Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yale loses a recruit

Rivals.com is reporting that Chris Wade, a linebacker from Northshore High in Slidell, La., has committed to Miami (Ohio). Wade was one of the 11 players who were accepted early into Yale and until Miami got involved with him in the recent weeks, Wade was expected to be a cornerstone of Yale's incoming freshman class.

The Bulldogs coaches must be holding their breath as another talented linebacker - Brian Leffler out of the Hun School in Princeton, N.J. - is deciding whether to attend Yale or Stanford. Leffler was another early admit into Yale.

Former Brown coach Mark Whipple, probably best known in these parts as a highly-successful head coach at the University of New Haven, has been named the offensive coordinator at Miami - the one in Coral Gables, Fla. not the one in Oxford, Ohio.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rice named captain

Cornerback Paul Rice was voted as Yale's captain Friday morning, a worthy choice. As I mentioned on this blog previously, Rice just carries himself like a captain. Because my responsibilities as the UConn women's basketball beat writer has me currently in Cincinnati, our esteemed columnist Dave Solomon stepped in and spoke with Paul shortly after the vote this morning. Look for more on Rice in Saturday's edition of the Register. The 2008 award winners will appear in Sunday's Register.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Q&A with Tom Williams

I sat down with new Yale coach Tom Williams to address a number of issues including his family's search for a home, the process of putting together his staff, recruiting, the inauguration of the first black president and his relationship with Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens who he worked with at Stanford.

Here is a pretty lengthy question and answer session of the 20 or so minutes we spent in his office.

How is the process of finding a home been going?
My wife is currently looking, she is on an e-mail list. One of the realtors here is sending her information on some of the homes to look at so she can get an idea of where they are. We are moving along. For me it is not as fast as I would like because I want them here yesterday but I have been able to go home, fill up my bucket and see my kids, take them to school and be daddy for a little while. That has been good for me.

How is that going to work school wise? Are you going to let them stay in Florida for the rest of the school year or are you going to let them come up here and get situated here?
That will depend on how fast we find something, my daughter is the oldest and she is in kindergarten so if we did find something fairly quickly and move, I think we would be OK. That helps that they aren't old enough where it would be an issue, then I wouldn't see them until (the end of the year).

Have you been splitting the weeks between Florida and Connecticut?
Pretty much. My Saturdays and Sundays have basically been Mondays and Tuesdays. I have been here for recruiting and those kinds of things. So far it has worked out as well as those things can work out. The thing that has been tough is the number of call backs. Folks have been interested in the job or offered congratulations and that has been a staggering volume which is good, it's a good problem to have. That is what I am figuring out, how long it is going to take me to get through that list. Everything else feels like it is what I have been prepared to do.

Run me through the process of doing the staffing?
The right thing to do is to talk to everyone who is currently on the staff and I feel strongly about doing that. I did that will all the guys who are here, talk to them about some of things they had concerns about. For me, a lot of it is about chemistry and the fit. I had to get a feel with some of the guys, who I would feel comfortable with. The two guys (Rick Flanders and Duane Brooks) fitting in with the group of guys who are going to come on board. The second part of that is to identify the guys who you come in contact with who you feel like fit at a place like Yale. Not everyone can coach here so to be able to identify those guys and talk to them about the opportunity and see if they are interested in doing that. It is overwhelming but I feel really good about where we are in this process.

You say two guys remain? I assume you mean Duane and Rick and Larry (Ciotti) is staying on as a consultant?
That is correct.

What is Rick's role?
That is yet to be determined. He understands that, we have talked about a couple of different options and it will ultimately depend on how the staff shakes out and how it comes together. Rick and I connected early. He sees the opportunity to stay here as being a very positive thing for he and his family. He is very confident in his ability to coordinate (a defense) and obviously has had great success doing that but he is also very willing to do something else if that opportunity doesn't arise. I feel good with him and that he is OK with that.

The reason I ask that is that the Hawaii papers are reporting that one of your former colleagues (Ikaika Malloe) has already been offered the defensive coordinator's job? Where does that stand in terms of him being offer the job or accepting the job?
We'll make the announcement at the appropriate time. In this age that we live in, sometimes things get out there that the timing is not what it should be. We'll announce the staff when we put all the pieces in place.

