Yale Football Blog

Yale Football News Written By Former Bulldogs

Holy Cross Preview

The time has finally arrived for football season in New Haven as the Holy Cross Crusaders travel to the Yale Bowl on Saturday to take on the Elis.  Kickoff is slated for noon and television coverage will be provided by ESPN+.

Holy Cross has won back-to-back Patriot League championships and enters the contest with a record of 1-1.  In the Crusaders’ first game, they upset UCONN 38-28 which led to UCONN’s Randy Edsall resigning as head coach.  The thrill of their week one upset was quickly overshadowed by a 21-35 loss to Merrimack.

The Holy Cross offense is led by sophomore quarterback Matthew Sluka.  Sluka is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback that has continued to make strides in his performance after being named Patriot League Rookie of the Year last season.  Through two games, Sluka has thrown for 260 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception on 36 pass attempts (55.6% completion percentage).  On the ground, he has racked up 152 yards and a touchdown on 24 attempts for a whopping average of 6.3 yards per carry.  Sophomore quarterback Marco Siderman has also seen action in both contests throwing for 105 yards and a touchdown on only 7 passing attempts.  Our secondary will face a critical first test in limiting Sluka’s passing efficiency and tackling him in the open field. 

Junior running back Tyler Purdy is currently second on the team in rushing yards behind Sluka.  Purdy has rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on 17 rushes for an average of 5.5 yards per carry.  Purdy was named 2nd Team All-Patriot League in 2020 and splits carries with senior Peter Oliver who was also named 2nd Team All-Patriot League in 2020.  Oliver is a big back at 222 lbs. that we will have to disrupt at the line of scrimmage before he gets a head of steam.  This is a run-first offense that has rushed the ball on over 63% of offensive plays although that figure may be misleading as Sluka is likely to run the ball when he feels the pocket is collapsing on designated passing plays.

We expect Holy Cross to expand their passing game in this contest given that they have been studying the Harvard-Yale film from 2019.  The Crusaders have a deep selection of talented and experienced wideouts to target.  Senior wide receiver Tenio Ayeni currently leads the team in receiving yards with 89 yards on 5 catches.  Ayeni did not appear in any games in 2020, but started twelve contests in 2019 and was named to Phil Steele’s 2nd Team All-Patriot League team that season.  Senior Spencer Gilliam has started in contests since his freshman season and hauled in a 47-yard reception versus Yale in 2019.  Junior Ayir Asante could be the most talented of the bunch and is a two-time 2nd Team All-Patriot League selection as well as an honorable mention Freshman All-American.  Rounding out the wide receiving corps is sophomore Jalen Coker who presents a physical challenge for our secondary at 6’3” and 207 lbs.

Holy Cross’ offensive line has the size and experience to control the line of scrimmage against most opponents.  Senior center and captain Nick Olsofka (6’4”, 289 lbs.) leads the offensive line and garnered 2nd Team All-Patriot League honors in 2020.  The Crusaders were able to take advantage of UCONN’s injury-depleted front seven in their opening win before taking a step back last week versus Merrimack.  Holy Cross was simply unable to convert on third downs (1 of 7) and consequently only possessed the ball for roughly twenty minutes in large part due to the play of the offensive line.

The Crusaders’ defense can be described as physical and opportunistic.  The linebackers are the strength of the Holy Cross defense.  Junior Jacob Dobbs leads the team with 29 tackles and was a 1st Team All-Patriot League selection a year ago.  Senior Liam Anderson has been all over the field with 16 tackles, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.  The Bulldogs will need to do a great job of getting offensive linemen to the second level to create running lanes for Dudek and company. 

The Holy Cross secondary is just as deep as the linebacking corps with all four starters having extensive playing experience.  Senior safety Grant Holloman has tallied 18 tackles and a forced fumble, while fellow senior safety Walter Reynolds has racked up 14 tackles and an interception.  Senior cornerback John Smith has two interceptions on the season and looks to once again be named to the 1st Team All-Patriot League team.  Junior cornerback Devin Haskins started in all of the games in 2020 and has 7 tackles on the season.

Senior defensive end Benton Whitley is a two-time 1st Team All-Patriot League selection that is off to a solid start to the season with 9 tackles.  Senior Dan Kuznetsov is yet another 2nd Team All-Patriot League selection from his defensive end position.  Senior defensive tackles Jason Modak and Noah Johnson provide a physical presence on the interior of the defensive front and Modak hauled in an interception against UCONN that he returned for 29 yards.  Questions this off-season have swirled around how the new interior of our offensive line will perform and this matchup against an experienced defensive line will serve as the litmus test.

