By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
HANOVER – A storm fouled the skies over Dartmouth College on Wednesday, but inside the athletic department’s indoor practice facility, the Big Green football team ran through preparations for the opening of its 139th season Saturday at Valparaiso (Ind.) University.
The squad has used the facility before, but Wednesday featured exactly the sort of situation the “Green House” was built for: an important practice that would have otherwise been adversely affected by nature’s whims.
“Today had thunder and lightning and torrential rain and we had a good practice,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens. “The surface is wonderful and the space is all we need. It’s kind of a boost – you look outside and it’s dark and dreary… and you don’t have to deal with it.”
Teevens said his team will practice in rain if there’s no electrical activity and it’s not overly cold. But for days when not much would be accomplished outside, into the $30 million building the Big Green will go. Wednesday’s practice was pushed back about 45 minutes so the women’s soccer team could complete its workout in advance of a Thursday game.
The facility’s football field is 85 yards long, including an end zone, and felt a little crowded with roughly 150 players, coaches and staff members on it. The footprint couldn’t be any larger, executive associate athletics director Richard Whitmore said, because it’s wedged between homes, the tennis center and the Thompson Arena parking lot.
Limited elbow room is a minor inconvenience, however, when compared to the previous situation. That involved myriad Big Green teams jamming the schedule of remodeled but aging Leverone Field House, where the artificial turf surface is only a third of what the Green House features.
“Functional for everything we do and our coaches are very efficient in terms of where we go and what we’re doing,” Teevens said. “A perfect practice in terms of flow.”
Only in football is a 6-foot-3, 255-pound man considered small, but Dartmouth’s Seth Walter is as much as 40 pounds lighter than some of his recent predecessors on the interior defensive line. The fifth-year senior from Florida is slated to start in the middle Saturday, but Teevens said the former state shot-put champion shouldn’t be at a disadvantage.
“We don’t have the monstrous guys, but we have guys who can really run,” the coach said. “Speed is a huge thing with us and Seth is uncanny. He slithers through cracks and crevices and he’ll be a real player for us this year.
Junior Shane Cokes out of Dayton, Ohio, and senior Mick Reese, from Buford, Ga., are listed as Dartmouth’s starting ends on a defense that returns only one starter, strong safety Niko Mermigas, from the 2019 Ivy League co-champions.
Fifth-year senior Derek Kyler returns Dartmouth’s starting quarterback for a third season and his poised presence gives the Big Green a huge stepping stone towards defending its league crown.
“It would be interesting without him,” Teevens said. “He’s smooth, composed, relaxed and directs traffic and knows everything about the offense. It’s quiet leadership but everyone’s looking to him and he’ll straighten out protections and slides. It makes a big difference, especially with a corps of young receivers.”
Is Dartmouth’s attack unlikely to pick up where it left off in 2019 because it returns only eight starters? Teevens said he doesn’t believe so.
“We just didn’t have a chance to play guys to see what they could do (in 2019). It’s the mystery of delayed development but we have athletes. We were able to get some practices in during the fall and spring and that certainly helped.
“I can’t answer the question accurately because I haven’t seen guys play, but my expectation is we’ll surprise people.”
Nick Howard, a junior whose strength appears to be his running game, and sophomore Dylan Cadwallader, who’s risen up the depth chart of late, are listed as sharing Dartmouth’s backup quarterback slot.
The Big Green has been lucky to enjoy long-tenured and mostly productive punters during the past decade. Several have started for three or four seasons and the position has rarely been a concern or cost the team games.
This year, however, there’s real uncertainty. Junior Cameron Baller is listed as the starter for punts and kickoffs, having beaten out touted freshman Davis Golick, a native of Georgia who’s not on this week’s travel roster.
Teevens said earlier this year that Golick, who was awarded jersey No. 1, was “an all-region punter who is highly ranked in some of the national recruiting lists… We think a guy like him, with his credentials, will be in the competition to get on the field right off the bat.”
Instead, Golick, Baller and starting tight end Joe Kramer were consistently inconsistent during the preseason. Teevens said Baller was recruited as both a placekicker and punter, but with the emergence of senior Connor Davis at the former position, has focused more on the latter.
The punting situation “is a question mark,” Teevens said. “I know we have the capability. It’s just what’s going to happen on Saturday.”
Notes: The surprise position of the first depth chart would be receiver and the absence of junior Jamal Cooney from the position’s two-deep. Dartmouth plays three wideouts and Cooney, a jitterbug Floridian who’s one of the Big Green’s most explosive players, isn’t among the six pass-catchers listed. Freshman Paxton Scott, from Dallas, Texas, is a starting receiver, however… Valparaiso, previously known as the “Crusaders” but recently renamed the “Beacons”, is 0-2 after losing 28-10 to visiting NAIA school Indiana Wesleyan and 64-0 at NCAA Football Championship Subdivision power North Dakota State… Dartmouth appears to have a potentially strong running attack with slashing senior Zack Bair and powerful junior Noah Roper at tailback. The latter comes at defenders with the sort of intensity that brings to mind 2012 graduate and star Nick Schwieger, now director of special projects for a construction firm in Los Angeles… The Big Green will fly charter nonstop from Manchester, N.H., to South Bend, Ind., on Friday before busing less than an hour to Valparaiso, a city of about 30,000 in the state’s center. The city has a checkered racial past, including a 1923 instance when the Ku Klux Klan unsuccessfully negotiated to buy the local university.
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