Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yale ready to go

Fall camp starts with a 2 p.m. practice tomorrow with the players on the 2010 Yale football team set to report today so I figured I would do a position by position breakdown as a way to prepare for the start of camp.

Quarterback: Patrick Witt, who started six games, and Brook Hart, who started four times, both return but Yale coach Tom Williams made it clear that this is Witt's job now. Hart will still play a valuable role since none of the younger quarterbacks took advantage of Hart's absence from spring drills while playing baseball to move up the depth chart.
Tailback: While the graduated Jordan Farrell led the Bulldogs with five starts, returnees Alex Thomas (286 yards) and Mordecai Cargill (236 yards) finished as the Bulldogs' top two rushers. Both have earned praise from Williams for their offseason conditioning work and after two seasons where Yale has tried and failed to establish the running game, it will be worth watching whether Thomas and Cargill can make Yale's running game flourish.
Receivers: Even without Peter Balsam (33 catches for 321 yards) who is taking the season off, this is clearly a position of strength with Jordan Forney (3o receptions in 2009) back for his senior season and speedsters Gio Christodoulou and Chris Smith returning after injury-shortened seasons. The trio was impressive during the spring highlighted by a breakout performance for the Yale passing game. Allen Harris is also back while Deon Randall is the most hyped prospect in the incoming freshman class so Witt will have plenty of options on the outside.
Fullback/H-Back/Tight End: I grouped them together because all indications are that Yale will line up in three-receiver sets more often than not meaning that the Bulldogs will use either a fullback or a tight end/h-back. Leading receiver John Sheffield is a huge loss, a security blanket in the middle of the field who made countless huge plays. Williams has been touting tight end Chris Blohm as a pro prospect almost from the day he took the job while Boise State transfer Trevor Peterson was a highly-recruited prospect coming out of high school. Caleb Smith at tight end and Shane Bannon at fullback are bruising blockers while rising sophomore Jordan Jefferson is an intriguing prospect at either tight end or h-back and fullback Jordan Capellino pushed for playing time as a freshman at fullback.
Offensive line: No position has been more under the gun in the last two years than the front five. Yale's 2.7 yards per carry average just won't get it done and much of the struggles in the running game can be traced back to subpar performance from the line. The good news is that eight players who started on the offensive line are back with Cory Palmer the only starter lost to graduation. Jake Koury has All-Ivy potential at center but can he stay healthy? Alex Golubiewski, Nate Blair, Nathan Burow, Gabe Fernandez, Jeff Marrs, John Pedersen and Mike McInerney all started multiple games in 2009. Alex Birks, Roy Collins and Carter Deutsch all moved over to the line from other positions and recruiting lineman was a major priority in the incoming freshman class so it will be interesting to see which five get the call for the Sept. 18 season opener against Georgetown.

Defensive line: Another position of strength even without Pat Moran, who is taking the season off to get his banged up shoulder back to 100 percent and work on his dad's political campaign. Williams flirted with the idea of moving captain Tom McCarthy to tight end but has opted to keep him on the defensive side of the ball. McCarthy was second on the team with six tackles for losses and tied for the team lead with three sacks. Joe Young (24 tackles, two sacks) is another returning starter. Sophomore Chris Dooley was one of the stars of the spring and could be primed for a breakout season while junior Jake Stoller was a heralded recruit who has been slowed by shoulder issues. He apparently is completely healthy and could also make an impact. Reed Spiller, Nick Daffin and Charles Holmes figure to push for significant playing time while Matt Kelleher, a standout long snapper, is hoping to see more time on the defensive line during his final season with the Bulldogs. Matt Phelan and Cliff Foreman could also push to playing time as Yale switches from a 3-4 to a 4-3.
Linebackers: No position was hit harder by graduation with the loss of the top two tacklers (Paul Rice and Tim Handlon) along with big-time hitter Travis Henry. Sophomore Will McHale, former starting defensive end Sean Williams and Jordan Haynes figure to be first in line for starting spots although senior Dan Walsh, sophomore Brian Leffler (a highly-rated recruit who missed his entire freshman season with a knee injury), Nick Schneider and Wes Moyer are among those who could push the projected starters while John Pagliaro and Ryan Falbo are former safeties who moved to linebacker to provide depth.
Cornerbacks: All-Ivy corner Adam Money moved to safety which is a sign that the Yale coaches like what they have at corner. Drew Baldwin, still just a junior, is an experienced corner while the development of rising sophomores Kurt Stottlemyer and Russell Perkins allowed Money to move to safety. If I were a betting man, I would say this in the position where a freshman could make an immediate impact especially since Yale's core of incoming freshmen include a host of cornerback prospects.
Safeties: Geoff Dunham, who is Yale's top returning tackler, and Money could give Yale one of the top safety tandems in the Ivy League. Marcus Wallace started four games at strong safety for an injured Larry Abare and special teams standout John Powers is a big hitter.
Special teams: Tom Mante graduated with nearly every punting record and leaves big shoes to fill with Philippe Panico, who punted well for the JV squad as a freshman, the early leader. Alex Barnes took over for Mante on the mid-range field goal attempts late in the season, figures to be the top guy on field goals and extra points heading into camp. With the return of Christodoulou and Smith as well as Money (who led the team in both kickoff and punt return yardage) to go with a core of speedy freshmen, there won't be a lack of candidates to return kicks and punts.

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