It may be over three weeks since the BCS national championship game ended the college football season, but for Yale football, the months of December through July are far from inactive. Head coach Tony Reno and the rest of the Bulldogs staff are hard at work putting the finishing touches on recruiting the class of 2018.
Though recruiting websites www.rivals.com and www.247Sports.com list 10 players that have committed to Yale — ESPN reports just eight commits — defensive end recruit Tim Dawson II said that those names are just the tip of the iceberg, with 28 players reportedly committed to play at Yale. Dawson picked Yale over Ivy rivals Harvard and Dartmouth, as well as Division I foes Tulane, Navy and soon-to-be Division I team Old Dominion.
“We’ve started a group message [among the current commits] with all 28 of us,” Dawson II said. “We stay in contact every day.”
Another recruit, kicker Blake Horn, said that the group messaging serves as a great way to bond and build a strong foundation.
The geographic diversity of Yale’s incoming class is very apparent. Of the ten players listed on www.247Sports.com, no two come from the same state, with players hailing from Arizona, Connecticut and everywhere in between.
While the members of the class of 2018 may come from across the country, both Dawson and Horn gave similar reasons for their commitments.
“When I went on my official visit, the environment was phenomenal,” Horn said. “Based on reputation and experience, it was way too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
Dawson II agreed, emphasizing the impact that his official visit had as well as how the coaches treated him.
This year, many commits have received attention from Division I programs from across the country. Offensive lineman Jon Bezney is perhaps the most notable: According to ESPN, Bezney holds offers from over a dozen FBS schools including Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Louisville and Boston College. Steve Osgood, Bezney’s head coach in junior high and family friend, said that Bezney was “pretty heavily recruited” by Wisconsin. Bezney’s varsity head coach at Mariemont High School, Kurry Commins, said that Bezney had more than 30 offers and received interest from the University of Texas.
“I’ve been a head coach for 13 years. I have two [players] at Yale right now,” Commins said. “I’ve coached Super Bowl winners. But hands down, Jon Bezney is the best player I’ve ever coached. [Bezney] is a special blend of size, strength, speed, agility and attitude.”
A number of Reno’s recruits had connections to Harvard, but chose to commit to the Elis instead. Quarterback recruit Rafe Chapple’s older brother Colton, graduated in 2013 after starting as quarterback for Harvard in 2012.
But the younger Chapple, who has three brothers that played football at the college level, elected to spurn the Crimson, as well as four other Ivies and Wake Forest.
“I just felt something special as soon as I walked on Yale’s campus,” Chapple said. “Anybody can go to Harvard and be good, but I think there’s something special going on at Yale that I want to be a part of.”
Chapple also said that offensive line coach Joe Conlin told him that since he helped protect Colton when Conlin was the offensive line coach at Harvard, he would do the same for Rafe.
Yale has apparently snatched another high school quarterback from Harvard’s clutches. Ross Drwal verbally pledged to the Crimson in October after the coaches told him they might not have a spot in a few weeks. But when he visited New Haven later in the fall, he was smitten.
“I absolutely loved it. Loved the coaches, loved the players, loved everything about it,” Drwal said. “Then I went to Harvard the next week and I didn’t feel the same at all … I thought I’d be more happy if I went to Yale.”
Despite playing under center in high school, Drwal said that he plans to play wide receiver at the college level. This position change fits in with Reno’s philosophy: At a Master’s Tea in Davenport featuring former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum Jan. 27, coach Reno said that he likes to recruit high school quarterbacks, citing the understanding of the game that is required of those players.
Reno has always had a reputation as a strong recruiter. An article published by the Harvard Crimson in 2012 spoke of Reno’s recruiting contributions to the team while he was still an assistant at Harvard, and one player’s mother called him “the best recruiter in the Ivy League.”
Reno’s first recruiting class as Yale’s head coach supported his reputation as a recruiter. He convinced offensive lineman Mason Friedline ’17 to commit to Yale over offers from half of the Pac-12, including Washington, California, and Arizona State. Three members of the class of 2017 made major contributions in the defensive backfield, including second team All-Ivy and FCS All-Freshman player Foyesade Oluokun ’17.
But the coup de grace of last year’s recruits was linebacker Victor Egu ’17, who spurned national powerhouses like Nebraska, Notre Dame and Oregon in order to play at the Yale Bowl.
As far as the potential of Yale’s newest Bulldogs? Both Horn and Dawson II were unequivocal.
“I think the Class of 2018 can make a big statement and help our school win multiple championships in the next couple years,” Dawson II said.
Per NCAA regulations, Reno is prohibited from commenting on specific recruits. As of press time, Reno had not responded to requests for comment.
Although National Signing Day is next Wednesday for scholarship programs, Yale does not offer athletic scholarships, so the University does not release its official recruiting class until after the college decision deadline on May 1.