Bulldogs Hope to Bark This Fall

Beau Palin. (photo by Ron Waite, Photosportacular)

2013 Yale Football Season Outlook

A balanced mix of experience and youth may be the best way to describe the roster for the 2013 Yale Football team heading into a challenging schedule under Tony Reno, the second-year Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach. The Bulldogs return 37 of 53 varsity lettermen from 2012, including 20 on defense and 16 on offense (one kicker). Here's a breakdown by position.

Quarterback

The Bulldogs enter the fall with four talented and game-experienced signal callers.

Sophomore Eric Williams (112-184, 1056 yds, 6 tds) earned the starting position in 2012 fall camp before suffering an injury against Penn. In his seven starts, he displayed a diverse set of skills, like rushing for 114 yards against Colgate and throwing for 250 yards and a score in his first collegiate game, a victory over Georgetown. Classmate Logan Scott saw action in one game, before getting injured, but made the most of his opportunity. Scott got his chance in the game against the Quakers and led the Bulldogs 59 yards in a two-minute drill culminating in a touchdown pass with 13 seconds left in the first half.

Senior Derek Russell began the season as a quarterback before switching to receiver (6-58) for the first five games. Russell then stepped in under center against Penn and closed out the victory, throwing for 94 yards and a TD, while racking up another 64 yards and a TD on the ground. Henry Furman, another senior receiver (9-55, 1td) turned emergency quarterback, saw action in three games, including a start against Princeton. His best day came on the biggest stage, throwing for 158 yards and a score in the second half against Harvard.

Sophomore Anthony Morales will also battle for playing time.

Running Back

Junior Tyler Varga (935 yds, 8 tds) collected a slew of post-season honors in his first year of American football. The Elis' starting running back, emergency quarterback, and kickoff returner led the nation in all-purpose yards, racking up 194.2 per game. Playing in eight games, he led the Ivy League in average rush yards per game (116.9) and 100-yard games (5). Against Columbia, he ran for 220 yards, the sixth best single-game total in Yale history, and three TDs on 25 carries while playing quarterback. His post-season honors included first-team All-Ivy, All-America (2 teams) and first-team All-New England.

Junior Khalil Keys averaged over six and a half yards per carry in limited action last year, but could get more field time with the graduation of Mordecai Cargill '13. Junior Everett Johnson, one of the fastest players on the team, moved over from linebacker last spring and could be a factor this fall.

Senior Tate Harshbarger, junior L.J. Hunt and sophomore Max Archuleta all played JV last fall and will compete for increased playing time.

Wide Receiver

Senior Cameron Sandquist tripled his 2011 reception output, finishing last fall as the team leader in receptions (58) and receiving yards (589). Also the team leader in spectacular catches, his 98-yard touchdown catch at Georgetown was the longest in Yale history, and a diving catch early in the third quarter against Harvard seized the momentum and sparked the ensuing Yale offensive outburst. Deon Randall, who led the 2011 team with 48 catches and was one of the league's best punt returners, has two years of eligibility remaining and is a very exciting player.

Grant Wallace broke out in his sophomore season with 35 catches for 371 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns. His best day came against Harvard with 11 receptions for 118 yards and a score.

A talented core of sophomore receivers will look to establish an increased role. Austin Reuland started three games and played in nine en route to leading all Bulldog newcomers in receptions (14) and yards (180). Sebastian Little started the season opener against Georgetown, catching three balls for 19 yards. Avery Lewis also saw action in the season opener, while classmate Matt Rubino excelled on the scout team and saw action against Lafayette.

Tight End

Yale returns its top two tight ends from 2012, senior Michael Leunen and sophomore Stephen Buric. Leunen started six games and played in all 10, catching a position-high two touchdowns, while also earning a reputation as a sterling run blocker. Buric started four games and played in seven, and though he missed the other three games with an injury, he led all Yale ends in receptions with 10.

Keith Coty, who caught 12 passes in 2011 as a TE/FB, has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Junior Adam Conklin and sophomore Austin Carter will also battle for playing time. Conklin started two games and played in all 10 last season, excelling as a blocker and on special teams. Carter played JV last fall, but earned a reputation as a hard-nosed runner and blocker.

