Friday, March 30, 2012

Bulldog bytes

Here are a few quotes from from junior WR Deon Randall and senior RB Mordecai Cargill after Thursday night's spring practice...

Randall on  Yale's offense: "We have a lot of quick guys so getting them out in space and being able to make one-on-one plays is what I believe our team does best. Take advantage of speed and one-on-one situations that defenses put us in."

Cargill on being back on the field: "We’ve really been indoors a lot, for most of the winter. We did mostly conditioning and agility things, so it just feels good to be back out here throwing the ball around and playing actual football."

Randall and Cargill on new coach Tony Reno...

Randall: "I like coach Reno a lot. I believe he holds his players accountable. He expects a lot from his players, but he doesn’t ask players to do anything out of their comfort zone. I’m excited for this year to come."

Cargill: "Coach Reno is very meticulous. That really helps us. We’re a lot more disciplined team and we’re much more conditioned. I think we’re becoming much more focused as a result of his coaching style and that’s going to help us a lot for this upcoming season."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Switching gears

As I am sure you have read there has been a bit of a reconfiguring of things at the paper. The end result is I will no longer be covering the Yale football team and will add UConn football to my UConn women's basketball responsibilities.

It is a move that had been in the works for several months but did not become official until Mar. 22, which happened to be the date of the Yale pro day. When I headed over to Yale I knew it was close to being a done deal but thought there was a chance that the change in beats may not take place until the end of the spring practice. When I returned to the office to work on my story on the pro day I was informed that the Yale portion of the equation would take place immediately. It makes sense because I was in Chicago yesterday to cover the McDonald's All-American games instead of being at Yale for the first day of spring drills. Right now I am in a hotel room in Denver getting ready to cover the women's Division I Final Four. If UConn gets to the championship game I would not be returning until April 4 so I would have needed somebody to fill in for me regardless. This will give Chris Hunn, who has taken over the Yale beat, a chance to get his foot in the door and get to know the coaches and players.

I'd like to thank the readers of this blog for their passion and of course readership. The numbers of this blog have increased significantly in the last four years and I have you to thank for that. I've enjoyed the experience of covering Yale in both stints as I did this for a few years in the late 1990s before returning to the beat in 2008. I've been treated well by all the head coaches (Jack Siedlecki, Tom Williams and Tony Reno) and the players as well. While I am excited about a new challenge in covering the UConn football team, I will miss being involved with the day to day coverage of Yale football.

Obviously when there is a switch in beat writers the coverage will be different since no two people handle a beat the same way but Chris has done a great job covering the New Haven football program in recent years and I know he will do an outstanding job on the Yale beat as well.


Jim Fuller

First day on the job

I will be taking over for Jim Fuller, as the Register’s Yale football beat writer (yes, I know, big shoes to fill). I’ve been covering University of New Haven football for the last three years.
I made my first trip to the Ray Tompkins House Wednesday and enjoyed seeing all the books, trophies and photos from a program that has such a rich history.  I also sat down with head coach Tony Reno and chatted for a bit. There wasn’t much news to report after reading Jim Fuller’s story heading into the spring session. Yale opened spring practice Wednesday and the annual scrimmage will take place on April 21 at the Yale Bowl at 2 p.m.
Reno did explain there are four players competing for the QB job, the defensive line is inexperienced and the Bulldogs are pretty strong at wide receiver.
I will be heading down to practice tonight and will have some notes here on Friday.
Also worth noting, I was walking back to my car after meeting with Reno and found a bright yellow envelope on my windshield. Yes, it was my first parking ticket.
Welcome to Yale.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Catching up with Shane Bannon

Among the former and current Yale players in attendance as Bobby Abare, Drew Baldwin, Geoff Dunham, Jordan Haynes, Pat Moran, Jake Stoller, Alex Thomas and Patrick Witt worked out for NFL scouts was somebody who knows the drill pretty well.