As Coach Reno mentioned in his newsletter, Holy Cross’ specialists are among the best in the Northeast.  Senior kicker Derek Ng has been perfect on field goals and PAT’s to start the season.  Junior punter Patrick Haughney is averaging 39.3 yards per punt with a long of 48 yards against Merrimack.

We look forward to reconnecting with all of you at the Bowl on Saturday.  Let’s go Bulldogs!

RB Preview

If the coaching staff is able to rebuild the interior of our offensive line, there should be no issues establishing the run game in 2021 with the stable of talented backs that are returning.  Although Alan Lamar departed Yale for the chance to play FBS football, Zane Dudek is back to cap off a fantastic career.  Dudek averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2019 while also hauling in 25 catches for 184 yards.  Dudek has a very patient running style and as we’ve noted in the past, the offense really excels when there is another power running back thrown into the mix.  Opposing defenses have to slow-play Dudek given his superior vision and cutback ability which presents a problem when a change-of-pace back enters the contest.  Spencer Alston will likely be this second back as he’s shown tremendous power and balance over the two seasons that we’ve seen him compete.  Alston averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 4.5 yards per carry in 2018 and 2019 respectively.  Elliott McElwain could be in the mix as another option as a power runner and then we have a group of untested, but highly touted underclassmen that could see playing time.  Josh Eboboko, Joshua McKenzie and Jacob Saffold were all three-star prospects out of high school while Nathan Denney was a two-star prospect.

RB Roster:

Tre Peterson, Sophomore, 5’9”, 170 lbs.

Josh Eboboko, Sophomore, 5’11”, 195 lbs.

Nathan Denney, Freshman, 5’10”, 205 lbs.

Elliott McElwain, Senior, 6’0”, 205 lbs.

Spencer Alston, Junior, 5’10”, 200 lbs.

Jacob Saffold, Sophomore, 5’10”, 190 lbs.

Joshua McKenzie, Junior, 5’10”, 200 lbs.

Zane Dudek, Senior, 5’9”, 200 lbs.

Jason Lee, Sophomore, 6’0”, 200 lbs.

10 Days Until Kickoff

Yale’s first opponent, Holy Cross, defeated UCONN over the weekend 38-28 prompting UCONN’s Head Coach, Randy Edsall, to step down from his position immediately.  At this point, it seems destined that UCONN will either drop down to the FCS ranks or eliminate the football program altogether at the conclusion of the season given the lack of recent success and annual monetary losses in the millions.  The Holy Cross game is starting to look much more difficult on paper, while playing UCONN after Dartmouth will still be a tough matchup especially if UCONN’s interim coach is able to correct errors and boost morale over the coming weeks.

In NFL news, former Bulldog Dieter Eiselen was cut from the Bears 53-man active roster, but was signed to the practice squad for the second year in a row.  Jaeden Graham remains on the Falcons roster, however he is currently on injured reserve after injuring his knee in training camp.  Graham’s teammate, Foye Oluokun, will lead the Falcons defense in 2021 as he transitions from outside linebacker to middle linebacker.  Oluokun is viewed around the league as a rising star that was the lone bright spot of an otherwise underperforming defense in 2020.

22 Days Until Holy Cross

Full Schedule:

Holy Cross @ Yale – September 18th, 12:00 PM

Cornell @ Yale- September 25th, 12:00 PM

Yale @ Lehigh- October 2nd, 12:00 PM

Yale @ Dartmouth- October 9th, 1:30 PM

Yale @ UCONN- October 16th, 12:00 PM

Penn @ Yale- October 23rd, 12:00 PM

Columbia @ Yale- October 30th, 12:00 PM

Yale @ Brown- November 6th, 12:30 PM

Yale @ Princeton- November 13th, 1:00 PM

Harvard @ Yale- November 20th, 12:00 PM

It’s always fantastic to see six games in Connecticut on the schedule, albeit one will be at UCONN in East Hartford.  Given the strength of the out of conference opponents as well as the uncertainty of the competitiveness of our Ivy League foes, there really isn’t a game that can be highlighted as a “gimme game” this season.  The first three contests should provide us with great opportunities to improve before a brutal two week stretch at Dartmouth and at UCONN.  Penn and Columbia are certainly no slouches these days, however the tail end of the schedule at Brown, at Princeton and home versus Harvard will define the success of this Bulldog squad.  Brown’s QB Perry is poised to have a stellar year backed by an improved roster, Princeton has been voted as the favorite in preseason polls, and Harvard is once again stacked with talent and out to avenge their loss from 2019. 

We look forward to seeing you at the Bowl in just over three weeks!  Go Bulldogs!   

