The Bulldogs open the season in under four weeks squaring off against an imposing Holy Cross team. It seemed as though Reno intentionally showed caution in the contest last season as he rotated in many players at key positions to limit injuries. You can’t argue with the results considering how the team continued to ramp up performance week over week on the path to an outright title. Yale was overwhelmingly favored in the recent preseason Ivy poll but depth will always remain an issue across the Ancient Eight.
Reigning Ivy League MVP Nolan Grooms returns at QB for his final season at the helm. Grooms made giant leaps in the passing game last season to complement his dominating rushing attack. He still has room for improvement in faster recognition and tighter ball security but no player in the league possesses his instincts in the open field.
The backfield should be a special one for Yale with Pitsenberger returning after claiming the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and Peterson coming off a season in which he was third in the league in rushing. To round out the trio is Alston who was dominating in the last action seen from him. How Reno and Seitu Smith manage to balance the talent at this position will be a major storyline this season. With three starting caliber backs and a true dual threat QB in Grooms, expect a lot of rushing yards in 2023!
The wide receivers and tight ends for the Bulldogs will make life difficult for defenders focused on shutting down the rushing attack. Tipton, Nenad, Pantelis, Lindley and Shipp all return at WR with starting experience. Tipton has been one of the most electrifying athletes on the squad since he stepped foot on campus. He’s been the go-to deep threat for years but can also turn short screens into long touchdowns. Nenad is the prototypical wide receiver with the size, speed, and hands to become a QB’s favorite target. Pantelis is another physical specimen that the offense really leaned on last season in the short passing game. Lindley is a sharp route runner with exceptional quickness while Shipp is a well-rounded, explosive receiver.
Hawes was a 2nd Team All-Ivy TE a year ago and is a clutch playmaker. The Grooms to Hawes TD pass in the 4th quarter of the Harvard contest could be the top highlight from the championship run. Yates was a pleasant surprise last season after transferring to Yale giving the Bulldogs a fierce double TE set. The sky is the limits for the skill position players offensively, but the pressure as always will be on the offensive line.
Replacing Gargiulo is the most pressing issue heading into the schedule. Luckily the Eli’s return 1st Team All-Ivy selection Amegadije at LT and the gargantuan Mendoza at RT. Karhu returns at RG and Session filled in solidly for Mendoza at tackle late in the season, so should be a top contender at LG. Sullivan appeared in 8 games as a freshman and could contend for a spot on the inside. Durand may have the inside track on the center position filling in for Gargiulo at times last season. Hopefully Grooms and his new starting center will be on the same page with shotgun snaps as the early season snapping issues last year were headscratchers. The lack of depth along the front is a cause for concern but on paper, this should be one of the top units in the league.
The defense is every bit as star studded as the offense. Patterson, Gulley, and Egodogbare wreaked havoc on offensive linemen in 2022. Patterson has the strength and speed to dominate on the inside or outside. He was the clear MVP for Yale in the 2021 season but seemed to be overshadowed by the productivity of Nickerson and Oso when schemed against in 2022. Gulley is stout at the point of attack while Egodogbare looked like a seasoned veteran at defensive tackle as a freshman before suffering a serious injury. McDonough is a likely starter at DE and showed serious potential last season and in the spring.
All three starting LBs from a year ago return. Moore was the heart of the defense en route to 2nd Team All-Ivy honors. Vaughn got progressively better as the season went on and delivered crushing blows on the Tigers and Cantabs. Durojaiye is a great defender in space that always seems to be in on the action. Schaffer made a few excellent plays last season and should figure into the mix at ILB.
The loss of Ellis and Oldacre at safety is massive but Yale appears to have enough talent to shore up the secondary. Captain DB Wande Owens was a 1st team All-Ivy CB and led the team with 63 tackles. Hickey was a day one contributor that is returning for a fifth season after suffering a season-ending injury in 2022. Guyton stepped up when Hickey was injured and became a major contributor to the success. Gonzales has the potential to be a shutdown corner playing on an island with continued elevation of his game. Benn made game saving plays with forced fumbles and interceptions at critical moments but will need to make another leap to prove that he’s an every-down safety.
Continuing with the trend, Bosman returns as both kicker and punter while Felton returns at KR and Lindley returns as PR. This could be the top roster that Reno has ever assembled.
Chris Ostrowsky takes over the Offensive Coordinator position after serving as Pass Game Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach in 2022. Ostrowsky has an impressive resume leading high-flying offenses at Northern Michigan as Head Coach and Central Michigan as Offensive Coordinator. McGowan and Jay Anderson will be Co-Defensive Coordinators. Tim Janecek will coach the defensive linemen after a lengthy stint at the successful DIII program North Central College. David Josephson joined the Bulldogs as TE Coach after three seasons of serving as the Offensive Coordinator at Johns Hopkins. Reno added Marcus Knight as Wide Receivers Coach after two years coaching at Ball State. Stefon Wheeler, Offensive Line Coach, is another new addition to the staff joining the Elis after four seasons coaching the O-line at Rhode Island. The level of coaching turnover is not a positive sign, however, the new coaches have ample amounts of talent to make the transitions seamless. Reno will need to drown out the SEC noise as his son, Dante, will be suiting up for the South Carolina Gamecocks along with Gargiulo. Interestingly enough, former Head Coach Tom Williams also has a son that will also be joining a storied D1 program as his son, Tre Williams, will be playing OLB at Stanford.
Much more to follow in the coming weeks.