What are your thoughts on recruiting? How has it gone?
It's been really good. The guys did a fantastic job here of having a good list of players that can get into the school but are also good football players. They worked diligently even without a head coach to keep all those kids in touch with Yale. When I came on board, I was able to watch video and make contact with the guys. I thought the situation was about as seamless as it could be. I think we were a little bit behind, maybe if we had been a week further we might have been able to accelerate some things. I think we caught up and I feel like we are right on schedule to finish where we want to finish.

Are you hoping for a class of about 30?
It will be somewhere around there. We'll be close to that number and we may even hold a couple in reserve and see if there is somebody else who comes along and have a chance to add to our roster. I feel good about the guys that we do have, the guys who have been likely'd (received likely letters).

Best case scenario, when would you like to have your staff in place?
A lot of it will depend on signing day so we won;t be able to do anything until after that. I am hoping that we will do something official around the 15th/16th of February when we will have our first staff meeting.

What are you looking for? You must have a certain type of person in mind instead of 'I worked with this guy and I know he is a good guy?' What do you want the staff to look like?
I'd like it to be a staff of teachers, guys who communicate and excel at communication. I think that is important when you coach at a place like Yale because guys are a little different. You have to be able to articulate your thoughts and ideas and use different ways sometimes. That is the first criteria. I mentioned the chemistry, guys being able to get along. Sometimes you have to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. That, for me, is an important component. I like young, energetic coaches that reflect what I believe in about coaching which is connecting with young men. I think young men respond to that. The coaching part of it, the X's and O's, the formulation of game plans - I am extremely comfortable with it. I have sat in the rooms with some of these men and been a part of that. That is almost a non-issue, an afterthought. The recruiting issue, being able to recruit a little bit differently in a place like this is something I am conscious of. Guys who can do more than one thing, guys who have had some background doing other things because when you don't have a full complement of a Division I staff, you have to have some flexibility and some guys who can multi-task. The combination of old and young, black and white, I want it to be as diverse a group as we can have and reflects well on the Yale community as well and certainly our student-athletes.

Have you met all the players?
I have not met them all. I have met a large majority of them. We will have our first team meeting (Friday) morning to get ready for our captain's vote. I can't say I have met every single one of them.

Obviously there are players who are very flexible. Take a Paul Rice for example who could be a running back, a linebacker, a corner, a safety, can play any position on the field. You have converted quarterbacks playing receivers, how will you handle that sort of thing?
I think that is going to be exciting, maybe for the players, will be that there will be a new set of eyes on them and give them an opportunity to be reevaluated. Sometimes we as coaches get stuck into a rut of 'hey this is what this guy does and that is who he is.' We have to be able to sometimes think outside the box. He may not be very good at that, but if you put him over here he may be the first guy. That is one of the priorities we have. I have been looking at tape, I have been evaluating what I see and some thoughts that I have. Once we get together offensive and defensively, we will do the same thing. We will evaluate and plug the pieces in where we see because you have to start somewhere then we can move from there and move the chess pieces from there.

You will address the team in private but will it be a special, defining moment to address your team in public for the first time (at the team banquet)?
Absolutely, just to be a part of the rich tradition that is associated with Yale will be great. I look forward to that.

What is your relationship with (Dartmouth coach) Buddy Teevens because it didn't really come through at the press conference whether you guys have a strong relationship? Do you guys have a pretty good relationship?
Our relationship is fine. There were some things that went on when we were at Stanford that we both regret but I don't have any issues with Buddy Teevens whatsoever.

Did you go to the inauguration?
I was supposed to go to the inauguration. My daughter got a fever so I didn't feel good about leaving her with a babysitter so I could go to the inauguration. Instead we watched it home.

Obviously it was an important day of people of any color, any race but what was it like personally?
It was powerful. I wasn't sure I'd see (an African-American president) in my lifetime, certainly not this early in my lifetime but I guess I was as proud as any American would be that our country has come so far to be able to witness a day like that. To see those throngs of people soaking it in from all different races, creeds, colors and just the Americans out there taking in that scene, that spectacle was fantastic.

Comparing what he (Obama) does to what you do, there is no comparison but there are some similarities. He is the first African-American in his job, he replaces a very important person and you are doing the same thing. Will you draw any similarities between the two?
As you said, the gravity of his job is a little bit different from mine but I am honored to even be put in the same sentence with President Obama but having had this opportunity, me being the first and him being the first, there are some similarities. Hopefully we can attain the same kind of success, relatively speaking in our profession.

