619 yards and 23 TDs, returns as the reigning Ivy League MVP. The New Britain, Conn., native should be among the top candidates for the 2008 Walter Payton Award. For the third straight year McLeod is joined by a new starting FB after second-team All-Ivy pick Joe Fuccillo graduated. Junior HB/FB John Sheffield and senior Shebby Swett are likely to fill that void. 2007 reserve RBs Ricardo Galvez (47-268, 2 TD) and Jordan Farrell (53-239, 4 TD) combined for over 500 yards and six TDs and look to bump up the numbers for their junior campaigns. Other TBs in the mix include juniors Rodney Reynolds and Brandon Scott and sophomore John Pagliaro, while junior Jack Wallace and sophomore Shane Bannon look for their first varsity letters at FB.
Offensive Line (4 starters returning, 1 starter lost)
All-America OG Jeff Monaco and two-year starting OC Nick Wachtler have graduated, but the Blue still has four returning senior starters. Second-team All-Ivy OT Darius Dale and honorable mention All-Ivy OC Ty Davis anchor the unit. OT Bryan Kana and fifth-year OG Stephen Morse are also all-league candidates. This experienced unit helped the Bulldogs rank eighth in FCS rushing offense, first in the Ivy League, and average better than 29 points. Seniors Landon Hairgrove, Peter Boisi and Adam Sato, juniors Ben Meyer, Jon Charest and Cory Palmer and sophomores Nate Blair, Nathan Burow, Alex Golubiewski, Jake Koury, Ben Miller, Bryan Monson and John Pedersen are also competing for positions.
Receiver (1 starter returning, 1 starter lost)
The top receiver last year, Chris Denny-Brown, has graduated, but the Bulldogs return a large number of pass catchers led by seniors Jarrett Drake (14-237) and Kenny Ebeling, junior punt returner Reid Lathan and sophomore Jordan Forney (2-22). Also returning are senior lettermen Grant MacQueen and Jarren Simmons and classmates Sam Matias and Patrick Sedden. Sophomores Chris Stanley, Alex Young and Ryan Vandersloot could also earn spots on the depth chart.
Tight End (1 starter returning, 1 starter lost)
Yale, which loses first-team All-Ivy TE Langston Johnson to graduation, returns several options at tight end. Junior H-Back/TE starter John Sheffield (22-245, TD) continues his versatile display as a receiver and blocker. Junior A.J. Haase, who has provided crucial blocking for the Yale rushing attack, competes for the top job. Sophomores Caleb Smith and Chris Blohm are also in the battle for varsity playing time.
Quarterback (0 starters returning, 1 starter lost)
The Bulldogs lost two-year starter Matt Polhemus, who was 17-3 as the starter and averaged five yards per rush in 2007. That means spring practice could determine the next leader of the Yale offense. Senior Ryan Fodor, who was 2-for-5 for 29 yards last fall, backed up Polhemus the last two campaigns. Fodor has a stronger arm than the former top QB but may not move as well with the football. Junior Richie Scudellari, the holder for placekicks last fall, showed athletic ability and focus and will compete with Fodor this spring and fall. Other quarterbacks in contention include senior Joe Dennison, junior Matt Kelleher and sophomores Peter Balsam and Brook Hart.
End (1 starter returning, 2 starters moving positions)
This has been a strength for the Blue in recent years and the tradition should continue in 2008. Second-team All-Ivy senior Brady Hart (36-31-67, 3 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FR) returns after finishing second on the team in tackles. The Bulldogs do not graduate any ends, but two starters are moving to other spots. Kyle Hawari (21-8-29, sack, FR) is moving to the interior defensive line while Larry Abare, who missed almost the entire 2007 season with an injury, goes to safety. The two Elis most likely to battle for the other starting job are junior New Jersey natives Max Newton (15-3-18, 1 sack) and Justin Oplinger (3-2-5, .5 sack). Senior Jay Richmond and sophomores Sean Williams, Jesse Reising, Eric Gresham, Matt Messer and Pat Ruwe are also in contention for varsity playing time.
