HANOVER, N.H. — After finishing the 2017 fall season with an 8-2 overall record and a 5-2 mark in the Ivy League to finish in a tie for second place, the Dartmouth football team will take to the gridiron for spring practice today to begin the chase for its 19th conference crown.
Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens will have to replace more than half of his starting lineup on both sides of the ball, including behind center with the impending graduation of quarterback Jack Heneghan, who threw for 4,900 yards in his career, fourth all-time in program history. But Teevens will have five players from the All-Ivy First and Second Teams back in the fold to provide experience and leadership.
Any time a quarterback needs to be replaced, intrigue will follow. While Heneghan is gone, Jared Gerbino saw plenty of time last year as the Wildcat QB, finishing second on the team with 428 rushing yards at 5.0 per carry. Dartmouth fans will certainly remember his performance in the season finale against Princeton when he ran for 202 yards and four touchdowns to help the Big Green outlast the Tigers, 54-44.
Should Dartmouth want to continue mixing and matching the traditional quarterback style with Gerbino throughout games, rising junior Jake Pallotta and soon-to-be sophomore Derek Kyler are the top two candidates to take on that responsibility. Neither of the two have much on-field experience with the varsity, having combined to throw just five collegiate passes (all by Pallotta).
Whoever takes the snaps, that player will have talented and experienced receivers at whom to throw, beginning with All-Ivy League Second Team wide receiver Hunter Hagdorn. The Texas native led the team with 44 receptions, 541 yards and six touchdowns despite missing two games and most of a third. Drew Estrada emerged as a threat with 32 grabs for 318 yards and a score, joining Dylan Mellor (22 for 301, TD) and Drew Hunnicutt (49 career catches for 702 yards, 5 TD) to comprise a deep corps.
At running back, Miles Smith is working hard to regain the form he showed two years ago when he earned All-Ivy honorable mention. He struggled with injuries in 2017, but a healthy Smith, along with Rashaad Cooper, would give the Big Green a strong combination to carry the load in the backfield.
The offensive line has three starters returning, including All-Ivy First Team selection Matt Kaskey to anchor the line along with the Kilcommons twins, John and Patrick.
On defense, Dartmouth will rely upon last year’s leading tackler, linebacker Jack Traynor, to be the keystone of the unit. Jackson Perry got off to a terrific start at nose guard last fall before an injury wiped out more than half of his season, but he will be primed for a big senior campaign up front. The secondary will need to replace cornerback stalwarts Danny McManus and Jarius Brown, but the Green still have Isiah Swann, one of the league’s top cover men.
Davis Brief is back for another year of punting, but Dartmouth will be searching for a new placekicker with the departure of David Smith, who led the team in scoring each of the last two seasons with 104 total points.
Practices have been scheduled for four weeks on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 5 p.m. and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. (weather permitting). The annual Green-White scrimmage will conclude the spring season on Saturday, May 5.