Penn football's offense deemed 'work in progress'
Injuries and inconsistency leave Penn room to improve offensively after four games
October 16, 2013, 6:09 pm · Updated October 16, 2013, 11:47 pm·
Ellen Frierson | DP
Heading into 2013, Penn football’s offense was expected to be the cream of the crop in the Ivy League.
However, the Quakers’ statistics through four games tell a different story: seventh in total offense and seventh in scoring offense.
But before everyone is in an uproar over the failures of the Penn offense, we need to examine the context.
The team is 2-2 and 1-0 in Ivy play. The two losses were against elite CAA defenses — Villanova and William & Mary — and teams that most prognosticators expected Penn to lose to.
Yet the Quakers are not satisfied with the status quo offensively, as offensive coordinator Jon McLaughlin sees the offense as an unfinished product.
“That’s kind of who we’ve been every year I’ve been here, a work in progress,” he said.
With the idea that the team is a “work in progress” so far, it stands to reason that the team is looking for incremental improvement at each position.
The one place where that incremental improvement begins is at quarterback. Senior Billy Ragone has begun to get his legs under him after rehabbing all offseason from a gruesome leg injury suffered against Harvard last year.
“We’ve limited some of the things we’ve asked him to do, but that’s how it is every year,” McLaughlin said. “You don’t want to be rash and make a mistake early in the season and lose your starting quarterback.
“We’ll always err on the side of being conservative and slowly take the reins off of him and ask him to do more and more.”
While the team has protected Ragone from injury so far this year, the offense has had two major injuries to starting seniors: running back Brandon Colavita and Connor Scott.
But with those injuries, multiple players have stepped up.
At running back, a trio of juniors — Spencer Kulcsar, Kyle Wilcox and Mike Elespuru — have taken on extra responsibility this year in the backfield.
With that extra responsibility has come growing pains for the trio, as they had a combined total of 18 carries heading into the 2013 campaign.
“I know I hadn’t been playing particularly well at the beginning of the year,” Kulcsar said. “It is frustrating but I just had to step back and just know that I have to play within the offense.
And with Penn’s pass catchers, a plethora of players have helped supplement Scott’s performance, with seniors Ryan Mitchell and Ty Taylor taking the brunt of the work.
Meanwhile sophomore Cam Countryman and senior tight end Ryan O’Malley have made their presence known as well.
“Every championship we’ve won, it hasn’t been because we’ve gone through the season unscathed,” McLaughlin said. “It’s been because we’ve handled the injuries and adversity and the bad bounces better than some of our opponents.”
But it isn’t all fine and dandy for Penn’s offense, as McLaughlin is looking for the Quakers’ veteran offensive line to step its game up.
“I think they have to have higher standards for themselves,” he said. “There are a couple of them playing at a really high level, and I think the other guys have shown glimpses.
“I don’t think any of them should feel good about how we’re playing.”
Based off McLaughlin’s sentiments, even if the statistics from the first four games mean little to how the team has actually performed, the Red and Blue definitely still has room to improve offensively.
“I would like to say we’d be way ahead of where we are right now,” McLaughlin said. “But all we can do is get up and work harder the next day.”