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Dartmouth football position battle joined

  • Dartmouth linebacker John Ballowe hits a tackling block while supervised by associate head coach Sammy McCorkle at practice in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 1, 2021. The team opens their season on Sept. 18 at Valparaiso. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

  • Dartmouth defensive lineman Luca Di Leo (92) tries to break free of offensive lineman Jake Guidone's block to get to quarterback Jace Henry (19) during practice in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 1, 2021. The team opens their season on Sept. 18 at Valparaiso. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Dartmouth tight end Jack Dyett pulls in a pass during practice in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 1, 2021. The team opens their season on Sept. 18 at Valparaiso. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth defensive back John Pupel lunges at a tackling dummy during a drill at practice in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 1, 2021. The team opens their season on Sept. 18 at Valparaiso. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photograph — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2021 9:48:55 PM
Modified: 9/1/2021 9:49:01 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College football’s depth chart is beginning to shape up as the regular season draws closer.

The Big Green opens at Valparaiso on Sept. 18. Some positions, like starting quarterback (fifth-year Derek Kyler) and strong safety (Niko Mermigas), are already known. But a week and a half into preseason practice, Dartmouth has many positions seemingly up for grabs.

On offense, wide receiver has been up in the air. Grad student Masaki Aerts started all 10 games in 2019 and is likely to feature in the offense again. Head coach Buddy Teevens said junior Jamal Cooney, sophomore Isaac Boston, sophomore Paxton Scott, junior Dale Chesson and junior Jonny Barrett have made plays and are also in the mix for playing time.

The backfield is also an area to monitor, as senior Zack Bair returns after suffering a season-ending injury three games into the 2019 season. Junior Noah Roper, sophomore Joey Richmond, sophomore Tyler Green, sophomore Tevita Moimoi and freshman Christian Benson have also caught Teevens’ eye.

Elsewhere, the punting job is between junior Zach Drescher and freshman Davis Golick. Teevens didn’t name either as a front-runner, instead emphasizing what he’s looking for.

“Consistency, that’s the big thing,” Teevens said after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s hot and cold. Today, we got them on the clock, (and) we get them on paper, (tracking) height, hang time and distance. Some guys clench up a little bit. They gotta be relaxed under pressure and do what they do. We’re looking for consistency.”

Much more of the defense is unsettled. Defensive line and linebacker, in particular, have roles available. At linebacker, Teevens has been impressed with sophomores Mack Ayers and Danny Cronin, along with fifth-year Thomas Hennessy and senior Joe Heffernan — both of whom have little to no varsity experience. He added that freshmen defensive linemen Isaiah Golonka, Ejike Adele, Josiah Green and Derrell Smith-Porter, as well as sophomores Marquist Allen and Gannon McCorkle, have stood out.

Change in coaching staff: Dartmouth nickel backs coach Kyle Cavanaugh stepped down from his position Tuesday. He’s leaving the coaching field and moving into the private sector. Ahmaad Smith, who was previously a defensive assistant, is taking over for Cavanaugh.

This didn’t catch Teevens off-guard. Cavanaugh, a Dartmouth alum, talked with the head coach about this possibility during the offseason. Teevens said Cavanaugh is starting his new job virtually and will serve as a consultant for the program while he’s virtual.

“He’s done a wonderful job for us,” Teevens said. “We’ll miss him because he played in the system, he’s coached in the system, he’s done a great job with special teams. You hate to see guys go, but it’s a wonderful opportunity for him.”

Smith played defensive back at Tennessee State from 2002-05 and bounced around several indoor football leagues and the Canadian Football League from 2007-12. He coached defensive backs at Hampden-Sydney College from 2013-14, then at Catawba College from 2015-17.

He returned to his alma mater as defensive backs coach from 2018-20. Smith took the same position at Bowdoin College in May before his hiring at Dartmouth.

Smith began in his new role at Wednesday’s practice. Cavanaugh was still around to help ease Smith into the position. Teevens said it didn’t take long for Smith to get acclimated.

“He’s played (defensive back). He’s coached. Great personality, great enthusiasm. He’s picked it up real quickly,” Teevens said. “The players like him. He’s been a nice addition.”

Special visitor at Wednesday’s practice: Teevens has rarely, if ever, had the dean of the college attend a practice. That changed Wednesday, to the coach’s surprise.

Interim dean Scott Brown walked in during practice at Memorial Field, accompanied by interim athletic director Peter Roby. Teevens warmly welcomed Brown once he spotted the administrator, and he made a request for him to speak to the team. Teevens stopped practice and gathered the full team at midfield around Brown.

Brown told the Dartmouth players that he respects what they do. He said he understands the challenges they’re facing with returning to school and football with COVID-19, the value they add to the campus and their commitment as student-athletes.

“It (was) a very on-point message,” Teevens said. “It’s just nice to put a name and a face together. And then he was engaging on the sideline, which was nice.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.




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