Under the management of new head coach Tony Reno, Yale’s football program is already seeing major changes. For starters, this fall will be the team’s first season without a captain in its 140-year history.
Linebacker Will McHale ’13, who was voted captain of the team last winter, had his captaincy suspended following an altercation in May at Toad’s Place in which he allegedly punched another student in the face. Reno said that McHale will not be reinstated or replaced as captain, and that the player who will represent the Bulldogs at the opening coin toss will be decided each week by a special vote by the players.
Reno took over the reins as the 34th head coach of Yale football last spring and has been picking up the speed of Yale football ever since.
Under the new coaching staff, the Bulldogs will shake things up on both sides of the ball. Tight end Kyle Wittenauer ’14 said that the Blue and White will be employing a spread offense to open up the field and create pressure.
Nose guard Chris Dooley ’13 added that the Elis will be switching to a 3–4 defense, as opposed to the four defensive linemen, three linebacker alignment deployed under previous head coach Tom Williams.
“I like the 3–4 better because it is harder [for the offense] to block,” Dooley said. “In the 4–3 there was less pressure on me because I wasn’t getting double-teamed … [but] I like the pressure.”
The transition to the no-huddle spread offense is one of the differences between Reno’s tenure as head coach and his previous 2003-’08 stint with the Bulldogs as a wide receiver and defensive secondary coach, he said.
In addition to the game plan, Reno has also changed the way the team practices. Recalling the methods of former head coach Jack Siedlecki, Reno has split practices into shorter periods.
“[Periods are designed] to keep practice structured and to keep drills and routines moving,” Reno said.
The change has led to more intense practices, players said. Wideout Cameron Sandquist ’14 added that the practices have already shown dividends in the spring game and in scrimmages.
“We’ve just seen how by overtraining in practice and keeping the tempo high in practice we can keep our opponents on their heels,” Sandquist said. “It helps slow the game down for us … allows us to be a lot more comfortable.”
Even with the heightened intensity, the team has lost only three members since preseason started earlier this month. One freshman walk-on and two upperclassmen had quit the program by the first day of practice, according to Reno, though he added that one player may decide to return upon resolving personal issues.
Wide receiver Chris Smith ’13 will also not be playing this season. Reno said Smith has taken the fall semester off for personal reasons, but will return to the Yale Bowl for the 2013 season. Smith was second on the team with 28 receptions last year and had a team-high 602 yards and six touchdowns before an injury sidelined him for the last two games of the season.
The team will also have to replace leading rusher running back Alex Thomas ’12 and quarterback Patrick Witt ’12. John Whitelaw ’14 is poised to take over as the signal caller, and running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 will fill Thomas’ absence. Last year, Cargill showed his potential at Columbia on Oct. 29, when he rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Elis to a 16–13 win on a snowy day at the Baker Bowl.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are returning just three starters from last year’s squad. The defense will be led by McHale, who has 133 tackles and three interceptions in his Yale career.
The football season will begin Sept. 15 at Georgetown.