Defensive Line (0 starters returning, 3 starters lost)
This is the position hit hardest by graduation. Three starters and another regular in the rotation, who averaged 263 pounds, are gone. Captain and All-American Brandt Hollander and All-Ivy picks Jared Hamilton and Kirk Porter were the 2007 starters with significant backup from Stephen Schmalhofer. A lighter and faster group of interior linemen replace these defensive leaders. Senior tackle Joe Hathaway (10-3-13, sack, FF, FR) and former All-Ivy DE Kyle Hawari (21-8-29, sack, FR) compete for starting jobs. So will senior Shane Jones (5-1-6) and junior Tom McCarthy (1-3-4, 2 PBU). Others who will vie for positions on the line are senior Eric Vidal and junior Matt Smock, both of whom missed '07 with injuries, and sophomores Joe Young and Patrick Moran. Senior Uthman Arugundade, junior Vedant Seeam and sophomore Nick Simmons will provide depth and battle for varsity playing time as well.
Linebacker (2 starters returning, 1 starter lost)
Captain and All-American Bobby Abare (53-33-86, 2INT, 2 FR) headlines a talented group of linebackers returning for the Blue in 2008. Abare, a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection, might be a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in the FCS. Senior Jay Pilkerton (13-16-29) returns after starting six games in 2007 prior to injury. Pilkerton, whose 18-tackle performance against Georgetown was a season-high, should contend for All-Ivy honors after leading the team with four interceptions despite limited action. Seniors Jason Palumbo (2-1-3) and Matt Plummer (7-1-8) could also factor into the rotation. Junior special team standout Tim Handlon and sophomores Andrew Pappas, Matt Phelan and Dan Walsh are other candidates at linebacker.
Secondary (4 starters returning, 1 starter lost)
The most experienced Yale unit includes three starters who have at least 16 consecutive starts each. In addition, former DE Larry Abare, a 2006 second-team All-Ivy safety (46-29-75 in 2006) moves back in the scheme. The lone graduation loss is honorable mention All-Ivy FS Nick Solakian. Senior SS Steven Santoro was second-team All-Ivy in 2007 after making 35 stops (19-16), a team-high four interceptions and finishing second on the team with 5 PBU's. CB and senior Casey Gerald (33-17-50, 8 PBU) and junior honorable mention All-Ivy CB Paul Rice (33-16-49, INT, 2 FR) have been effective for nearly two full seasons while helping the Bulldogs rank third in the FCS in pass efficiency defense. Senior Brian Stephenson and junior Travis Henry are ready to step in and challenge for significant time. Senior Rylan Spence, junior Grant Todd and sophomores Gio Christodoulou (1-0-1), Jason Pelletier, Marcus Wallace and Adam Money provide depth.
Kicking (1 starter returning, 1 starter lost)
Yale graduates two-time All-Ivy and Academic All-American kicker Alan Kimball, who converted 14-of-17 field goals. The Bulldogs return junior honorable mention All-Ivy punter Tom Mante, who set the school record for average with 41.2 yards per punt. Mante, who placed 14 punts inside the 20, is also in the competition for placekicking duties. Junior Wells Stewart and sophomore Alex Barnes are also vying for the kicking duties in a wide-open contest during the spring. Seniors Josh Helmrich and Chris Yergan provide depth for the position.
Kick Returning (2 starters returning, 0 starters lost)
Junior receiver Reid Lathan returns after handling 15 of Yale's 26 punt returns with a long of 26 yards. Sophomore DB Gio Christodoulou, Yale's top freshman of 2007, looks to get more touches after averaging 18.7 yards on six returns including an 87-yard TD return against Harvard. Senior safety Steven Santoro (9-150, 16.7), Christodoulou (7-213, 30.4), Lathan, (7-165, 23.6) and junior TB Jordan Farrell could share the kickoff return duties.
SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
28th 4-6 PM
29th 2-4 PM
4th 4-6 PM
6th 2-4 PM
11th 4-6 PM
13th 2-4 PM
15th 6:30-8 AM
18th 4-6 PM
20th 2-4 PM
22nd 6:30-8 AM
25th 4-6 PM
Saturday, April 26th, 2 PM