Though Penn’s physics laboratories are located in DRL, there’s plenty of experimentation going on less then a block away at Franklin Field.
Under the open philosophy of coach Bill Wagner, the Penn sprint football team has become a hotbed for players trying out — and often succeeding at — new positions on the field.
Many players on the team often alternate between wide receiver and defensive back, or between the offensive and defensive lines.
Others, though, take a completely different approach, redefining the word “versatility.”
The main reason, simply, is playing time.
One prime example is sophomore running back Mike Beamish, who also handles the Quakers’ punting duties.
Originally a quarterback and punter in high school, Beamish quickly changed his plans after finding himself behind both 2012 graduate Todd Busler and current starter Keith Braccia on the quarterback depth chart and seeing an opening elsewhere.
“I came in the first day, thinking I was going to play backup to Busler and Braccia,” Beamish said. “It turns out they had no running backs, so they kind of just filled me in and took it from there.”
Learning on the fly certainly hasn’t slowed down Beamish, who has quickly become one of the team’s most reliable contributors. He has rushed for 625 yards on the season while averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Beamish has also excelled in his punting duties, averaging 40 yards per kick.
Though he certainly has his hands full juggling duties as a key contributor on both offense and special teams, he has nothing on senior Whit Shaw.
Shaw, a defensive back in addition to his duties as wide receiver and primary return man on both kickoffs and punts, is in all likelihood the busiest man on the team.
Going both ways, though, is not foreign to Shaw, who played on each side of the ball at St. Mark’s School in Dallas.
When asked to take on a larger role in the offense as a wide receiver, Shaw found himself with a leg up on the competition.
“It’s actually nicer coming from a defensive background,” Shaw said. “Because you know what the [defensive backs] are thinking, you know the tips that they pick up on.
“I actually think I had a little bit of an advantage knowing the defensive side before knowing the offensive side.”
Shaw has experienced tremendous individual success as a wide receiver this season, leading the Red and Blue with 26 catches for 426 receiving yards.
However, it is tougher sledding for Shaw on the defensive side of the ball.
“On defense, I’ve got to rely on my safeties to know all the defenses,” Shaw said. “I kind of just do what they tell me when I go in.”
Fortunately for Shaw, there is no dearth of players with experience on both sides of the ball.