By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
HANOVER – Dartmouth College’s football coaching staff is comprised of gentlemen who generally don’t meet the “old school” typecast for their profession. It’s unusual to hear head man Buddy Teevens or his 12 assistants use profanity or angrily shout.
Saturday was certainly an exception.
Here was Cheston Blackshear, hot and bothered about his tight ends’ blocking form. Glance elsewhere and you caught offensive line coach Keith Clark fairly bristling with unhappiness and indignation. At the other end of the field, defensive coordinator Don Dobes gave one of his linebackers a bellowing earful.
The Big Green has been ragged at times during its first week of preseason practice, but then again, it hasn’t worked as a full team in nearly two years. The underlying purpose of all this cussing and hollering wasn’t as much about performance as gaining the players’ full attention and sharpening their focus.
The new guys have to realize that although this is the Ivy League, its football intensity is much higher than the average fan might think, said Teevens, whose team opens at Indiana’s Valparaiso University on Sept. 18.
“We were at full volume with our coaches,” the 64-year old said with a grin. “We wanted to be a little more physical today. It was the first day in full pads in a long time for a lot of these guys.
“We were a little bit softer (recently) and we’ve always been a very physical team, so we decided to ramp it up with a little more banging today. We’ve got to get used to it.”
Some of Dartmouth’s freshmen and sophomores, none of whom have played a college snap after the Ivies didn’t play football last fall, have no doubt encountered such guidance before. But in this day and age, less “aggressive coaching” exists on the lower levels and posterior chewings like what occurred Saturday are a serious shock for some.
“I talk to coaches about knowing your guys,” said Teevens, who can go ballistic with the best of them but who almost never does. “Some you can rant and rave and scream at and they don’t blink an eye. Somebody else, use the same approach and they’ll go in the can for weeks.
“I talk to (coaches) about being positive and optimistic as often as possible. At the end of the day, you let them know you still love them but you’re trying to get a point across.”
Dartmouth’s strength this fall might be the offensive line, which is comprised of three fifth-year “super seniors” and two others in their fourth campaign. The older players are center Evan Hecimovich, left guard Jake Guidone and right tackle Donald Carty. The younger hogs are right guard Calvin Atkeson and left tackle John Paul Flores.
Guidone is the standout, a throwback who sticks to opponents and pushes them back with attitude and technique as well as brute strength. Clark, the group’s veteran coach, has a degree in metallurgical engineering and a professor’s knowledge of the craft.
“Keith feels it may be as athletic a group as we have had,” Teevens said. “J.P. Flores – the NFL people are taking a look at him. Evan is a seasoned, All-Ivy guy and Calvin is a wide body who can move his feet. Don Carty has been a starter for us in the past and Jake has moved inside. After being 270 as a tight end, now he’s 300 as a guard.”
Guidone began his college days as a lineman before something of a star turn at tight end. He has another year of NCAA eligibility after this one and has been open about his desire to use it at the higher, Football Bowl Subdivision, where he’s more likely to find a home at his current position than at tight end. Dartmouth plays in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“They’re physical and they can all run and they’re helping our defensive line come along,” Teevens said. “It’s an iron-sharpens-iron type of thing.”
Hecimovich said Dartmouth’s 2018 offensive line relied on power and bulldozed foes backwards. Since that time, the unit has shifted so that it often creates holes by quickly getting its members outside and past the line of scrimmage and onto linebackers, he said.
“We stretch the field,” Hecimovich said. “There’s a lot of balance and core strength required. You have to keep your body upright even when defenders are trying to throw you to the ground. You get pushed and pulled and you have to time your resistance.”
There are 24 offensive lineman because of the Covid backlog, meaning some of them will be fifth string when the depth charts are adjusted.
Hecimovich said it’s not a bad thing for the youngsters to watch and learn, because while strength is an obvious part of the position, the nuances of technique, foot placement and leverage are not. Reading a defense and responding to audibles are other needed skills.
“People go down as the season goes on, so the more depth we have, the better,” the Illinois native said. “Then you don’t have guys getting overworked in practice.”
Dartmouth hasn’t used all-out tackling in practice for nearly a decade and Teevens is nationally known for being one of the first head coaches to go that route. So he was displeased Saturday when fifth-year linebacker Tanner Cross took junior running back Noah Roper roughly to the ground.
“We tackle a lot more than most people would imagine, but we just don’t tackle each other,” Teevens said, pointing to the myriad drills his defenders do with foam-filled bags, padded hand shields and the Mobile Virtual Player robotic dummies.
“Today’s experiment was we had linebackers converging on a running back, which they need to learn to do, but with shields. They were banging the running backs, who need to get back to taking hits.”
Notes: Hecimovich said injury treatment and preventative maintenance are crucial for linemen. He often sits in an ice bath after practice and performs stretching exercises at night. Eating healthy and often is another factor. “You don’t realize how much energy you expend driving another human being until you do it and you’re completely gassed,” Hecimovich said… The MVPs, designed and built at Dartmouth with Teevens’ input and financing, are advertised with a high speed of 16 mph and zero-radius turning capability. They weigh 160 pounds, come with a two-year warranty and are self righting after contact. The price? $3,450 per dummy. NFL quarterback Russell Wilson is listed as the company’s “chief football advisor”… Valparaiso will be playing its third game of the season when it hosts Dartmouth and might be a bit banged up. That’s because the Beacons, 4-2 during an abbreviated schedule in the spring, play at FCS power North Dakota State the week before. Valpo was 1-11 in 2019.
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