QB Preview

Similar to the story at the wide receiver position, we lost a Yale legend in Kurt Rawlings, but have enough firepower returning at the quarterback position to make opposing secondaries pay the price if they decide to stack the box against Dudek.  Griffin O’Connor enters preseason as the clear favorite to lead the offense.  After Rawlings was injured in 2018, O’Connor set the league on fire with 1,229 yards passing and 8 touchdowns en route to becoming the 2018 Ivy League Rookie of the Year.  He was thrown into tough situations in 2019 when Rawlings went down with minor injuries and was never able to get into the same rhythm as we had seen from him in games such as the Princeton contest in 2018.  O’Connor is more of a traditional pocket-passer than Rawlings possessing more pure throwing power, yet needs to work on his accuracy, decision making and pocket presence to make the leap into becoming an All-Ivy caliber player.  If O’Connor is indeed named the starter, much of his success will rely on the offensive line giving him a clean pocket.  If Reno opts for a dual-threat quarterback to start, Nolan Grooms would be the natural selection.  Grooms had an efficient 2019 campaign completing all 5 of his passes for 44 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 6 rushes.  Jimmy Check saw substantial action in 2018 before the emergence of O’Connor and could challenge for the starting role if he’s made significant strides in his mechanics and fundamentals over the last two years.  Reno is never afraid to throw Freshmen into the mix and Austin Tutas or Devin Suggs could see action in 2021.  Tutas was a 3 star recruit out of high school, while Suggs has the prototypical development frame at 6’4”.

Projected Starter:

Griffin O’Connor

Challengers:

Nolan Grooms, Austin Tutas and Jimmy Check

QB Roster:

Austin Tutas-Freshman

Grant Jordan-Freshman

Devin Suggs-Freshman

Nolan Grooms-Sophomore

Griffin O’Connor-Junior

Jimmy Check-Senior

Wide Receiver Preview

The loss of the top two wide receivers in Yale football history will certainly impact the receiving production in the 2021 season but rest assured that the cupboards are not bare.  Mason Tipton is clearly the top returning talent at the wide receiver position after a solid 2019 performance in which he hauled in 24 receptions for 325 yards and four touchdowns.  Tipton improved week after week in 2019 and was truly phenomenal in the final contest versus Harvard with 6 catches for 82 yards and one of the most memorable touchdown receptions in Yale football history.  Jaylan Sandifer started five games in 2018 and showed that he can be a home-run threat in 2019 averaging 24.6 yards per reception.  Darrion Carrington has seen action in contests since his freshman season and notched two touchdown receptions in 2019.  Jay Brunelle is the true wild-card of the bunch as a former 3-star recruit that transferred from Notre Dame.  He suffered an AC separation in his shoulder that kept him out of the 2020 season for the Fighting Irish, but if he can stay healthy, he could be a key contributor at this position group and possibly break into the starting lineup.  Jacob Biggs is another transfer who walked onto the football team at the University of Utah and made an impact on special teams for the Utes.  Melvin Rouse is a dynamic player that could start on either side of the ball and although we will need him to start at defensive back, he can be thrown in at wide receiver at anytime and generate a big play when needed.  Joey Felton has blazing speed and saw action as a freshman in 2019, no small feat when there was an abundance of talent at the position that season.  Beyond the wideouts with collegiate experience, we have young talent such as Mason Shipp, CJ Thompson and Ryan Lindley that could have breakout seasons in 2021.

Projected Starters:

Mason Tipton

Jaylan Sandifer

Darrion Carrington

Challengers in the Mix:

Jay Brunelle

Joey Felton

Wide Receiver List:

David Pantelis-Freshman

Mason Shipp-Freshman

Kelvin Smith-Freshman

Shaun Gold-Freshman

Ryan Lindley-Freshman

Chase Nenad-Freshman

CJ Thompson-Freshman

Aidan Maloney-Sophomore

Brayden Carey-Sophomore

Jay Brunelle-Sophomore

Mason Tipton-Sophomore

Joey Felton-Sophomore

Jacob Biggs-Sophomore

Jack Biestek-Junior

Jaylan Sandifer-Junior

Seun Omonije-Junior

Noah Aaron-Junior

Darrion Carrington-Senior

Melvin Rouse-Senior (Starting DB)

*Please note that due to the cancellation of the 2020 season the listed class years for each player could vary based on eligibility

Official Recruiting List

Damian Anderson, 6’0”, 165 lbs., CB, The Kent School (Kent, CT)

Inumidun Ayo-Durojaiye, 6’2”, 190 lbs., S, Damascus (Damascus, MD)

Jake Biggs, 6’1”, 205 lbs., WR, Timpview (Provo, UT)

