With the season opener against Colgate fast approaching, every day of practice for the Yale football team becomes more and more precious. Many positions remain unsolidified, but in addition to the high-profile battles like replacing graduated stars Tyler Varga ’15, Deon Randall ’15 and Grant Wallace ’15, one under-the-radar but nonetheless important job is also up for grabs: placekicker.
Following the graduation of first-team All-Ivy kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15 this past spring, three kickers on the roster are contending to fill the void: Alex Galland ’19 and Bryan Holmes ’17, who are fighting for punting duties, and Blake Horn ’18, who is competing for kickoffs with Holmes. All three are working to take field goals.
Cazzetta, who hailed from Slate Hill, New York, set the Yale record for points by a kicker last year with 87, hitting 14–18 field goals and posting a perfect 45–45 mark on extra points.
“I have the utmost respect for Kyle,” Horn said. “I was really grateful for how he handled the job. He was a great mentor.”
Horn has perhaps the most interesting situation, having missed the entire 2014–15 season due to an L5 stress fracture in his back. Prior to his injury, he exclusively did place kicking and kickoffs at his high school in Davie, Florida.
Prior to the injury, Horn displayed a powerful leg in games, with a career-high of 48 yards in a high school contest, though he said that he has made field goals of longer than 60 yards in practice. But Horn noted that kicking in games is much harder than kicking in practice due to the pressure, snap, hold and crowd factors.
Though Horn feels that he is physically in a good place following his season-ending injury a year ago, he said that he does not have an inside track on the starting job.
“Coach Reno hasn’t solidified it or made the final statement,” Horn said. “We’ve all been competing.”
The eldest kicker on the staff is Holmes, who both kicked and punted at West Ottawa High School in Holland, Michigan, a skill set that he has utilized throughout his past two seasons at Yale.
Holmes, whose in-game personal record for a field goal is 43 yards, was the team’s sole punter in 2014, averaging 39.0 yards per kick with a long of 62. But he does not feel that placekicking for the Bulldogs is out of the question.
“The depth chart is pretty fluid, so it depends more on day-by-day performance and consistency,” Holmes said. “We’re just going out there every day and competing … whoever [the coaches] feel is doing the best and putting us in the best position to win [will start].”
Finally, the freshest face in the competition is Alex Galland ’19, who attended high school in Bakersfield, California. Galland has more high school experience with punting rather than kicking — he had only five field goal attempts in his entire senior year, compared to 42 punts, though he did make 48 out of 50 extra points in that campaign.
Though high school stats can be tricky to translate to college, Galland noted that the acclimation process has been fairly easy thus far.
“At first, it was a big adjustment moving all the way across the country, but the upperclassmen, football staff and Yale faculty have done a great job to make it a seamless transition for us so that we can focus [on football],” Galland said.
No matter who lines up as kicker, however, one major change will be apparent: For the first time in years, Yale’s kicker will be right-footed. Horn said that backup quarterback Logan Scott ’16, who doubles as the holder on extra points and field goals, finds righty kickers easier to hold for.
Last Saturday’s scrimmage against Brown provided scant clues as to the final depth chart. The two kickoffs in the game were both handled by Holmes, but all kickers participated in the scrimmage at some point.
The football team’s first contest is on Saturday, Sept. 19 at Colgate. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.