Calm before the storm
My colleague Chip Malafronte did some digging with his Yale sources while I was away and came up with an interesting list of candidates
I know Dick Jauron is somebody who would be warmly received by many alumni, I question whether he would be an ideal fit. It's not just that he will turn 62 in the middle of next season (although that does make one wonder how many years he would stay at Yale if he got the gig) but he is an NFL coaching lifer who has never coached at the college level. Certainly playing for guy who has spent part of 10 season as a head coach in the NFL would be appealing to recruits, it would surprise me if he opted to leave his job as the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns to take over at Yale.
Bob Shoop was a name I heard as a possible candidate during the Yale/Harvard week. He has the basic qualifications I would think the committee would be looking for (previous head coaching experience, ties to Yale and/or the Ivy League). The defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt seems to be in a great spot right now but the former receiver on the Kelly Ryan-led Yale squads of the late 1980s is somebody to keep an eye on. I know he was just 7-23 in his stint as Columbia's head coach but I doubt too many people could have won games at Columbia during the time he was there.
The next two names (Brian Polian and Pat Graham) certainly have bright futures in coaching. Polian would concern me because he has not only never been a head coach but hasn't been an offensive or defensive coordinator either. Graham, just 32, would probably benefit from more seasoning before taking over a college program.
I would be shocked if former New Haven coach Tony Sparano has any interest in the Yale job. I think it is more likely he lands on his feet as an NFL assistant after getting let go as the Miami Dolphins head coach recently.
Now for some of my thoughts on other candidates.
Don Brown was a serious candidate back in 2008 before leveraging Yale's interest into a pay raise as the head coach at UMass. He then headed to Maryland as the defensive coordinator for two seasons before taking the same job at UConn. He certainly is qualified for the job with three head coaching stints in the Northeast. Brown was Yale's defensive coordinator from 1987-92 under Carm Cozza, whose input will be sought out during this process. Will he leave UConn after one season to take the job (if offered it) that he passed on in 2008? That remains to be seen. If he did, Yale would be his fourth job in five years so I'm not sure he is bringing the kind of stability Yale is looking for.
New Haven coach Peter Rossomando, who I've heard is interested in the job, is a pretty interesting candidate. He has done a remarkable job turning the once dormant New Haven program back into a national power. I know people will say his experiences as a scholarship Division II school may be a case of apples and oranges going into a situation where he'd have to recruit from such a small player pool but Rossomando is an outstanding coach that I think Yale should give serious consideration to during this process.
A name I am just throwing out there because I think Yale would be wise to get a gauge of his interest is South Florida assistant coach and New Haven native Vernon Hargreaves. Although he has never been an offensive or defensive coordinator or head coach, Hargreaves can count NFL stars Jon Beason, D.J. Williams and Jonathan Vilma as pupils of his during his eight seasons as the linebackers coach at Miami.
Another person with Connecticut ties who I would think the people at Yale should at least send out feelers to is Iowa assistant coach Ken O'Keefe. The Milford native began his coaching career at the University of New Haven in 1976-77. He has been Iowa's offensive coordinator for the last 12 seasons.
The name of Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore was a prominent one early on in the search for Jack Siedlecki's replacement three years ago before he removed himself from consideration. His name is always a popular one when an Ivy League job becomes available because of his time as a standout lineman and former Ivy League MVP during his playing days at Penn. I'm not sure of his interest level. I will put Hargreaves, O'Keefe and Gilmore on the backburner list until I get a sense that either they or Yale have an interest in the opening.
Naturally staff members on other Ivy League teams could emerge as candidates. Former Yale assistant coaches Joel Lamb and Tony Reno have been extremely successful at Harvard and I know some people who read this blog have thrown their names out there.
I would expect candidates to be brought in for interviews in early January and for Yale to move very quickly once that part of the process is underway. When this happened in 2008, the search began in late November. They are a full month behind in 2011 and will need to move quickly in order to minimize the recruiting impact.
As for what the new coach is walking into, Yale has a pretty solid nucleus of returning players especially on offense even with the graduation of record-setting quarterback Patrick Witt, leading rusher Alex Thomas and starting guards Gabe Fernandez and Colin Kruger. John Whitelaw is an untested but athletic quarterback who got some time working with the first unit during practice last season. He isn't blessed with as strong of an arm as Witt but will make more plays with his feet. Mordecai Cargill should be the go-to back next season although Kahlil Keys was a highly-touted freshman would likely would have received some varsity carries had he not missed all of last season due to injury. With the return of Chris Smith, Deon Randall, Cameron Sandquist, Allen Harris, Jackson Ligouri and others, Yale may have the deepest set of receivers in the league. Yale also returns nearly all of its tight ends, h-backs and fullbacks. James Talerico, who saw time at both tackle and guard last season, figures to be a top candidate to fill one of the starting guard spots. With three tackles returning who started games last season (Roy Collins, Wes Gavin and Ben Carbery) it would not surprise me if the new staff chose to move one of them inside (the extremely athletic Collins would be my choice) to compete for a starting guard spot.
It is on defense where I think the new coach will have his work cut out for him with five of the top seven tacklers off a team which struggled at times a season ago. No position will be hit harder by graduation than the front four as defensive tackles Jake Stoller, Reed Spiller and Pat Moran as well as defensive ends Matt Battaglia, Austin Pulsipher and Cliff Foreman are leaving. Defensive end seems to be in a little better situation with Allen Davis and E.J. Conway returning. There are some talented young defensive ends but it will be interesting to see which defensive tackles step up to join Chris Dooley in the rotation.
Replacing Jordan Haynes, Yale's top tackler the last two season, at linebacker as well as Drew Badwin and Geoff Dunham, three-year starters in the secondary won't be easy. Yale does seem to have options at those positions. Team captain Will McHale will be one of the best players in the Ivy League next season and a potential starting linebacking corps of McHale, Brian Leffler and Will Vaughan could be the most athletic group the Bulldogs have had in a while. A bunch of guys saw time at the corner position next to Baldwin (although that isn't necessarily a good thing considering how many big plays Yale gave up in the passing game). Kurt Stottlemyer and Collin Bibb drew starting assignments last season as juniors and I wouldn't be surprised to see them head into the spring as the starting corners although Yale brought in a bunch of talented DB recruits in the last two seasons. At safety, special-teams star John Powers could be ready to become a starter. Nick Okano, a starter as a sophomore, could emerge as the leader of the secondary as a junior.
It's going to be an interesting period for a Yale team with the potential to compete for an Ivy League title but also with enough question marks that if a new coach doesn't get the chance to hit the ground running, a second-division finish is also a realistic possibility.