With less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter against Dartmouth, Yale held a 21–13 lead and was on the cusp of notching its first victory of the 2016 season. On a drive beginning from the Bulldogs’ own 6-yard line, quarterback Tre Moore ’19 handed the ball off to running back Alan Lamar ’20 for six straight carries. Lamar rushed for 25 yards, picking up a pair of crucial first downs that bled the clock and forced the Big Green to use all of their remaining timeouts in an eventual Yale victory.
Bulldog players and fans should not expect to see such heroics this year, as in a Tuesday press conference, head coach Tony Reno announced that Lamar will sit out the 2017 season while recovering from an ACL injury suffered a little over a week ago.
“Alan sustained a season-ending injury in a noncontact drill so he’s going to be out for the season,” Reno said. “He made a cut and sometimes when you make a cut, things don’t turn out the way you want them to. He’ll be back 100 percent next year.”
Although Team 144 initially opted for a running back by committee approach consisting of Deshawn Salter ’18, Dale Harris ’17 and Candler Rich ’17, Lamar quickly worked his way up the depth chart following an 0–3 start. The 5-foot-9 tailback primarily served as a kick returner on special teams before making his first offensive appearance in the 21–13 victory over Dartmouth, exploding on to the scene with 180 yards and two touchdowns. His performance against the Big Green, which included a 43-yard score, earned him STATS FCS Rookie of the Week accolades.
Lamar’s injury is a critical blow to a Yale offense that is short on experience and depth at the running back position. Although the Bulldogs list six other halfbacks on the roster, Salter is the only one with any playing experience. In 19 career games, Salter has averaged 4.6 yards per rush and accumulated eight touchdowns. A native of Olive Branch, Mississippi, Lamar appeared in nine games last season and was expected to be a co-starter alongside Salter before tearing his ACL in the preseason scrimmage against Brown. The current Yale depth chart lists Salter as the starter followed by Zane Dudek ’21 and Andrew Grinde ’21.
“[The opportunity to play early] is a dream come true for me,” Grinde said. “I think me and Zane are both mentally and physically ready. We’re looking forward to what’s to come, and I think we have both accepted the fact that we will make mistakes regardless.”
Dudek, a two-star recruit in the class of 2017, averaged 268 rushing yards per game in his final season at Armstrong High School in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, and also set a conference regular season scoring record with 254 points. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Dudek averaged 10.1 yards per carry and 17.4 yards per reception during his high school career, earning first-team All-State honors. Dudek also competed in baseball and track, winning the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Class 3A 100-meter dash with a time of 10.88 seconds.
Lamar, a top-50 all-purpose back in the high school class of 2016, was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing 3–7 campaign for the Bulldogs. Despite starting in just five games, he led all players with 557 yards and five touchdowns as well as 62 receiving yards en-route to a second-team All-Ivy selection. Although his recruiting class initially featured three other running backs, Lamar is the only one remaining following Grinde’s reclassification, Caden Herring’s ’20 switch to wide receiver and Alex Young’s ’20 departure from the football program.
Grinde originally planned to join the Bulldogs in the class of 2020 but instead opted to take a gap year last August. He has since rejoined the Yale football program. The Great Falls, Montana, native earned the Gatorade Player of the Year Award in his home state after tallying the second-most rushing yards in Montana high school football history. Grinde committed to the Elis over in-state programs Montana and Montana State as well as Ivy League foes Columbia and Harvard.
“[Dudek and Grinde] are both looking really, really good,” starting quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 said. “If you would have seen them in the scrimmage versus Brown, you would’ve been like, ‘Wow these certainly aren’t freshmen.’”
The Bulldog backfield will undergo its first test of the season this Saturday versus Lehigh at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Won Jung contributed reporting.
Joey Kamm | email@example.com