Coming back from season-ending injuries, running back Lyle Marsh and wide receiver Conner Scott will need to prove themselves again in a Penn offense stocked with weapons.
Marsh has had to bounce back from a difficult injury before. As a sophomore, he injured his arm in the second game of the year against Villanova and missed the rest of the season.
“It was tough for him to come around … and watch his friends play when he couldn’t help, because that was his first serious injury,” running backs coach Steve Downs said.
When Marsh came back last season, he was particularly amped to get back on the field. But his return lasted just four games. After scoring three touchdowns against Fordham, Marsh left the game in the fourth quarter with another season-ending leg injury.
The Quakers’ rushing attack hasn’t suffered too much with Marsh out, thanks to seniors Brandon Colavita and Jeff Jack, who have led a strong rushing attack the past two seasons.
Though Marsh will be competing for playing time, he much prefers sharing the load with his teammates to being the star runner.
“There’s the factor of motivating each other — if you’re the guy and you know you’re going to be getting a lot of carries, you sometimes can get complacent with that,” Marsh said.
“Always knowing there’s a couple guys behind you that can do as well as you can really keep you motivated.”
While all three running backs are strong, physical runners, head coach Al Bagnoli believes Marsh brings versatility to the team.
“He’s a kid that you never have to take out,” Bagnoli said. “He can pass [protect], he can run the ball and he can catch the hell out of it.”
Though Bagnoli wants to try Marsh at wide receiver in some formations, there is already plenty of competition at that position with the return of junior Conner Scott.
Scott was injured last preseason and though he was given a fifth year of eligibility, he had to sit out all of last season.
“It was really tough for me,” Scott said. “It was my first time not playing football since fourth grade.”
Before injuring his arm, the Quakers were expecting Scott to return as one of their top offensive weapons. Instead, he spent the entire year watching from the sidelines.
“I was living vicariously through Ryan Calvert, Ryan Mitchell and Joe Holder,” the Kenilworth, Ill., native explained. “I hated being on the sidelines, but I loved watching them do what they did.”
Scott didn’t just sit around waiting for his injury to heal. He worked on his route running and hit the weight room hard, putting on 20 pounds of muscle.
“I try to look at it as a positive now,” Scott said. “[Strength and conditioning coach Jim] Steel would tell me that this was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Bagnoli agreed: “After training, he’s a lot stronger now and he weighs a lot more, and he’s probably faster than he was.”
With Scott, Mitchell and Holder returning, there will be a lot of competition at wideout.
“I think each of us on any other team would be the number one receiver,” Scott said.
The three are able to compete for playing time while still supporting each other as teammates.
“I love how the three of us are best friends, but we’re also competitive out here as well,” Scott explained.
Marsh echoed the same sentiment as the backfield.
“We’re very good friends, but we’re also competitive with each other,” he said. “If I see Brandon and Jeff have a nice run, that just makes me want to get in there and be successful as well.”
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