How do you balance making changes with honoring the traditions at Yale?
When you are respectful of traditions, I think traditions are a separate category. When you are making change that maybe helps the student-athlete or helps everyone and it is not breaking tradition, I think that is OK. It's when you get into the tradition thing that people kind of bristle so I am very respectful of that. All I want to do is continue the rich tradition that we have had here. But with the changes that we have here will make like better for the student-athletes when you practice in the morning. I think there is a difference to make changes for change sake and to change traditions.

Do you think the morning practices are going to happen with the class schedules?
I feel good about it. I think we will have a great opportunity. I know some of the language classes are offered in the morning. If a guy ends up missing a couple of days of practice to go to class, obviously that is what he has to do. But for 98 percent of the guys, I don't think it will be an issue. They will be able to have more alternatives with classes later in the day than they would in the morning.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Report has Malloe heading to Yale

Reports out of Honolulu have Hawaii special teams/defensive tackles coach Ikaika Malloe taking over as Yale's defensive coordinator.

Malloe was a graduate assistant at the University of Washington in 1999 which was the first of new Yale coach Tom Williams' three years as the inside linebackers coach with the Huskies.

Malloe is a former safety and linebacker at Washington who also had coaching stints at Western Illinois and Texas-El Paso.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Commit list at 16

The St. Cloud (Minn.) Times is reporting that Mark Kaczor has committed to Yale. Kaczor projects to be a tight end for Yale.

Kaczor comes from a football-playing family as his father Ron and brothers Andrew, Daniel and David all played at St. Cloud State.

That brings the list of confirmed commitments to 16 for the Bulldogs.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Two more commits

Add Newton (Mass.) South quarterback Derek Russell and St. Thomas Aquinas defensive end Dylan Drake to list of players who have committed to the Yale football program.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Russell confirmed the commitment in a story in Thursday's Daily News Tribune.

Russell threw for 2,257 yards, 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions while rushing for 543 yards and eight scores as a senior.

Drake, despite missing one game as a senior, was the fourth-leading tackler on a St. Thomas Aquinas team which went 15-0 and finished as the No. 1 team in every major national high school poll.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Drake had season-high seven tackles in Florida 5A semifinal win over Largo and had three sacks against Dillard. Drake finished with 42 tackles and led the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. school with 9 1/2 sacks and 19 1/2 tackles for losses.

Drake, who was offered a scholarship by Air Force, was also being recruited by Penn and Brown.

Drake and Russell become the 14th and 15th confirmed commitments for Yale.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Recruiting class growing

One thing I noticed when researching the list of Yale's early commitments was a lack of offensive linemen, the team's biggest weakness during the 2008 season. With four starters and a key reserve graduating, bringing in some impact offensive linemen had to be a point of emphasis.

I realize that recruiting in the Ivy League is a different animal with the talent pool determined more by SAT scores and grade-point averages as 40-yard times and bench pressing prowess but still, bringing in some linemen is a must.

Yale moved in the right direction with the commitment of 6-foot-5, 275 pound Justin Hymes out of Allegany High in Cumberland, Md. Info on the commitment, a bit about the process and Hymes' background is available on the Allegany football team's website.

Rivals.com is reporting that Nick Daffin, a defensive end out of Elder High, has also committed to Yale which would bring the number of confirmed commitments to 13.

With another key recruiting weekend coming up, the commitments should start rolling in.

I have been reaching out to high school coaches of athletes linked with Yale both via e-mail and phone with mixed results.

What I can say is that Yale is still in the mix with receiver Jerry Rice Jr. from the Menlo School in Atherton, Calif. For those who aren't aware of it, yes it is the son of the legendary receiver. Menlo School coach Mark Newton said in an e-mail to me earlier this week that Rice is still considering Yale. Rice has been waiting to see if he gets any offers from the host of Pac-10 schools expressing interest. While it is not as simple as being a case of Rice coming to Yale if there are no Pac-10 offers coming his way, word is that his father would like for his son to come to Yale if no Pac-10 schools step up.

Yale is still pursuing a number of offensive linemen but it doesn't appear as if Micah Colston of Parkside High in Salisbury, Md. is one of them. Colston recently played in the Crab Bowl all-star game and listed Yale as one of the schools he was considering. However, Parkside High coach Brendan Riley said there hasn't been much interest from Yale's end. Penn has been recruiting Colston hard according to Riley and other schools showing interest include Maryland, Towson and Vanderbilt. UConn had shown a bit of interest but Riley said he hadn't heard from the Huskies recently.

