By most measures, the Yale football team’s roster is in good shape.
With veteran players ready to come off the bench, head coach Tony Reno said the current team is the deepest he has ever assembled at Yale. And after an offseason that focused on strength training, the team is overall more physically fit.
But one important position is still an open competition.
With the graduation of former quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16, the Bulldogs find themselves in an unfamiliar position. According to Reno, four players are still up for the job of starting signal caller: Stephen Barmore ’18, Rafe Chapple ’18, Tré Moore ’19 and Kurt Rawlings ’20.
“The biggest question for us, on the offensive side, is the obvious — we need to replace the all-time leading passer at Yale,” Reno said during the Ivy League preseason media teleconference in August. “Morgan Roberts was a starter at Yale for two years for a team that’s played football for 143 years, and he broke virtually every passing record, so we’ve got competition at the position.”
No matter who ends up earning the top spot on the depth chart, the quarterback will continue to operate in Yale’s up-tempo spread offense, which relies heavily on the run game rather than the pass game.
And with a cohort of healthy, experienced running backs — Chapple called the trio of Dale Harris ’17, Candler Rich ’17 and Deshawn Salter ’18 a “three-headed monster” — the quarterback will serve primarily as a game manager rather than a playmaker.
“We’re looking for good decision making, whether it’s read-option or a pass,” Reno said. “We need someone who can manage the offense — we’re looking for our point guard. Accuracy is also incredibly important, as our offense is predicated on getting guys the ball in space. Last but not least is leadership. The quarterback has a big job.”
Reno also did not discount the possibility of a two-quarterback system, stressing the importance of remaining open-minded in order to find what is best for the team.
Of the four quarterbacks, only Chapple has taken a snap in a college game. Last season, he relieved Roberts in three different games, completing five of his 11 attempts for 45 yards. He was also sacked four times.
The 6-foot, 192-pound quarterback is quick on his feet and possesses a strong arm as well as a family connection to Ivy League football. Chapple’s older brother Colton played quarterback at Harvard for four years, winning Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2012, and currently holds the highest career passing efficiency rating in Ivy League history.
“I’ve had reps and know what it’s like to be out there, which has a much different feel than in practice,” Chapple said. “It’s good that I have that to help me and I can build off that, but there’s a competition at all times. All of us competing with each other will produce the best guy.”
Connecticut native Barmore, listed at 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, said he actually weighs closer to 220. His size and strength, coupled with his running ability, are his best attributes, he believes. Due in part to those skills, Barmore briefly switched to running back last season when the position was thin.
The only sophomore, Moore was a three-star recruit coming out of John Burroughs High School in Missouri. 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Moore is shifty enough to avoid defenders and confident enough in the pocket to be a legitimate dual-threat quarterback.
“As far as unique skills, I love being able to run and make plays if a play breaks down, or just to give the defense another aspect to account for,” Moore said. “It’s fun and makes running the offense that much better.”
Fellow underclassman Rawlings is also 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, but his skill set revolves around his arm, rather than his feet. Rawlings completed 74 percent of his passes his senior season at John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Maryland, and his highlight reel reveals a laser of an arm.
Yet for all their differences, the four quarterbacks — all of whom saw time in Yale’s scrimmage against Brown on Saturday — are likely to play a similar role as leaders of the offense.
“Our philosophy at QB, no matter who’s in, is be a point guard and get the ball out to our playmakers on the outside,” Barmore said. “We have a lot of returning starters, especially at wide receiver, where we’re very deep. As long as we distribute the ball the way we’re supposed to, everyone else will do what they’re supposed to do.”
Initially, Andrew Johnson ’18 was competing for the job instead of Rawlings. However, he has since been moved to running back, a position he played last year. With the running backs corps decimated by injuries in 2015, Johnson came in during Yale’s win over Maine and picked up six yards on four carries.
With 10 days left before the team kicks off against Colgate, the starting quarterback will undoubtedly be named in the next week. Still, on Tuesday, Reno denied that there was a frontrunner.
“We’ve seen flashes in all four, and all have improved a lot,” he said. “They’re on a great trajectory, and over this last week, I just want to see who takes this team by the reins.”