FOOTBALL | New additions bring Yale hope

Tyler Varga ’15 picked up the mantle as the Bulldogs’ go-to running back in his first campaign after transferring from Western Ontario last year. Varga’s first-team All-Ivy performance was a rare bright spot in a difficult season.
Tyler Varga ’15 picked up the mantle as the Bulldogs’ go-to running back in his first campaign after transferring from Western Ontario last year. Varga’s first-team All-Ivy performance was a rare bright spot in a difficult season. Photo by Yale Daily News.

Last season did not go the way the Yale football team had planned. Almost from the outset, the Bulldogs caught the injury bug in debilitating fashion, and in its first season under a new head coach, the squad struggled to a 2–8 overall record.

Yet despite last year’s troubles, Yale fans have reason for hope when the Elis take the field to begin the season this Saturday. A stellar recruiting class, the return of all-league veterans and another year under the tutelage of head coach Tony Reno all contribute to the excitement coming out of the Bulldog camp during the preseason.

“We have come a long way since Day One of off-season training, but our mentality remains the same,” captain Beau Palin ’14 said. “We plan to keep it simple, play fast, play physical and have a blast. We’re chomping at the bit to get started.”

Much of the buzz around this year’s team started before the school year even began. Reno brought in a noteworthy recruiting class for the 2013 squad, topped by two especially prominent additions. Victor Egu ’17, a linebacker from Concord, Calif., attracted looks from Oregon and UCLA before eventually committing to Cal. When he de-committed, Reno was in position to pounce on the stud athlete. At quarterback — a position where the Elis were plagued by injuries and struggled to find consistency last year — the team added Clemson transfer Morgan Roberts ’15, who will add even more talent to the position.

“The coaches put together a great recruiting class from top to bottom this year. Victor has been put in a lot of places to make plays so far this season and has responded well,” wide receiver Cameron Sandquist ’14 said. “Morgan has been a leader since he showed up last year and has meshed seamlessly with the guys.”

Yale had a revolving door under center last year, with five players taking snaps as the signal caller for the Elis. Eric Williams ’16 started the season as Yale’s first string, but was sidelined by injury. Derek Russell ’13, Logan Scott ’16, Tyler Varga ’15 and Hank Furman ’14 all played quarterback for the Bulldogs last year.

Three of those players were not even listed as quarterbacks on the roster. Varga started at tailback for most of the season, but was pressed into action at quarterback for several games, while Russell and Furman started the year listed as wide receivers before taking over as signal callers.

Yale’s quarterbacks combined to average 170.2 yards per game through the air last season, but they led the Ancient Eight with 16 interceptions thrown.

“Coach hasn’t made an official announcement yet, but I do know the competition has groomed several qualified guys for the job,” Sandquist said when asked about the quarterback situation.

Varga returns to the gridiron for the Elis after a stellar first campaign. The tailback averaged 116.9 yards per game on the ground last year and scored nine total touchdowns. In his first season after transferring from the University of Western Ontario, Varga was named first-team All-Ivy as a running back and earned a spot on the second-team as a kick returner.

The Bulldogs also return two All-Ivy honorable mention offensive linemen in left tackle Wes Gavin ’14 and center John Oppenheimer ’14. Their success will be crucial to the performance of whichever Eli quarterback emerges as the starter this season.

The football team will kick off its season at Colgate this Saturday at 1 p.m. The 130th iteration of the Harvard–Yale game will take place on Nov. 23 at the Yale Bowl.

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