Jake Lindsey was a highly recruited linebacker out of Cleves, Ohio, in 2011, attracting the interest of a number of Bowl Subdivision programs.
In his first season at Harvard, however, the 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound Lindsey was on the sideline with a bum right shoulder. Then he was held out the first two games this season with a concussion.
So realistically, “we almost had no expectations this year,” acknowledged coach Tim Murphy.
The moment senior captain Bobby Schneider broke his left arm at Princeton in Week 6, on the next-to-last defensive snap of a 39-34 loss, those expectations changed dramatically.
The Crimson needed Lindsey to be a presence in the middle of their defense alongside seniors Alex Norman and Josh Boyd.
“[Bobby] had a great understanding of the game, and of our [defensive] schemes, and a great understanding of what the offense shows us,” said Lindsey of Schneider, who was in full uniform at midfield for the opening coin toss.
“You can’t replace that, he’s a great leader. Obviously, those are big shoes. I did what I could, and [Bobby] was a big help.”
Lindsey, however, quickly emerged as a playmaker.
In his first start, he racked up a team-high 12 stops at Dartmouth, followed by six- and five-tackle efforts against Columbia and Penn before capping his season with 10 stops Saturday, sharing team-high honors with Boyd. And his crunching hit early in the fourth quarter on Cameron Sandquist separated the Yale wideout from the ball on a key third-and-4 play.
“He really came out of nowhere to become a real money player, a guy that you could really count on,” praised Murphy.
“Besides being a tremendous athlete, he has great instincts for a player that has very little college football experience. When he grows up mentally and physically, he has a chance to be a special player, along the lines of [former standouts] Dante Balestracci and Isaiah Kacyvenski.”
Harvard and Yale compete with nearly every other program in the Ivy League for recruits across the country. This season, five high schools shared players on the Crimson and Eli rosters: Bergin Catholic (Oradell, N.J.): C Jack Holuba (Harvard, Sr.) and DB Nick LaTesta (Yale, So.); Elder HS (Cincinnati): LB Jake Lindsey (H-So.) and DT Nick Daffin (Y-Sr.); Oaks Christian HS (Westlake Village, Calif.): DB Brian Owusu (H-Sr.) and Max Napolitano (Y-Jr.); Rocky Mountain HS (Meridian, Idaho): WR David Trompke (H-Fr.) and LB Tyler Manu (Y-So.); St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.): DB Reynaldo Kirton (H-Jr.) and DB Cole Champion (Y-Fr.), DE Dylan Drake (Y-Sr.).
Owusu said he and Napolitano communicated during the season, but this past week, “we were both focused on the task at hand,” he said. “It’s all business” The 5-11, 180-pound Owusu has one season of eligibility left after missing all of his sophomore year with an injury.
Dave Leopard stepped in at center for sidelined senior Jack Holuba, and in his first career start “played incredibly well,” according to Murphy . . . Murphy also saluted Yale’s Tony Reno, who coached the Crimson secondary and special teams for three seasons. “A 2-8 record is not indicative of the job Tony and his staff have done this season,” he said. The Yale staff has six former Harvard assistants . . . Eli sophomore receiver Grant Wallace was tremendous, hauling in 11 catches for 118 yards, including an 12-yard pass from Henry Furman at the start of the fourth quarter, which he pilfered from safety Chris Splinter . . . Concord resident John Norton was in attendance for his 67th Harvard-Yale matchup. A former statistician at Harvard, he caught his first in 1948, a 20-7 Crimson win . . . Harvard set an Ivy scoring mark with 394 points this season . . . Yale leads the series, 65-56-8.Craig Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.