If all goes well for the Penn football team in 2012, Billy Ragone will be hoisting the Ivy League championship trophy following the season finale at Cornell, and backup quarterback Andrew Holland will never need to take a snap.
But such things don’t always go as anticipated. Heck, the original plan wasn’t for Holland to be Ragone’s backup this season anyway.
A senior who hails from Willoughby, Ohio, Holland assumed the role of second on the depth chart when two-year backup Ryan Becker blew out his knee at home in Florida during the offseason.
The junior will miss the entire year.
Over the last two autumns, Becker played a much larger role in the Penn offense than simply holding a clipboard. In 15 games, including two starts, he amassed 735 yards and two touchdowns with a passer efficiency rating of 110.
And what has Holland done? He’s appeared just once — last season’s opening loss to Lafayette — and completed 4-of-6 passes for 30 yards.
So in this new “League of the Quarterback,” as some have labeled it, if Ragone goes down, the Red and Blue are done for, right?
While Holland has no proven record to point to, he has practiced in Penn’s system for three full years — both during the fall and spring seasons.
That familiarity could go a long way if anything happened that kept Ragone out for a few games or longer. Even in good health, the coaching staff could decide to rest starters, including Ragone, against William & Mary in Week Four, giving Holland significant playing time under center.
Even with Ragone, the Quakers utilize a run-first, pass-second offense. Last season, they put the ball in the air 308 times as opposed to running it 375 times.
Granted, 106 of those carries belonged to Ragone, whether they were designed runs or scrambles. But with the depth the Quakers will boast in the backfield this season — their three-man “stable” of seniors Brandon Colavita, Lyle Marsh and Jeff Jack — their ground game is poised to be as strong as it’s ever been.
But if Holland is called upon, coach Al Bagnoli won’t just task the quarterback with handing off the rock. The long-time head man again expressed his confidence in Holland at Penn’s media day, as he has for the last three seasons.
“He throws the ball better than any of the quarterbacks,” Bagnoli said. “It gives us a real throwing threat.
“If we ever really wanted to open it up, we can turn into Cornell if we wanted to.”
Comparing a backup who’s thrown all of six passes to Jeff Mathews, the Big Red’s proven gunslinger who set multiple Ivy passing records last season, is certainly high praise.
When asked if he could explain why he hasn’t seen more time in his first three seasons, Holland admitted it was a “sore subject,” but acknowledged Ragone and Becker have performed very well in front of him.
“You always think that you’re the guy, the best guy at the position, but it hasn’t worked out that way,” he said. “Obviously Billy and Ryan have done a great job for us thus far, and I’m just going to try to take advantage of my opportunity this year.”
If Penn has built any offensive packages to get Holland on the field, he couldn’t say, but given the number of snaps Becker has gotten the last two years, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Holland on the field for a series or two each game.
If and when it happens, there’ll be no need to panic.
MIKE WISNIEWSKI is a senior classical studies major from Philadelphia and is sports editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at wisniewski@theDP.com.
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