In the third quarter of sprint football’s opener against Princeton two weeks ago, freshman running back Mike Beamish found a hole in the defense, scorching the Tigers for a 79-yard touchdown run. It was not only Beamish’s first game for Penn, but also his first lining up as a running back.
All through his high-school career Beamish played quarterback. But when he came to Penn, the quarterback position was filled with veteran senior Todd Busler at the helm.
Running back was a different story.
After the graduation of Mike Bagnoli, the Quakers were desperate for players to build up the running attack. So far, Beamish has enjoyed the switch.
“Running back’s a lot easier. It’s less thinking,” he said. “For right now, I can just worry about myself, just grasp the whole concept of the offense without having to worry about everyone else.”
Beamish’s situation is nothing new to the sprint football team, where players often find themselves at different positions or even on opposite sides of the ball.
Junior Whit Shaw played cornerback for most of his high-school years. A few practices into his Penn career, however, Shaw was permanently moved to wide receiver, where he has since become Penn’s all-time leader in yards.
“It’s fun seeing the other side of the ball. You get another perspective,” Shaw said. “It actually helps that I played defensive back in playing receiver. You get to see what the other kids are coming from.”
Cornerbacks are reactionary players; they must see what the wide receiver does and play accordingly. Wide receivers, on the other hand, know exactly where they are going. They’re looking for the spaces in-between players, not the players themselves. It’s a difference Shaw finds interesting.
“I’m used to reading offenses, and it’s a lot different looking for the holes in the defense rather than looking for where the players are on the offense,” he said. “It’s a complete reversal of perspective.”
For coach Bill Wagner, it matters little what position a player arrives having played. According to him, it’s all about the will to get out on the field.
“The number one ingredient is they have to want to get on the field as fast as they can,” Wagner said.
That recipe can lead to some interesting mix-ups, especially since the 172-pound weight restriction means that everyone — linemen and skill players alike — is in the same weight range.
“I’ve had scenarios where you have kids who played high-school quarterback end up being offensive tackles,” Wagner said. “You can have a 175-pound running back or full back and he did real well, but he may be the third running back, but he blocks real well, so he becomes a guard.
“The great thing is they’re out here playing the game because they love it.”