Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hall of Fame class announced on Thursday

Former Yale running back Dick Jauron is one of 76 former college stars in the running for the 16 player honorees in the College Football Hall of the Fame class. Former Southern Connecticut State athletic director Darryl Rogers is one of six coaches in contention for induction.

The new class will be announced at noon on Thursday. The press conference will be shown live on ESPNews

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Witt headed to Yale

A year ago Patrick Witt seemed to be in line to become the next starting quarterback to Nebraska. However, if the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder from Wylie, Texas earns the starting QB position, it will be for Yale.

Witt, the No. 2 quarterback at Nebraska in 2008 as a redshirt freshman, was accepted at Yale on Friday and is planning to enroll at Yale in June.

The impact of transfers can be hard to predict but something tells me that a player in contention to be the starting at Nebraska could become a serious impact performer in the Ivy League.

"It's a combination of things, as I get older I understand the importance of education," Witt said. "Yale is a great fit for me. I got to meet the coaches, I got to know them and know there is a lot of excitement surrounding the program right now with Coach Williams being there and a whole new staff. I felt very comfortable with them and I knew that was the caliber of education that I wanted to receive. I knew if there was a chance to go there as far as the application process, I knew that was a place I wanted to be."

Witt attended the 2007 Yale/Harvard game at the Yale Bowl with his brother, a student at Harvard. He spent a couple of hours on Yale's campus in the second week of March and the only thing that stood between him and a future behind center for the Bulldogs was getting accepted at Yale.

"I spoke to the dean of admissions there for about an hour on the phone who gave me the good news," Witt said. "We discussed some points that he wanted me to realize going to a place like Yale, it is going to be tremendous academic challenge and a learning curve initially. I reassured him that was a challenge I am looking forward to and as a competitor on the football field, I think I can apply that same (approach) to the classroom. I am very excited to get up there, I can't wait to start. I'm completing classes in a couple weeks, going home for a couple weeks and I can't wait to get up to New Haven, meeting all the guys on the team and start establishing myself there."

Anybody looking for more info, here is his Nebraska bio and here's a link to some video during his high school days.

Yale has received some transfers from Division I-A or Bowl Championship Subdivision (if you prefer) teams before (Rashad Bartholomew and Than Merrill come to mind) and for a Yale team appearing to be lacking in dynamic offensive players, Witt has a chance to make a major impact. Of course he will still have to make it happen on the football field. I'm hoping to hear about another transfer from a BCS school soon.

I spoke Yale's all-time leading rusher Mike McLeod for a few seconds earlier this evenign and he saud he hopes to finalize the details for him to be invited to training camp for the Buffalo Bills. McLeod said his agent has been in contact with Buffalo officials and he hopes a deal will be done in the next day or two.

There will be more on both stories in Wednesday's edition of the Register.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lawrie let go

Former Yale tight end Nate Lawrie was one of five players let go by the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday.

Lawrie played in eight games in 2008 for the Bengals and had two catches for 11 yards in a season-ending win over Kansas City.

Lawrie also had stints with Tampa Bay and New Orleans and had four catches for 43 yards in 22 career games.

Abare to Chiefs

Former Yale linebacker Bobby Abare was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent.

Kansas City, which is moving from a 4-3 defense to a base 3-4, only has seven linebackers on the roster on the Chiefs' official website and even though outside linebacker was identified as a position of need entering the draft, Kansas City did not select a linebacker. Former Maine linebacker Jovan Belcher was also signed as an undrafted free agent.

Abare was Yale's leading tackler as a sophomore, junior and senior and was named first team All-Ivy three times.

Still awaiting word on the status of running back Mike McLeod and defensive linemen Joe Hathaway and Kyle Hawari, who also failed to be drafted over the weekend.

Chris Dooley, who will be a member of Yale's incoming freshman class, was named the 2008 Catholic League Scholar Athlete award at the National Football Foundation's Suffolk County (N.Y.) Chapter's annual luncheon.

Dooley earned New York State Sportswriters Association third team All-State honors at defensive line for Chaminade High of Mineola, N.Y. as a senior. He is a part of a recruiting class expected to number 29 when it is released later this week.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ivy League shut out

For the second year in a row and just the third time since 1997, no Ivy Leaguers were taken in the NFL draft.

Harvard quarterback Chris Pizzotti was the only Ivy League player included in the database.