Offensive Line

Four of five starters return from a group that helped lead the Bulldogs to 1,846 rushing yards, the second most among Ivy League teams. The left side returns senior tackle Wes Gavin and junior guard William Chism, a starter for all 10 games. Senior John Oppenheimer returns after starting all 10 games at center last season. Junior Ben Carbery, who started the last nine games of 2012, returns to right tackle.

Sophomore Luke Longinotti , who started one game and saw playing time in seven others, will also make his case for more playing time. Seniors James Talerico and Willy Moore add to the competition along with juniors John Dunion and Stephen Shoemaker. Four sophomores, Ben Killion, Braden Meador, and twins Derek and Dustin Ross will also battle to break into the starting lineup.

Defensive Line

Captain-elect Beau Palin headlines a group of young defensive lineman. After moving from TE to DE last spring, Palin made 43 tackles, was second on the team with five sacks and received the "Hammer" award given to the hardest hitter on the team. Senior Dylan Drake (26-20-46) started nine games last fall and will take advantage of a medical hardship for this final campaign. Another veteran, Kolu Buck, played in six games last fall at end and will provide an experienced presence returning for his final season. Junior Tyler Manu also has experience and can make an impact on the end. Senior Jordan Jefferson is also in the running for time at DE.

Senior Kyle White moved over from the offense last spring and will be in the DT mix. Junior Davis Frank played in nine games last season at tackle and looks to build upon his success. Classmate Jeff Schmittgens also looks to benefit from a strong spring and establish himself in the game-day rotation. Sophomore Carl Kreitzberg began last season as an offensive lineman before switching to defense. The change proved a good one, as he played in the final six games and recorded three tackles against Brown. Classmates Pat McHugh and Mikhail Reece both saw action in one game at DT last fall. All three head into the fall looking to acquire the reps left behind by graduating seniors.

Inside Linebacker

There will be big competition at linebacker this fall. Brian Leffler started seven games last season and returns after taking a medical hardship season. Junior William Vaughn has the second-most game experience, playing in eight games while recording 16 overall stops last season. Sophomore Blake Thomson experienced a burst of playing time, starting three games in the middle of the season highlighted by a six solo-tackle performance against Dartmouth.  Sophomore Andrew Larkin made a splash in the spring and will join that mix.

Sophomore Aaron Ault played in six games, mostly on special teams, but finished the season on the two-deep chart. Senior Scott Williams returns for a final season using a medical hardship. Senior Kerr Taubler will add a veteran presence, while recently converted tight end, junior Ryan Stanney, will also battle for playing time. Sophomore Adam Van Valkenburg showed promise and play-making ability on JV.

 

Outside Linebacker

Senior Chris Brady returns with plenty of game experience after playing in all 10 contests last year, making 11 overall stops in a backup role.

Junior Patrick Murray will add to the competition along with sophomores Thomas Undercuffler and Luke Thomas, both of whom showed promise on JV.

Safety

Yale returns a stable of safeties who all contributed heavily to last year's defense. The most consistent of the safeties last year was sophomore Cole Champion, who led all defensive backs (2nd on team) with 46 solo and 71 overall stops, including 10 against Lafayette. He played in every game, started the last seven, and earned the Charles Loftus award given to Yale's top freshman. Junior Charles Cook bounced around early in the season, moving between linebacker and defensive end, before landing securely at safety and starting the final five games. Over the season, he tallied 36 tackles, a pair of pass break ups, and a crucial quarterback hit against Harvard that forced an interception. Sophomore Roger Kilgore saw mostly special teams action, appearing in nine games last season, and showed plenty of potential.

Cornerback

Senior Nick Okano has more game experience than any other Yale defensive back and is making a switch from safety. That's important because the two starting cornerbacks from 2012 graduated. Junior Nick LaTesta played in eight games last season, while senior Max Napolitano played in three.

Sophomore Keith Hawk played in every game, mostly on special teams, and displayed exceptional speed that will make him a contender for the starting job. Classmate Michael Bernardez was a playmaker on the JV who will compete for varsity time.

Kickers and Punters

Junior Kyle Cazzetta returns after an impressive fall campaign at punter. The lefty averaged 40 yards per punt on 40 attempts with a long of 70, had six over 50 yards and downed 13 inside the 20. The fall competition will focus more on the place kicking duties, as last year's starter was lost to graduation. Cazzetta will try his foot at these duties along with classmate Parker Toms, who had five punts and a kickoff last fall.

 

filed by Steve Conn and Wes Moyer '12

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