Nate Denney, 5’10”, 190 lbs., RB, Georgetown (Georgetown, TX)

Luke Foster, 6’4”, 250 lbs., TE, Choate Rosemary Hall (Wallingford, CT)

Alvin Gulley, 6’2”, 290 lbs., DT, Belleville High-West (Belleville, IL)

Sean Guyton, 6’0”, 175 lbs., CB, Choate Rosemary Hall (Wallingford, CT)

Kevin Jourdain, 6’4”, 255 lbs., DT, Holyoke (Holyoke, MA)

Tamatoa McDonough, 6’5”, 245 lbs., DE, Asheville High School (Asheville, NC)

Jack Michalik, 6’4”, DE, Brunswick School (Greenwich, CT)

David Pantelis, 6’1”, 185 lbs., WR, Upper Saint Clair (Pittsburgh, PA)

Declan Savage, 6’4”, 260 lbs., OT, Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

Aaron Session, 6’5”, 297 lbs., OT, Morton Ranch (Katy, TX)

Mason Shipp, 6’1”, 175 lbs., WR, Hun School of Princeton (Princeton, NJ)

Kelvin Smith, 6’4”, 220 lbs., TE, Hun School of Princeton (Princeton, NJ)

Connor Smith, 6’5”, 275 lbs., OG/C, Nobles and Greenough School (Dedham, MA)

Sean Sullivan, 6’5”, 275 lbs., OG/C, St. John’s (Shrewsbury, MA)

Austin Tutas, 6’1”, 178 lbs., QB, Archbishop Spalding (Severn, MD)

Ikenna Ugbaja, 6’2”, 268 lbs., DT, Belmont Hill School (Belmont, MA)

Ruben Valenzuela, 6’2”, 180 lbs., CB, Hotchkiss School (Salisbury, CT)

Walker Warncke, 6’0”, 195 lbs., S, Needville High School (Needville, TX)

Andrew Weisz, 6’5”, 290 lbs., OT, The Benjamin School (North Palm Beach, FL)

Dominic Zepherin, 5’11”, 175 lbs., CB, St. Thomas More Catholic (Lafayette, LA)

Spring Notes

There has not been an abundance of news trickling out of the football offices of Ray Tompkins House recently, but thankfully YDN’s Jared Fel has continued producing exceptional content on the team.  It sounds as though spring ball was very productive with players finally able to utilize helmets and footballs in practice as the school entered Phase II of the protocols.  With over 60% of the squad taking the fall semester off, it is great news that the players are finally getting in much needed work to prepare for a tough schedule in 2021.  Unfortunately, the practices were closed to the public, so we are devoid of any thoughtful analysis of the current level of play. 

The Falcons selected the talented tight end Kyle Pitts in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft which could make life harder on former Yalie, Jaeden Graham, although he’s played well enough to keep his roster spot or make another NFL squad.  Look for teammate Foye Oluokun to continue improving for the Falcons and gaining notoriety around the league in the upcoming season.

Coach Reno brought in another talented recruiting class ranked 3rd in the Ivy League according to 247 Sports with four 3-Star players.  Harvard and Princeton led the pack with five 3-Star players each.  Once the recruits are officially named by Yale, we will post our initial impressions based on their game films and statistics.

Keep an eye out for our positional breakdowns coming in the next few weeks.

Mid-February List

Ikenna Ugbaja, 6’2”, 268 lbs., Defensive Tackle, Belmont Hill School (Belmont, MA)

Austin Tutas, 6’1”, 178 lbs., Quarterback, Archbishop Spalding (Severn, MD)

Andrew Weisz, 6’5”, 290 lbs., Offensive Tackle, The Benjamin School (North Palm Beach, FL)

Nate Denny, 5’10”, 190 lbs., Running Back, Bend Senior (Bend, OR)

Connor Smith, 6’5”, 275 lbs., Offensive Tackle, Noble and Greenough School (Dedham, MA)

Kevin Jourdain Jr., 6’4”, 255 lbs., Defensive End, Holyoke (Holyoke, MA)

Sean Sullivan, 6’5”, 275 lbs., Offensive Tackle, St John’s (Shrewsbury, MA)

David Pantelis, 6’1”, 185 lbs., Wide Receiver, Upper Saint Clair (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mason Shipp, 6’1”, 175 lbs., Wide Receiver, The Peddle School (Hightstown, NJ)

Inumidan Ayo-Durojaiye, 6’2”, 190 lbs., Safety, Damascus (Damascus, MD)

Alvin Gulley, 6’2”, 290 lbs., Defensive Tackle, Belleville HS-West (Belleville, IL)