While I am not an NFL scout nor do I play one on TV and I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night but something tells me there could be more Ivy League players on the radar of NFL scouts next year.

Harvard offensive tackle James Williams would seem to be a natural to end the drought of Ivy Leaguers. Yale linebacker Paul Rice has the size to draw some interest and every NFL scout that visited Yale practice in the last year to check out the seniors came away most impressed with punter Tom Mante, who will also be a senior. Eight juniors were first team All-Ivy selections and another nine were second teamers. While Ivy League success doesn't always translate into having your name called on draft weekend, there are some other interesting prospects including Princeton running back Jordan Culbreath and Harvard receiver Matt Luft, who is listed at 6-6, 225 pounds on the Crimson's roster so could he follow the path former Yale receiver Eric Johnson took to become a tight end in the NFL? Brown's prolific receivers Buddy Farnham and Bobby Sewall and Columbia receiver Austin Knowlin have had impressive careers but only time will tell if their physical attributes lead to a call on draft weekend 2010.

I hope to hear about the situation Mike McLeod, Bobby Abare, Joe Hathaway and Kyle Hawari, who all hope to be invited to training camps as undrafted free agents, shortly.

While no members of the 2008 Yale team were drafted, four prospects who played for current Yale assistants last season got the call.

Hawaii, which included Yale defensive coordinator Ikaika Malloe on its 2008 staff, had three players drafted. Defensive end David Velkune was taken with the 52nd pick by Cleveland, cornerback Ryan Mouton went 94th overall to Tennessee while New England selected long snapper Jake Ingram with the 198th pick. San Diego State offensive lineman Lance Louis was taken with the 246th pick by Chicago. Yale offensive coordinator was the tight ends coach at San Diego State in '08.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring game recap

Well the annual Blue-White spring game is history and there are new faces in positions of prominence both among the players and coaches, there was a certain sense of status quo surrounding what I witnessed at the Yale Bowl today.

Tom Williams cleaned house, keeping only defensive line coach Duane Brooks and Rick Flanders (who he removed from his position of defensive coordinator and shifted him from linebackers to secondary coach) but a few things remain constant:

1. Yale's defense is stifling and aggressive
2. Yale can not run the ball
3. Gio Christodoulou is a threat to break it every time he fields a punt or kickoff.

The defense, led by junior defensive tackle Tom McCarthy (two sacks), sophomore defensive linemen Joe Young and Pat Moran and junior linebacker Travis Henry (two bone-jarring tackles) was outstanding.

If you add in the negative 17 yards on four sacks of quarterback Brook Hart, Yale ran the ball 28 times for 41 yards. The good news is that running back Alex Thomas had a sweet 38-yard touchdown reception off a screen pass and fellow tailback Jordan Farrell rumbled 29 yards on another screen pass as Yale had four pass plays of at least 20 yards.

Perhaps the most noteworthy part of the game - with the exception of them not keeping score - was the role played by freshmen and sophomores.

Not only did Thomas, a freshman from Ansonia, had the longest of the three scoring plays, but freshman quarterback Bryan Farris also threw a touchdown and although his stats (4 of 8 for 61 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) weren't as impressive as either Brook Hart (4 of 6 for 51 yards and a TD pass) or Rich Scudellari (8 of 11 for 58 yards), he looked the most comfortable of the three. As previously mentioned, Hart was sacked four times and his lack of mobility hurt Yale at times last year. Farris offers the threat of the run from the QB position which neither Hart nor Scudellari possess. Farris is making a real run for the starting QB position although all of that could change if former Nebraska quarterback Patrick Witt transfers to Yale.

Sophomore tight end Caleb Smith caught two passes in the 7-on-8 drills preceding the scrimmage and then tied for the team high with three receptions and had 34 yards receiving. Ten of the 16 receptions went to either freshmen or sophomores. Four of the five starting offensive linemen were either freshmen or sophomores while five defensive starters were either first or second-year players.

That didn't include sophomore linebacker/safety Jesse Reising who had a team-high five tackles (by my unofficial tally) or freshman Nick Schneider, whose game-ending interception was the only turnover in the game.

Among those held out of the scrimmage because of injury were freshman defensive tackle Jake Stoller who, if his surgically-repaired shoulder holds up, could make a run at All-Ivy honors as a sophomore and sophomore tight end Chris Blohm. The only injury I saw in the scrimmage was an apparent right knee injury suffered by starting freshman center Jeff Fell. He was walking without the aid of crutches after the game.