In the Dallas Morning News' recruiting blog, two Harvard commits are mentioned including Lake Highlands defensive end Reid McCann who picked the Crimson over Iowa State, Princeton and Yale.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

ECAC honors Abare

Bobby Abare, the leading tackler and captain of the 2008 Yale football team, added another honor to his growing collection when he was named to the All-ECAC Football Championship Subdivision team.

Since the end of the season Abare has been named to the All-Ivy and All-New England first teams, finished 11th in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award which is awarded annually to the premier FCS defensive player. He was also named to pretty much every FCS All-American team and on Thursday he will be a co-recipient of the Bulger Lowe Award by the Boston Gridiron Club as the MVP in New England college football.

Here's a breakdown of Abare's honors
First team All-Ivy for third straight year
First-team All-New England
Co-New England MVP by Boston Gridiron Club
College Sporting News 2008 Fabulous Fifty Division I FCS All-American Team
Sports Network All-America second team
Finalist for Buck Buchanan Award
2008 American Football Coaches Association FCS All-America Team

Promising start

With the first of two weekends of hosting recruits drawing to a close, expect to see Yale's recruiting class to continue to expand.

The Bulldogs picked up 11 early commitments and while it is always hard to judge how much of an impact high school stars will have until they start practicing, on paper it seems as if Yale is off to an impressive start.

Yale will host between 18-20 recruits this weekend. After the weekend is over, the Bulldogs should have a pretty good idea of how successful they were in bringing in a class to replace one of the best senior classes in Yale's illustrious history.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winds of change

Defensive backs coach Tony Reno is the first of Yale's assistant coaches to move on.

Reno, who spent the last six years on the Yale staff and was considered by some of the search committee as the best in-house candidate for the Yale head coaching job, gave his notice and he will become the special teams coordinator at Harvard.

Sources close to the program indicate that Reno's move had nothing to do with the recent hiring of Tom Williams. Reno lives in Sturbridge, Mass. so from the family end of things, it makes sense. It is also a good move for Reno from a coaching standpoint so it is a win-win situation for him although a lose-lose proposition for Yale since they lose a bright, talented coach.

Reno came to Yale in 2003 and coached the receivers his first season before moving over to handle the defensive backs. Reno did some of his best work in the most recent season, developing sophomore Adam Money and freshman Drew Baldwin into key players in the Bulldogs' secondary.

Right now, the focus is on the hosting of recruits both this weekend and next weekend. The feeling is that Williams staff will be in place by the time Yale's captain is announced on Jan. 23. Williams is a pretty bright guy and I'm sure he realizes that firing his assistants as the potential Yale stars of tomorrow are arriving on campus is probably not the wisest business move.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Brown headed to Maryland

Don Brown, once the frontrunner to land the then-vacant Yale football gig, resigned as the head coach at UMass to become the defensive coordinator at Maryland.

Brown, a former defensive coordinator at Yale under Hall of Famer Carm Cozza, advanced all the way to the contract stage and appeared ready to become the 33rd coach in the history of Yale football when negotiations broke down. We were never able to identify what led to Brown pulling his name out of the running for the Yale job but perhaps the Maryland job was on the table at that point.

Whatever the reason, UMass is now looking for new head coach.

In other coaching news, the www.footballscoop.com site is reporting that former Hand High offensive lineman John Hevesy is headed to Mississippi State as the offensive line coach. Hevesy has spent the last four seasons on the staff of Florida coach Urban Meyer and he would be leaving on top after being a part of the coaching staff which helped the Gators with their second national title in the last three years.

Also, former Yale defensive lineman Patrick Graham was recently named the defensive line coach at Toledo. He had coaching stints at Wagner, Richmond and Notre Dame.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Williams on WFAN

New Yale football coach Tom Williams is expected to be on Miked Up with Mike Francesa in the next hour on New York's 660 WFAN.

Here is a link to the radio station


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New era underway

Two and a half hours after Tom Williams stepped behind the microphone for the first time as Yale's new football coach, there were still interviews left to be done.

Needless to say, it was an intriguing day at Yale on Wednesday as Williams became the first black coach in Yale football history. More importantly, the 40-day saga of one prime candidate after another opting to stay put ended with the hiring of the 39-year-old Williams.

The Varsity Room on the second floor of the Ray Tompkins House was packed with media, Yale athletic department personnel, a couple of current Yale coaches and even a future Yalie in Hopkins quarterback John Powers.

