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Familiarity a New Experience at Yale
WEST HAVEN — A year ago at this time, Tom Williams seemingly spent as much time during spring drills getting to know his players as he did coaching them. There is no such issue to contend with this spring as Williams passed the halfway point of his second spring as Yale’s football coach on a balmy Thursday morning.
With just two holdovers from Jack Siedlecki’s staff, Williams and his assistant coaches spent about as much time during spring drills identifying the impact players as they did working on refining their technique and perfecting offensive and defensive schemes.
While the depth chart may still be in the state of daily flux, an increased sense of familiarity of the talent around him has allowed Williams and his staff to do what they were hired to do — coach football.
“We know the kids a lot better having been here for a year,” Williams said after Thursday morning’s practice at Clint Frank Field. “They know us better and understand what our expectations are in terms of how to practice. The culture has changed in our estimation. We are now able to start defining and refining the football part of it. We can coach a lot more individual technique because we know those guys a lot better.”
From the end of last season there have been some positional changes, many centering around adding quality and quantity to the offensive line.
Carter Deutsch, a standout defensive lineman on Yale’s 2009 junior varsity squad, has moved to offensive line as have former tight ends Alex Birks and Roy Collins. All-Ivy cornerback Adam Money has moved to safety, former safeties Jesse Reising and John Pagliaro are now pushing for playing time at linebacker while ex-linebacker Austin Pulsipher is now a serious contender to start at defensive end as Yale has shifted from a 3-4 to 4-3 defense.
“We are just trying to tinker,” Williams said. “Spring is time to experiment a little bit and see if guys can help the team some place else.”
There has been far less tinkering than last spring when even established players felt like they were trying to win a starting job all over again.
The sense of needing to compete for the position has not waned, but there are more building blocks in place heading into the final five spring practices than the Bulldogs had at any point last spring.
If there has been a negative aspect during the spring it is the injuries mounting on the offensive line. Alex Golubiewski and Nathan Burow, who combined for 14 starts in 2009, are among five returning starters currently on the sidelines. Nate Blair suffered an apparent dislocated knee cap during one-on-one blocking drills on Thursday. Defensive linemen Pat Moran and Matt Kelleher and fullback Shane Bannon are also injured and likely not to return to practice until the fall.
Williams has been encouraged by the offseason conditioning work done by the Yale players. Among those who transformed their bodies since walking off the field after a loss to Harvard are tailbacks Alex Thomas and Mordecai Cargill, expected to carry the bulk of the rushing attack for the Bulldogs in the fall. Williams said that Thomas added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame while Cargill returned noticeably stronger and faster.
“Mordecai and Alex have really stepped up,” Williams said. “That has made a huge difference in getting those guys a lot of reps in the spring has given them a comfort level and a confidence level now that they are the man and they are going to carry the load for us in the fall.”
Fullback Josh Kozel and receiver Chris Morris, while both still taking classes, are no longer on the squad while receiver Peter Balsam is taking the year off but planning to return for his senior season in 2011.
Also, there was a snag in the hiring of David White as Yale’s tight end coach and recruiting coordinator. The former assistant recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma will not be joining the Yale staff but a replacement for Mike Sanford, who is now coaching at Western Kentucky, could be in place before the April 24 spring game.
Familiarity a new experience at Yale
By Jim Fuller, The New Haven Register