The Bulldogs finished the 2018 campaign at 5-5 with a 3-4 Ivy League record. After being picked to finish first in the preseason polls, the season certainly did not live up to expectations. From the first contest versus Holy Cross, it was apparent that the defense did not have the same level of talent as the 2017 squad. Dartmouth, Princeton and Harvard had their way with our defense, while an anemic offense cost us a victory against Columbia. If we had played Holy Cross later in the season, we likely could have pulled off a victory and having Rawlings or O’Connor in the Columbia game would have reversed that outcome.
The good news for the 2019 campaign is that almost everyone is returning. Crowle, Roman and Peggs graduate on defense, while role players such as Locke, Lager and Marcinick depart on offense. Galland, Horn, and Simino will need to be replaced on special teams. The offensive skill players are the most talented players on the roster. Rawlings and O’Connor are both superb quarterbacks who haven’t even reached their full potential. Lamar, Dudek and Alston form one of the best backfields in Yale history. Klubnik and Shohfi cannot be contained by Ivy League defensive backs. Howland and Roman could be 1st Team All-Ivy players by the time they graduate in two years. The offensive line is the weakness on offense, although returning all five starters is critical to next season’s success. Eiselen and Strother did not improve as much as we had hoped from 2017 to 2018, while the new starters of Warfield, Hinish and Cepalia did not play well consistently enough to dominate opposing defensive lines. The offensive linemen need to hit the weight room harder than they ever have this offseason, continue to study film and improve communication.
The defensive line was dealt a lethal blow before the season had even started with the loss of Mullen over alleged sexual misconduct. Roman was the top pass rusher, so developing another speedy end with moves will be a priority. Osorachukwu Ifesinachukwu or Reid Nickerson could potentially fill that void at end. Matthaei and Keeler return at defensive tackles and they need to get more physical at the point of attack as well as improve their abilities to shed blocks. Fraser, Goodyear and Raine could rotate in with them next season. Callender battled through injuries and seemed to regress from 2017 to 2018, but we think he’ll bounce back to have a fantastic senior season. Moore, Kissel and Sampleton all had their ups and downs throughout the year. We need at least one of those players to step up and assert dominance over opposing offensive tackles. Burke, Pope, Awodiran, Dean, Hill, and Carey all return at linebacker. Pope is the best of the bunch and we’d like to see him take on a leadership role in 2019. The linebackers across the board struggled with shedding blocks, tackling and covering running backs out of the backfield. The secondary in 2018 can simply be described as a disaster. Corners ran stride for stride with receivers and then refused to play the ball over and over again. Safeties offered little run support and were out of position in the passing game. Open field tackling in the secondary was non-existent as no one would take proper angles on ball carriers. Simple ten yard runs turned into sixty yard touchdowns repeatedly. Reno needs to find four trustworthy defensive backs through an extended open competition. The combination of Alburg, Dixon, Thomas and Henson just doesn’t cut it. Abraham, Granberry, Oldacre, Agbeyegbe, Dunham, Ellis and Hickey all need to be given every opportunity to claim a starting role as this unit is in dire need of a radical transformation.