I understand why Williams interviewed well after watching him work the room during the press conference. He certainly does not lack in charisma, that's for sure.

Williams understands the task ahead of him and what would constitute a successful tenure as Yale's 33rd head coach.

"Let me state my goals for the program so there is no question where we are headed. The first goal we will have every year is to win an Ivy League championship, secondly we are going to beat Harvard. We have to turn The Game back into a rivalry, it's been a little one-sided these last few years. A rivalry is only a rivarly when there is some give and take and in the last few years there have been too much take. Those are all the goals that we need. A pretty short list."

Williams said he planned to meet with the current Yale assistant coaches in the "next 24 hours" to determine their fate. To me, this is the toughest part of the process. I spoke to Duane Brooks and Larry Ciotti today and they said pretty much the same things that Rick Flanders and Tony Reno did when I talked to them previously. Basically it is out of their hands, they all want to remain at Yale but whether they do or not, that is not their call.

"It's the nature of the profession," Ciotti said. "People outside of football look at it at and say 'oh my goodness, some may have been there and it is the nature of the profession. Hyman Roth said in Godfather 'Michael, it is the business we have chosen.'"

Both Williams and Yale's Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said that the process of notifying coaches that their services will no longer be required is the least enjoyable part of the process.

"I have seen this happen unfortunately more times than I would like to recall," Beckett said. "Coaching is a wonderful experience but this side of coaching is gut wrenching."

Williams plans to act quickly so the coaches know where they stand one way or another.

"That's as difficult a job as there is in this profession because I have been on that side too and I know what that feels like," Williams said. "What you try to do is be as professional as you can, try to be as prompt as you can so they can either move on or move on with you."

Since school is not in session, there were no current Yale players at the press conference. Hopkins quarterback John Powers, one of 13 players who have been admitted early to Yale, took in the proceedings.

"It was a turbulent time but at the same time it has been an exciting time for Yale football," said Powers, who projects as a safety in college. "I have done my homework, looked at his bios and it was nice having a snow day (at Hopkins) so I could come down here. He is an impressive candidate and an impressive person."

I made my way around the room to get people's opinion of Williams and the reports were encouraging (although I have never been at a coach hiring press conference where people say "what a terrible choice.") Word is Williams won over the Yale football players on the search committee and he considers communication his No. 1 attribute as a coach.

I thought it was interesting to hear that Williams received recruiting letters from Carm Cozza when he was a Texas high school football star.

"I got several letters from Coach Cozza in my closet back home in Texas. Going into my senior year I thought I was going to the Ivy Leagues to play football. My high school football coach after my first game senior year brought me a bucket of letters tha he was keeping and told me I had an opportunity to play at a higher level if I chose to. I did because I got a recruiting visit to Stanford, it was 70 degrees, Condaleeza Rice was one of the faculty members and a part of my recruitment. For me it made sense."

Williams' hiring came in the nick of time as Yale will welcome between 18-20 recruits to campus this weekend. Not having a coach in place would have made closing the deal on many of these recruits pretty difficult.

Williams was reluctant to state what kind of offense he was going to run but with the graduation of Yale's leading rusher and return of strong-armed quarterback Brook Hart, it seems likely that footballs will be flying at the Yale Bowl this fall.

"Here's what I don't want to do. I don't want to give our competitors a head start on studying. We will be multiple, it will be a fun and exciting brand of offense. It will be something that the players will enjoy going and obviously the goal is to score points. Defensively, they have been playing pretty good defense. Defense is a mindset, there are no bad scheme, all the X's and O's are good. It is all about fitting it into your personnel. I've evaluate our personnel and see it if continues to fit the guys we have and move forward or make a chance."

Yale's defensive line coach Duane Brooks said that McLeod, linebacker Bobby Abare and defensive linemen Kyle Hawari and Joe Hathaway are drawing interest from NFL scouts. Brooks said Yale hopes to host a "pro day" for NFL scouts in late March. Usually Yale schedules such combines within a day of UConn's "pro day" so scouts don't have to make two trips to Connecticut.

Another tidbit, converted quarterback Matt Kelleher is taking the spring semester off so he will have two more years of eligibility. Kelleher made an impact this season, his first as a defensive tackle. Tom McCarthy, the only returning starter on the interior of Yale's defensive line, is also considering taking the spring semester off either this year or next so he can receive an extra year of eligibility. McCarthy missed the entire 2006 season and could have two more years of eligiblity.

