NEW HAVEN, Conn. – They’ve been blocking, tackling and covering blue or white shirts for 14 straight practices. The Yale football team finally gets to see a different color on Saturday at 1 p.m. with a scrimmage at Brown.
The first pre-season practice was Aug. 18, while the first summer scrimmage took place in Yale Bowl last Saturday afternoon. Gone are the two workout sessions in a day to which old Blue became accustomed. In addition, the late summer heat and humidity on Clint Frank Field wasn’t as bad as it can be.
Yale Football’s Team 145 has been full of energy and enthusiasm on both sides of the line all pre-season. That includes 30 newcomers, some of whom have transitioned rapidly enough to challenge for playing time.
“There is great competition at every position, and I really love the makeup of this team,” said Tony Reno, Yale’s Joel E. Smilow ’54 Head Coach. “There is a lot of camaraderie, so they are figuring out how to play as one unit. They are competing every day and having fun doing it.”
The Elis who open at Lehigh on Sept. 16, are coming off a win at Harvard last November that included a season-best 14 points allowed. The Yale defense is hoping to carry the momentum from that emotional victory into the 2017 campaign.
“Pre-season camp has been going well. There has been a lot of back and forth competition between offense and defense which is great,” said senior defensive back Hayden Carlson, who had seven tackles in the 2016 finale. “From a defensive standpoint, we have been focused on executing our technique while playing fast and physical. We’ll continue to work and grow this week while gearing up to face Brown in the scrimmage on Saturday.”
When you’ve only been running plays against teammates, it’s tough to gauge your progress. Senior linebacker Matthew Oplinger is relishing the opportunity to figure out how this team will match up against a very challenging schedule.
“We as a defense have ebbed and flowed throughout the preseason as the offense has had some strong days,” said Oplinger, who notched seven tackles at Harvard last fall. “It’s always fun when there is competition at every position and between the two units. For the seniors, we are loving every moment because it’s our last go around here. That feel-good attitude is permeating throughout the entire team. It’s fun being a Bulldog right now.”
That unit gets a boost this season from the return of first-team All-Ivy players DB Spencer Rymiszewski (captain) and DL Copache Tyler, both of whom missed the last season.
Sophomore Kurt Rawlings, who started the last few games of 2016, has been running the first offensive unit this summer. Last year, due to injuries, three different Yale QBs had to get used to working with four or five running backs and way more receivers than the coaches had planned. Those injuries took a toll on the results, but the Blue now has many experienced returnees in 2017.
The guys on that side of the line are also anxious to play the Bears on Saturday.
“After practicing and scrimmaging against our defense every day for the past two weeks, it’ll be fun to see how we measure up against an Ivy League opponent,” said Christopher Williams-Lopez, a senior receiver who has 75 career catches. “As you can imagine, teammates learn one another’s tendencies after facing each for so long. I think we have a lot of weapons with a lot of speed on offense this year so we’re excited to see them all in live action against someone else.”
By Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity