Spring 2006 Football Prospectus

March 8, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -

The 2006 Yale football team has enough returning talent to improve on last fall's 4-6 campaign and challenge for the Ivy League title. The Bulldogs return 17 of 24 starters, nine on offense and seven on defense, and their two kickers from a team that went 4-3 in the Ancient Eight. An Eli offense that returns 20 of its 31 TDs from 2005 includes every runner and three of the top four receivers. In addition, captain and WR Chandler Henley returns from an injury that prevented him from playing in 2005. The only question in the skill area is at QB, where the Bulldogs are without a varsity letterman. The Yale defense brings back 22 players who had a tackle last fall and six of its 16 interceptions, five of which came from senior LB Lee Driftmier. However, four of the top five tacklers from a year ago - all defensive backs - have graduated, while senior DB Nick Solakian (5 int) must sit out 2006 with an injury.

OFFENSE

Line (0 Starters Lost, 5 Starters Returning) Yale did not lose a starter from the 2005 front line and returns 77 game starts and an average weight of 286 pounds between seniors LT Ed McCarthy (30 starts) and LG Brett Crandall (19), juniors C Nick Wachtler (10) and RG Jeff Monaco (10) and sophomore RT Darius Dale (8). The 6-foot-5, 302-pound McCarthy was 2003 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, a 2004 second-team All-Ivy pick and a first-team selection last fall while taking nine of the 10 team offensive line game MVP awards. Crandall, a 2005 honorable mention All-Ivy pick, had two game MVP honors. Fourth-year player Jay Leybourn started 10 games in 2004 and played significant time in 2005. Seniors Steve Bassermann (6-4, 300) and Jared Holst, juniors Louis Gresham and Tom Woznicki and sophomore Ty Davis (6-2, 260) are others in the mix for varsity playing time.

Quarterbacks (1 Starter Lost, 0 Starters Returning) Six-foot-2, 210-pound junior Matt Polhemus was the backup to starter Jeff Mroz last season and completed his only attempted pass while rushing once for 25 yards against Columbia in the fourth quarter. Polhemus has shown an equal balance of skills. Sophomore Ryan Fodor (6-3, 195), the 2004 Connecticut Player of the Year at Hand High (CT) School, moves up from the junior varsity where he produced a lot of offense in 2005. Other candidates include senior Josh Rodarmel and sophomores Joe Dennison and Patrick Sedden.

Running Backs (0 Starters Lost, 2 Starters Returning) Sophomore Mike McLeod (193-689, 3.6, 6 TD), the 2005 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, averaged 68.9 yards per game and was league rookie of the week three times. Senior Jordan Spence (108-468, 4.3, 1 TD) had the team's best average per carry and the season's longest run, a 51-yarder against Brown. Senior Taylor Craig (8 catches, 6 carries) and junior Joe Fuccillo, fullbacks who are key in pass protection, can run with the ball and are also weapons as passing targets. Versatile senior Matthew Murray can help as a TB, HB or at end.

Wide Receivers (1 Starter Lost, 2 Starters Returning) Chandler Henley, the 2006 Yale captain, won't be in spring ball but his leadership has already taken effect. He was a 2004 honorable mention All-Ivy pick (49-716, 6 TD) with receptions in 13 straight games who can go up in the air with the best of them. Classmate Ashley Wright (61-795, 10 TD) led the Ivy League in receptions, yards, TDs and yards per game (79.5). Fellow seniors Chris Denny-Brown (32-366, 11.4, 1 TD) and D.J. Shooter (16-141, 8.8, 1 TD) figure to see plenty of action. Senior RB Jordan Spence (13-81) will also spend some time at WR. Senior Jimmy Lewis and junior Chris Solga will challenge for a spot on the depth chart, while sophomores Grant MacQueen, Jarrett Drake and Ken Ebeling could move up from the junior varsity to provide depth.

Tight Ends (1 Starter Lost, 1 Starter Returning) Senior Dave Miller (4-37, 1 TD) and junior Langston Johnson (2-7) had most of the work last fall because of an injury to starter Alex Faherty. Both have proven they can take the top job, but look for the versatile senior TB Matthew Murray to challenge here as well.

DEFENSE

Line (1 Starter Lost, 2 Starters Returning) Junior MG Brandt Hollander (19-22-41) earned honorable mention All-Ivy last fall. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Bulldog, who may be the best defensive lineman in the league, had 7.5 tackles for lost yardage and two sacks in 2005. Junior DT Kirk Porter (21-18-39) is the other returning starter. Senior MG Rob McEwan (2-0-2) and juniors tackles Jared Hamilton (3-4-7) and Stephen Schmalhofer (2-4-6) all have varsity experience. Sophomore Joe Hathaway (3-5-8) saw varsity action and will compete for a starting job this fall while classmate Brian Kana showed much promise last spring.

Ends (1 Starter Lost, 1 Starter Returning) Three seniors and a sophomore form a solid core of Yale defensive ends for 2005. Brendan Sponheimer (28-26-54), who had two sacks in his first full varsity campaign, is the returning starter and one of the league's top pass rushers. Chris Wright (2-0-2) returned from injury to play the last half of the season. Second-year player Kyle Hawari (4-3-7) got his feet wet enough last fall to be considered an impact player. Senior Michael McGinity (3-7-10) moves up from LB this fall after coming off an injury impacted 2005 season. Sophomore Brady Hart will also compete for an end job.

Linebackers (1 Starter Lost, 2 Starters Returning) All three senior linebackers who started games last year return with plenty of other skilled players. Lee Driftmier (54-35-89), who started all 10 games, led the team in tackles and fumbles recovered (3) and tied for the lead with five interceptions. He earned Yale's 2005 Hammer Award for the biggest hits of the year. Driftmier and sophomore Bobby Abare (14-17-31) are likely to start 2006 together with two seniors backing up. Abare, who shared Yale Special Teams Player of the Year honors with his twin brother, Larry, had two forced fumbles and a number of big plays last fall. Michael Woodson (16-20-36) has been a starter and could make this area a Yale strength in 2006. Another senior, Chris Barry (5-3-8), could also be a key.

Secondary (4 Starters Lost, 0 Starters Returning) Senior FS Nick Solakian (29-25-54), who shared the team lead with five interceptions in his first season as a starter, had surgery in the off season and will not play this fall. That means there are no starters back. The safety candidates are juniors John (5-4-9) and Matt Coombs and sophomore Larry Abare (10-2-12), who shared the 2005 team's specialist MVP with his brother. Junior Matt Coombs has experience and will challenge at that spot. Heading into the spring there are five solid candidates for corner duties. Senior Kevin Littleton missed 2005 with an injury but would likely have been a varsity player. Juniors Matthew Jacques (2-2-4) and Andrew Liyana can win top jobs as can sophomores Steven Santoro and Casey Gerald (1-2-3).

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekickers (0 Starters Lost, 1 Starter Returning) Six-foot-4, 220-pound junior Alan Kimball connected on five of 10 field goal attempts in his first year as the starter in 2005. Kimball (27-30 PAT), who booted three FGs at Columbia and also handled the kickoffs, had a long boot of 41 yards. Sophomore Brady Hart kicked for the junior varsity squad last fall.

Punters (0 Starters Lost, 1 Starter Returning) Senior Ashley Wright, who was very involved in the passing game while serving as the starting punter as well, averaged 34.1 last fall. The versatile Wright had a career-long of 64 yards at San Diego. His backup last year was junior David Silberstein.

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