A year ago Shane Bannon was barely showing up on any NFL draft sites but a strong showing at Yale's pro day followed by impressive showings in individual workouts resulted in Bannon being drafted in the seventh round by the Kansas City Chiefs. I haven't had the chance to speak to Bannon since he was drafted so I spent a few minutes with him to talk about his experiences last season and also to have him talk about the process of attempting to catch the eye of NFL teams.

"It was fast," Bannon said. "It was the quickest six weeks of my life. I worked out at pro day, starting talking to teams and working out for teams and it just kind of snowballed from there. I think I was in the right place at the right time and the stars aligned and I couldn't be more grateful that the Chiefs drafted me. It was a great month for sure."

Bannon was thrilled to see his former teammates taking their best shot at the NFL.

"I thought they did great," Bannon said. "They came out and gave it their best shot so hopefully somebody saw something they liked and they'll get a couple phone calls. If not, that doesn't take away from anything they have done. I commend them for giving it a shot."

So what advice would Bannon give to the former Yale players hoping to get invited to NFL training camps.
"There is so much you can control," Bannon said. "If you get a workout or interview, just go out and be you and do what you know you can do. You can't let that stuff get to you because there is too much going on, sit back relax and enjoy it."

Bannon spent time on the Chiefs' practice squad and after the season signed a two-year contract with Kansas City.

"We'll see what happens in camp," Bannon said. "I have to make the team and I look forward to getting out there and competing for sure. It's a little different because you are not training to do a pro day any more, you are not doing specific benching and running 40s but I trying to get back in shape and get ready for OTAs and practice and hopefully the stars will align again."

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Witt happy the focus is back on football

                                         Former Yale quarterback talks with NFL scouts
                                         following Thursday's pro day at Yale.

It would have been understandable if former Yale quarterback Patrick Witt was a little uneasy in the days leading up to the NFL combine.

It's tough enough to deal with pressure of working out in front of a who's who of the NFL but the combine is also a time when teams delve into every aspect of a prospect's past. So Witt couldn't help but wonder if a circus-type atmosphere would be awaiting him in Indianapolis considering the buzz created by a New York Times expose on Witt. The story asserted that his Rhodes Scholarship candidacy was suspended at the time he announced his decision to discontinue his pursuit of the Rhodes because he would not be able to attend his final interview with the Rhodes committee in Atlanta and play in the Yale/Harvard football game.

Witt has publicly denied the claims raised in the story but that didn't mean that the NFL representatives he met up with wouldn't focus their attention on the questions raised in the story and the off the field incident brought out in the story. So you can imagine Witt's relief when most of the NFL people rolled their eyes and moved onto the next issue when they got Witt's side of the story.

"You tell them exactly what happens, the truth comes out and they go 'that's it?'" Witt said on Thursday after Yale's pro day. "I go 'yeah.' They ask 'you didn't have a chance to defend yourself at all?' I said 'no.' It is hard to tell a story because people don't understand just how vulnerable you can be in this instance, little due process and actually no due process at all so once the truth comes out, it is not a concern for them. I look forward to the opportunity to go in and prove my character to whatever team takes me."

Witt was out in California working with a quarterback coach when the controversy surrounding Rhodes Scholarship began to take on a life of its own. While it doesn't appear to have hurt Witt or impacted his chances of being drafted next month, the same can not be said for his coach at Yale the last three years.

Tom Williams was listed as a Rhodes Scholarship candidate in his Yale bio and spoke on multiple occasions about how his background in the pursuit of the Rhodes would allow him to offer counsel to Witt if he wanted it. The New York Times raised questions about Williams' claims since the Rhodes database did not have any records of a Thomas Williams applying for a Rhodes Scholarship in the early 1990s which is when he would have been eligible to apply. Yale conducted an internal investigation and while Williams was approved by people at Stanford to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship, he never actually applied. In December Williams was forced to resign.

While Witt certainly is not to blame for what happened to Williams, I was curious what his take was on the aftermath of the Rhodes situation.

