Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tight ends/H-backs progressing well in spring camp

Of all the positional battles during Yale's spring practice, none might be more intriguing than the h-back/tight end situation simply because of the inexperienced group of candidates.

Yale lost tight ends Chris Blohm and Caleb Smith and h-back Shane Bannon to graduation and unlike the situation when John Sheffield and A.J. Haase graduated a year ago, the potential replacements were not upperclassmen.

After Tuesday's practice, Yale coach Tom Williams praised the development of rising sophomores Michael Leunen, Kyle Wittenauer (who had a couple of key catches in the 11 on 11 portion of practice), Beau Palin and Keith Coty.

"I am excited about the young group of tight ends. I think Michael Leunen is doing a good job, Wittenauer, Beau Palin, Keith Coty, they have the potential to be a very special group," Williams said. "The one thing we weren't sure about was their ability to block bigger guys on the perimeter. They are showing that they are able to block some of our guys which is a good sign so they are progressing like we hoped they would."

They are just some of a talented group of freshmen pushing for playing time. Nick Okano is fighting with junior to be John Powers for the starting strong safety position, John Oppenheimer was shifted from defensive line to compete for the starting center position, Elijah Thomas saw a decent amount of time at fullback, Wes Gavin is a returning starter at offensive tackle. At receiver, Cameron Sandquist is making a push for a larger role in the fall. Fellow rising sophomore receiver Deon Randall missed practice on Tuesday and had his left arm in a sling but Williams said it was merely for precautionary reasons.

"He has a slight shoulder (issues), he could have practiced," Williams said. "We're just being extra careful."

Staying on the subject of the Class of 2013, John Whitelaw and Henry Furman are running neck and neck in the battle for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind rising senior Patrick Witt.

Among the highlights on Tuesday was a sweet catch by rising junior Allen Harris, some nifty runs by classmate Mordecai Cargill and some impressive plays by cornerback Colin Bibb, another junior to be.

I caught up with defensive lineman Pat Moran, a starter back in 2009 who took off last season to work on his father's political campaign. Look for a story on Moran to run in the paper perhaps as early as Thursday.

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