Big Green Preaches ‘Football Lite’ to Start
Dartmouth College receiver Charlie Storey, left, has eyes only for the football as he battles cornerback Danny McManus during Wednesday's action on Memorial Field. The Big Green held its first preseason practice and opens the season Sept. 21 at Butler. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College receiver Dan Gorman, a former Hanover High standout, throws a tennis ball to a fellow receiver as part of warmup drills Wednesday on Memorial Field. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — The last vestiges of your father’s football are going, going, gone, and you don’t have to look any farther for evidence than Dartmouth College’s upcoming practice schedule. The Big Green, led by a coach who came of age during the rock ’em-sock ’em 1970s, will conduct a bare minimum of live contact drills and practice twice in one day only a handful of times.
“Football lite,” the detractors call it, and Buddy Teevens’ own coaching staff once harbored more than a few of them.
“I came back (last year) after talking with (the St. Louis) Rams and said we weren’t going to tackle as much and nobody was supportive of it,’’ said Teevens, whose team hit the field Wednesday to begin preseason practice in advance of its Sept. 21 opener at Butler. “They said we had to develop and this and that, but we looked at our injuries and decided we could eliminate a bunch of them with good coaching and fewer collisions.
“I think my players still feel like they’re ready and now, so does my coaching staff.”
Dan Gorman, a sophomore receiver and former Hanover High standout, said he and his teammates relish the chance to hit, but understand why they rarely get the opportunity.
“There are (statistics) that speak for it being really beneficial not to tackle during practice,’’ he said. “I think the defensive coaches are sometimes irritated by it, but we can still do most of what we need to do.
“You have to look at the big scheme of things and the longevity that’s necessary for a season that ends the way we want it to. We can’t have people going down in practice every day.”
Teevens, a star Dartmouth quarterback during his playing days, said he was never hit in practice and performed just fine on game day. He noted that many of his recruits arrive with a decade of prior experience, and that there’s a push from the NFL down to youth leagues to reduce injuries. Dartmouth has greatly limited its practice tackling the past two years, but has also cut down on missed tackles in games by roughly half, the coach added.
“We place a great emphasis on basics and fundamentals and we’re tackling bags far more than we ever did,’’ said Teevens, who this season has added three sliding dummies that can be pulled on a leash and smacked on the run. “People talk about how a guy needs to be able to take a hit, but they get hit enough and we’re just trying to get them to game day.
“You can play the game smart and emphasize tackling as opposed to collisions.”
Spurred by the likes of Oregon and Maryland, college football programs across the country have begun trotting out radical uniform designs. Every day seems to bring another Facebook post or Twitter image showing off oversize logos or whacky color combinations.
Teevens said that won’t be happening anytime soon at Dartmouth, however. The program has been known since the 1960s for helmets with unique, diagonal double stripes on either side of a block D. When Teevens returned for his first coaching stint, in 1987, he slapped the college’s name on the side of the helmets — and heard about it for years.
“The old helmet is iconic and there’s a lot of pride and tradition in it, so we won’t mess with that,’’ the coach said. “But we’re always thinking, and if Nike (Dartmouth’s uniform supplier) were to come out with something interesting for (jerseys and pants) that the young kids liked, we might take a look at that.”
Conner Kempe is third on Dartmouth’s career passing list, with 4,499 yards and was the Big Green’s primary starter for two seasons before graduating last year. He was also suspended for spring practice as a junior after being arrested and charged with marijuana possession in his dorm room. The Floridian later pleaded guilty and paid a fine for the non-criminal violation. The conviction was annulled on Aug. 13, 2012. Please see the editor's note below.
Kempe has since moved on to law school at Stetson University in his home state, but was arrested again late last year and charged with public urination in Pinellas County. The disorderly conduct charge was dismissed on Nov. 26, 2012. Since February, he has also authored a public blog about himself, in which he describes his doings in the third person. Please see the editor's note below.
Headlines in the blog refer to Kempe as a former “football star” and the latest post is titled “Conner Kempe Celebrates the Successes In His Young Life.” Another post details how Kempe turned down an acceptance to South Royalton’s Vermont Law School in favor of Stetson, because the latter’s location allowed him to kiteboard at nearby beaches. Kempe was seriously injured during a kiteboarding accident while in high school.
“Conner Kempe has many reasons to be thankful,” one post reads. “He’s stared death in the face, and been accepted to prestigious schools, while possessing a talent for sports that hundreds of people wish they had.”
Notes: Running back Dominick Pierre and quarterback Dalyn Williams, both starters, were held out of some Wednesday drills because of minor injuries. … Cole Marcoux, a senior who was once a touted quarterback recruit, looked sharp at tight end, making several nice catches and earning Teevens’ praise. Others drawing notice included Jacob Siwicki, a bull of a freshman running back, and offensive lineman Josh Clark and defensive linemen A.J. Zuttah and Cody Fulleton, all sophomores. … Sophomore cornerback Paddy Clancy, expected to be in the hunt for a starting job and to be used on multiple special teams, was carted to the locker room with a knee injury. Former starter Chai Reece is already out after tearing a knee ligament during spring drills, leaving the Big Green a bit thin at that position.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.
An earlier version of this story reported that former Dartmouth quarterback Conner Kempe had been arrested in Florida and charged in connection with public urination, but it failed to also report that the Nov. 3, 2012, disorderly conduct charge was dismissed on Nov. 26, 2012. Kempe's conviction for marijuana possession, a noncriminal violation stemming from a March 2011 incident in Hanover, was annulled on Aug. 13, 2012. The story also makes reference to a blog "authored" by Kempe. That blog, according to his father, Joseph Kempe, was written by a reputation management firm.