Yale is expected to name its captain (or at least announce it) in two weeks. While I don't have a vote, I would pick Paul Rice, who played cornerback in his first three seasons. With a new head coach, it's impossible to predict where the 225-pound Rice will line up next season but I think he would be absolutely incredible playing the same role Abare did the last couple of seasons. With the return of Adam Money and Drew Baldwin, Yale has enough depth at corner to allow Rice to change positions.

Speaking of Abare, he added two more awards to his growing collection

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The day after

Yale has a football coach again as former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive assistant Tom Williams accepted the job.

It is my understanding that he will become the first Yale football coach to have been a defensive coordinator for a semi-pro team in Japan. After spending 1994 as a graduate assistant at Stanford (his alma mater), he headed to Japan to run for the defense for the Fujitsu semi-pro team. What followed were coaching stops at Hawaii, Washington, Stanford, San Jose State and finally the Jaguars. Probably the most complete bio I have seen of him came courtesy of San Jose State. Obviously it is a bit out of date since it was posted in 2005 but it provides a breakdown of his coaching accomplishments.

It will be interesting to see what Williams has in mind in regards to his coaching staff. It has been an anxious time for the assistants since Jack Siedlecki stepped down as Yale's coach in late November. I have spoken to Rick Flanders and Tony Reno and while they said all the right things and along with the rest of the staff have carried on as well as could be expected in attempting to recruit a quality class to replace the sizeable outgoing senior class. However, the last couple of months have been difficult for them emotionally not knowing whether they would remain at Yale or have to start looking for a new job.

This is a big recruiting weekend with about 20 uncommitted players coming to campus. Having Williams as the head coach could be vital in securing commitments.

Status quo has reigned in the recruiting process despite not having a coach in place for six weeks.

Yale received the same number of early commitments as they have in past years and the number of recruiting visiting Yale in the next two weekends is in same range as it has been in the past.

More names of the Yale football Class of 2013 figure to become known in the coming weeks but these are the players I know have committed to Yale thus far:

John Runk, WR Cincinnati Anderson
John Powers, QB Hopkins (projects as a defensive back)
Will McHale, LB Greenwich
Philippe Panico, K Buckingham Browne & Nichols, Cambridge, Mass.
Dez Duron, QB Evangel Christian, Shreveport, La.
Ryan Falbo, QB Moon Area High, Moon Township, Pa. (projects as a defensive back)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Williams is the pick

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive assistant Tom Williams has accepted Yale's head football coach job according to a source familiar with the search.

The 39-year-old Williams, who will be officially announced as the Bulldogs' coach at a 2 p.m. press conference Wednesday at the Ray Tompkins House, is the first black head coach in Yale football history.

Williams has never been a head coach but has 11 years of college coaching experience including stops at Hawaii, Washington, Stanford and San Jose State.
Williams has spent the last two seasons as a defensive assistant with the Jaguars.
Williams will replace Jack Siedlecki, who retired after 12 seasons to accept a job as an assistant athletic director at Yale.

Williams was a darkhorse candidate when he came on his first interview last month as UMass head coach and former Yale assistant coach Don Brown, Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore and Florida assistant coach Steve Addazio, a former head coach at Cheshire High, were all strong candidates. Brown was recommended for the job but source indicate that talks broke down during the contract stage. Addazio then moved to the top of the wish list but he took his name out of the running when he was appointed the offensive coordinator at Florida.

Williams recently came back to Yale for a second interview. Attempts to reach Williams for comment through the Jaguars on Sunday and Monday were not successful.

The timing for the announcement is key as Yale will be hosting a significant number of recruits in the next two weekends.

For those who are looking for a little background on Williams, here is his bio on the Jaguars official site.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Last candidate standing?

Excuse me if I don't use the term "front-runner" ever again in reference to candidates to become the new Yale football coach since the last two people deemed to be in the lead to replace Jack Siedlecki as Yale's new coach decided to stay put.

But the word is that Tom Williams, who was impressive in his initial interview at Yale, is still in the running for the job left vacant when Siedlecki stepped down to take a job as an assistant athletic director a few days after a season-ending loss to Harvard.

As the Register first reported, UMass coach Don Brown, Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore, Florida assistant coach Steve Addazio and Williams, a Jacksonville Jaguars assistant coach, were in to interview for the vacant Yale football job.

Brown opted to stay at UMass, Gilmore decided to remain at Holy Cross and Addazio accepted a promotion to offensive coordinator at Florida. So that leaves us with the 39-year-old Williams.

