A month after his introduction as the 34th head coach of the Yale football team, Tony Reno officially announced the members of his first coaching staff yesterday.
Reno’s first set of staff members, all seven of whom hail from New England, includes three former Harvard assistant coaches and two of Reno’s colleagues during former Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki’s tenure from 2003 to 2008. The only coach Reno decided to retain from former head coach Tom Williams’ regime is defensive coordinator Rick Flanders, who now enters his 16th season at Yale.
“They are experienced, winning coaches, coming from programs that have had great success,” Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said. “Their reputations are such that they are outstanding teachers and communicators, and they love the young men who play the game of college football.”
Reno could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
On the other side of the ball, former University of Massachusetts head coach Kevin Morris will be Yale’s offensive coordinator. Morris compiled a 16–17 record over three seasons running the Minutemen and a more impressive 43–19 record during his five seasons as the UMass offensive coordinator.
Four players interviewed said they are confident the new coaches will help the team improve next season.
“Coach Reno wouldn’t have brought in anything less than someone who can take us to the next level,” quarterback John Whitelaw ’14 said. “Hopefully they can bring their experience and help us become a winning football team.”
Reno came to Yale from his position as the special teams coordinator at Harvard, a post he held for three years. Three Cantab coaches — Dwayne Wilmot, Kris Barber ’97 and Joe Conlin — will follow in Reno’s footsteps in transitioning from Harvard to Yale.
One of the biggest challenges facing the Bulldogs next season will be replacing seven starting seniors on defense. Three of these players — linebacker Jordan Haynes ’11, defensive tackle Jake Stoller ’11 and cornerback Drew Baldwin ’11 — were named to All-Ivy teams last year.
Defensive line coach Dwayne Wilmot, who spent just one season at Harvard before joining Reno’s squad, will try to duplicate the success the Crimson defense enjoyed last season. Wilmot mentored the toughest pass rush and rushing defense in the Ancient Eight, which helped Harvard on its way to an undefeated Ivy record.
On the offensive side of the ball, Barber and Conlin will take charge of tight ends and the offensive line, respectively. At Harvard, Conlin also coached the offensive line while Barber, a former Blue and White quarterback, mentored wide receivers. After graduating from Yale, Barber quarterbacked for the Trolls in Oslo, Norway.
“[Barber] knows the techinque very well,” tight end Kyle Wittenauer ’14 said. “He’s very good at communicating what he wants done. He’s very relatable, not a screamer, although he will if he has to.”
Conlin has also been named Yale’s associate head coach and run game coordinator. From 2003 to 2010, Conlin helped the University of New Hampshire to appear in seven straight NCAA tournaments as defensive and offensive line coach.
On defense, Reno is holding on to Flanders but looking beyond Cambridge, Mass., to round out the staff. Steven Vashel, from the University of Maine, will become the defensive backs coach for the Bulldogs, and former Yale running back coach Larry Ciotti will reclaim his old position.
Players said they were happy to have Flanders back on the field.
“[Coach Reno] made a great decision holding onto Flanders,” defensive back Kurt Stottlemyer ’13 said. “He knows my strengths and weaknesses. He can adjust the defense for that, and he can do it for all of the players.”
Ciotti helped produce the Bulldogs’ top three career rushing leaders, Rashad Bartholomew ’00, Robert Carr ’05 and Mike McLeod ’09, while Vashel coached the University of Maine Black Bears to lead the Colonial Athletic Association in pass defense in 2011.
“[Vashel] is certainly a technician,” safety Nick Okano ’14 said. “That will help our secondary. He’s a player’s coach, so he’s a hard worker but he will also joke around with us.”
Another former assistant coach at the University of Maine, Kevin Cahill, will take control of special teams and wide receivers. Cahill coached the Maine Black Bears for four years and spent the last three working with special teams.
Boston College graduate assistant David Petzing, a former Middlebury footballer, will be the outside linebackers coach. Petzing was a voluntary assistant at Harvard during Reno’s first season on the Crimson staff in 2009.
The new collection of coaches is currently on the road recruiting the class of 2016 football players.
“We had met the guys last week before they had to go back out recruiting,” Whitelaw said, adding that Morris “is a really passionate guy.”
Last season, the Bulldogs finished 5–5 and were tied with Penn, Brown and Dartmouth for second place in the Ivy League.