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Freshman receiver ‘catches your eye’

  • Dartmouth College receiver Jamaal Cooney, left, grabs a handful of defensive back DeWayne Terry, Jr.'s jersey Tuesday during a special teams drill on Memorial Field. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permissions@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College center Ben Culmer, left, absorbs the pass rush of defensive tackle Luca Di Leo during Tuesday's practice on Memorial Field. Offensive line coach Keith Clark shouts instructions in the background, (Valley News - Tris Wykes) May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permissions@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College quarterback Derek Kyler carries the ball past linebacker Nigel Alexander (9) and cuts back in front of safety John Pupel (35) during Tuesday's practice on Memorial Field. The Big Green opens its season Sept. 21 at Jacksonville (Fla.) University. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permissions@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College quarterbacks, from left, Jake Pallotta, Jared Gerbino and Derek Kyler, listen to play calls from position coach Kevin Daft during Tuesday's practice on Memorial Field. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permissions@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College offensive linemen Zach Sammartino, right, and John Lass converse in front of defensive line coach Duane Brooks and certified athletic trainer Alyssa Schramm during Tuesday's practice on Memorial Field. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permissions@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

HANOVER — Dartmouth College’s preseason football practice can sometimes look like a mass cattle drive, what with more than 100 players milling about in jerseys with no names on the back or decals on their helmets. Even veteran observers can have difficulty quickly identifying who’s who.

It hasn’t taken freshman receiver Jamaal Cooney long to separate himself from the crowd, however. Listed at 5-feet-9 and 150 pounds, the whippet from Miami and St. Thomas Aquinas High is seemingly everywhere.

See No. 85 return punts and practice the moves necessary to cover them. Watch as he blows past an older safety and catches a touchdown pass while hooting in delight. Is that Cooney dancing while standing in line?

Sure is. And he’s been running with the first team, too.

“He catches your eye, flashing all over the place,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, whose team opens Sept. 21 at Jacksonville (Fla.) University. “He was a highly recruited kid, and for track as well. He’s not a huge guy, but he has tremendous acceleration and quickness, and a guy like that in this league, he can make a difference.”

Cooney’s rivals.com recruiting page shows he had interest from the likes of East Carolina, Rutgers, Northern Illinois, Florida Atlantic, Toledo and Vanderbilt.

“I’m ready to go into the Ivy League and dominate,” Cooney told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in February after he and 24 of his teammates committed to various colleges and universities, including the starting quarterback to Harvard. “I backed off the (bigger) D-I schools after I got hurt this year and thought about life after football.”

Cooney is one of 12 children and attended two other Miami-area high schools before landing at St. Thomas Aquinas. The first was public powerhouse Northwestern, where the football alumni include current and former NFL players such as Melvin Bratton, Teddy Bridgewater, Amari Cooper and Brett Perriman, along with onetime Major League Baseball standout Mickey Rivers.

“St. Thomas was ranked nationally, and (Cooper has) played against the best of the best in their league,” Teevens said. “He’s fearless and gets into anybody, no matter who they are. He’s technically very sound, and he looks like he’s probably wrestled at some point in his life, because he has an understanding of leverage and body control and torque.”

Other freshmen receivers, including Jonny Barrett, from Snoqualmie, Wash., and Dale Chesson, from St. Louis, have also impressed, but it’s Cooney who’s made the biggest splash.

“He’s happy, cheerful, upbeat, energetic and enthusiastic with a wonderful sense of humor,” Teevens said. “He makes things happen socially and personally and certainly athletically.

He’s ready to play.”

McCorkle in Charge: Teevens missed Monday’s practice for a speaking engagement in Birmingham, Ala., a rare occurrence that left defensive backs coach Sammy McCorkle in charge. It was a chance for the head ball coach to raise money for his program at a Friends of Dartmouth Football meeting and to spread the gospel of his program and its non-tackling practice format.

“We had a nice alumni get-together, with about 25 people Sunday,” Teevens said. “We also got to visit the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club, which has been there for about 80 years. I didn’t know much about it, but … it was huge, about 600 people. They raise more than $1.5 million per year for a crippled children’s fund, and it was kind of a Who’s Who in the city.”

Teevens spoke to the group for about 30 minutes and answered questions for another 10, touching on Ivy League football, his program’s safety initiatives and its use of the Mobile Virtual Player robotic tackling dummy and last year’s hiring of a woman coach.

“I think I was the first Ivy coach they’d ever had down there,” said Teevens, who also visited with family members of the late Mike Slive, a 1962 Dartmouth graduate and onetime Hanover District Court judge who served in the Big Green’s athletic administration and was Cornell’s athletic director for a time. He was the Southeastern Conference’s commissioner from 2002-2015 and died from prostate cancer last year.

“Mike was a mentor for me, and it was wonderful exposure for Dartmouth football,” Teevens said.

Scrimmage Grade: Saturday saw the Big Green scrimmage in its usual low-contact fashion. Teevens graded the effort a B.

“It wasn’t through the roof, but we played almost 150 snaps and nobody got hurt,” the coach said. “We played our best guys against our best guys, and we would have liked to have pushed the ball down the field more in terms of the pass game.”

The offensive line, a unit that returns a lone starter in fifth-year senior Zach Sammartino, struggled at times, but Teevens noted that it’s going against a defensive line that might be the Ivy League’s best. Fifth-year senior Jackson Perry hasn’t been shut down by any Big Green foe when healthy, and fellow tackle David Chalmers is another standout. Freshman Shane Cokes, 6-3 and a Dayton, Ohio, product, could play as a rookie.

Another player making progress is sophomore quarterback Jake Allen, who transferred in from the University of Florida last season but struggled before breaking a finger trying to field a pregame punt at Yale.

“I think he put undue pressure on himself to make every play,” Teevens said. “It took him a little bit of time to get into the offense and now that he is, he’s more comfortable and he’s seeing things and throwing the football well. He’s a very accurate passer with a strong arm.”

That said, Allen remains behind top signal-callers Jared Gerbino and Derek Kyler and quite possibly last year’s third-stringer, Jake Pallotta.

Notes: Teevens said sophomore kicker Connor Davis, who made just six of 14 field goals last fall, retains his starting job but is being pushed by freshman Cameron Baller. … The coach has bought some light-weight shoulder pads and padded head coverings that resemble swim caps for his players to use on days when they’re not using plastic-topped shoulder pads and helmets. Such gear is used by many high school teams during seven-on-seven summer passing competitions. … Chesson’s brother, Jehu, tied a University of Michigan record with four touchdown catches during a 2015 game and was selected by the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. He’s currently on the Washington Redskins’ practice squad.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.