Bryce Hall, 6’3”, 235 lbs., Defensive End, Cranbrook Schools (Bloomfield Hills, MI)

Declan Savage, 6’4”, 260 lbs., Offensive Tackle, Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

Luke Foster, 6’4”, 250 lbs., Tight End, Choate Rosemary Hall (Wallingford, CT)

Tama McDonough, 6’5”, 245 lbs., Offensive Tackle, Asheville (Asheville, NC)

Kelvin Smith, 6’4”, 220 lbs., Linebacker, The Hun School (Princeton, NJ)

Dominic Zepherin, 5’11”, 175 lbs., Cornerback, St. Thomas More (Lafayette, LA)

Aaron Session, 6’5″, 297 lbs., Offensive Tackle, Morton Ranch (Katy, TX)

Aaron Smith, 5’11”, 170 lbs., Athlete, Waukee Senior (Waukee, IA)

Joseph Nash, 6’2″, 265 lbs., Defensive Line, Trinity Christian (Addison, TX)

Jack Michalik, Defensive Back, Brunswick (Greenwich, CT)

With the decommitment of Zane Minors and the addition of Nash and Michalik to this list, Yale now stands at 21 possible commitments. This would be a concern in any normal recruiting cycle, but with the Ivy League allowing certain 5th Year Graduate Students to compete, teams across the league appear to be limiting the number of admission slots for athletes this year in anticipation of many players returning to play four full seasons. While little public recruiting information exists on Michalik, it seems as though he is the son of former Bulldog, Rob Michalik ’91.

News Roundup

Updated list of Yale ’25 commits:

Ikenna Ugbaja, 6’2”, 268 lbs., Defensive Tackle, Belmont Hill School (Belmont, MA)

Austin Tutas, 6’1”, 178 lbs., Quarterback, Archbishop Spalding (Severn, MD)

Andrew Weisz, 6’5”, 290 lbs., Offensive Tackle, The Benjamin School (North Palm Beach, FL)

Nate Denny, 5’10”, 190 lbs., Running Back, Bend Senior (Bend, OR)

Connor Smith, 6’5”, 275 lbs., Offensive Tackle, Noble and Greenough School (Dedham, MA)

Kevin Jourdain Jr., 6’4”, 255 lbs., Defensive End, Holyoke (Holyoke, MA)

Zane Minors, 5’10”, 180 lbs., Running Back, Westlake (Austin, TX)

Sean Sullivan, 6’5”, 275 lbs., Offensive Tackle, St John’s (Shrewsbury, MA)

David Pantelis, 6’1”, 185 lbs., Wide Receiver, Upper Saint Clair (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mason Shipp, 6’1”, 175 lbs., Wide Receiver, The Peddle School (Hightstown, NJ)

Inumidan Ayo-Durojaiye, 6’2”, 190 lbs., Safety, Damascus (Damascus, MD)

Alvin Gulley, 6’2”, 290 lbs., Defensive Tackle, Belleville HS-West (Belleville, IL)

Bryce Hall, 6’3”, 235 lbs., Defensive End, Cranbrook Schools (Bloomfield Hills, MI)

Declan Savage, 6’4”, 260 lbs., Offensive Tackle, Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

Luke Foster, 6’4”, 250 lbs., Tight End, Choate Rosemary Hall (Wallingford, CT)

Tama McDonough, 6’5”, 245 lbs., Offensive Tackle, Asheville (Asheville, NC)

Kelvin Smith, 6’4”, 220 lbs., Linebacker, The Hun School (Princeton, NJ)

Dominic Zepherin, 5’11”, 175 lbs., Cornerback, St. Thomas More (Lafayette, LA)

Aaron Session, 6’5″, 297 lbs., Offensive Tackle, Morton Ranch (Katy, TX)

Aaron Smith, 5’11”, 170 lbs., Athlete, Waukee Senior (Waukee, IA)

Running Backs Coach and talented recruiter, Derrick Lett, has decided to depart Yale and bring his skills to Jonesboro, Arkansas as Wide Receivers Coach for the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Alan Lamar will also be transferring to Arkansas State where he will have two years of eligibility remaining. Best of luck to Coach Lett and Alan in Jonesboro and thanks for the memories in the Bowl!

As if the excitement for the 2021 season wasn’t enough, we now have another barnburner on the schedule: Yale at UCONN on October 16th.

Foye Oluokun continues to thrive for the Atlanta Falcons with 109 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions (one from Mahomes) on the season. Jaeden Graham has notched 3 receptions for the Falcons, while Dieter Eiselen made his first NFL appearance for the Chicago Bears in Week 9.