Coach Siedlecki looks better in retrospect
Ivy teams with first-year head coaches often struggle in those initial seasons.
Oh wait, they DON'T!
Every current coach other than Tom Williams at Yale can say he improved his team noticeably in his first season at the helm.
Here's how all the current Ivy Coaches did in their first years:
BROWN, Phil Estes 1998: 7-3, 5-2 Ivy (previous season, Brown was also 7-3, but 4-3 Ivy)
CORNELL, Jim Knowles 2004: 4-6, 4-3 Ivy (previous season, 1-9, 0-7 Ivy)
COLUMBIA, Norries Wilson 2006: 5-5, 2-5 Ivy (previous season, 2-8, 0-7 Ivy)
DARTMOUTH, Buddy Teevens 2005: 2-8, 1-6 Ivy (previous season, 1-9, 1-6 Ivy)
HARVARD, Tim Murphy 1994: 4-6, 2-5 Ivy (previous season, 3-7, 1-6 Ivy)
PENN, Al Bagnoli 1992: 7-3, 5-2 Ivy (previous season, 2-8, 2-5 Ivy)
PRINCETON, Roger Hughes 2000: 3-7, 3-4 Ivy (previous season, 3-7, 1-6 Ivy)
Williams may prove to be the exception to that rule. It's hard to believe the Elis will improve on last year's 6-4, 4-3 Ivy record.
I'm not suggesting Williams is doing a bad job. In fact, I think he needs a lot more time to be fairly judged. But he does have a challenge ahead of him.
Williams does have the Elis playing fantastic defense, even after losing All World linebacker Bobby Abare to graduation. But the offense, with the exception of one game against Dartmouth, has sputtered to almost a complete stop.
How much of a stop? Yale's offense is rushing for just 86 yard per game and 2.5 yards per carry. The Bulldogs offense has gone scoreless for the last two games.
All of this is not totally unexpected. We knew going into this season that Yale's offensive line was not particularly experienced or talented, and that's the biggest reason for those terrible rushing numbers and the 21 sacks allowed so far this year. We also knew that it would be extremely tough to replace super running back Mike McLeod. Right now, the lead rusher seems to be senior Rodney Reynolds, who has not impressed.
The one suprising aspect of this offense has been the disappointing play at the QB position from Nebraska Patrick Witt. Many of us expected Witt to jumpstart the Yale offense, but he was benched earlier this season after Brook Hart had his monster game against the Big Green. But Hart was benched towards the end of last week's 9-0 loss to Penn and Witt took over. Who will start this Saturday is very much in question.
As far as the receivers go, H-Back John Sheffield has the most catches at 36, but none for more than 22 yards.
Now for the other side of the fence...
Yale's defense has been superb, even without Bobby Abare, and a brilliant decision to move Paul Rice from the secondary to the linebacker spot seems like the biggest reason why.
Yale is allowing just 11.8 points per game, less than SIX points per second half, and 3.2 yards per rush. Opposing teams are converting just 27% of their third downs against them. The list goes on.
Williams brought in Ikaika Malloe as his defensive coordinator, but he retained Rick Flanders as associate head coach and it was Flanders who largely crafted this defense from the ground up as the coordinator for the previous 13 years. It seems like that was a very good move indeed.
On special teams, Yale is mostly strong. Tom Mante is the best deep placekicking threat in the Ivies with two 50+ FG's so far this year. He's also a great punter. Chris Smith is doing well as a kickoff returner, but he hasn't had much success yet returning punts.
But Yale is about defense in 2009, period. If a team can score on them and do it relatively early, they have a great chance to win.