As I mentioned, the totals of the running backs were not pretty. I missed the ball carrier on one play but by my unofficial tabulation this is what I had:
Rodney Reynolds 9 rushes, 13 yards, 1 TD
Brandon Scott 3-10
Jordan Farrell 3-7
Alex Thomas 6-21
Ricky Galvez 4-4

The tailbacks did combine for four catches and they figure to be more involved in the passing game this season.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Look ahead to spring game

Just took a peek at the roster for tomorrow and no major surprises.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect is that there will be players donning uniform numbers 28 (freshman defensive back Josh Grizzard) and 44 (freshman linebacker Ben Ashcraft). Grizzard will get a pass since he plays a different position from Yale's all-time leading rusher Mike McLeod but for a linebacker to put on the No. 44 jersey worn by Yale's all-everything linebacker Bobby Abare for the last four years takes a little gumption.

With the exception of a pair of freshmen (running back Jake McCrary and lineman Michael Gabriel) every non-senior on the 2008 Yale roster is on the spring roster as well although tight end A.J. Haase and defensive lineman Matt Kelleher (both listed on the roster I was given) are taking the spring semester off.

The prominent number changes are:
receiver Peter Balsam (changing from 15 to 7)
linebacker Jesse Reising (going from 54 to 34)

Word is the first half hour of the event will be used for practice purposes before the game heads into scrimmage mode. The offense will square off against the defense since having a roster in the mid to high 70s makes it difficult to have two completely different teams. If what I am hearing is correct, there will be no score kept as the coaches will tabulate the points on the defensive side of the ball.

I will be most curious to see who emerges out of the defensive front seven which returns only two full-time starters in defensive tackle Tom McCarthy and defensive end Justin Oplinger (although starting linebacker and captain Paul Rice started nine games at cornerback). I was very impressed with many of the freshman defensive linemen/linebackers like Jake Stoller, Reed Spiller, Jordan Haynes, Cliff Foreman and Matt Battaglia at the JV games I witnessed last season and will be curious how they make the adjustment to the varsity level. Naturally the running back and offensive line positions will also bear watching. Who will man the other safety position next to Larry Abare should be intriguing as well.

The game/practice begins at 2 p.m. at the Yale Bowl. There is no admission.

Before heading to practice on Thursday afternoon, the members of the football team were at the Yale Commons for the marrow donor drive. Reports are that the goal of topping to record of donor candidates was achieved as more than 700 people showed up for the event held with the hope of finding a match for Yale women's hockey player Mandi Schwartz, who is battling leukemia.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seven ex-Bulldogs honored

Seven players who were senior starters on the 2008 Yale football team were named to the 2009 NFF Hampshire Honor Society including 60 percent of the Bulldogs' starting offensive line.

Tackles Darius Dale and Bryan Kana and center Ty Davis joined cornerback Casey Gerald, defensive tackle Kyle Hawari, fullback Shebby Swett and safety Steve Santoro were among the 564 players from 266 schools who were honored.

Here are the requirements:
Being a starter or a significant substitute in one's last year of eligibility at an accredited NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III, or an NAIA college or university

Achieving a 3.2 cumulative grade point average throughout entire course of undergraduate study

Meeting all NCAA-mandated progress towards degree requirements.

Dylan Drake, who led the high school national champion St. Thomas Aquinas team in sacks and tackles for losses, was one of four players to receive Piccolo Awards for success not only on the football field but in the classroom and in the community as well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Crowded backfield

After practices on Monday and Tuesday were called off because of the heavy rain, I was finally able to catch up with Yale coach Tom Williams at the end of Wednesday morning's practice to do a story on the tailback competition.

The loss of Mike McLeod, Yale's all-time leading rusher, left a huge hole at tailback. The feeling was that Ricky Galvez and Jordan Farrell would be the frontrunners to take over the No. 1 tailback slot unless former Ansonia High star Alex Thomas made a push in the spring and the fall.

While Galvez, Farrell and Thomas are still in contention to be the starting tailback, the first two names Williams cited when I asked about the tailbacks were rising seniors Rodney Reynolds and Brandon Scott who have 11 career rushing attempts between them so I spoke to Reynolds and Scott following practice and wrote a story on the tailback situation for Thursday's edition of the Register.

There's some interesting stuff from the duo which didn't make it in the story including Reynold's use of yoga to prepare him for football practice.

"I started yoga in high school and my yoga instructor actually works with the New York Giants and New York Yankees," Reynolds said. "I hadn’t done yoga in a long time and I started doing it again last fall. Everybody thought I looked crazy in the workout room but some people started joining in I guess."

I also asked Reynolds and Scott what they learned from McLeod.

"He basically had the team on his shoulders for all four years that he was here," Scott said. "He never cracked under pressure, with us coming in and taking his spot that is something we need to learn. Once we are the guys or the guy, we have to be able to keep that same mentality even though you are one of the premier players on the offense, you still have to have this confidence with you."

Speaking of McLeod, I asked defensive line coach Duane Brooks - who serves as the point man in the dealing with the NFL scouts, what teams have been expressing interest and he said McLeod did hear from the Detroit Lions recently. Brooks said he thinks McLeod, linebacker Bobby Abare and defensive linemen Joe Hathaway and Kyle Hawari will get themselves into NFL training camp even though none as expected to be draft this weekend. I asked Williams which current Yale players could be NFL draft prosects and he mentioned some predictable names (linebacker Paul Rice, defensive lineman Tom McCarthy and punter Tom Mante) but also threw out the name of tight end Chris Blohm so he's somebody to keep an eye on.

Speakig of tight ends, A.J. Haase is taking the spring semester off so he can receive an additional year of eligibility as is Southington's Matt Kelleher, a converted quarterback who should figure prominently in the defensive line rotation in the fall.

There haven't been too many position changes. The move of Rice from cornerback to linebacker has previously been reported and Matt Phelan, who was listed in the 2008 media guide as a linebacker before shifting to fullback is moving back to defense to play defensive line. Dawson Halliday, who split time at quarterback on last season's JV team, has been shifted to defensive back.

Defensive coordinator Ikaika Malloe believes there could be little if any drop off on the defensive line even with the graduation of Hawari, Hathaway and defensive end Brady Hart. That speaks volumes of what he has seen out of rising junior Pat Moran, who is playing at 301 pounds, 36 more than he was listed as in the 2008 media guide, sophomore to be Jake Stoller and McCarthy.

The quarterback competition is not as cut and dry as it appeared it would be at season's end. Brook Hart is still the starter but he is being pushed by Rich Scudellari and Bryan Farris. Things could get interesting if Yale gets Patrick Witt, who played five games as a reserve quarterback at Nebraska in 2008 and was expected to compete for the Cornhuskers' starting position before making the decision to transfer. Yale is also in the running for an offensive lineman who played for a BCS program in '08.

The spring game is Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at the Yale Bowl. The offense and defense will likely square off with a point system rewarding defensive plays utilized since Yale doesn't have the numbers to field two teams for a scrimmage.

Among those in attendance at practice today was highly-touted recruit Brian Leffler who spurned scholarship offers from West Virginia and Stanford - among others - to commit to Yale. The incoming freshman class is expected to be announced on May 1. Word I have is that 29 players will be in the class (I have pieced together 27 of the names).

Look for a story on Yale's first-team offensive and defensive coordinators in Saturday's edition of the Register.

Last but certainly not least, Yale ranks first in the NCAA Division I Academic Progress Report (APR) ratings and the football program is one of 28 Yale programs to earn public recognition awards for academic excellence from the NCAA, a distinction given to the programs with APR figures in the top 10 percent of their respective sports.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yale recruit makes national team

Kurt Stottlemyer, a defensive back from Bothell, Wash. who will enroll at Yale in the fall, is one of 45 high school seniors selected to the U.S. team which will compete at the 2009 IFAF Junior World Championship in Canton, Ohio on July 5.

