Despite this weekend’s mediocre offensive output, the football team has the ability to do some real damage when it is in possession of the ball this season. But whether the Elis are able to realize their full offensive potential remains to be seen.
During his 10-year tenure as Yale head coach, Jack Siedlecki’s Bulldogs have rewritten a good deal of the school’s offensive record books, from passing to rushing to receiving. With the tools this year’s squad possesses, the Bulldogs can certainly unleash an impressive offensive arsenal on their opponents.
The front line for the Bulldogs remains completely intact. Tailback Mike McLeod ’09 can expect another solid season with a strong offensive line to open up gaps and keep the defense at bay. Ed McCarthy ’07, at 6-foot-5 and 302 pounds, will be anchoring the Eli line once again this year, coming off of being rated the top offensive tackle in 1-AA in a preseason poll. McCarthy was the first offensive lineman in league history to be named Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2003, and was a First-Team All-Ivy selection last season.
With this kind of protection, Matt Polhemus ’08 can also feel a little safer in his new role as the team’s starting quarterback. Polhemus, who threw for 162 yards and one touchdown in his first collegiate start, said he is beginning to feel more comfortable behind the center.
“It’s been going really well, I think,” Polhemus said. “The older guys, specifically Chandler [Henley ’07] and Ashley [Wright ’07], helped make the transition easier with some of the advice and tips they’ve given me.”
Along with dishing out helpful advice, Henley and Wright provide Polhemus with something even more useful: two talented and consistent targets. Before he was forced to sit out last season as a result of an injury, Henley registered 49 catches for 716 yards, while leading the Bulldogs in touchdown receptions and catching a ball in every game in 2004. Wright stepped in where Henley left off and helped to alleviate some of the difficulties caused by Henley’s injury. He led the Ivy-League with 61 catches, 795 yards and 10 touchdowns last year on his way to earning First-Team All-Ivy and All-New England honors.
“It’s great having such talented receivers,” Polhemus said. “It takes a lot of pressure off me when I know that they’re going to make a catch if I put [the ball] anywhere near them.”
Polhemus’s mobility at the quarterback position provides another weapon for the Bulldogs that they did not have with pocket-passer Jeff Mroz ’06 last year. Rushing for 54 yards in his college debut, Polhemus showed he is not afraid to pull it down and run when necessary.
“He is going to be a great quarterback in this league, as a passer and runner,” Henley said. “It’s great having him because when things break down, he can improvise and let our receivers find some space or get behind people.”
Though it appears clear that the Bulldogs have a variety of options at their disposal, they did not seem to make full use of them in their first outing. But the lack of production did not come from a lack of talent; rather, it was simply the result of a lack of timing and chemistry.
“Timing in the pass game was a huge issue,” Siedlecki said. “Near misses were the theme of the day. We need to make connections when they are there in the future, and we need to do a better job up front and give Mike [McLeod] more big-play opportunities.”
Yale will have an opportunity to make necessary adjustments and to show off their offensive prowess this weekend, when Ivy-League play opens up against Cornell.