"I was removed from that out in California so I was getting all the information second hand just like everybody else," Witt said, "I was really happy to see that he landed on his feet at UTEP (coaching safeties). He was a great coach, that was never a question. I enjoyed playing for him, he was a players' coach and he'll straighten things out and get back on track to wherever he wants to go."

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eight former Bulldogs work out for NFL scouts

Former Yale quarterback Patrick Witt was the center of attention but on Thursday morning and afternoon, former Bulldogs Drew Baldwin, Geoff Dunham, Jordan Haynes, Pat Moran, Jake Stoller, Alex Thomas and Bobby Abare got the opportunity to work out in front of scouts from the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers.

Moran had the best bench press performance with 37 reps at 225 pounds, edging out New Haven linebacker Charlie Hatchett by one. Baldwin had an impressive vertical leap of 36 inches while Haynes had a broad jump of 9-6.

"Everybody did pretty well," Thomas said. "I think and put their best effort forward, now it is a waiting game. It is one of those things that you have nothing to lose and you give it your best shot."

"This is awesome, it is kind of a mini offseason we had training for this," Thomas said. "The six of us working out together and t be out there, the culmination of all the work we put in the past four years working together, it definitely has been a fun ride and see what happens."

Last year Shane Bannon turned some impressive workouts into becoming a draftable prospect and was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round. Perhaps one of the former Bulldogs not named Patrick Witt might follow the same path.

Witt has been down this road before as he took part in the NFL combine last month. New England and San Diego sent representatives specifically to check out Witt (although New England did show quite a bit of interest in Sacred Heart University tight end Rich Rossi).

The only agility drill he did was the 40 which he ran a 5.03 but he spent plenty of time throwing in front of the scouts.
"It was fun, I was glad to have a bunch of the other guys out there, I think they showed well today," Witt said. "I think we all did. It was a little hotter than we expected. I got a little sweat going but I think the scouts liked what they saw from everyone, I am really proud of those other guys."

Witt worked out for several weeks in California in preparation for the NFL combine and then prepared for Thursday's pro day. Now he is heading home to Atlanta. He will likely get invited for personal workouts with teams as the draft draws nearer but he is glad to have the combine portion of the process completed.

"It is driving me nuts. It is kind of the last hurdle I have before the draft. I am planning to go back home and hope to get a call and go from there.

"Out in LA things moved kind of slow in anticipation of the combines (being) seven weeks away, six weeks away and once it is on you, it is gone in a flash. Those three or days go by really fast. You are up early and staying up late, interviews and medical tests. It is a cool experience and I was really grateful to be one of the guys invited."

Witt admitted that seeing NFL head coaches in the stands or on the field at the combine took some getting used to.
"It is a little bit different with scouts coming through and you don't recognize their faces and then you look on the field, look up in the stands and there is Bill Belichick staring back at you," Witt said. "It doesn't help ease (his nerves) that but it is a great feeling and once it is going you tune all the rest of it out just like you are playing a game. It was a great opportunity to be seen by a lot of decision makers.

"I think what I have learned from this whole process is that what one team thinks of you is not really what another team thinks of you so you can be valued in a lot of different ways by a lot of different teams. There is no way to predict, that is what I keep hearing from everyone so I am trying to stay patient and calm my mind about it and see what happens."

As luck would have it, the first scout he spoke to at the NFL combine was the Denver Broncos and the team representative who met with Witt is Brian Stark, his former position coach at Yale.

"I saw him quite a bit at the combine," Witt said. "This year he was a runner so in the interview room the scouts come up and bring you to the team tables, he was the guy who grabbed me for the Broncos. He was the first guy I interviewed with. It was weird, I wanted to just kind of joke around with him, slap him on the shoulder but we had to maintain a business relationship there because of the nature of what we were doing."

