Sports Editor Ian Wenik: I came out of Monday’s media frenzy impressed with the direction that Penn’s defense is going in. I talked to a lot of Penn’s starting defensive backs (Dan Wilk, Mike Laning, Kevin Ijoma), who are dealing with a bit of transition with Dave Wood taking over the primary defensive backs coaching job and coordinator Ray Priore focusing in on the cornerbacks.
But I came away with the impression that the secondary will be able to stabilize the defense. Remember, the secondary found itself the target of a lot of questions last preseason as a potential weakness, and wound up a position of strength, thanks to the play of guys like Wilk (All-Ivy second team) and Sebastian Jaskowski (team leader with 72 tackles, All-Ivy first team). This year, the defensive line is the target of that same criticism. Who’s to say that Penn’s returning athletes on the line like Feerooz Yacoobi aren’t going to step up like Wilk and Jaskowski did last year? And even if the line struggles to get pressure, I think that the secondary is more than stout enough to compensate.
Sports Editor Steven Tydings: After talking with many of the defensive linemen and defensive line coach Jim Schaefer, the position may not be such a question mark.
Obviously, when a unit loses multiple seniors, people are going to be curious as to how the position responds. But it is clear that the Quakers are confident in the depth and physical talent they have at the position. While guys like sophomore linemen Austin Taps and Tanner Thexton played very little last season,
Schaefer told me that they had very strong spring practices. Schaefer admitted that the defensive line needs to catch up to the experience the Red and Blue feature on the back seven, but each player I talked to remained confident that the preseason game against Stony Brook would go a long way towards getting the unit up to speed.
Sports Editor John Phillips: From my standpoint, the biggest takeaway was how the running backs were prepared to bounce back from the losses of Jeff Jack, who graduated, and Lyle Marsh, who is taking the season off due to academic issues. I spoke to all three of the backs that Bagnoli plans to have in the rotation, and they all are working to get one another better. Fifth-year senior Brandon Colavita has served as a mentor to Spencer Kulcsar and Mike Elespuru, who are both looking forward to getting in on the snaps that Jack and Marsh left behind. Kulcsar had a big game against Villanova last season, and Elespuru describes himself as someone who has a little bit of everything coming out of the backfield.
The big question mark is who will fill the void left by Marsh’s ability to catch passes out of the slot and of the backfield. All three backs sounded confident that they could all pick up the slack in one way or another.
Senior Sports Editor Mike Tony: The biggest takeaway for me is that head coach Al Bagnoli will be using Ragone gingerly at the start of the season, perhaps even more so than usual, as he tries to keep Billy rested for the Ivy stretch run. Bagnoli harped on Ragone’s psychological recovery from his dislocated ankle and fractured fibula at the Ivy Football teleconference earlier this month. And he did the same at Media Day, saying that he was “really comfortable” with both Ragone and Becker, indicating that Becker will be every bit as prominent as Andrew Holland was in the offensive rotation last season.
That should bode well for both QBs as they each recover from season-ending injuries, and it shows that this offense should come close to picking up where it left off at the end of last season’s title triumph.