Franklin College’s new offensive coordinator enters spring football with impressive credentials both as a player and coach.
Only the latter matters to Craig Yeast, a receiver for the University of Kentucky from 1995 to 1998 who once held the career receptions standard in Southeastern Conference history with 208.
Three SEC players have since passed Yeast.
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The game, however, hasn’t.
That’s why Grizzlies coach Mike Leonard contacted Yeast to see if he would be interested in becoming part of his program’s coaching staff.
“First of all he’s a solid man who has some great values. His priorities are definitely in line, not only with him, but his wife and children. That’s what impressed me most when I first met him,” Leonard said.
“His credibility with his playing career, not that that necessarily means that a guy is a great football coach, but I think our players know this guy’s been through it.”
Selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the 1999 NFL Draft, Yeast contributed 24 receptions for 301 yards his second season.
He played one season for the New York Jets before going on to play four seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Yeast returned to the Canadian league in 2008 for a brief time with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before retiring from professional football.
More recently, Yeast served one season (2011) as head football coach at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Kentucky, before taking the job as receivers coach at Tiffin (Ohio) University.
Yeast returned to high schools in 2014 as head football coach at Fremont (Ohio) Ross for a two-year stint.
Through coaching, Yeast had talked with Franklin College defensive coordinator Mel Mills, though the two men had never met.
“It first started out with just having a relationship with coach Mills and us talking back and forth. Doing some research on the (Franklin College) program as a whole, I quickly realized it wasn’t just any Division III program. It was an excellent program,” Yeast said.
“I think the deciding factor was coming here and having an opportunity to sit down with coach Leonard. Bringing my wife up and having her sit down and meet with coach Leonard, I think that kind of sealed it.”
Yeast also is taking on the job of Franklin College’s coordinator of intramural sports. He replaces Matthew Brown, who is becoming an assistant football coach at Hanover College.
Ironically, Yeast, who still ranks in the top 10 all-time in the SEC in career receiving yards (ninth with 2,899) and touchdown receptions (seventh with 28), will be looking to expand what the Grizzlies do in terms of running the football.
Franklin College averaged 531.5 yards of offense in its 11 games last season. Keeping with the Grizzlies’ longstanding reputation for throwing the football, nearly 70 percent of the yardage was through the air.
In the team’s three November games (victories against Defiance and Hanover and a playoff loss to Ohio Northern), only 19 percent of the offensive output was attributed to the running game.
“I just think that championship football has to look a particular way. This is a quarterback factory here, and I don’t want to take away from that. I want to hopefully add an element of the run game to help us maybe go to the next level,” Yeast said.
“One thing I want to add is just the aspect of having the ability to run the football when it gets cold and wet. And rainy and snowy. I believe in balance. That you can still throw for 3,500 to 4,000 yards a season and two, three, maybe four touchdowns a game, but also believe that you can run it just as well.”
THE YEAST FILE
Name: Craig Yeast
Born: Danville, Kentucky
Family: Wife, Tori; son, Russ, 16; daughter, Kiyah, 13
High school: Harrodsburg (Kentucky) (1995)
College: University of Kentucky (1999)
Favorite SEC stadium: LSU (at night)
Least favorite SEC stadium: Tennessee