When speaking to sources regarding Williams' first interview, the word was that Williams came across as a bright, engaging, charismatic individual and knocked them dead during the interview. However, he had two things doing against him - he has never been a head coach at any level and the closest coaching stop to New Haven is his most recent one in Jacksonville. Before being hired by the Jaguars in February of 2007, he had stints at Stanford (his alma mater), Fujitsu (Japan), Hawaii, Washington and San Jose State. Williams, who turned 39 on Dec. 22, does fit the age criteria as the word I heard is Yale preferred not to bring in a candidate in his late 50s so they wouldn't have to go through this whole process a few years down the road.

There are strong indications that Yale thinks highly enough of Williams to keep him in consideration for the Yale job despite his lack of head coaching experience. Then again, the university is running short on candidates these days. Also, it should be noted that four of the seven remaining Ivy League head coaches (Brown's Phil Estes, Cornell's Jim Knowles, Columbia's Norries Wilson and Princeton's Roger Hughes) had no previous head coaching experience before getting their current gigs although Wilson was the only one of the quartet with no previous coaching stints as an Ivy League assistant coach.

Williams would make a bit of history as he would be the first black football coach in Yale history. He obviously comes highly recommended from Stanford people and let's remember that Yale's director of athletics Tom Beckett came to Yale from Stanford so he certainly would have a chance to get a scouting report on Williams while he was Stanford's associate head coach and linebackers coach from 2002-04.

If Williams does not get the Yale job, look out. The uncertainty can not be good for the state of mind of the Yale assistant coaches. To their credit, they have been plugging away on the recruiting trail. They had a normal number of "Early Decision" commitments (in the 8-10 range) as they have had in past years and will just as many recruits on campus in the next two weekends as they have in previous years but trying to sell uncommitted recruits on coming to Yale when a coach has yet to be named is a tricky proposition. I recently spoke to a parent of a recruit considering Yale among some other Ivy League schools and he admitted not having a coach at Yale is a concern. Williams would solve that problem although I would have to say that I thought the Bulldogs would be focusing on a candidate with an offensive coaching background since all Yale's defense did is lead all Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense the last two seasons.

Williams is also a Texas native with significant time as a coach and recruiter in California and Yale had 22 players on the 2008 team from either California or Texas so that part of the equation would be a good fit.

If Williams is Yale's guy, at least the rest of the staff can get some closure regarding their coaching future in New Haven since whoever the new coach is will likely move quickly in deciding which members of the current staff will be invited to stay and which ones need to look for new jobs.

Stay tuned.

Rice catching on

Just watched the tape of the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, held Friday at Coastal Carolina's Brooks Stadium in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and by my very unofficial stats, I had Jerry Rice Jr., who is on Yale's recruiting radar, with three catches for 10 yards. He also had a one-yard loss on a punt return.

At halftime his dad, future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice Sr. was interviewed for five minutes. I was hoping the subject of his son's recruitment would be a topic of conversation. That was not the case. The three-time Super Bowl winner with the San Francisco 49ers did allude to his son's situation which is that some Pac-10 teams have expressed interest in Rice Jr., a star on the Menlo School of Atherton, Calif. team, but the only scholarship offer came from Air Force. If a Pac-10 school like California, UCLA, Stanford or Arizona doesn't offer him a scholarship, there is a chance he could land at Yale.

"If he doesn't get an athletic scholarship, academics he is going to get something," Rice Sr. said.

The owner of pretty much every NFL receiving record predictably had high praise for his son even if the prospect of Rice Jr. playing football wasn't quite in his father's plans.

"To be honest, I didn't want him to play football but it was something he wanted to pursue and as parents you back him 100 percent. Jerry does a great job, he goes out there and gives everything 100 percent."

I don't know if Rice Jr. will end up at Yale. However, if I were a recruiter in the Pac-10 with an available scholarship for a receiver I think I'd take a chance of the son of arguably the greatest receiver in NFL history. Like I mentioned on a previous blog reporting about Rice Jr.'s visit to the Yale campus, if Derek Jeter were to have a son who was a solid high school shortstop and I were a college baseball coach, I'd be offering up a scholarship just in case the apple didn't fall too far from the tree. It's not like Rice Jr. was a marginal high school player. Rice Jr., pressed into duty as a quarterback late in his senior season, was named the Utility Player of the Year in California's Peninsula League.