Football coaches and fans at most Ivy League schools have been anticipating this season since the fall of 1979.
For the last three years, the Yale roster has looked like a Xerox of the All-Ivy list. But last spring, the gifted individuals responsible for three consecutive Eli championships finally left New Haven.
The departure of 18 starters--seven of whom signed pro contracts--leaves Coach Carm Cozza with the least experienced squad in the league.
"We're still far from a unit, and we're certainly not where we were last year," Cozza said at the conclusion of training camp.
Despite Cozza's apprehensions, Yale's "rebuilding" year will hardly be material for Gibbon. With only four returning starters from last season, the Elis still managed to top the Ivy coaches' preseason poll. And Cozza's youthful corps was ranked ninth nationally in an AP sportswriters' Division I-AA poll, which listed no other Ivy team in the top 20.
How the mighty have fallen.
Most of Cozza's colleagues seem concerned that he can actually replace players like tailback Rich Diana and quarterback John Rogan.
Diana rushed for over 1400 yards in 1981; won the Bushnell Cup, which is awarded annually to the league's outstanding player, and is currently with the Miami Dolphins. While it seems unlikely that tailback Paul Andrie will duplicate Diana's achievements, he is generally regarded as one of the top three running backs in the league.
Rogan's replacement, however, quarterback Joe Dufek could make Yale partisans forget last year's second-team. All-Ivy signal-caller. Rogan stayed in the New York Jets' camp until the final round of cuts, but Dufek constantly pressured him for the Elis' starting job last season.
"The biggest difference between the two is that he [Dufek] lacks game experience. And also he doesn't have the surrounding cast John had. There is no Grieve for him to throw to" Cozza said, referring to split end Curtis Grieve, the All-Ivy selection who is currently on the Philadelphia Eagles injured reserve list.
The Elis might miss the class of '82 even more on defense and special teams. Yale led the league in rushing defense last season holding its seven Ivy opponents to 657 yards on the ground. The loss of linebackers Jay Snyder and Jeff Rohrer (a second round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys) particularly disturbs Cozza.
"Right now, our linebackers are our biggest area of concern. We still haven't made any definite decisions in that area," he said.
He adds that the graduation of placekicker-punter Tony Jones is yet another reason his favored Elis are apprehensive about the upcoming season.
"This season is going to be a real challenge for us," Cozza says. "We aren't the same team, but because we've won so much, everyone wants to beat us."
Along with Harvard, Dartmouth is considered the best bet to unseat the Elis. A 6-1-0 mark left the Green co-champions with Yale last year, and seven returning offensive starters give Dartmouth one of the league's most potent attacks.