Big Green football looks to beat preseason expectations

by CJ Ryan | 8/10/06 5:00am

The Ivy League Football Media poll, revealed Tuesday, showed low expectations for Dartmouth football in the coming season.

The poll, which was voted upon by two media representatives from each Ivy League school, ranked Dartmouth in seventh place out of eight.

The Harvard Crimson were chosen to finish on top and received half of the first place votes and 116 total poll points. A tight pack followed Harvard: Penn's Quakers collected two number one votes and 99 points, while the returning Ivy Champion Brown Bears netted three top spot votes and 94 points. Cornell's Big Red amassed 79 points; the Yale Bulldogs brought in two number one votes as well as 77 points, and the Princeton Tigers finished sixth with 62 points.

The Big Green received 31 points and the seventh ranking. In eighth were the Columbia Lions, the perennial Ivy League basement dweller. The Big Green's position in the Ivy preseason poll is likely attributable to their disappointing 2005 season, when they finished 2-8, bettering their 2004 record by only one win.

While the Big Green's 2004 season was characterized by close games, the 2005 season saw more lopsided defeats. Trouble on the offensive side of the ball contributed to the team's downfall following its season-opening victory. Offensive issues continue to plague the squad, which lost its only returning quarterback with starting experience, Josh Cohen '09, for academic reasons.

Dartmouth, however, is not alone in their trial of a new man under center: Harvard, Penn, Cornell and Yale will all try out new starting quarterbacks this season.

Tom Bennewitz '08 and Michael Fritz '07 will likely compete for the starting spot at quarterback. While Bennewitz is known for his passing ability, and Fritz for his mobility, their lack of starting experience puts the team in a tough spot. Either man will need strong support from a veteran offensive line, which returns four out of five of last year's starters.

The return of Jason Bash '06, Chad Gaudet '08 and Milan Williams '09 at tailback with help from Bobby Calderwood '05 provides a promising ground game. Ryan Fuselier '06, Brian Evans '08, and Marc Brogna '08 give either quarterback several receiving options, given that Fuselier and Brogna were among the team's top three receivers last season.

Special teams need to develop consistency and depth, as last year saw the graduation of both the starting punter and placekicker. Brian Scullin '09, who saw a few snaps at punter last season, along with Andrew Kempler '08 and Erik Estebrook '09, both place kickers, will contend for starting positions as kicking specialists.

The defense looks to come back strong from last year's disappointment. Two of the starting inside defensive lineman return from last season to stymie opponents' ground games, but the loss of both starting ends will require talented upperclassmen to step up this fall.

The line will need adequate support from the linebacker squad, where returning starters Joe Gibalski '07 and Andrew Dete '09 have the potential to shut down opposing offenses. Promising juniors Joe Battaglia '08, Justin Cottrell '08, Ryan Mahoney '08 and Michael Whitticom '08 can also contribute. The defensive secondary brings experience, with five returning starters and solid veteran replacements.

The Green will also need to hone their attacking, using the West Coast-style offense that Coach Buddy Teevens introduced last season. With a revived offense and a strong defensive presence, Dartmouth Football has an opportunity to overcome preseason expectations and bring down the traditional Ivy League powers in 2006.