I did speak to Witt about putting the Rhodes Scholarship controversy behind him and his reaction to the fallout resulting in Tom Williams being forced to resign as Yale's coach. I think that is better served to be a blog of its own and will put together an entry in the next day or so.
Some other Yale related notes, I asked Yale coach Tony Reno about defensive end Chris Coyne and offensive lineman Andy Ellis, both part of last year's freshman class. He said that Coyne is still injured and dealing with concussions but is still with the program. However, Ellis is not a member of the team.
There's a chance that Yale's recruiting class could be officially announced before the Apr. 21 spring game.
Former Yale assistant coach Duane Brooks was in attendance today. He said he just purchased a home in Bar Harbor, Maine and will be moving up there. Settling in Maine has been a dream of Brooks once his coaching career is over and he will get the opportunity.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A couple of updates

Yale just sent out its spring prospectus and a couple things jumped out at me. First, former Yale linebacker and captain Paul Rice has been hired as the new Director of Football Operations. Rice spent last season as a volunteer assistant coach.

There have also been some position changes from those listed when Yale played Harvard in the 2011 season finale.

Tight ends/h-backs Beau Palin and Adam Conklin moved over to defense while Palin competing for time on the defensive line while Conklin is listed as a linebacker. Matt Spillane was listed as a tight end on the 2011 I am looking at but if memory serves me right, I believe he was playing defense when Yale and Harvard JV teams played.

Former St. Joseph star L.J. Hunt is moving from defensive back to running back while the current roster has former quarterback turned defensive back Derek Russell moving back to quarterback.

Yale lands another QB

There are multiple reports stating that Chaminade College Prep quarterback Logan Scott has committed to Yale.

The 6-foot-2 Scott had originally committed to Columbia in late December and I don't have the specifics surrounding his change of heart. He joins Eric Williams as quarterbacks in Yale's incoming freshman class.

"Yale offered back in January, and I kept it quiet until after I visited and passed through admissions," Scott said in an entry on the blog. "I've made my final decision."

Scott passed for nearly 2,000 yards and ran for more than 900 yards as a senior.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Yale's update roster is up

As promised I would make mention when Yale put an updated roster on its website. Well, that happened earlier today.

Going by the roster, there are two players returning for a fifth season of eligilbility. Linebacker Wes Moyer (which was previously mentioned in this blog) and defensive tackle Carter Deutsch, which could be a nice bonus since the Bulldogs were somewhat lacking in experienced interior linemen. UPDATED AT 11:30 A.M.: Deutsch is no longer listed on the roster so it looks like Moyer is the only player coming back for a fifth year.

The only players that were on the Yale roster heading into the 2011 season finale against Harvard with remaining eligibility who are not on the current roster are fullback Jordan Capellino and defensive end Andrew Sutphin.

Yale opens spring practice two weeks from today with the spring game set for Apr. 21.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Report: Kyle Metzler hired at Dartmouth

The site is reporting that former Yale assistant coach Kyle Metzler has accepted a job coaching tight ends and tackles at Dartmouth.

Metzler, the only former Yale player on Tom Williams' staff over the last two seasons, coached tight ends and was the recruiting coordinator for the Bulldogs during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

People I spoke to credited Metzler for doing much of the leg work in recruiting from the time that Williams resigned and Tony Reno was hired even though there was no guarantee he would be retained by the new regime at Yale so it's fitting that he landed on his feet.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Notre Dame's Richardson headed to Brown

Tracking down the college destination of Notre Dame of West Haven All-State lineman Ludovic Richardson has been on my to-do list for a bit. Well, this morning I received an e-mail from Notre Dame head coach Tom Marcucci saying that the 6-foot-2, 277-pound Richardson has committed to Brown.

Although Richardson checked out a couple of Yale games this season, that is not a stunning turn of events. When I spoke to Marcucci a couple weeks back he said Richardson was leaning to Brown and it was just a matter of getting the approval from the admissions department.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Plummer hired at UMass

Thanks to one of the readers of this blog for bringing to my attention the fact that former Yale assistant coach Rod Plummer was hired at UMass.

Plummer, who coached running backs and was in charge of the special teams in the last three seasons at Yale, will hold down both jobs on Charley Molnar's UMass staff.