Here is the comp;ete team and coaching staff:
Player High School Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown College
Oday Aboushi Brooklyn (N.Y.) Xaverian OL 6-6 300 Brooklyn, N.Y. Virginia
Robert Bell East Grand Rapids LB 6-0 222 Grand Rapids, Mich. Toledo
Kevin Cummings Culver City (Calif.) Crespi WR 6-2 180 Encino, Calif. Oregon State
Zach Cutkomp West Des Moines Valley RB 5-11 185 West Des Moines, Iowa Northern Iowa
Jamal Davis Coral Springs (Fla.) Charter WR 6-3 185 Coral Springs, Fla. Florida Atlantic
Aaron Dobson South Charleston (W.Va.) WR 6-3 185 Dunbar, W.Va. Marshall
Tariq Edwards Marlboro (S.C.) County LB 6-3 215 Cheraw, S.C. Virginia Tech
A.J. Ferguson South Brunswick (N.C.) DE 6-3 250 Southport, N.C. N.C. State
Brian Fields New Castle (Del.) William Penn RB 5-9 190 New Castle, Del. Western Michigan
Noel Grigsby Los Angeles Crenshaw WR 5-11 175 Los Angeles, Calif. San Jose State
James Hall Las Cruces (N.M.) RB 5-8 170 Las Cruces, N.M. New Mexico St.
Chris Henderson Dallas Carter DT 6-1 280 Dallas, Texas Texas A&M
Pat Hinkel Cleveland St. Ignatius S 6-1 190 Cleveland, Ohio Miami (Ohio)
Storm Klein Licking Valley (Ohio) LB 6-2 225 Newark, Ohio Ohio State
Corey Lillard Bealeton (Va.) Liberty S 5-11 205 Remington, Va. Virginia
Mike Loftus Anaheim (Calif.) Servite P/K 6-2 190 Anaheim, Calif. SMU
Erik Lora Miami Christopher Columbus WR 5-11 175 Miami, Fla. Eastern Illinois
Jordan Lynch Chicago Mount Carmel S 6-2 205 Chicago, Ill. Northern Illinois
J.R. McConico Venice (Calif.) CB 5-9 175 Los Angeles, Calif. SMU
Jack Mewhort Toledo (Ohio) St. John’s C 6-6 285 Toledo, Ohio Ohio State
Khaled Mheisen Detroit Central Catholic DL 6-5 290 Detroit, Mich. Undecided
Chris Norman Detroit Renaissance LB 6-2 225 Detroit, Mich. Michigan State
Matthew Page East Chicago Central OL 6-6 300 East Chicago, Ill. Ball State
Chris Payne Columbia (S.C) S 5-10 173 Columbia, S.C. South Carolina
Bryce Petty Midlothian (Texas) QB 6-3 220 Midlothian, Texas Baylor
John Plasencia Tampa Jesuit TE 6-5 245 Tampa, Fla. Northwestern
Jordan Poyer Astoria (Ore.) CB 6-1 180 Astoria, Ore. Oregon State
Tevin Reese Temple (Texas) WR 5-11 160 Temple, Texas Baylor
Micajah Reynolds Lansing (Mich.) Sexton G 6-5 310 Lansing, Mich. Michigan State
Jordan Roussos Carlynton (Pa.) DE 6-4 240 Carnegie, Pa. Bowling Green
Bryce Schwindt Columbine (Colo.) OL 6-3 280 Littleton, Colo. Northern Colorado
Brian Smith Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit OL 6-7 277 Medina, Ohio Northwestern
Kurt Stottlemyer Bothell (Wash.) S 5-10 165 Bothell, Wash. Yale
Evan Swindall LaFayette (Ga.) C 6-3 290 LaFayette, Ga. Mississippi
David Wilson Danville (Va.) George Washington RB 5-11 192 Danville, Va. Virginia Tech
Nick Zachery Sheridan (Ind.) CB 6-1 200 Sheridan, Ind. Indiana

USA Football’s Junior National Team Coaching Staff:
Chuck Kyle Head Coach Cleveland St. Ignatius
Steve Specht Defensive Coordinator Cincinnati St. Xavier
Gary Swenson Offensive Coordinator West Des Moines (Iowa) Valley
Tom Bainter Running Backs Bothell (Wash.)
Marcus Boyles Wide Receivers Wayne County (Miss.)
Ed Croson Offensive Line West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade
Jeremy Gold Defensive Line Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer
Frank Lenti Offensive Line Chicago Mount Carmel
Chris Merritt Defensive Backs Miami Christopher Columbus
Allen Wilson Linebackers Dallas Carter

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Off and running

Yale kicked off its spring campaign with a practice on Monday and since I am in St. Louis covering the UConn women's basketball team's quest for the program's sixth national title, the Register's columnist Dave Solomon filled in for me and took a look at the first day of practice

Monday was the first of 12 practices the Bulldogs are allowed by the Ivy League, that includes the Apr. 25 spring game.